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From the Rector's Desk - 21st May 2020

Thursday 21 May 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,


The Africa Day fixture free weekend has suddenly crept up on us and I hope you and your families are looking forward to a change of routine from the last three weeks of ‘digi-school’. It has been an interesting three weeks and I continue to be impressed by the manner in which both staff and pupils have embraced the notion of online learning. Interestingly, our experiences over the last three weeks are shared by schools who have been in this space longer than us. The first week was associated, on all sides, with a high degree of anxiety. This was followed by a period of time which saw some difficulties associated with the online submission of work and the pressures related to marking and assessing this work. More recently, we are noting that the novelty of e-learning is wearing off and pupils are showing a degree of fatigue. Hence the prospect of a ‘long-weekend’ break will be greatly valued by both staff and pupils.

As part of our ongoing effort to refine the digi-school, you as parents will receive notification, via email, inviting you to join Google Guardian. Essentially, this gives you an insight into the work that your son/daughter has been doing over the course of a period of time (you have a number of time frame options). Guardian tracks all the work set for pupils as well as monitors work submitted. It provides you, as a parent, an insight into the work your child is doing. We hope that it will be a useful tool for parents to gauge the work being done at home, as well as how well it is being done. While on the topic of work, please note that ‘real-time lessons’ are not time constrained. The rule of thumb is that they should not be more than 30 minutes, however, there may be occasions where the nature of the lesson will require more than 30 minutes to complete. As we approach half term, there will be a mark order in the same way that there would be in any other term; this will be based on the submission of at least three pieces of assessed work. Pupils are reminded to consult with their teachers on the mechanics of submitting work because one size does not fit all subjects. Lastly on the academic front, there have been questions around the ‘mock examinations’. These will take place at dates yet to be determined and pupils will be given ample notice of when these will be scheduled.

As you will be well aware there have been a number of statements related to the physical re-opening of schools. We are conscious that discussions are taking place as to when and what this will look like. Currently we have no certainty of when this will take place, nevertheless, in preparation for a return of pupils to the school, we will be sending out a parent survey to gauge your sentiments around a planned re-opening.
I would greatly value your support in completing this survey so that we can make informed decisions around the future direction of the term. I do appreciate that there will be a wide spectrum of views on the matter and we will need to base our thinking and decisions around the majority sentiment. In addition, in the background, we are working on a comprehensive document which will guide us in the run-up to re-opening and all the protocols needed to operate and manage a school in a COVID 19 environment.

Further to my remarks last week around efforts to manage the school’s overhead costs, there have been a number of constructive meetings and discussions this week. It has been agreed that all the school’s non-essential capex will be frozen for 2020; the school will be introducing some staff cost saving measures as well as other mechanisms which will help us reduce overhead costs without compromising the quality of our teaching and learning environment. With this in mind, there are still a number of parents who have yet to make a payment plan with the Business Director. I would like to urge you to make contact with him. Thank you to all those families who have supported us in this regard.

In addition to the academic component of our online learning, the Sports Department have been posting weekly conditioning programmes which I hope are proving useful to all our sportsmen and women. Our cultural activities are also venturing into the online space. I am aware that the Music Department are working on an exciting project.

Please stay in touch with the school through our social media platforms where we will be regularly posting messages and material relevant to managing online schooling. In this regard, I will be posting a message before the start of the fixture free weekend. The Directors of Studies (PHB/PHG) are working on, and will be posting, a clip on managing the online learning environment.

This weekend is a celebration of Africa and while these are incredibly challenging times we need to remind ourselves of the incredible beauty that surrounds us and the amazing resilience and capacity of the people of Africa.

Keep well and stay safe,

Jon Trafford