20th January 2021
Dear Parent or Carer,
After some key government messages recently, I felt it was important that I updated you on recent announcements and what the academy is doing to support the national effort in the battle against Covid-19 and assisting our community through this third lockdown period.
On January 4, the Prime Minister announced that GCSE and A Levels would not be taking place in the summer. On January 6, Simon Lebus, Ofqual Interim Chief Regulator wrote a message to students and their parents/carers: ‘We know that this is a difficult time for students, their parents and carers, teachers and trainers. Our message to students is this: please continue to engage as fully as you can in your education. That will be online for the majority of students... this will put you in the best position, whatever arrangements are made for your qualifications. It’s important that teachers and students can focus on the knowledge and skills needed to equip students to progress to the next stage, whatever form that might take – whether to college, an apprenticeship, university or employment.’ The Chief Regulator’s full message can be found using this link:
Since then, a consultation has begun on how grades will be awarded to students taking GCSEs this summer. This will be a useful document for parents/carers to read:
No doubt there will be further developments as we progress towards the end of your child’s education at Ash Hill Academy, but at this stage I wanted to reassure you that we are doing all we can to ensure our students receive a set of qualifications which will allow them to move forward with the next steps in their education, training or employment. This week has seen a number of key developments and we wanted communicate some key issues with you.
Remote Learning and GCSE Grades – Summer 2021
I would strongly urge you to ensure that your child is accessing remote learning from home during this period of lockdown. This will be a critical part of the judgement forming process for student grades in the summer. It is now highly likely we will be using teacher assessments and internal tests which will be based on evidence from a range of sources linked to in school performance. Engagement with all aspects of remote learning (live lessons, Hegarty Maths, GCSEPod etc), will be one element, with other elements likely to be further assessments/internal examinations being issued upon our return to school. We cannot take anything for granted and online attendance and engagement are key to establishing an evidence base that demonstrates students are on track to achieve. As soon as further updates are available, we will contact you. Although the circumstances this year may be different, we will do all we can to ensure that everyone achieves the grades needed for their next steps in life, and we look forward to celebrating success together at the very earliest opportunity.
The Ash Hill Virtual Academy – Years 7 to 11
We do recognise that getting students to learn online at home is difficult and that when there are other more tempting things to occupy their time with, this battle can be a daily occurrence for parents and carers who have busy lives. We do appreciate that you may have other children at home to manage, alongside often trying to work from home yourselves. We know that the circumstances are incredibly challenging, and we ask that you support our teaching staff by actively encouraging your child to engage with our online learning offer. As ever, we will do all we can to support our students, including getting devices to those families that most need them, but I must stress that engagement during this period of lockdown is essential. If you require support with ICT please do not hesitate to contact us by email via: email@example.com
All KS3 and KS4 students should be following their normal timetable, attending lessons via their Teams classrooms. Each lesson will commence with a ‘Meet and Greet’ where attendance will be recorded and staff will provide instructions and support for the lesson. Students are expected to be on time and ensure they complete any tasks as directed by their teachers. Where assignments are set, these can be accessed in the assignment tab on Microsoft Teams and will tell you if they have been started or completed and submitted. In order to support you in understanding these changes, there is a dedicated page on our website to support students and parents and this can be found here: www.ashhillacademy.org.uk/Online-Academy. Please carefully watch the updated video located on this webpage for detailed step by step guidance on what students should do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SQxuI11VMc
If your child is unable to access Microsoft Teams please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any further updates or changes will be communicated via email and the following weblink:
Microsoft X box and Sony PlayStation
I know a number of students are using mobile phones or shared laptops and tablets to access their work at home. This is of course not ideal and we are doing all we can to support our disadvantaged students and families. If this is the case, please contact the academy by email at email@example.com where additional support may be available to ensure that your child can get online and do their required study. We are also reliably informed by some of our gaming console enthusiasts that students are able to access our learning network ‘Microsoft Teams’ through the X box or PlayStation platforms and the following details should be shared with your child if these platforms would help with access.
· Go to my games and apps.
· Find Microsoft Edge and select it.
· Type in Office 365 and log in as you would in school.
· Go to the PlayStation browser icon (it is WWW with dots around it)
· Press the PlayStation logo on your controller
· Go to library and find options for games and applications
· Go into applications and you will find the internet browser
· Type in Office 365 and log in like you would at school
Vulnerable and Critical Worker Provision
I am sure that you would agree that due to the continued rising numbers of cases across the country and the resulting intense pressure on the NHS, we must keep the number of staff and pupils in the Academy to a bare minimum. This is to reduce the risk to all who enter the Academy, the wider community and the families that they go home to. It has been made very clear by the government that parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can. We ask that if it is possible for you to keep your child at home you do so, this is to protect everyone. I must stress that students should not be sent to school without formal prior agreement with the academy and evidence of eligibility based on the Government’s criteria: Children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Free School Meals
I have written to all parents and carers whose children are eligible for Free School Meals to confirm that the Government are reintroducing the Edenred voucher scheme (see the above link). We have been informed by the Department for Education that voucher codes will be emailed to parents and carers via addresses that we have on our school system and these will soon be on their way to eligible households. Those that do not have an email account will receive their voucher by safe collection or by post, as agreed with the Academy. In the intervening period, we provided food packages to parents and carers, as outlined by the Government, but they have since had a policy shift on this and are coordinating the voucher scheme centrally. We will be in contact with eligible families this week with further updates and we are doing all we can to facilitate this process as swiftly as possible.
Parents’ and Carers’ Evening
Virtual Parents’/Carers’ evenings will replace in school meetings, beginning with Year 11 on Tuesday 9th February. The next parents’/carers’ evening after this will be for Year 8 which will provisionally take place on Tuesday 23rd February. Appointments will be booked through our newly acquired parents’/carers’ evening booking system and we will contact you with details about this very shortly. On the evening, staff will offer updates on your child’s progress and levels of engagement.
However, in terms of Year 11, staff will not be able to offer specific updates that pertain to teacher assessed grades until we receive further guidance from the Department for Education regarding the summer grading procedures: as mentioned, there is a consultation taking place between the examination boards, Ofqual and the DFE and we will update you when we have more information. We will be able to discuss, more generally, where they are now in terms of their current development and rate of improvement.
Thank you for your continued and invaluable support.
Mr G Moffatt