Headteachers Letter -26th February 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you for ensuring that the return to school has once again been so positive, both with  remote learning and also for those students who are attending our LAW school provision.

As ever, I know that with the density of Government announcements and media coverage, there is a risk of feeling overwhelmed by all that is being discussed. I shall therefore attempt to highlight the key points below, and explain how we will translate these into action at Wollaston School, as well as providing links to the full national guidance, should you wish to access the detail.


Phased Return to Full Re-Opening

We have now confirmed the dates for full re-opening as below and as per my previous letter.  Once each Year group begins to attend school, they are then with us full time, so on the 12th March, we will be delighted to once again have a full school!

  • 8th March – Year 11, 12 and 13
  • 9th March – Year 10
  • 10th March – Year 7
  • 11th March – Year 8
  • 12th March – Year 9

 Some important notes regarding the phased return.

  • Until the point of return as scheduled above, all Year groups will continue to receive live remote lessons via zoom, broadcast from their timetabled classrooms.
  • LAW School will continue to operate during the week of the 8th March, until such point as each Year group returns. Students attending LAW school will be taught within their bubble areas, attending timetabled lessons as their teacher delivers remote learning to the rest of the group.
  • From the date of return, students will be able to access the kitchen once each day (at the same time as previously) in order to buy food and drink. For students entitled to free school meals, these will provided in the usual way, by credit being placed on students’ catering card.


Preparing for a full return to school

 Although the bubble system and much safety guidance remains in place from the Autumn Term 2020, we will ensure that students are given reminders of how we can return safely and minimise the risk of transmission through adopting the appropriate control measures. We will use one remote learning session next week as a tutorial time, to ensure that all are reminded of how the bubble system works and the responsibilities each of us have to work together as effectively and safely as possible. We will also run year group specific induction sessions once students return to school to ensure that their pastoral welfare is supported and that we have a really clear focus on effective learning behaviour to ensure that we begin on site learning in a positive and purposeful manner.

I will publish some full guidance next week, which I would appreciate parents and carers discussing with students in advance of the return, and in the meantime, I would appreciate your support with the following:

  • Please ensure that all students have face coverings ready for their return to school. Aside from those with exemptions, these are mandatory and we will again ensure that all students have a face covering when entering the school site. We are appreciative of your support with this – and thank you again for ensuring that this all worked so well in the Autumn term.
  • Face coverings are also now compulsory for all students and adults during all indoor spaces including during lessons, except when a 2 metre distance can be maintained, or for certain activities such as PE. This is a new requirement and we would be grateful if you could discuss this with your son and daughter and ensure that their masks are comfortable enough to be worn for extended periods of time. This Government requirement will be initially in place for the 3 week period from the 8th March until the Easter holidays, after which we will receive updated guidance.
  • All students will need to return to school with full uniform, PE kit and all equipment in a pencil case.   Sharing equipment and stationary will always be avoided where possible and your support in ensuring that every student is as self sufficient as possible significantly contributes to making Wollaston School as safe as can be possible.
  • On days in which students have their double PE lesson, they should continue to arrive to school in PE kit as we will not be opening changing facilities at the current time.

Full national guidance on the return to school can be found HERE


Mass Asymptomatic Testing on Return to School

This is a significant logistical operation and our testing facility will be running continuously and at full capacity during the early weeks of return from the 8th March. This is going to be an intense period, as we conduct around 4500 tests within a tight time period.

As a first step, we have established an electronic process for parents to give consent to the testing (students can give consent themselves if they are aged 16 or over.) copies of the electronic forms can be found HERE and further information regarding the testing process can be found HERE.  We would be incredibly grateful if you could complete the consent form and return over the weekend and by Tuesday 2nd March 2021 as a final deadline.

In order to get ahead of ourselves, and to road test undertaking such a mass programme we are going to operate a drop off and wait test for all students in Years 11, 12 and 13 on Thursday 4th March and Friday 5th March 2021.   Students will have a designated time slot to attend and will leave site as soon as they have taken the test.  Please treat testing times as you would a medical appointment, as we are unable to arrange alternatives.  

The car park area at the front of school will be left clear for parents to quickly park and wait for students to be tested. There will be appropriate signage and instructions on the day in order to facilitate a smooth and efficient process. We anticipate the absolute maximum any student will need to be on site will be 45 minutes, but for many it will be a far more speedy process than this as there is no need to wait for the result.

As with the consent form, a full separate letter will follow containing all practical details.


Awarding of Grades and Qualifications in Summer 2021

 There remains further information to follow and some subject/specification specific guidance is expected from examination boards. However, I have summarised below the key points regarding the plans outlined by Ofqual and the Department for Education, which do allow for maximum flexibility as well as placing teachers and schools at the centre of the assessment process. A move which we warmly welcome and which will help ensure that every student receives the grades and qualifications that they deserve.


Calculating Final Grades 

  • Students will receive grades awarded and determined by their teacher and moderated by the school, only being assessed on what they have been taught. There is not an expectation that the entirety of the curriculum should be studied.
  • Students and parents should know which work  / assessments are being used to inform the final grade calculation.
  • Final grade calculations should be determined as late in the academic year as possible. We are assessing students abilities at the end of their courses, not an average throughout the 2 years. The final date for submission of grades is 18th June 2021.
  • Teaching should continue as planned, alongside assessment activity. Whilst there is not a requirement to deliver the entirety of the curriculum in every subject, nor is there the need to conclude teaching new content earlier than ordinarily planned.
  • A  series of mini-internal tests, using questions designed by exam boards and marked by  teachers may be used. We expect these to be very useful in determining final grade awards. These can  of course support other evidence such as past assessments and NEAs.
  • No algorithms from OFQUAL / exam boards will be used to calculate grades.
  • Students studying vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) such as BTECs will also receive grades assessed by teachers rather than sitting exams.
  • To   support teachers in making their judgements, exam boards will provide detailed guidance before the end of the spring term.


Standardisation and ensuring fair judgements

 To ensure as much fairness as possible, we will have an in-school moderation process to ensure that we follow all the government and exam board guidance for checking consistency  of judgements across teachers and that all correct processes are followed.

  • Whilst there will of course be variation in results – we will ask subject, faculty and senior leaders to ensure that grades awarded are credible and broadly in line with historic performance.
  • Exam boards will conduct their own checks, through a combination of random sampling and more targeted scrutiny if submitted grades seem significantly unbalanced.
  • We expect to share outcomes of assessments with students and parents, and be transparent regarding the assessments which are being used to inform the final grade.  This is crucial in ensuring a fair process in determining final grades – unlike last year, we are being asked to base decisions on actual levels of achievement not a subjective estimation of how a student may have achieved.
  • Every student will have the right to appeal their grade through the OFQUAL appeals process.
  • 2021 Results will not be used to inform school performance tables or accountability measures.


Qualification Timetable 

  • Grades must be submitted to exam boards by 18th June, allowing for as much teaching time as possible before we make our final assessment decisions.
  • There is likely to be an earlier internal deadline to allow for in school moderation.
  • We may also  set a date for new content teaching to conclude and allow us a short period to undertake final internal assessments.
  • We are likely to set a date for a formal end of the academic year for both Year 11 and Year 13, slightly in advance of the 18th June. Their courses and assessments will have then concluded and this will allow staff some time to make final assessment judgements and undertake appropriate moderation procedures.
  • A Level Results day will take place on the 10th August 2021.
  • GCSE Results Day will be on the 12th August 2021.

Whilst no system to replace examinations can be perfect, this does seem like a reasonable way forward and should allow us to support every student to achieve the grades that they deserve. The crucial positive aspect of this plan, is that there remains every opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding to teaching staff in the months ahead, and it is this work which will be decisive in determining  the final grade awards.

Full details on the awarding of grades and qualifications can be found HERE


Arrangements for 4th March 2021

We look forward to meeting Year 10 students and parents via zoom, and providing subject specific targets and advice for success as students return to school.

The 4th March is also World Book Day and Mrs Woodcock is compiling a wider range of activities for Key Stage 3 students to undertake during the day whilst live lessons are suspended.  These activities will be released to parents on the day and some subject staff may set World Book Day work as an alternative to subject specific content. All instructions will be found on Go4Schools as usual and a reminder that all work will be in the form of independent learning as staff consult with Year 10 parents.

I hope that you manage a restful weekend and thank you again for all of your support.  I hope that we are able to sense some light at the end of a fairly long tunnel as Spring approaches and we emerge from the national lockdown.

Mr James Birkett