1 March 2021

Transcript of video

This final one in a series of 4 video updates about our return to school focuses on each student moving forward.  There have been a lot of headlines about "catch up", "loss of learning", students being "behind".... I don't like that language - it is the language of deficit and is not going to get students back in a positive frame of mind if they are desperately worried about what they have to do.  We have been experimenting with words - "reboot", "revival", "recovery"....  they all seem to begin with "r"!  The key point is that we know that students are going to come back with different starting points and we need to work with that.

The first thing to say is that, if students have broadly kept up with their lessons, they are not going to be "behind" - however you define that term.  There will be things that they haven't fully understood, but that is the normal business of teaching - work out what students know, can do and remember, and then build on it, filling in any gaps and moving forward.  We call this responsive teaching and it is the core of our craft.  Teachers across all subjects have worked really hard to amend the curriculum, what is taught, looking in particular at the key concepts - the things that you have to know to move forward.  This is one of the reasons I am so focused on lack of disruption in lessons - I know that every activity, every explanation, every question has been carefully thought about by the teacher - everything in the classroom, laboratory, workshop or gym is focused on learning.

In addition, we know a number of things about learning during lockdown and moving forward:

  • We know that a significant number of our students have thrived under lockdown and have actually made better progress than would have been expected, away from the distractions of school life.  Online learning suits some people. 

  • We know that significant numbers of our students have faced significant difficulties in their learning over the last couple of months.  There are students who have been unwell, those whose families have been unwell, those with difficult family circumstances and those who just couldn't be bothered because their motivation towards school work and learning is low at the best of times. 

  • We know that we must prioritise our students' mental health and wellbeing.  Some students will just need to get back to normal teaching and just want to get on with work.  Some will not react well to academic pressure for a variety of reasons and so we must also be aware of the need to provide support along with getting our extra-curricular activities back underway. 

  • We know that this is marathon, not a sprint - we welcome the additional funding that is available for intervention, summer schools etc... and we will spend it wisely and well, but we know that we are going to be recovering the curriculum for our students for several years.  We know that we have little time left with Year 11, but we now have some guidance about their GCSEs which looks positive.  With other year groups we must not just look to the next month or two - this is a long-term project.

  • We know that learning is always challenging if it is to move students forward, it always takes work, time, determination and resilience and those are characteristics (part of our ASPIRE ethos) that we must work together to develop.  Just providing more time in school will not necessarily result in progress if students do not want to be there.  Mentoring, support and relationships are as always, going to be vital. 

  • We know that our systems for independent and remote learning have been carefully thought about and have generally worked well, so ongoing independent learning will form part of our support for students moving forward.

So simplistic headlines about "catch up" are not always helpful - they cause a sense of alarm and panic that isn't helpful.  We need a calm, positive, determined way forward founded on basic principles and informed by research and evidence:

  • High quality responsive teaching is the most important element in moving students' learning forward - this has always been the case and does not change;

  • We must not assume that everyone is "behind" - whatever that means - we must keep moving forward, using positive encouraging language with our students;

  • Wellbeing is tightly linked to academic progress so we must plan for our extra-curricular and informal activities and our pastoral support;

  • This is a long-term undertaking, with no quick fixes.  We recognise, however, that Year 11 (and to a less extent Year 10) have limited time remaining with us and we must take that into account;

  • Some focused intervention will be needed with individual students - this is already underway in Y8 & 9 Maths and English;

  • Any learning involves commitment, determination, resilience and hard work by students - individual mentoring and support will be important

  • Our strength in remote learning means that face to face teaching should be supported by supported independent work - this is a new and positive way of looking at homework

No-one would wish this situation on any of us.  That being said, however, it allows a talented and professional team of staff to think very carefully and intelligently about every aspect of school life and our craft to ensure that every one of our students moves forward. 

I hope that these 4 video messages have given you an insight into the broad principles and approaches that inform our return to school.  Safety is obviously our prime concern, but we are a really good staff team and we need to deploy all our intelligence, commitment, empathy and knowledge in the best interests of each of our students.

Best wishes





Posted by James Harris

Category: WLD Updates