Now that the new ‘term’ is underway, I write to welcome the JCoSS community back to itself as the adventure of 2020 continues. I hope Pesach provided at least some opportunity for celebration and reflection, even if there still is more plague than liberation in our lives. The last fortnight has sadly brought illness and bereavement to some more JCoSS families – whether from the virus or from other illnesses – and we extend our sympathies to all who have suffered loss. The disruptions to the normal means of grieving and consolation are an additional deprivation, making it all harder to bear and demanding more resourcefulness form us all as we try to manifest the true meaning of ‘community’.
Learning has restarted this week and I ask parents and students to read the following. Some of which affect everyone, some only a few.
· Insight remains the primary means of communication. Whatever is set is noted here, even if it directs students elsewhere, e.g. to Teams for live lessons. We have worked with Insight to add some functionality to their platform: tasks now appear in a more helpful order, can be marked as complete and can be hidden once no longer needed. Together with cleaning some historic tasks from the site, we hope this will make it tidier and more manageable.
· We recognise that home and individual circumstances vary for students (as they do for teachers), but we encourage them to roughly follow their timetables and apportion time to each subject. Live lessons remain a minority part of our offer, as we are mindful of the stress this places on the different capacity of households in terms of timing and IT. Live lessons will only take place in the usual timetabled slots (this is Week 2…) and at KS3 will be no more than once a fortnight, e.g. to provide feedback or ‘surgery’ style interactions.
· Microsoft Teams are making improvements and it will soon be possible to see more faces on the screen, and for teachers to have greater control over contributions from students. May we remind you that normal behaviour expectations apply: there has been some extremely disappointing silliness from some students and we will not hesitate to remove them from Teams if this is persistent.
· Public Exam Grades: we have developed a robust and nuanced system for calculating grades for the exam boards. Subject to the final outcome of a consultation, grades will be provided for all candidates including those below Year 11 taking exams early (e.g. in Ivrit). May I remind you that there is no place for advocacy of any kind by parents or students, nor can extra work be taken into account. Results will be published as per the original timetable – 13 August for A level/Technical Qualifications, 20 August for GCSE.
· The process of determining grades is painstaking and time-consuming and it will inevitably demand considerable teacher ‘bandwidth’ (including the literal kind as it has to be done via online meetings). Please bear with us through this period.
· Year 11: a wide variety of tasks have now been provided on the Year 11 Teams pages. Our expectation is that students will engage in the Eton X programme and the bridging work for the subjects they are planning to take next year. This is a real test of students’ intrinsic motivation (a key part of what a Mensch looks like). Universities have indicated that they will be interested in how applicants spent their time during lock down: activities that broaden the mind, hone intellectual skills or improve the community will go down a lot better than hours of play station. We are looking at improving the organisation of these learning materials and systems for ‘handing in’ work, but there is ample material there already and we urge you to use it.
· Year 13: the Eton X programme is good for you too, and there are many other options including offerings from the Open University should you need them.
· Year 9: the extended deadline for submitting GCSE option choices has now passed and we are processing that data as we construct the timetable for next year. As usual, we will confirm subjects later in the term. We encourage you students to continue engaging with all their subjects for now, but will be checking in particular on any who are not keeping up with work in subjects they intend to continue.
· Physical Activity and Education: we hope all students are managing to keep active, whether in the company of Joe Wicks or otherwise, and to get outside as much and as responsibly as is permitted. For inspiration, I encourage you to follow the JCoSS PE Instagram account where the achievements of students are celebrated and also some challenges for us all have been set by the PE staff
Amidst all of this, your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing should remain the top priority. Jessica Overlander-Kaye, our Wellbeing Practitioner, has written an article outlining 5 ways to take care of wellbeing which I wholeheartedly commend to you. This was published in the JC which, following its untimely death, was resurrected over the Easter weekend along with another who shares the same initials…or so I’ve heard!
With best wishes