Head Teacher Update 16/1/21

Dear Parents and Students

Our first week of Online Learning is now complete and I want to thank everyone for the way they have responded to what is an extremely challenging situation. Our teachers have worked incredibly hard to produce materials and present them to you online. I am so proud of our staff and the work they are doing to make things go as smoothly as possible. I am also proud of our students, for the way they have engaged with the learning, and grateful to our parents for the patience and perseverance they have shown.

This update contains information about Online Learning, S2 Course Choice, Staffing, and the latest news from the SQA. It also provides an opportunity for parents to let us know how things are going and to request a contact from the school to provide support.

Online Learning

Engagement

The engagement of students with online learning, in the first week, has been truly inspiring. We can present you with learning opportunities, but it is up to you to make the most of them – and you certainly have. Many online classes have been full and most are running between 80 and 90 per cent. Keep this up, it really makes everyone’s effort worthwhile.

Positive Feedback

Thank you to parents for all the positive feedback we have received during the first week back. It is always encouraging and motivating when our teachers receive positive feedback and it shows that their hard-work is appreciated. It is also good to know that parents understand that our teachers, working from home, are providing learning whilst also juggling their own family and home lives. Given that Online Learning may well last longer than first anticipated, I hope that we can continue to move forward together in the same positive spirit.

Locked out of a lesson?

Students and parents should be commended for the perseverance they have shown when trying to gain access to lessons. Our teachers and support staff have also been providing help online and over the phone. However, there may be times, as was the case on Monday, when Microsoft is not able to cope with the volume of traffic. If you just can’t get in to a particular lesson, it does not mean that there is nothing to do! There will be lots of materials and resources available within the class or subject Team. There is also a wide range of learning available online. BBC Bitesize is always a great place to start. This site contains lessons and learning materials for all stages of learning up to Higher, including a section on careers. There are materials for all subjects in the Scottish Curriculum as well as a section on ‘Lockdown Learning’ for each subject.

BBC Bitesize example:

Online learning section of the website.

Please get in touch if you need support and check the Online Learning Section of our website for help sheets and any updates relating to Online Learning. Please let us know (using the survey linked further below), if there is anything you would like us to add to this section of the website.

Online Learning Survey

We want everyone to get the best possible experience during the current situation. Please complete the following short survey to let us know how things have gone in the first week of online learning so that we continue to improve. The survey can be completed by parents or students and gives an opportunity to request a contact regarding any aspect of learning at home, including:

  • Technical Support
  • Access to device
  • Access to internet
  • Wellbeing Support from Mindset Mentors
  • Family Support

Link to survey:

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=af6sSGo3tUKfacnke7-5xDnU7AdrbA9FmC-hIjzGFPZUM1JZSjlFWEZTU1M5R1k0N0lDVkRTMjFPSS4u 

Feedback Session with Staff

On Friday I held a Teams Meeting which gave staff a chance to report back on how the first week has gone for them. This was a really positive meeting where we shared many examples of great practice, as well as how individuals are overcoming some of the challenges related to working remotely.

Working remotely is difficult for students and staff. One of the main difficulties identified relates to “talking to a screen”. It is difficult to gauge what students are understanding, whether they are tuned-in, or picking up on key points. This is something we will get better at as we go, and as students become more confident with using the hands up, chat feature and talking online. Equally, it can be difficult for students if they don’t receive feedback on pieces of work. However, during this time teachers will not be able to provide the current level of online learning as well as mark and return every individual piece of work. Again, this is something we will develop, as we get used to working in this way. Students will be supported to develop more independence in their learning and to use success criteria to evaluate their own work and that of their peers. Teachers will be able to use self-marking strategies and will make it clear when (and how) a piece of work is to be ‘handed in’ for marking.

S2 into S3 Learning Review (S2 Course Choice)

It’s an important (and hopefully exciting) time for our S2 students who begin to prepare for their S2 into S3 Learning Review in Social Education next week. This learning review gives students the chance to make choices, begin to specialise and to personalise their curriculum.  Pupil Support staff are talking to all our young people about the process involved and the materials that are there to support them. 

It is understandably a different process this year, in our current virtual school, but we are confident young people and parents will be fully supported through:

  • in-class sessions
  • online support materials
  • Question and Answer session (Monday 18th January)
  • 1-to-1 sessions for young people experiencing difficulties with their choices.

Support materials can be found on our website at the following address:

http://forresterhighschool.org.uk/learning-and-teaching/course-choice

Please take some time to look through these supporting documents with your child, to help them make the most suitable choices for this next, exciting stage of their school career. As communicated on Wednesday, please let us know if you would like to be added to our online Question and Answer session, taking place on Monday from 4:00pm. Please email your details to Admin@forrester.edin.sch.uk by Monday at 12 noon so that we can add you to this event.

SQA

The latest advice from the SQA is for schools to suspend any assessments planned for January, and to focus on Learning and Teaching and course coverage, in preparation for later assessment. The SQA are working on various options and contingency plans and will publish updated subject advice, on the gathering of assessment data, in the coming weeks.

We are keeping a close eye on this changing situation and will respond to any changes in a way that is fair and best supports our students.

Staffing Update

I am delighted to announce the eagerly anticipated arrival of two new members of staff. Miss Hood joined us as teacher of Drama on 5th January and has already been meeting and working with her classes. Last week, Mr Harkness joined us as Acting Curriculum Leader in Physical Education – Mr Harkness is covering for Ms Christie while she is on maternity leave. I’m sure that both Miss Hood and Mr Harkness will be given the warmest possible welcome (despite everyone working from home!)

Finally, although next week is the second week of our online learning, it is week 1 on our timetable rota. I sincerely hope that we see the same levels of engagement from students and support from our parents.

Thanks and best wishes

Stephen Rafferty

Head Teacher

 

 

 

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