It is of the greatest importance that our pupils continue to work hard and that their education continues at pace whilst they are unable to access the campus. There is a great deal of academic research which shows that even during the summer vacation, significant “learning loss” can occur.
I am very grateful that in the weeks preceding the closure of the campus, teachers in both the Prep and Senior Schools worked tirelessly to prepare for such eventuality.
In practical terms, the cancellation of all ‘A’ level and GCSE examinations by the Examination Boards that the school uses might mean less revision for the pupils, but the need to continue to improve and produce high-quality work is paramount.
Although we have not yet been informed of all the details of the methods that the Examining Boards will use to award grades, it will most probably be on the basis of teacher assessments, so pupils must continue to produce their best quality work right up to the date when submissions will have to be made to the Examination Boards. To do otherwise would undoubtedly jeopardise the final GCSE or ‘A’ level grade, with the potential serious consequences of lower grades.
In very broad terms, it is most probable that our teaching staff will allocate a GCSE or ‘A’ level grade based on criteria provided by the Examination Board. Those judgements will be moderated externally; this echoes the protocols used for coursework in those subjects where that applies.
Fortunately, we already have a number of experienced Examiners within our teaching staff, though this assessment exercise will inevitably be very challenging, so a cooperative approach to include pupils and their teachers will be the best path to follow.
Parents should note that this change to the way in which grades will be awarded will require a significant increase in teacher input throughout next term, regardless of whether or not the school campus opens to pupils. Hence my very strong advice to teachers has been to ensure that pupils increase the pace and enhance the quality of their work, rather than revise.
Years 10 and 12 and their teachers face a different but no less important challenge. In a year’s time we anticipate that pupils will sit a full set of GCSE and ‘A’ level examinations, and any let-up now will undoubtedly damage grades in 2021.
The second year of GCSE and ‘A’ level courses typically contains the more difficult elements, and so pupils generally find the work more challenging as they approach the final assessments. Thus our teachers will be pushing pupils very hard until and after the government advises that our campus can reopen; this period is not and cannot be a holiday.
For pupils in other years, the challenge might not seem as great, but it is. Those in Year 9 need to be well-prepared to begin GCSE courses, while those in Year 6 must be ready for the more demanding work which they will face in Year 7.
In the Prep School, basic numeracy and literacy can very easily regress; if a pupil stops making progress, they do not remain static, but slide back, so our teachers will be working diligently to produce work, ask questions and liaise with the pupils. Our teachers and their pupils have worked hard and effectively, and we cannot allow all the progress that the pupils have made to evaporate during this enforced period. I know that our Prep teachers have distributed a five-week programme for the children and I am grateful for the many kind and supportive emails we have received from parents. We are committed to continuing to produce appropriate work for the children.
Parents will be aware that we are using different protocols and software packages dependent upon the age and needs of the pupils. One of the main factors in choosing software packages has been to ensure that children are safeguarded; there are some programmes which are available in commerce and industry which are unsuitable for our use with children because they do not automatically protect young people.
We are also aware that some programmes are data-heavy and, with the large number of people working from home, can work run slowly. That is why we are using programmes with which teachers, pupils and parents are familiar, and which are safe.
We continue to monitor developments but in the event that schools are not allowed to open their buildings at the start of next term, or even into May or June, we will review the term dates both for this year and next year. Clearly this will depend on a range of factors, not least the progress of our pupils during this period of online learning. If necessary, we will provide additional tuition.
I also wish to confirm that the School Chaplain, the Rev Nick Sissons, also remains available for pupils and parents. He will also be delivering iChapels with the support of other staff and visiting preachers and of course, parents may wish to enjoy that for themselves.
The current worldwide situation is an unfolding tragedy. We have parents, governors, spouses and former pupils who, on a daily basis, are putting their own lives at risk to save others, who may themselves be members of our own families and community. Our pupils are not yet able to help those in need physically. However, I hope and expect every pupil to show care and compassion for others; that is an essential part of their education at Rydal Penrhos. I do hope that our pupils will send an email, a message or make a telephone call to those who are unwell or confined; to understand the importance of such emotional support is a fundamental part of what the school seeks to inculcate.
If you have any questions or concerns about our continuing educational provision for your child, please contact me, your child’s Head of School, (Seniors Mrs Harding and Prep Mrs Davies) or form/class/subject teacher. I have asked all teachers to contact parents towards the end of this week for feedback as to the welfare and academic progress of your child so that we can be sure that we are setting the appropriate amount and style of work.
MR J E WASZEK