MHS update 22-1-2021
Updates, testing and exam results
A number of smaller updates today and then two larger ones at the end:
1) Thank you to everyone involved in the Year 9 parents evening last night. Although there were some technical issues with Schoolcloud, these were nothing like the problems of last week with Year 11 and the vast majority of appointments ran smoothly. Thanks to the team for managing to rearrange appointments almost instantly and for parents and teachers for being so flexible. I hope that the evening was a success for you all.
2) At the start of the term the pastoral team set themselves the ambitious target of contacting every single student or their parents/carers as soon as they could. Part way through day 11 and the job was done – great work from a great team, and I know from lots of feedback that the effort to get in touch has been appreciated.
3) Live form times and lesson have continued and the students continue to attend in high numbers. 95% are ‘engaged’ (online at least once a day) and over 85% on average are attending each lesson. Remarkable stats and a ringing endorsement of the commitment of our whole school community. Furthermore, staff are constantly pushing the boundaries of how to make lessons interesting and to make feedback meaningful. I know that breakout rooms where students can talk more freely to peers have gone down very well with students, with parents telling us that they have also boosted morale at home. I recently discovered the ability to leave individual verbal feedback to students via Teams, although whether my students are as excited as I am is a matter of opinion.
4) Gavin Williamson was on the TV on Thursday saying that he hopes to see students back in school before Easter. I very much hope so too, but just to confirm I promise you I don’t get an insider information – no doubt I will find out the plan when you do. He did say that we’ll get two weeks’ notice this time of when the reopening might happen. We won’t know what to do with ourselves with that much time to plan!
5) ‘Mass Testing’
The idea of lateral flow testing as a device to keep schools open was first announced by the Government in mid-December 2020. These tests give an indication within 30 minutes if a person is negative or positive for Covid-19, although they are not entirely accurate. Since that point the government’s plan has changed several times, and so I thought it might be helpful to outline the current situation at MHS:
- A temporary test centre has been set up in the sports hall.
- Staff have been trained in all aspects of setting up, administering, reading and recording the tests
- Staff in school have been given the option to be tested, initially once a week but from now on twice a week.
- The parents of students in school have been given the option of two tests for their child. The first of these tests were today with the follow up planned for next week
- After this, the only people who will be regularly tested will be school staff on a voluntary basis twice a week, either in school or at home using a home test kit.
- When more students return to school as lockdown ends we believe that we will be asked to test each child twice on entry.
- People identified as being a close contact of a positive coronavirus case will have to isolate as before, they will not be able to have a daily test to prove they are negative as was the Government’s original plan
- All testing, adult or child, is done with consent only. Adults and students, via their parents/carers, can opt out by not giving consent.
What do I think about all this? Well, I am proud that we’ve set up a very efficient testing service – it takes about 4 minutes for someone to pass through the process once registered – and I can see the logic of staff being tested twice a week. This brings us in line with NHS staff for example. However, whilst I understand the idea of testing all students on their return, my main concern is to minimise the disruption to lessons. I guess we’ll wait and see if this is still the Government’s plan when the time comes. Finally, I am glad that the idea of daily testing has been dropped. The tests are not 100% accurate and I think that it is much safer for contacts to isolate and take part in live lessons than risk false negatives spreading the infection in school. However, like I say, that is all for a happier time when the school is open again.
6) The GCSE grades issue 2021
On 4th January Boris Johnson announced that exams would again be cancelled for this year. I have made no secret of the fact that I want/wanted exams to take place. With some sensible adjustments (less content, more choice, more guidance from staff to help students navigate papers) they would be the best way for students to show what they can do and the fairest way to standardise results across the country. Furthermore, I know that MHS students have been working hard since March 2020 and I have complete faith in them.
However, the exams as we imagined them are definitely not going ahead. The government recently opened a very short consultation on their contingency plans for awarding grades. You can see the info here and the survey itself here. As a school we have reservations about the proposals, and we will be emailing parents either later on Friday 22nd or early on Monday 25th with our viewpoint. We will also make some suggestions on how parents can support our campaign for a change to the plan. Like last year schools will not be judged by student outcomes, but that in no way diminishes our fervent desire to make sure every single MHS exam candidate gets the grades they are capable of. We have our students’ best interests at heart and will be seeking your help in calling for changes to the proposed plans. More to follow soon!
Best wishes all,