September 2021 Blog
September has been a glorious month with beautiful weather and a College that has been fully operational without all the COVID-19 restrictions of the previous year. We also welcomed in our new cohort of Year 7, who are proving to be a fantastic addition to the College.
The return of all schools has not been without its challenges though in this changed landscape and there are key factors that will affect the College and different cohorts of students over the months to come.
First and foremost, whilst we have returned with no restrictions, to help manage the spread of the infection and in particular, keep schools open during the coming autumnal months, the government has stipulated this week that testing twice a week for all students and staff is essential. It remains a choice of course as to whether you ask your child or children to test, but we strongly urge you to do this. It means that we can be aware of the number of COVID cases in the College and if levels get high, then we can put in contingency measures to try and reduce the spread. If students do not test then we run the risk of the infection spreading without check, which ultimately will have a knock-on effect to teachers and support staff. If we have high infection rates amongst the staff of the College this will affect the operational viability of being able to remain open to all year groups. I ask, therefore, that we act as a community on this: to keep everyone as safe as possible, please continue to test twice weekly until Christmas, for everyone's benefit.
Secondly, we are striving as far as we can to get students back out on enrichment trips which is so exciting for the staff and the students, but again, the situation with running these trips is not the same as it was pre-pandemic. Many venues restrict quite heavily the number of students we can take, so this means that we sometimes cannot take the number of students we would have taken previously taken, which I appreciate is frustrating but a situation beyond our control. We also will have to make last-minute decisions as to whether a trip can run, based on staff and student absence in the College at that time. The priority will always be to run a trip, but if absence is high, then this will probably have to be reconsidered. Any student that is booked on a trip that is cancelled at the last minute will be fully reimbursed by the College.
Finally, for our Year 11's OFQUAL; the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation wishes to return to pre-pandemic grading, but recognises that this year’s cohort have been severely affected by the pandemic. Therefore, Summer 2022 will be a transition year to reflect that we are in a pandemic recovery period. This transition means that OFQUAL are putting in some measures to ensure that these students are assisted as far as they can be in achieving their potential in the Year 11 exams in the summer.
What these measures will look like are outlined below:
- In 2022, Ofqual will seek to reflect a midway point between 2021 and 2019, and in 2023 will aim to return to results in line with pre-pandemic years. What this means is that standards this year will be based on an average of 2019 and 2021 results for each subject. Results for every subject will be reviewed before they are issued. Examination boards will set the grade boundaries based on a profile that reflects a mid-point between 2021 and pre-pandemic grading. This means that results will be higher than in 2019 and not as high as in 2020.
- Exam centres (schools) will be able to choose the topics that are studied for the exam. So, for example in English Literature, the choice could be made that the students will not have to study the anthology of poetry and in history, the choice could be made not to study the Medicine Through Time module. By reducing the required content for study, the students will have more time to study the topics that will be examined, which helps to address some of the issues around the disruption caused by lockdown 3 last January.
- In some subjects there will be advanced information about the focus of some questions to aid revision (this will be published by examination boards by 7th February 2022).
- In some subjects Study aids will be available– such as formula sheets.
It is great that OFQUAL have put these measures in place, and it will enable us to progress with confidence through Year 11 towards the final exams in the summer. However, I feel strongly that our Year 10s will need significant support as they progress through their two years towards the GCSE exams. I am conscious that they have had significant disruption to their learning too, through the formative skill-building years of 8 and 9. We will be planning very carefully as a College, as a result, to consider how we can best support this cohort of students too, so that they can also approach their GCSEs in Year 11 with confidence.
Aside from the challenges, our school year has got underway with a flourish, starting at the end of August when we ran our very successful Summer School which all our new Year 7 students were invited to. The aim of the Summer School was to support the transition of students from Year 6 to Year 7 in a brand new and much bigger environment, through providing activities to encourage wellbeing, personal development, academic support and enrichment.
Students were split into House groups, in line with their groups for the upcoming year. This allowed them to build positive relationships with their peers with the intention of easing worries and concerns relating to starting College in September. In total, 120 students accessed the Summer School provision and the feedback from students was fantastic, with 100% recommending that the College should try and do this as part of the future transition process. They told us that it was great for making new friends, meeting new staff, and they certainly loved the food that they received from our wonderful College canteen! From a College perspective, we were delighted with the engagement of students and parents and believe it will make a huge difference to the start of their journey here at Crookhorn.
This summer school was then complimented with our SMART Start programme for Year 7 in the first week of term. This programme aimed to immerse the students in the Crookhorn ethos and to help them find their feet as Crookhorn learners. Again, from the feedback, this was an experience that the students really enjoyed and has helped them to settle extremely well into College life.
Since the start of term, the Senior Leadership team and the Heads of House have been working hard to ensure that all students in all years understand the 3 strands of the Crookhorn ethos. We have talked about the 4 Cornerstones being the foundation that guides who we are and how we behave. This is then supported by Go WEST, which is our resilience strand and focuses on how we look after ourselves. Finally, we have OPEN MIND, which is all about how we learn. With all these three strands together, we are aiming to produce morally grounded, successfully self-managing and self-regulating independent learners. After the two years we have all been through, I think this focus is essential and absolutely what is needed.
Our Open Evening was held on a beautiful September afternoon and early evening. Again, as with so many things, we ran it differently this year to try and ensure that all participants involved felt safe and were able to enjoy the experience as much as possible. The evening was a ticketed event and sold out very quickly, with 300 families joining us over two separate sessions. The feedback from the parents and the Year 6 pupils was fantastic. 97% of parents and 100% of the pupils found the welcoming presentation published on the Crookhorn website of a high standard and informative. 100% of parents found the atmosphere at the College very welcoming. After attending the Open Evening 99% of parents said they were keen to consider Crookhorn College for their child’s secondary education. 95% of the pupils highly enjoyed the activities they took part in during the course of the evening.
On Thursday 23rd of September, we held our first face to face SPR (Student Progress Review) day in 2 years which provided a great opportunity for parents and students to come in and meet with the tutor and discuss the goals for the academic year and raise any concerns from the start of term. 90% of parents responded that they had really valued the opportunity to have the meeting and reflect with the tutor on the academic as well as personal goals and expectations for the year ahead.
On Friday 24th September our annual Post 16 Options Fair went ahead, and it was a great success. Our Year 11 students were able to talk to the representatives from a wide range of organisations including all of our local FE colleges, the Army, Portsmouth and Southampton University and a number of apprenticeship providers. All of our visitors commented on how well our students engaged with them, asked relevant questions and collected information such as the prospectuses enthusiastically. Hopefully, this opportunity to start thinking about their futures will have given our Year 11's a crucial sense of impetus about their futures and life beyond the last 18 months, thereby inspiring great industry in the classroom and independently in study club or at home.
Interestingly during SPR day, tutors talked to the students, across all year groups, about their aspirations, and many have subsequently asked for careers interviews and guidance on different options which is brilliant. This is all a key part of the building ambition programme that we have in the College, so that students become self-motivated by their own goals for their futures! To further support all students and parents at Crookhorn College, we have provided a direct link to the ‘Careers Companion’ website which provides a wide range of information and resources to support students from Year 7 onwards with the challenge of considering their future and what career they might want to pursue.
With October well underway now, we will have lots to report with regards to the reestablishment of the House system and how well this has gone with the relaunch of our House competitions and most importantly our vertical tutor groups and House assemblies. We will also have some trips to report back on - which after two years is hugely exciting!