College update - 04.12.20

4 December 2020

I hope this finds you and your family safe and well. As the vaccination programme begins, we all hope that this is the beginning of the end of the current pandemic.

Last week saw the first charity events from the Student Council with Christmas Jumper Day and Pyjama Day for week A students raising money for local Children’s wards and Save the Children. These will be repeated this week for week B students on Tuesday 8th December (Christmas Jumper Day) and Thursday 10th December (Pyjama Day). Please see our social media feeds for more information.

A reminder that mock examinations for A2 A level and Mixed Study programmes begins this Friday (11th December) and runs until the 18th December. Frist year students should make an appointment to see their teachers for a one-to-one meeting to discuss progress to date and how they have settled in. More information can be found below.

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.

Assessment, examinations and the pandemic

Earlier this week, the Department for Education announced a number of changes to assessment for this summer’s examination and assessment season. Whilst we broadly welcome these changes, they cannot fully compensate for the loss of teaching and learning time which all students experienced during lockdown and we continue to press for measures which fully recognise the uneven effect of COVID 19 across different parts of the country.

The measures include:

  • Students will be given advance notice of some topic areas, and steps will be taken to ensure every student receives a grade, even if they miss a paper due to self-isolation or illness.
  • A three-week delay to the start of the summer exams season, designed to give students extra teaching time
  • More generous grading than usual and in line with national outcomes from 2020, so students this year are not disadvantaged
  • Exam aids, such as formula sheets, will be provided in some exams giving students more confidence and reducing the amount of information they need to memorise
  • Contingency exams to give students a second chance to sit a paper if the main exams or assessments are missed due to illness or self-isolation. In the extreme case where a student has a legitimate reason to miss all their papers, then a validated teacher informed assessment can be used, only once all chances to sit an exam have passed.

The Government also announced that it will set up a new expert group to look at differential learning and monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country.

Students taking vocational and technical qualifications will also see adaptations to ensure parity between general and vocational qualifications.

The Government will set out further detail on this process, and on adaptations to exams, in the new year.

Arrangements for the new year

There will be no change to our mode of delivery in the new year. We will continue with our week A and week B system until the February half term. The first week back will be week B.

Tier three restrictions and education

At the beginning of the 2nd December, the national lockdown ended and Tameside entered Tier 3 of the regional lockdown framework. Students who were classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable should have returned 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

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