The following message was sent out to parents on Monday 25 January 2021:

You will recall that last week we flagged up that we potentially wanted to make changes to our home learning provision and asked for parents to complete a survey to help inform our decision-making.

We are very grateful that over 250 families responded, and bearing in mind the number of siblings at the school, it would be fair to say that a third of parents contributed.

Headlines

* Home Learning Survey Results

* HLAs Suspended

* Extra ‘Live’ Lessons

* Changes to ‘Due Dates’

* Catch-Up Time via ‘Firebreaks’

 

The results of the survey can be seen at: Parent Home Learning Survey Results – The Friary School.

As a result of our own analysis, and the sway of opinions in the home learning survey, we will make the following changes to our provision:

Show My Homework

Show My Homework is a package for homework, but with home learning it is having to be used in a different way. This means that some of the features make things a little confusing.

We will seek to use the following headings for work set from now on:

‘Assignment’ refers to work that is a formal assessment and should be sent in for feedback. This work will be labelled with a green stripe.

‘Teams Session’ refers to a ‘live’ lesson invitations. We would encourage all students to turn their camera on and to participate verbally.

‘Classwork’ refers to day-to-day lessons. This work will be labelled with a red stripe. This may include work to be sent in to teachers to review informally.

‘Flexible Task’ refers to a lesson where there is no work to be submitted to the teacher – though the work remains important. This work will be labelled with a purple stripe.

‘Firebreak’ refers to a lesson which is deliberately planned in as a catch-up slot for work that has already been set in that subject. It will be labelled with the purple stripe of a ‘Flexible Task’.

‘Choice’ refers to a subject / task set where the Year 7-9 work to do is optional. It is not that it is unimportant, it is just that we want to offer different families flexibility through prioritisation.

Home Learning Assignments (HLAs)

The Home Learning Assignments for Years 7-9 (Key Stage 3) will be suspended for the remainder of lockdown.

Any children / parents wishing to receive extended tasks in particular subjects can contact their subject teacher. We would also recommend reading and the set texts can be accessed here: Library – The Friary School

Assessment & Feedback

In school we do not mark every piece of work as to do so would be impossible. We follow national guidelines and students can be guaranteed written feedback every 8 lessons. Of course, we also give feedback in ‘normal’ lessons via Q&A, review lessons, test analysis and 1-to-1 conversations but these are less feasible within home learning.

Looking forward, we will look to label any online work that is formal assessment and feedback as ‘Assignment’. This is a key assessment and should be a high priority.

Teachers will also ask for work in to check but it will often be reviewed informally. Teachers will also continue to give collective feedback in ‘live’ lessons and in individual messages to children.

We are also making use of online assessment tools, such as Microsoft Forms, to undertake quick-fire tests on content, key points, etc, and those results offer feedback by identifying gaps and mistakes for students.

Communicating with Teachers

We would urge any student to make contact with their teacher if they need clarification or help. This is no different to putting a hand up in lesson.

This can be done via the messenger and communication facilities on Show My Homework, via email, or by staying behind on ‘live’ lesson to ask a question.

If all of these routes become problematic, then there is the final resort of emailing office@friaryschool.co.uk and the message will forwarded onto the teacher.

Student Workload and Priorities

We would advise all Year 7-9 students to prioritise English, Maths, Science, History, Geography and French.

All other subjects will set work but it will be labelled with ‘Choice’ to signify that it is optional. This work is important, and does have value, but we know that some families need to have the option for flexibility when some core tasks take a good deal longer for a particular child.

It is worth bearing in mind that a normal school day is 5 hours plus homework time. If you use this as a guide then you will know what is too much. Certainly, we do not want child burning the midnight oil every night and things like a family walk or a snowball fight should not be foregone to write an extra paragraph.

Due Dates on Show My Homework

These are never going to work perfectly as they are designed for homework, not classwork. Unfortunately, we cannot take them off the system when we set work as they are integral. All schools are having to work around the systems they have. There is no bespoke COVID pandemic home learning system on the market.

For Year 7-9 we will look to set all work’s ‘Due Dates’ to be done on the day it is set. This will mean it is logically set on the ‘To Do List’ and reduces the bunching up of work. Students prioritise the six subjects previously outlined, then address the rest. If your child wants to spend more time on the work then there will be no complaints this end. We will though endeavour to set reasonable quantities of work for the time allocated.

For Years 10-11 we will keep the current flexibility but encourage teachers to use the ‘Due Dates’ for the day of the lesson wherever possible. We cannot prioritise subjects for these Year groups as they all have formal exams.

For Years 12-13 we will keep total flexibility as study periods mean that note-taking tasks, research activities, etc, will be spread around availability as in normal times.

Live Sessions

For teachers, the ‘live’ lessons were initially a little like ‘pulling teeth’ with students reluctant to speak out but things are gradually improving and sessions are getting longer.

It is tough to gauge the exact amount of time a ‘live’ lesson takes in this format. However, we will work to set written work in addition to the ‘live’ lesson that is commensurate to the 1-hour slot. Students will also have set time at other points to catch-up on any work they are lagging on (Ie – a ‘Firebreak’).

Moving forward, there will be more ‘lives’ lessons for every student per week.

Year 7-9 students will have an extra ‘live’ lesson per week in English and Maths from now on. This will mean in their 6 priority subjects they have 16 lessons per week of which 8 will be ‘live’ lessons. The remaining 9 lessons per week go over to the ‘Choice’ (optional) lessons.

Years 10-11 will also have an extra ‘live’ lesson per week in English and Maths from now on. This means that they see every subject teacher at least once per week, and some will be twice per week.

Year 12-13 will have two ‘live’ lessons per subject per week. There are already plenty of instances where teachers are going above and beyond this benchmark depending on their capacity with other ‘live’ lessons.

Catch-Up Firebreaks

In normal times, teachers will sometimes have a lesson where they pause and review what work has been covered. This is often before or after an assessment task, or just before the class moves onto a new topic.

In order to support students who get a little behind, teachers will factor these ‘Firebreaks’ in at appropriate times. It is important to get work done first time, but this provides a safety net. 

If a child feels they are on track, then it would be beneficial to go over what they have studied. Alternatively, those in Years 7-9 can address some of the ‘Choice’ (optional) tasks from other subjects. Finally, a child has the option of contacting their teacher directly for extension work.

Show My Homework Noticeboard

We are keen to de-clutter the ‘To Do Lists’ on Show My Homework, so any extra-curricular tasks, competitions or pastoral activities will now be set on Noticeboard. We have also asked the PE Department to set practical activities here too.

Other Home Learning Points

Each student can mark items as ‘Complete’ to remove them from their ‘To Do List’ – please encourage them to do this as it will make the home learning instantly look more manageable. Also, it will eventually filter onto your account so you won’t feel so swamped either.

We have asked teachers to consider what they are asking to be printed – we recognise that 30 page booklets and coloured background decoration are not always easy to print for a single lesson. Even so, be aware that printing can be reduced by the printer; for example, by printing PowerPoints on six slides per page, selecting black and white, etc.

We have encouraged teachers to keep giving out the House Points. We have a Rewards Day for those with the most points at the end of the Summer Term and we are planning for that to go ahead.

If your child is on Instagram then they can check out the school account for posts on extra tasks, updates, etc.

Other News

COVID rates in the South Staffordshire community remain very high and we are currently managing positive cases amongst students and staff. We would urge everyone to keep themselves safe at home wherever they can.

We have had over 100 volunteers for the COVID testing in school. This is amazing – THANK YOU. We will be in touch based on availability over the next week or so.

The re-opening of schools remains set at Monday 22 February but this seems unlikely at this stage. Gavin Williamson has said schools will get 2 weeks notice so if we hear anything we will let you know straight away.

 The press report that there are likely to be increasing redundancies in the months ahead. If your circumstances change then check if you are entitled to Free School Meals at: Apply for Free School Meals – The Friary School

To Finalise…

We expect the changes we have laid out to make home learning more straight-forward. Even so, it will never be easy and we recognise that we will not be able to please everyone.

Matt Allman, Headteacher, said: “We can reiterate what we have said before on home learning. Please do what you can, don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day with it, and don’t let your child work till late every night. Also, know that many of us are in your position and we well understand that it is impossible to be Super Mum/Dad, Super Employee, and Super 12 Teachers in 1 every moment of the day.”