Many of you would be forgiven for not appreciating the fact that the first Spring half term is always one of the shortest in the school calendar. This has surely been one of the toughest half term periods for students, their families and staff that any of us can remember? As we reach the half term break, and draw to a close a half term defined by remote ‘live’ lessons, I want to take this opportunity to say just how impressive all of our students have been. Their resilience since the start of term, and indeed the entire past 11 months, has been remarkable, although not entirely surprising.
With the days getting longer and (in theory at least!) temperatures on the rise, Spring is a time of renewal and optimism. That sense of optimism has no doubt been helped by the ongoing positive news regarding the pace of vaccine rollouts and the development of therapeutic treatments. Nonetheless, there are still many uncertainties that persist which could serve to dampen such an optimistic outlook.
One such uncertainty that remains for now is when students will return to school. This week in a Department for Education blog post relating to attendance figures, it was stated that “The current National measures are driving the R rate down and we hope to be able to start welcoming back more pupils from 8 March at the earliest. It is important to reiterate that we do not see this as a ‘return to school’ but more of an expansion of the numbers of pupils already in school and receiving a face to face education.” It is clear that whatever we may hope for a full return to on-site education for all students on 8 March, we must remain cautious and prepared for the possibility that remote provision will continue beyond that date for some, if not all, of our students.
Whilst the issue of the return date affects our whole community, our Year 11 and Year 13 students and their families, in particular, are still awaiting the outcome of the DfE/Ofqual consultation regarding arrangements for the awarding of grades. An announcement on the final plan is expected at some point in the first week back next half term. It is hugely encouraging that half of all respondents to the consultation were students; nearly 47,000 young adults responding to that uncertainty, and no doubt anxiety, by seeking to have their voices heard. So many unexpected legacies will come out of the pandemic. The prospect of a generation of young adults, confidently and actively engaged in determining their own futures, and in shaping their own communities, is an exciting prospect; something we can all be optimistic about.
I wish you all a restful and healthy half term break (and a little less screen time).
Matt Duffield, Executive Headteacher