College update - 27.11.20

27 November 2020

I hope this finds you and your family safe and well.

It is fantastic to see how well your sons and daughters are managing their studies in the most difficult of circumstances. Attendance at both on site and remote lessons is excellent and students are producing good quality work. We understand that the experience for our students this year is far from normal and we are doing our best to balance the health and safety needs of our students against their teaching and learning needs. As a father myself with a daughter who has just begun her A level studies at a Sixth Form College, I see the challenges every single day and the impact of this changed way of working. Please encourage your sons and daughters to speak to their Senior Tutor if they have any concerns or problems; we are here to help.

Mock examinations for A2 students taking A levels

The first of our mock periods begins on Friday 11th December and runs to Friday 18th December. At the time of writing, the Department for Education and Ofqual have indicated that examinations will take place. With the recent announcements in both Scotland and Wales there is some speculation and expectation that this summer’s examinations may be cancelled. College leaders have attended various meetings in the last few weeks and all the indications are that this is not the case; there is an absolute commitment to the examinations going ahead this summer from the Government and Ofqual. We may be informed in the spring term should there be any changes to this plan or if any modifications are made to the style, length or content of the summer examinations. It is therefore vital that your sons and daughters continue to work towards sitting their final A Level examinations. In the context of this decision, the mock examinations are vital to prepare your sons and daughters for these assessments in the summer. This is especially important this year as students were not able to sit the end of A1 Progression Exams. Please encourage your sons and daughters to revise and prepare well for these; their teachers need an accurate picture of how they are doing, so that that they can provide support where needed before the summer. We will be adhering to our bubbles during mock week – week A and B students will enter their examination rooms through different entrances and will be separate within the exam rooms. We ask that students only come into college for their exams and leave when they are finished for the day. If you son / daughter has both morning and afternoon examinations, we will be providing further information about where they can go within their bubble if they are staying in college. There are no lessons during the week for A Level and mixed study programme students.

Mock week – A2 full time vocational and ‘tri art’ students

Teachers will inform students about the arrangements for the week. Lessons will not be running as normal, and your sons and daughters should work from home on the work set by their teachers. Some vocational departments may ask students to come in for support or catch-up; your son / daughter should also attend if asked to do so by their senior tutor. Students will only be asked to attend within their bubble. Week B students may be invited in on Friday 11th December, Monday 14th December or the morning of Tuesday 15th December (must be off site by 12pm). Week A students may be invited in from 1pm on Tuesday 15th December until Friday 18th December.

Mock week – A1 students

From Friday 11th December until the end of term (Friday 18th December), the timetable will be collapsed to allow for teachers to meet with all students in their classes for a one-to-one review of the term. This is a chance for you son /daughter to discuss their progress to date with their teachers,

how they have settled in and to talk about their career aspirations or any concerns/struggles they may have. Your son / daughter’s senior tutor may also ask to see them during the week. They will be given an appointment sheet and are responsible for making their own appointments – the ideal is to make them close together. They are only expected to attend college for their appointments and should go home once they are finished for the day. The appointments will be within their bubble, so Week B students will have their one-to-ones on Friday 11th December, Monday 14th December or the morning of Tuesday 15th December (must be off site by 12pm). Week A students will make appointments from 1pm on Tuesday 15th December until Friday 18th December.

Emails to teachers

Since the start of the year, we have experienced a huge increase in email traffic from both parents and students to their teachers. Whilst it is encouraging to see that students and parents are happy to contact teachers in this way, the sheer volume of emails is becoming a concern. Whilst we do not want to discourage this type of communication, could I please ask for your patience with respect to expectations? Teachers will endeavour to respond as quickly as possible to email requests, but this may take a period of time. Teachers have been receiving emails from very early in the morning to late and night, and often multiple emails in a short space of time. Many of the queries can be dealt with once students are on site or the answers to queries can be found on platforms such as Canvas and Cedar. Alternatively you could contact your son /daughter’s senior tutor. Thank you for your support in this matter.

Tier three restrictions and education

At the beginning of the 2nd December, the national lockdown ends and Tameside enters Tier 3 of the regional lockdown framework. College will continue as now with the week A / week B rota system in place. Students who were classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable should return to college unless advised not to do so by a GP or clinical specialist. Please could you reinforce the college COVID rules as well as the more general rules arising from the Tier three restrictions.

In college, students should:

  • continue to work on our week A/B rota
  • wear face covering when in public spaces and on corridors
  • choose to wear a face covering in the classroom if they want to
  • use hand sanitiser on entry to and when leaving the classroom, and should wipe down any workstation on arrival and when leaving (desks and IT spaces). They should use the hand sanitiser available when entering the college site
  • try to stay at least 2 metres apart where possible. This reduces the risk of them being identified as a close contact should a student receive a positive diagnosis
  • continue to walk on the left hand side of the corridors
  • dress accordingly. Classrooms may be cooler than they are used to as windows and doors are open to improve ventilation

It is important to remember that your son or daughter should not come to college if they are symptomatic. If they become symptomatic when on site, please remind them to inform their teacher or another member of staff who will help them. Please remember to contact the college using the absence line (0161 330 2330) to report any suspected COVID related illness and report the outcome of any COVID test to the college as soon as possible.

Guidance on the symptoms of COVID-19 can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/ Guidance on self-isolation can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/when-to-self-isolate-and-what-to-do/ If your son or daughter needs to get a test, information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test Guidance on the Tier three restrictions can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know#very-high-alert

Finally, please could you encourage your sons and daughters in the second year who wish to apply to university to complete their UCAS applications as soon as possible? Although the external deadline for application is in January, it is important that we are able to check applications and personal statements prior to application. Our internal deadline is Friday 4th December. There is also further work to complete once he form has been submitted to the Senior Tutor team writing supporting references for each applicant. This can take up to two weeks to complete from submission.

We will be reviewing our approaches to teaching and learning over the next few weeks and we await guidance from the Department for Education. Once a decision is taken about our plans for the spring term, we will inform students and parents.

Thank you for your support and understanding. By working together, we will manage the next few weeks so we can continue to deliver the best possible quality of teaching and learning to your son or daughter, as well as maintaining our vigilance towards the health and safety of all in our community.

Take care, look after yourself, your families and each other; be patient and stay positive.

Anton