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    Message from the Principal

    Mr J Taylor, Headteacher
    Mr J Taylor
    Principal

    Dear Parent / Carer,

    As Easter is almost upon us, it has been a very surreal ending to the term. However we do understand the government’s decision to close schools for all except the most vulnerable students and for those whose parents are keyworkers, and for whom no alternative arrangements can be put in place. Clearly we all have a shared responsibility to stop the further spread of coronavirus as much as we can.

    School activities

    Earlier in the year, there were a wide variety of exciting opportunities available for our students to get involved in, which of course bring a real benefit to a successful all-round education. In the final week of last half term we held our annual ‘Gym, Dance and Movement Evening’ performances. This year, the theme was ‘Top of the Pops’. I was delighted to hear, once again, many of the numbers from the 1960s and ‘70s and the huge numbers of gymnasts and dancers involved certainly made for three spectacular evenings. I hope you had the opportunity to join us on one of those evenings and, if not, please look out for this event next year. Around 200 Wath students were involved, together with pupils from our main feeder primary schools. An excellent event for the whole community.

    ‘National Careers Week’ and ‘Science Week’ have been celebrated in school during this half term. For the former, there were guest speakers in each of the assemblies between 2 and 6 March. Students had presentations about the Police, Army, Apprenticeships, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) careers and for challenging stereotypes in the world of work. In addition, the National Citizen Service promoted the opportunities offered by their excellent scheme and we had the opportunity to ‘Meet the Employer’ at a ‘Careers CafeĢ Breakfast’, together with further interview practice for students. Thank you to our Careers Lead, Ms Laite, and her team for delivering this so successfully. Mrs Boyd, Head of Science, has included elsewhere within The Torch extensive coverage of the events that featured in Science Week and, once again, thanks to all Science staff for organising these events.

    Changes to the Year 9 curriculum from September 2020

    We had to postpone our curriculum information evening for Year 8 parents. This would have been a formal opportunity to hear that, in the academy curriculum model for 2020-21, we will teach the Key Stage 3 curriculum over Years 7, 8 and 9. This will ensure that all students will continue to be taught a broad range of subjects in depth. This change will ensure that we provide a solid foundation for all students, across a wide range of subjects, in preparation for option choices that will now take place at the end of Year 9. The Key Stage 4 curriculum will then be delivered over Years 10 and 11 and will provide an even greater choice than in previous years. All students, irrespective of their ability or special educational needs, will have equal access to that curriculum.

    This is in line with government guidelines that the curriculum remains as broad as possible for as long as possible. The planned move to a three year Key Stage 3 curriculum will allow more time for students to prepare for the specialisation that takes place at GCSE level. Many other schools have adopted this model and, whilst this in itself is not a reason to change, it means that our students will not be disadvantaged when competing against other school leavers in the region.

    Work being set for students during our enforced closure

    All our teachers are setting their learning activities via 'Show My Homework'. All of our students have been using 'Show My Homework' on a weekly basis since September to complete their homework and therefore it should be a familiar practice. 'Show My Homework' is an online and mobile app where students can receive resources, activities, messages and notifications. Parents can also access this. Students/Parents can message teachers directly within the app if they have any work-related questions. All our staff are setting lessons and activities in line with students’ usual timetables. This should allow students to follow their normal timetable at home. This will also include tutor time activities around 'Character Education' and 'Votes for Schools'. Teachers are setting activities which allow students to make progress in their normal curriculum subjects. Students should access 'Show My Homework' on a daily basis. Hard copy packs of work are available via reception, when students don't have Internet access.

    It's great to hear that so many of our students are completing the activities set, but please don't worry too much if not everything is completed. This situation is new to us all and we will continue to refine our approach. Based on feedback received so far, we will change the tasks so they don't require a submission date. We are also looking at launching a consistent approach for students to send in work via a digital drop box. Further details about this will be released in due course. Just a reminder - there is a messaging service within 'Show My Homework' so students and parents can message teachers directly. Please see our website for additional email addresses that you can use to contact different staff and departments regarding your specific queries. We will also be posting regular updates from staff on social media to give students extra challenges to keep them engaged and motivated each week. Thank you for your ongoing support through these testing times.

    Information on the cancellation of the 2020 external examinations for Year 11 and Year 13 students

    The government has cancelled this summer’s external exams as part of their attempts to stop the further spread of coronavirus. This year’s summer exam series, including A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, and all primary assessments, have been cancelled as part of the fight to stop the spread of coronavirus.

    The Department for Education has outlined recently that students will be awarded a calculated grade for their GCSEs, AS and A levels this summer, and will provide an exam option for those students that wish it, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools reopen.

    Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) is working to develop a fair and consistent process. Work is already underway with exam boards to develop proposals and the boards will provide more detail for schools in the coming weeks. It is the exam boards that will award grades to students whose exams have been cancelled this summer.

    University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support Year 13 students and ensure they can progress to Higher Education. The government’s priority now is to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives in the autumn, whether starting university, college or sixth form courses, an apprenticeship or going into employment.

    This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to. Ofqual will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students. The exam boards will be liaising with schools so that they can have an input into submitting their judgement about the grade that they believe a student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

    To produce this grade, schools will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on trial/mock/ preliminary exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools shortly. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work students have put in.

    Ofqual and exam boards will finalise an approach to ensure that it is as fair as possible. The aim is to provide calculated grades to students before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in previous years. Ofqual will also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances.

    The government has further announced that they recognise that some students may nevertheless feel disappointed that they haven’t been able to sit their exams and therefore may be able to appeal the grade the exam board awards. In addition, if students do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

    There is a very wide range of different academic, vocational and technical qualifications for which students were expecting to sit exams this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations, and have differing assessment approaches – in some cases students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. The government is encouraging these organisations to show the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged. Ofqual is working urgently with the examination sector to explore options and they intend to provide more detail for schools in due course.

    Below is a link to the Department for Education ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ site about the cancellation of this summer’s exams – you might find this site helpful in providing further information.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid- 19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020

    Thank you for your continuing support at this challenging time. Despite the current restrictions may I take this opportunity in wishing you a very Happy Easter.

    Yours sincerely,

    Mr J Taylor
    Principal