Thursday, 28 October 2021

Parents, pupils and staff get used to lockdown life

Parents, pupils and staff get used to lockdown life

STUDENTS at the Piggott School in Wargrave who would be taking exams this summer if it wasn’t for the coronavirus pandemic are being urged to keep working hard.

The message came from deputy headteacher Rebecca Alexander who said the teenagers would be assessed by staff instead and this could affect their futures.

Both GCSE and A-level exams were cancelled by the Government last month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that with schools closed it was “not possible or fair” for them to go ahead as normal.

Instead, pupils will receive grades estimated by their teachers, just as they did last summer when the same thing happened. The exact details of how the “centre-assessments” will work has not yet been announced.

Mrs Alexander, a former Piggott student herself, said: “You can imagine for those year 11 and 13 families that this has caused quite a lot of anxiety.

“I am in charge of exams for the school and I’ve been in contact with parents and children in the last couple of weeks. Our message is really clear: the journey isn’t over and we’re not done yet.

“The key difference to last year is we’ve still got a good four months before we’ve got to make any decisions about their progress.

“Our message to those students is to keep working hard and show us what you can do because staff are gathering as much evidence as they can for when we are told what it is going to look like in the summer.

“Every teacher works with integrity and wants to give a child the best life chances they can but equally you don’t put your head on the pillow at night if you’ve not been true to your judgement.

“It’s a lot of pressure on staff to do that, particularly with our A-level students. The judgements we are making will either make or break whether they get into university and it is a lot responsibility on a teacher’s shoulders.”

Mrs Alexander, who joined the school in 2016, said the academy had been performing well during the lockdown despite most of its1,400 pupils having to be home-schooled and most of the teachers working from home.

The school is closed to all but the children of key workers or those who are considered vulnerable, which means there are only 25 to 30 pupils a week going in.

They are based at the sixth form centre and divided into year group bubbles with staggered start and finish times and social distancing in line with the government guidelines designed to help stop the virus being spread.

Children who come to school are helped by learning support staff and lessons are being delivered through Microsoft Teams.

They have an hour’s lunch break, instead of the normal 30 minutes, to give them more time away from the screen and to spend time outdoors.

The rest of the pupils are at home and following the normal curriculum with a mixture of live and pre-recorded lessons as well as activities and homework that are set online.

They are also given weekly challenges and daily fitness sessions, which are run by the PE department. Mrs Alexander said: “We have been bowled over by the positivity of our parents who have said, ‘well done and thank you’. That has kept us really buoyant at such a difficult time.

“I can’t tell you how important it is for their motivation. Our focus is always on the students but if we haven’t got happy, able and well staff then they’re not going to give a good provision for the children.

“We are being as creative as we can bt using all the different platforms available to us.

“It has been a steep learning curve for some of our staff, who are perhaps a bit more traditional in their delivery style.

“I think anyone in education at the moment is getting used to the fact that everything is very last-minute and you have to be creative.

“I have to say there are very few days when I don’t thank my lucky stars that I work with the staff at the Piggott School — they are amazing.

“The priority for us is to make sure everybody is safe and we don’t want the school to be open until we are confident we can do that.

“As soon as we are told it is safe, we are looking forward to having them back on site.

“There is a certain spark you get from face-to-face learning and there is a reason why schools don’t work remotely. That sense of positivity and community when we are all here together is wonderful.”

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