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September 2020 Blog

At last, the corridors resound again to the music of students. Thank goodness…and after the initial complexities around the reopening of the College and ensuring that all the new systems work and students and staff are as safe as possible, we are now fully settled back into the business of learning.

It is though, different… but that is not necessarily all bad, in fact far from it!

For example, the introduction of Class Charts and the moving away from the paper-based planner has been an excellent innovation. The system provides a real-time experience as far as the issuing of rewards and sanctions is concerned. Students love being able to access their rewards online. Likewise, the way the system processes sanctions helps to remove ambiguity and provides the students with clear warnings which can stop sanctions escalating. For staff, it enables a vital analysis tool, that helps us identify successes and issues so we can act swiftly on both, in appropriate ways.

I can use the analysis tool with you now, to share the positive way in which the students have come back to their learning after an extraordinary 6 months off. On the pie chart below, you can see that we have had 19,208 positives awarded against just 1443 negatives. This is fantastic and completely reaffirms my belief that actually children quite like being in school to learn, despite sometimes complaining about it a lot!

I think this data also shows just how well and sensibly the vast majority of students have adapted to the new systems and routines in the College which has enabled us to help keep the whole community as safe as possible.

Alongside the Class Charts innovation is the relatively seismic innovation concerning learning. As discussed, and explored at length through the summer term, lockdown provided the Crookhorn community, teachers and students alike, with a vertical learning opportunity with regards to remote learning.  We came so far in such a short space of time. As a result of this, I have been determined that we move forward from where we ended up in July, rather than reverting back to pre-COVID teaching and learning.

To do this we have adopted the concept of Blended Learning and thankfully ‘itslearning’ is the ideal platform for us to be able to deliver this through. Blended learning literally means a mix of the critical face to face teacher input in the classroom supported by additional learning resources and activities set virtually on our itslearning platform in a clear organisational way that encourages students to learn in greater depth other than just through ordinary homework tasks.

The Government had made it clear in July that all schools were going to need to continue with some form of remote learning to support students who might have to stay at home under the self-isolation regulations. This week, the Government went further and made it an actual legal requirement for all schools to provide remote provision. With no end to the COVID pandemic in sight and the need to adjust our reality to the fact that it is now about living with the virus and making adjustments accordingly, I am not surprised that the Government has taken this step. What I am pleased about is that ‘Blended Learning’ enables us to deliver both in-class learning and remote learning in a seamless way. Any student or teacher who suddenly must stay away from the College for a period can still engage with the learning or the teaching in a meaningful and productive way with no gap, thereby minimising the disruption to progress.

During September, we have worked hard as a staff to really get our heads around Blended Learning and the protocols that help define it and make it effective and successful. It is an epic transition for teachers, but ultimately it is a brilliantly exciting innovation that offers so much scope to take learning to a whole new level. We are finally in a position where we can genuinely facilitate students becoming independent learners, which is so empowering for their future as the ‘next generation’.

Another difference has been the way we have had to be creative and innovative in relation to standard events. September is always a busy month for the College in the way of promotion and celebration, but this September we have not been able to go out to primary schools to visit the Year 6 and we have not been able to host our usual Open Evening.

Mr Collins and the whole leadership team have been at full stretch to come up with alternative ways in which we can reach out to Year 6 children and their parents, as we know that making the decision about your secondary school is so important. The resulting ‘Why Choose Crookhorn?’ campaign has actually been a huge success and the video which we managed to film in the first few days back has had over 4000 hits on Facebook alone, with lots of shares and likes and the whole campaign has had a further 2000 hits through the website. In such a difficult time, it is great to see creative thinking have such positive outcomes.

The virtual parents’ evenings as well have proved to be an innovation that could well have longevity beyond the current restrictions. Despite a couple of initial teething issues, the response to the way these events are run through School Cloud has been overwhelmingly positive and in a recent parent survey, 65% of parents would like these evening to remain virtual!

Some differences continue to challenge us though. I think as a whole College we miss the fantastic food that Julie and her team usually rustle up for us every day at breakfast, break and lunchtime. At the moment, with the required restrictions in place, there is not much I can do to get hot food out every day to each year group zone, but, as soon as we can, it will be one of the first areas we look to address.

I know the staggered start at the beginning of each day causes concern and stress for some parents. It also concerns me, specifically with regards to the deteriorating weather and just how many students come to College without a coat and are therefore likely to get soaked whilst waiting for their year groups allocated time to come on-site. I have this situation under review and will update parents as soon as possible with future plans regarding this aspect of the College day.

A final area, which is also currently adversely affected, is getting students to stay behind after College to make the most of the individual year group Study Clubs. This year we have expanded our Study Club programme so that each year group has access to their own study room after College each day with access to a teacher and computers. It is a great opportunity, particularly for those students who are still struggling to work independently, to get support and help with H/W tasks or enrichment activities set through itslearning. We would love to see more students engaging with this, particularly as our enrichment events have to be all virtual at this time. If you feel your child would benefit from this opportunity, please do encourage them to attend or alternatively contact us at the College and we can follow up with them each week. You will see the promo poster for the Study Clubs at the end of this blog.

We do of course miss all the extracurricular activities and trips that we would normally be running at this time, but I hope out of all the changes and restrictions, that this will be an area where we will be able to start reintroducing some activities at least, again after half term.

In the meantime, I count the positives every day:

  1. We are open and operating a safe site with manageable systems for our students and staff
  2. We have 94.6% of our students back in education and learning
  3. We are making huge strides with Blended Learning- supporting our OPEN MIND learning ethos
  4. Our students’ attitude to learning since their return has been overwhelmingly positive and their resilience so far is remarkable

So, it might be raining hard outside, but the clouds above us definitely have a silver lining!!