“Keeping in Touch” KIT 13 update letter 6th July

Dear families

First of all and most importantly, thank you so much for the many positive messages of support our school staff have been receiving following the release last week of our Ofsted report. It is has been very encouraging that so many of you can appreciate the circumstances around the clearly deeply disappointing overall judgement and recognise the significant positives and improvements in the narrative. If you have read the full report you will have also recognised how impressed the Inspectors were with the students who were an absolute credit to themselves and to you. Please pass on my sincere thanks to them – I am so proud of them all! As I said in the letter I am really keen to set up a parent/carers meeting to discuss the report with you and explain the outcomes more fully but the current government advice does not permit it. The final judgement is deeply disappointing but we have fixed the immediate issues and the staff are as one in their resolve to continue the very good progress made. I will continue to monitor the email address ofsted@oulderhill-school.com and respond to your questions as best as I can. Thanks again for your support.

Full school reopening – The big news this week is obviously that the government has said all schools should open to all students, full-time, from September. We are delighted about this and already very excited to see everyone back in school! We appreciate that many of you will have concerns about how this can be safely managed, and I want to reassure you that we are taking this responsibility very seriously – alongside the need to ensure that we still provide a high quality, well-rounded education for all students. There are a huge number of logistical challenges involved, especially in a school the size of ours and with the particular layout of buildings that we have. Senior leaders are working non-stop to draw up detailed plans, and this includes consulting with staff and governors (including parent governors), comparing ideas with other schools and taking further advice from experts. I am sure you will understand that we don’t want to publish too much detail until we are confident the plan we have is the best and safest possible one for Oulder Hill Community School.

For the time being, I shall just say the following:

  • The government are making it very clear that they expect all students to attend school from September and I can confirm that we will be able to facilitate this
  • It is unlikely that the timings of the school day will change significantly although it is a possibility that we may need to alter them slightly to stagger entry and exit to the building and to keep some groups of students in ‘bubbles’ (ie in different social groups) at break and lunch
  • One of the things that is clear in the government guidance for September is that they expect schools to operate normal uniform The guidance explains that uniform should not need to be washed any more often than usual, or any differently. Therefore, please be advised that we will be back in full uniform for the new term.

The kinds of actions we will be taking to help keep students and staff safe will include but is not limited to:

  • Enforcing extensive measures to promote good respiratory and hand hygiene
  • Implementing changes to the structure of the school day to limit movement around corridors
  • Taking measures to limit contact between students in different year groups wherever possible
  • Implementing different arrangements for lunchtimes, especially use of the social areas
  • Limiting extra-curricular activities, at least until we are confident other measures are working well
  • Avoiding large gatherings, such as assemblies
  • Limiting the number of external visitors to only the most essential ones
  • We are also working on a programme to support students in catching up on any important lost learning from lockdown – especially for current Year 10 students

I’d like to thank you all once again for your support throughout all of this. It is very comforting to know that parents and carers at Oulder Hill School will be sensible and measured about the next steps. We will be in touch with more information on the plans as soon as possible.

Year 10 and exams for the summer of 2021 – this past week has seen the return of year 10 in small groups and it has been a real pleasure to see them. Some of them looked blurry eyed after the shock of an early start but they were fantastic in the lessons and it was an absolute privilege to welcome different groups back each day! There were a number of similar questions raised by a few parents I spoke to who were dropping off students about the exams next year so I have summarised the situation here for you. In essence, Ofqual have launched a consultation over exams for the summer of 2021 (i.e. those affecting students currently in Year 10). It is important to stress that this is only a consultation and no decisions will be made until August at least, but it does offer a welcome indication of their thinking. Broadly speaking, GCSE exams look as if they will run as normal but with some potential small changes in some subjects, such as possibly less coursework and/or more choice of topics in the exams themselves. Ofqual also open up the prospect of pushing the dates of exams back a little to allow for some extra teaching time. My initial impressions are that the proposals are generally sensible and, with a big effort from all concerned next year, there is absolutely no reason to think Oulder Hill students will not achieve the same kinds of grades they would have got had there been no lockdown. It is worth bearing in mind that, regardless of the format of exams, the process of ‘comparable outcomes’ that is used to award grades means that the 2021 cohort will still see roughly the same number of grades awarded at each level (eg 70% of students nationally achieving a grade 4+ in English) even if, as we might expect, the grade boundaries for each grade end up needing to be a bit lower.

Year 11 – There were two significant announcements from Ofqual (the body that oversees exams) last week. Firstly, they have released some initial information about an exam series in the autumn for GCSE students who are not satisfied with the grades they receive this summer. The link also includes some basic information about the appeals process for the summer. There is not a great deal of detail, but the key point is that there will be exams available in all subjects (with no coursework in most cases) in November for GCSEs. We will, of course, let you know more as soon as we hear anything. The first step is obviously to get results for this summer first and on that note we are busy looking at how to coordinate exam results day for Year 11 on 20th August. We want to allow those students who wish to come and get them in person in the traditional way to do so if it is safe (with appropriate adjustments eg for social distancing, of course) so that they do not miss out on this important rite of passage. Results day is the biggest highlight of the calendar and always a wonderful and vibrant day with so much positive energy as students open their envelopes and see their results. I am very keen for this to go ahead if it can be done safely. Mrs Sanderson will be in touch with year 11 parents soon.

As ever, my best regards to you all. #We are Oulder Hill.


John Watson

Head Teacher

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