Head Teacher’s Blog 1st May 2020
Welcome back to the new school term. I hope that your families were able to feel a little bit different over the Easter break, while still in lockdown. We were certainly blessed with amazing weather, which definitely made a difference for me and my family.
As our Christian community continues to celebrate this long period of Eastertide, where we give thanks for the resurrection of Jesus and all that it teaches about hope, we remember and pray too for the Muslim members of our community who are marking the blessed month of Ramadan. During this time, Muslims across the globe will be making time for devotion, reflection and, for many, fasting each day from dawn until dusk in celebration of the mercy and love of Allah (SWT).
I have included below some notes from Mrs Woodward, one of our assistant heads who works with the research schools network looking at evidence of effective teaching and learning across the country. She has been working with Mrs Bullars and the Heads of Department to review how things have been going so far with remote learning and how we can make improvements from what we have learned. The notes from Mrs Woodward are in response to some questions we have had from parents about our expectations of you and of your children. They also outline some of the reasons behind the ways that we and other schools are working.
You will be aware that we introduced a timetable for when teachers will set remote learning, with the aim of making it more flexible for students to manage their own time. I thank you for your patience as we have tried to get this up and running after a break and I am sorry if there has been any confusion caused by the difficulty of communicating across so many staff and students remotely. I would also like to congratulate our students, who have been doing an incredible job in responding to the challenge of remote learning. We have seen the overwhelming majority of students responding regularly to the emails, quizzes and activities set by teachers. The changes we have made so far and will continue to make are in response to feedback from students and parents, to help maintain that excellent level of engagement.
Now, on with notices and information for this week.
Guidance on Remote Learning
To help support your child with their learning, I share with you some advice and guidance that I hope you find useful. This is linked to the way that teachers are setting work so that you know what your child is expected to do, and also how you can support them. It also makes reference to some recently published guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF; an independent charity that provides evidence based resources for schools) about how parents and carers can support with learning at home.
Routines and Expectations:
Your child is expected to log onto SMHW every day. This is where they will find the work set by their teachers, in line with the timetable sent out previously. You can help your child by encouraging them to create a routine where they check SMHW, and make a plan for what work they want to complete on each day. You can talk to them about how they can plan out their work over the week, into a routine that suits them and your household. Teachers will be setting ‘core work’ that your child is expected to complete, as well as ‘enrichment work’ that is optional for those who may choose to complete it, if
they feel that they have the time to. You can expect your child to be working on tasks that makes links to their previous knowledge of something through watching a video clip, or by completing a quiz. They will be given short tasks and activities to complete to help them to practise using their knowledge. Teachers will also be ‘checking in’ with how your child is getting on with the work. They will do this by asking them to submit some work on SMHW, or by setting them a quiz to check their understanding. Your child may also be using Microsoft Teams with some of their teachers to help support them with their remote learning.
You can use this resource to help your child reflect on the routine that they have in place each day, and to review how they are doing. You could share this video and talk to them to help them plan their new routines. Look for the positives each day too! If you see your child doing things right and praise this behaviour, we’re likely to get more of it. Could your daily routines include activities where your child is likely to make you proud? Teachers will now be using SMHW to reward students for their good work by awarding them with positives or badges so do ask them about this too!
Encouragement and Interest:
There is no expectation for parents to act as teachers. Your encouragement, and interest, in your child’s work is more important than becoming directly involved in the work itself. However, if your child does have specific questions about the work, remind them that they can communicate with their teacher through SHMW or by contacting them by e-mail.
You can help by encouraging your child to do the core work that teachers have set for them. You can reassure them that if they are having their best go at the activities set, then they will be learning, even though it doesn’t feel the same as when they have a teacher with them in the classroom. Reading makes a big difference to how easy children find it to learn, as it increases our general knowledge and the number of words we know and use. This makes it easier for the brain to learn any new information. So if your child is doing other enrichment work, or reading, or developing new skills or practicing old ones during lockdown, this will be helpful alongside the ‘core’ work they are doing from their teachers.
Setting Goals and helping with Self-Regulation
You can help by asking your child to set goals and by talking with them about what they aim to do each day. A ‘five minute plan’ chat before they start with home learning can help. Simple questions such as ‘What subjects will you work on today?’ ‘How will you spend your time?’ ‘What resources do you need?’ can help. At the end of the day, you might ask ‘How far did you get with your tasks today?’ ‘What did you discover?’ ‘Did it go well today?’ These brief conversations can help your child to manage their time, to set some goals, and help with their self-management.
Children are still learning to self-regulate their emotions and behaviours. Like us, they are facing new challenges during this period: finding a new workspace, managing anxiety, being productive under new circumstances. Talk to your child about any struggles that you or they are facing, and how they could be addressed – and don’t be afraid to be open about getting it wrong and trying a different strategy. When we are usually in school, the most important principle for teachers in managing behaviour is to get to know and understand each pupil individually. This is good news for you! You already know your child very well, so speak to them and trust your judgement about what works for them.
Guidance notes for using the timetable:
- This timetable just sets out when students can expect work to be set by each subject, to help them to plan their week. Students don’t have to do the work on the day it is set. They can divide work up in a way that suits them. I would encourage students to set a routine that works for the situation in their house using this resource as noted above.
- Over time, teachers will be getting into a pattern of ‘core work’ which will be a reduced amount that should be easily manageable, with other enrichment and extension tasks for those who find that they have got the time to do more.
- Overall, then, the aim is to give more flexibility for students to manage their time in different ways given the different strengths and challenges that each student has and faces. For those managing the work fine before, they should be able to carry on with their own similar timetable but hopefully for those who were drowning or feeling under pressure, this approach should help them to find a way that works for them too.
It would be helpful to have your feedback on how the work that has been set for your child is going. Please complete this quick survey that can be found here.
Rewards feature on Show My Homework
Over Easter we have activated a new feature on SMHW relating to Behaviour.
There are 2 main features you need to be aware of:
If a member of staff is particular pleased with your Approach to Learning for a particular task or more generally over time, they may log you a Positive (much like they did normally in school - we are just now doing this through SMHW).
There are 2 categories of Positives you can be awarded:
- Positive Approach to Learning - 1 Point
- Outstanding Approach to Learning - 3 Points
You will be able to see all the Positives you have been awarded on your profile, who has logged them and what your overall running total is.
Badges are a separate way of acknowledging your engagement/achievements and general Approach to Learning. They do not have a point value attached to them, but the badge will remain visible on your profile if you achieve one (and be viewable to your parents). You can achieve badges for a wide variety of different reasons (they may be subject specific, linked to improved engagement, contributing to the ND or wider community).
They will act as a nice reminder of your prior achievements every time you log on and hopefully you will aim to collect as many as possible over time. We have created the badge list to reflect the current situation (for instance there is a Home Help badge).
You should hopefully be easily able to see when you are awarded with Positives or have achieved a specific Badge, so keep a look out online or via the app!
Update on Exams Grades
When I sent out my last Blog we were just getting some of the details on the plans for awarding exam grades at GCSE and A Level this summer. I know that Mrs Bullars sent out a link to the consultation document from Ofqual to parents of children affected when it came out over the Easter break. Thank you to those of you who were able to respond.
Some good news is that the proposals in the consultation suggest that we can expect students in Y10 who have been studying towards an exam in their first mid-sized block to be awarded a grade this summer, in the same way that Y11 students will be. This is a change from what was initially proposed and does show, I believe, that Ofqual are listening carefully to teachers and parents in an effort to come up with a workable plan which is fair to young people whose exams have been affected by lockdown.
Thank you for understanding and respecting the fact that teachers cannot engage in any communication with you about the grades they are providing to the exam boards, in line with the direction from Ofqual.
While it is perfectly normal and understandable that some students will be finding it hard to deal with such a big change, I do want to reassure you that the teachers who are providing estimated grades have your best interests very much at heart. They know you well and have a very good track record of estimating exam grades. I think the way that Ofqual has been listening to teachers and parents is also a sign that should be reassuring to you. It is.hard not to be in control, but you can trust that the people involved have no other aim than to ensure a fair representation of all the work you put in over your time at Notre Dame, with grades that help you to progress to the next step and put all that learning to good use.
Charity and Volunteering Good News
Each week we hear about our students, friends and people across the country going the extra mile and supporting others in the community by good deeds, volunteering and charity work. I just thought that I would share with you a good news story about two of our students.
The first is Luke in Year 8. Luke is a talented piano player and he decided over Easter to do a ‘Pianoathon’ to support the NHS. To date he has raised about £700 which is a fantastic achievement. If you go on the justgiving link below you can read Luke’s story and you can also go on the second link to view some of his live performances. Well done Luke you are an inspiration to us all.
I would also like to draw attention to Rory in Y11 who took the opportunity of his birthday to set up a fundraising challenge for NHS charities. Here is the link to his page, with information about what he has been doing and how you can help if you wish.
I know that there are so many students and other members of our community, like Luke and Rory, who are raising money or doing things to support their local communities. It is great to celebrate that here to encourage them and all of us in our efforts to do small things with great love. If any of you would like to share with the Notre Dame community any ‘Good News’ stories that your sons/daughters are doing or maybe what you are doing to support others in the community during the lock down then please contact Mr. J Cain with details (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are happy for us to include this in our weekly blog. It could be volunteering, sewing masks and scrubs, shopping for someone, contacting someone who is lonely, helping siblings or friends with their work or fundraising. If you are raising funds then don’t forget to include a link to so we can offer the community the chance to support you.
More Good News – Big Challenge Success
The BiG Challenge is an enterprise competition open to all Secondary schools and colleges in Sheffield. Each team has the opportunity to design and grow a business from a £25 start up loan over two school terms.
This year we had 24 teams who started the Big Challenge at Notre Dame. 10 of those teams went on to complete the final report, which is a comprehensive document. 3 were invited to judging at the DLA Piper offices in Sheffield, 2 teams went through to the final.
I have included a link to the competition website which includes details of the finalists and winners. However, I will give you a spoiler as I am delighted to say that one of our teams, Yo Scrunchie, was the overall winner! Our other finalists, Planet B, were also highly commended for their work.
I would like to offer my congratulations to Yo Scrunchie, Planet B and all the teams who took part. I am so impressed by the ability of those students to get a working business off the ground, with all the creativity, resilience, problem solving and so many other attributes that are required. I would also like to thank all the parents and members of staff who gave up time (& money) in support of them.
Opportunity to Join a Virtual Choir
There is an opportunity for Y7, Y8 and Y9 students to join a virtual choir over Zoom. Singing is a great activity in itself and we know it can be a real positive for mental health and wellbeing. If your child pr children are interested in this, Mr Ward has sent an email to all Y7, Y8 and Y9 students with details of how to get involved. If you can’t find it, please just send an email to Mr Ward and I am sure he will help you.
The rehearsals will begin on : Tuesdays at 11:30 - 12:10pm starting on Tuesday May 5th.
I will leave you for now with a rap written by one of our students, Fred, about his experience of coronavirus and the lockdown.
Is the reason why millions of people
Are in quarantine
Hundreds of people
Are dying each day
Despite everybody having
This the biggest thing to happen
To my generation
It has exceeded
My own expectations
All we’ve got to do
Is sit and wait
All we’ve got to do
Is hope and pray
That we may stay safe
It is our duty to help
The older generation
We need to
And lots of determination
To help the NHS
Who are doing their absolute best
Working with no rest
To achieve success
Protect the NHS
To help save lives
Protect the NHS
Because that’s government’s advice