Glenealy School Newsletter

20th February 2020

Message from Chris

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

I want to thank you for your continued support over the past few weeks. It has been truly wonderful to see the children tackling their learning from all over the globe, and to see the real dedication of our staff team, in their homes, keeping learning going for our children. This Newsletter mainly focuses on the Parent Survey which we are extremely thankful to parents for completing over the past week.

Mid-Year Reports

This is a quick notification that the Mid-Year Report for each child will be available on Gateway later today. You will receive a separate notification email explaining how to access them.

These reports provide a short overview of your child’s progress up to the mid point in the year. Please keep in mind the reports take account of progress up to the Chinese New Year break - the end of January.

Most of you will be very familiar with accessing reports online. As a reminder, to locate your child’s report on Gateway once you have logged in, click on ARR Report (the button is located under your child's photo) and choose Mid Year Report 2019 - 2020.

As a result of the class suspensions, we were unable to hold our Student Led Conferences this year and will seek an opportunity in Term 3 to have a further face to face meeting between parents and teachers. We look forward to reporting to you further on your child’s progress later in the year.

Parent Survey

Thank you to all our parents who took time to respond to our home survey. We had 115 responses in total and have analysed the data, and considered every one of the many positive and developmental comments out there.

A quick summary of responses:

  • 91% of parents were satisfied or agree that their child receives the support from their teaching team when required.

  • 80% of parents are finding the connection times with children useful. We are building on this time to make it as purposeful and helpful as possible, depending on the year group.

  • Given the disparate nature of contexts, it has been more challenging ensuring the learning is exactly at the appropriate level. Overall 70% of parents felt the challenge level was just right, with about 15% responding that learning was too challenging, and 15% responding the learning wasn’t challenging enough.

  • We were pleased to hear that 95% of parents responded that they were satisfied, or better than satisfied, that their child was making progress.

  • 83% of parents would like us to consider exploring alternative learning opportunities on Friday - this would include not setting new learning, and giving children time to reflect and complete previously set work.

We are analysing all of the above data by year group and class by class, to make sure we respond to any trends appearing within class groups.

Getting the balance right…

Moving beyond the raw data, we would like to thank you all for your views and many comments expressed in our survey.

We had an overwhelming number of positive comments about the approaches we are taking which gave us insight into what is working. Just as useful, we have had many helpful suggestions and comments where parents have shared their concerns and challenges they are facing. All of these comments are extremely valuable in helping us to move forward. Thank you. Whilst it is extremely difficult to develop approaches that suit all family circumstances and wishes, in this challenging time, I would like to reassure you that every teacher is currently working incredibly hard to evolve and adapt our approaches to best support learners and parents. We have looked at some key themes for our development which can be found below.

Key Areas for Development

1) Challenges with technology

It is understandable, given the circumstances, that the learning curve with technology is great for all concerned - children, teachers and parents! Some parents have expressed concerns around the log-ins and their child being unable to use the technology without lots of support. Whilst this is less of a challenge with our older children, it is one we are very aware of across the school and are seeking to address. Others are naturally worried about screen time.

What are we doing to address this?

We are trying to simplify our approach as the days progress. We are doing this by making our instructions and communications clearer and providing more help videos for kids and parents where possible. As soon as we are able to bring our staff team back into the school building (they are all working remotely currently) we will be able to run some troubleshooting drop in sessions with parents. For those parents who do not have enough laptops, please be reminded that you can borrow a Chromebook laptop from the school, should you wish.

To minimise screen time, we are increasingly setting tasks that involve online and offline activity, and believe this will ensure a good balance moving forward.

2) Supporting children to independently tackle learning tasks

We know this is a difficult time for parents, and far from ideal for all of us, and understand it can be challenging to support children at home (especially our families who have more than one child receiving home learning!). We really want to alleviate the need for as much parental input, wherever possible. We also want to make our systems simple to follow, and easy for children to learn from, understanding that our options to do this will vary with age and year group.

What are we doing to address this?

We are working closely with teachers on simplifying our teaching instructions for children, so they can easily understand what they need to do. We are also evolving our own use of apps, like screencastify, to create video or audio explanations of tasks for our students to follow independently. Many of you will have seen these this week. Our teachers continue to be available online - through google classroom or hangouts, supporting children in real time where possible. To support our students further we have assigned other Glenealy staff to different year group teams to increase manpower and the opportunity to connect, provide support and feedback. We will continue to seek solutions and efficient ways of working to further streamline our systems for support.

Based on feedback we will continue to evolve connect time, ensuring there is a clarity of purpose for students and that they take this opportunity to share their learning with their teachers who can then provide feedback and plan next steps. For this to be successful for primary aged students, group sizes need to be managed to no more than 5-6 students, as such whole class hangouts of 25-30 children (as suggested by a small minority of parents) are not considered a viable option at this stage.

3) Feedback on learning submitted

As a counterpoint to the 95% of parents who suggest their child is making progress, there are some common concerns expressed in the survey around frequency of feedback to children in their learning.

What are we doing to address this?

Learning is being submitted in a continual stream online. This is in the form of parent and child comments, emails, documents, photos, videos and audio. A number of parents mentioned in comments about the joy of children receiving feedback on the learning submitted. The teachers and EAs are working hard to sort, save and respond as best they can to the learning. We have begun to refine and improve this area in each year group, and are seeking to improve this as the days of class suspension continue. Feedback comes in many different forms and will be continuing to develop this over the coming weeks. A challenge faced by some teachers is the disparity between when some pieces of work have been submitted for marking and feedback. We hope the use of checklists to monitor the completion of key learning tasks and clearer timelines for the submitting of these tasks will help to ensure that your child receives timely and meaningful feedback.

4) What will we do about missed learning, or if my child falls behind?

A number of parents have understandably expressed concern that they may not be able to keep up with the learning online, and were worried their child will be behind later in the year.

What are we doing to address this?

As a school we are constantly reviewing our children’s curriculum experience. We will be looking closely at the third term of the school year to ensure we are focusing on personalisation in the classroom. For those parents who have joined us for our ‘Parent Circles’ events or similar in the past, will know that we are constantly differentiating the learning to make sure children get the support and challenge they need in the classroom. Whilst we anticipate that many children will make good progress online during this class suspension, we will make absolutely sure we are best able to support learners when they return on an individual basis.

We will also look at our curriculum and consider carefully our priorities for each year group. This will be different depending upon the year group. We will make sure that each child is well supported along the way when they return to school. The good news is that we are seeing increased engagement from all children as the weeks progress and we are seeing children make progress.

We hope this Newsletter gives you reassurance that we will be continually looking to develop our approach under these extraordinary circumstances. Once again, I want to thank you all for your support over the past few weeks and wish you a good end to the week.

Best Regards,