Dear Year 10
We are really excited to be welcoming the vast majority of you back to College. For those of you who cannot join us we understand and hope you continue to feel connected through the contact you have with your teachers via SMHW and through any feedback, Teams meetings, YouTube videos or voiced PowerPoints you receive.
By now you will all know which day or in some cases days we have invited you in. We have prioritised the core subjects (English, maths, science) and in addition a humanities subject for your face-to-face lessons. In addition some students will also be able to continue creative subject work on a Wednesday. Although you will not necessarily have your normal class teacher, team leaders will have coordinated their work so that all students will have the same content taught on those days.
We can assure you that we are adhering to the Government guidelines of social distancing and hygiene within the College. Please watch this video demonstrating the layout of the College and systems in place when you return: https://youtu.be/7qz5iuYcI44
It has been a very odd 12 weeks since we have last had you all in College. That is two summer holidays back to back! You have probably experienced highs and lows during this time. You may well have discovered a lot about your own ability to work independently, cope without the close contact with your friends and experience a new level of contact with your families that you would otherwise not have had. Some weeks, especially the sunny ones, might have been easier to cope with and it is completely understandable if you have also found isolation draining and motivation hard to find. Knowing that Year 11 have not been able to take their exams must have been as shocking to you as to the whole teaching profession, and your thoughts have probably turned to ‘what about us?’
The truth is that no-one yet knows how the Government will decide to proceed with your exams as we still do not know the likely timeframe for a full return to College. All we can do is to continue offering the very best teaching and support possible in the challenging circumstances knowing that we are doing all we can to keep your learning on track. Inevitably there will rumour and speculation over the coming weeks about what will happen. Please be reassured that as soon as we learn of any concrete information we will let you know. In the meantime we accept that it might be hard for you to return. You may feel worried about the work you have been doing at home, or about seeing everyone again. We understand this and we will not be putting you under unfair pressure when you return. The mock exams will be reduced in content in recognition of the time lost in College. We feel it important to have some assessed work so that we can start to identify how each subject needs to proceed when we return. Most of all, your return gives us that chance to slowly reintroduce routines albeit in a socially distanced way. We are proud of the way you have risen to the challenges of home learning. We are proud of how both staff and students have embraced new technologies to continue high quality teaching. We are proud of the responsible way in which you have adhered to the lockdown measures forgoing personal interactions that are especially important at your age. Well done to all of you.
I hope you are keeping well. I have prepared a short video to update you on some of the work that has been going on during lockdown.
It has been a busy period for the College as we prepare for the return of Year 10 next week. We have over 160 students attending over the course of the week and will be offering them subject specialist lessons. They will join the 30-50 students who have been attending throughout the lockdown period. We also have on site each day Year 6 from Catmose Primary, who have enjoyed an extended transition, who will also be joined by Year 5 Catmose Primary pupils from Monday. Harington students in Year 12 will also return from Monday to restart their lessons.
This week we have submitted grades for every Year 11 and Year 13 student. Each teacher has been required to determine both a grade and mark which have been scrutinised by middle and senior leaders. We have also used a national benchmarking system to check the fairness of our grades. I am therefore confident that the grades we have submitted are a fair reflection of the work and effort that students put into their studies over the two years.
We were very disappointed that the prom had to be cancelled this year, but have instead set a date for a Winter Ball so that we can celebrate with Year 11 all of their achievements. We have also been able to issue their Yearbooks and hoodies to commemorate their time at Catmose.
For most students, working from home has become the norm and that is where most of our efforts have been placed to ensure that the work set is of a high quality, that we are responding to the different needs of our students and that those who are struggling have been well supported. Teachers have adapted their approach to delivering online teaching as they have upskilled themselves in new ways of delivering lessons. I have been inspired by the teachers that I have observed through our normal quality assurance processes. The strength of our offer is its diversity; teachers are offering a range of lessons using Microsoft Teams, voice overs on presentations, YouTube video lectures, one-to-one telephone calls alongside more traditional worksheets and online platforms such as through the BBC. The feedback from parents and students is interesting in that the favoured approach for one child is very different for another, even within the same class or academic ability. I have been equally inspired by the way students have responded to home learning, that they have become more confident and independent as a result of needing to take more responsibility for their own learning.
Equally, I recognise that for many students home working has been a real challenge, either because of technology limiting their ability to engage in live lessons, or them struggling to find the motivation without the structure of College. We have worked hard to support these students, either remotely, or in some cases by inviting students to come into College to join our key worker groups. If your child is finding home learning hard, please do get in touch with their form tutor or Client Services so that we can offer them support.
I am hopeful that in September we will return to normal, that is what we are planning for at the moment, however if that proves not to be the case, please be assured we will do what we can to bring each year group back into College for some lessons. The current position of only being able to offer some face-to-face lessons for some year groups is not sustainable.
This week we issued to all parents a survey regarding our provision, and we are looking for feedback around our usual provision so that we can work to improve it again next year. If you wish to comment on the provision during lockdown, please use the free text boxes at the end. We are focusing on our usual offer as we hope that the Covid-19 crisis will be short-lived and that we will get back to a more normal footing next year.
I hope you have a good summer and I look forward to seeing many of you in person in the next academic year.
I hope you have been finding the time to catch the sun and take part in some of the competitions or activities that have taking place across our community. Here is a video of my latest staff briefing.
Thank you for adapting your teaching this week to the new structure and continuing to innovate the way in which you are delivering lessons. By doing so when students return it will be far easier to get them back on track and into our usual routines.
On Friday, I issued a survey to all year seven to ten students asking their views about what is working well. The results already indicate for the majority we are getting the work we set and the challenge about right. The more interactive the work the more students are finding it easy to engage. A number mention how useful live lessons, recorded videos and interactive presentations are. They are enjoying the interactive platforms such as kerboodle but equally are enjoying the opportunity to read a good book as well. They are finding scanned worksheets and textbook pages without explanation difficult to engage with. For more challenging work, they are really appreciative of videos or feedback which explains a particularly difficult aspect. Overall, the new structure seems to be working well with the vast majority of students in year seven to nine finding the work accessible and manageable in the time given. In year 10, we need to maintain the challenge but need to consider further how we can best support students with the more difficult GCSE work; students particularly single out the approaches being taken in physics and maths as being effective. Please do continue to innovate, try different approaches and ask students for feedback about what is working best for them.
We will also be sending out similar surveys to Catmose Primary parents and Harington year 12 students and will feed them back as well.
We will this week release guidance around performance reviews and how we will modify our approach to fit the current situation. We are endeavouring to sustain a robust approach but also want to ensure that we don’t increase your work load when you are already dealing with significant change. I also want to be able to recognise at the end of the year through PR the incredible work you are now doing and the efforts you had already made before we closed.
Therefore. if you have already been observed this year the grade will count twice, for example, if you were grades ‘good’ you will be given for the purposes of the objective target two grade of ‘good’. If you were unhappy with your grade you can still ask for another observation. This methodology will apply to support and teaching staff.
For those staff who request another observation, or have not yet been observed we will be sending out an updated teacher observation protocol to reflect the working from home arrangements. We will focus an observation on work you are setting for year 10 (although other groups may also be chosen) and will look at SMHW we’re all work should have been set to inform our judgment around implementation. We will however also look at schemes of work and how this links with the work set on SMHW. We will also ask you to submit to us from that group work from half a dozen students who we will choose from across the ability spectrum to support the impact judgement. We will also take into account how you are used sleuth, SMHW, house points and internal tracking data before the lock down as we normally would. We will diary a teams meeting to discuss to feedback and when appropriate give you an opportunity to provide further information to support the final judgement.
For support staff Natalie will release similar guidance and wherever possible an observation will be carried out on the work you are carrying out at home.
In respect of your attendance we will use the data up until we closed as a result of the lockdown, anyone who needed to self isolate will not be penalised.
For the results grade we will use the centre moderated predicted grade. Please be aware that the grades you submitted may change as a result of the internal moderation taking place. We are not going to use the Ofqual result issues to students as we can’t be certain of the reliability of the comparable outcomes statistical model they are using.
The other targets for your PR will be judged as usual and I would encourage you to look at them and ensure you are finding time to ensure the work needed is carried out to the usual high standard we aim for.
We will brief team leaders more fully on this in our Tuesday meeting and they will feedback to you when they next meet. Any questions should be fed back to your team leader and then through your link VP please.
CMIS/EPORTAL MOVE TO CLOUD SCHOOL
We started just before closing a significant project to update our management information system across the Federation. This project will continue during closure and will result in a smoother changeover to a much improved experience around the way in which we manage and share information across the three academies. It will impact on the way in which we enter, analyse and share information such as for academic reports for all three schools. It will impact on registration, student records and how parents can access their child’s file. After the next break we will start to roll out training for all staff so that when we return the new system can be used effectively in the new academic year. More information about Cloud School can be read here.
CPOMS (new safeguarding and behaviour tracking)
We are also in the process of transforming the way in which we track issues around safeguarding and behaviour incidents which will be implemented in all three academies. This also will be implemented by the summer term and will lead to a significant change and improvement in our processes around reporting and analysing safeguarding and behaviour concerns. This will also result in a training programme to support staff and their usage. More information about CPOMS can be read here.
CENTRE ASSESSED GCSE GRADES
Thank you for all the work already completed on providing accurate predictions for students. The next stage will be to confirm student ranking across a subject and we will be talking through the methodology of this with team leaders in order that they can accurately moderate the ranking of students. This work is critical to ensure the grades students are awarded in the summer are as accurate as possible given the circumstances. We will need teams to provide evidence of how the ranking was carried out and the evidence which supports the predicted grade. In particular we will also need to understand any student whose predicted grade varies significantly from that indicated by their KS2 data as these results are most likely to be challenged by the exam boards and OFQUAL.
It might be necessary as a result to ask that some staff attend College with their team leader and other subject teachers in order to moderate student rankings. If this is the case your team leader will arrange this with you and in agreement with their link VP.
We’ll launch this week the process for head students which will remain similar to the last few years. Students in year 10 will be asked to apply by creating a short one minute video spot lighting their talents in order to support their case for becoming a head student. They will be able to ask two teachers for references, so please be prepared for requests, references should be sent directly to Alice (email@example.com) with a copy sent to the students for their own record. We will have look at the applicant’s academic progress, house points and behaviour record alongside the reference and video in order to short-list the successful applicants who we will interview using ‘teams’ in the last week of this term. Following that we will laugh the usual survey for students to apply to become prefects and other positions of responsibility. Thanks for your support in this process.
I will update you further next week on this aspect and look forward to speaking to many of you through ‘Teams’ over the course of the next few days.
Our trip to Iceland proved to be a huge adventure braving a storm as we flew to Iceland was just the start. This is a video I put together followed by K Raxter’s own account of the trip.
During the February half term staff and students flew to Iceland for a photography trip, read all about it below:
This trip was incredible! And the place its self couldn’t be more different from England. I would recommend this trip to anyone.
Iceland’s culture is so vivid. The legends or saga as they would call them are very interesting, and riddled with tales of elves and trolls inhabiting the freezing island. If you look into the mountains you can see the faces of the trolls that stayed out partying too long and got turned to stone by the sun. You will learn about these creatures and a lot more! The city is beautiful, bright coloured buildings and amazing architecture surrounded by a tidal cove which is towered over by a breath taking mountain range. This area is perfect for street photography and will make a huge difference in your photo shoots rather than boring old England all the time.
As you leave Reykjavik and go into the beyond it is rather like being in the middle of nowhere. However this is quickly forgotten as the views of the open countryside are spectacular! Any chance you get to take photos of it do. A lot of our time in Iceland was spent in the wilderness, and it was so worth it. Everything we did there was a photo opportunity and as a photography student it was very useful. There are so many wonderful landscapes and scenery like nothing you have ever seen before.
We saw a lot of spectacular sights, glittering waterfalls, monstrous mountains, lava caves that immerse you into darkness, glaciers, geysers, horses and so much more. My favourite and not yet mentioned was the beaches. They had black sand which created a beautiful contrast to the ferocious waves that almost drenched us, as a result of a photo opportunity for Mr Williams. But these beaches where so pretty and well worth the blustery winds that froze a finger or two.
Some of the hotel choices where… questionable, but this didn’t matter much because at the end of the day a good meal and bed was much appreciated.
Every experience in Iceland was incredible and it really is a once in a life time opportunity! Not to mention the difference it makes to your course work. Bring a couple of radiators and jumpers and you will have the time of your life.
The key message for students from this briefing is to continue to stay at home but to keep in touch with friends; on social media but more importantly by speaking with them on the phone, or through a video link. It is important that although we have to physically distance from one another, we continue to maintain our friendships over the weeks and months as may be necessary.
I have been impressed by the way in which students have responded to attending a virtual school, working from home on phones or computers and keeping up with the work being set. It is important that they do what they can to keep up with the work so that when we return they are ready to continue at the same place in the course as everyone else. I have attached to this email an update on our approach to following up on non-engagement from students with the work being set, which I hope you will also find helpful to ensure your child stays in a good routine.
On the other hand, we recognise that working from home can be challenging, that is why following the Easter break we will introduce the following:
- Years 7 and 8 – A more simplified timetable is attached that will lead to fewer pieces of working being set each day which should be more easily managed.
- In Year 9 we will be shortly sending home a letter that confirms your child’s options choices. Following the Easter break they should only continue to complete work for the core subjects of English, maths and science alongside their choices for GCSEs.
- In Year 10 it is important to try to continue with the course otherwise when students return, Year 11 will be even more challenging with so much content still to cover. We have asked our subject leaders to reduce the pace, in order that we endeavour to keep students at the same point on the specification. We will encourage students who are keeping up with the pace to explore topics in greater depth so that they are well placed to access higher tier assessments on their return.
- For students in Year 11, particularly those who are going to continue to study A level we will be releasing transition material which will support a smooth move into the 6th form, wherever that might be. For those students who are moving to vocational courses at College we will no longer be setting work after Easter as they will have finished their GCSE courses. We are still unsure how final GCSE grades will be determined by the government but are in the final stages of determining our own predicted grades which will help inform this process.
We do not intend to set any work over Easter in order to allow students the time to catch-up as needed and to have some time to recuperate.
Although many students are managing to work well at home, we are concerned that a very small number are yet to complete any work, I have asked class teachers to follow this up with the students themselves to find out what is preventing them from doing any work and then to contact parents. We are keen to support you to ensure your child’s education does not suffer over the coming months and appreciate the support you are giving your child to ensure that this is the case.
We experienced another year in which the College continued to grow in so many ways, however amongst many changes one aspect remains true, that at the heart of everything are our students. All who work at Catmose standby the strong belief that every lesson, trip and experience should be good enough for our own children and that so many of us choose the College for their child’s education is testament to the quality of our provision.
In a year of change at GCSE, with more academic courses and the new 1-9 grades Catmose students achieved the highest set of outcomes we have ever seen. This did not happen by chance, but as a result of careful planning by our subject leaders and superb delivery by each and every one of our teachers. The progress our students make whilst with us is likely to place us in the top 10 to 15% of all schools nationally. This is particularly impressive when you consider that we have refused to game the progress 8 system of the ‘open’ basket and instead continue to offer a very broad curriculum that includes music, the arts, drama and philosophy and ethics amongst other academic courses. This means that every Catmose student is very well placed to progress to A levels, or to an FE course or into the world of work as an apprentice.
Our extra-curricular provision also improved last year with more trips, electives and experiences than ever before – too many to list here with over 200 now on offer. My own highlight was joining the photography teachers on a winter tour of Iceland with our GCSE students. We braved winter snow storms, driving rain and freezing temperatures to capture some majestic landscapes that will support student portfolios.
Our DofE also continues to grow with the Federation being the largest state provider in the area for this challenging but rewarding course. It is heartening to speak with students who, following an expedition might have a slight limp after walking 40km but are still determined to progress to the next level of the reward; such was the sense of reward they have from completing the challenge. We have a small team of staff and volunteers who give up endless hours in the evening and at weekends to make this possible, but there is no doubt in my mind that our students are better leaders, team players, who have made a meaningful contribution to their community as a result of their involvement.
Madagascar was a colourful highlight of the Performing Arts calendar last year with make-up, music and choreography that gave everyone a spring in their step. The Christmas concert brought us together with the Oakham community to celebrate the festive season. The Year 7’s performed Aladdin with great enthusiasm, with many of them already looking to audition for this year’s Sister Act production. In November, our remembrance took on additional poignancy by the playing of the Last Post as the whole College stood in silence.
The student council continues to shape our approach to everything we do from reducing our use of plastic to transforming Sports day, so that every student was involved in Sports day including our most IT literate students who updated the Hellerup screens as each event was completed. The sports team also sustained a four-year winning run by beating the other five schools in the area in the Varsity completion.
Everything we do at the College is aimed at developing students who are strong characters with the self-belief and resilience to thrive in the modern world. It was only fitting therefore, that a highlight of the year for many of us was a week celebrating positive mental health with a range of activities including Zumba, Bhangra dancing, mindful colouring and the talent show which brought us all together as a community.
Thank you to everyone who attended our Open Evening last night, it was our busiest one ever, with a lovely atmosphere throughout the evening. I hope that everyone who attended found the evening informative and were able to have any questions they might have had answered. If you have the time we’d also welcome prospective parents to contact us and arrange a tour during a normal College day; there is nothing quite like seeing Catmose when we are going about our normal business.
We will shortly post the video of my presentation but I thought many of you might also like to see the slides and outcomes information I shared last night. We are proud of our Year 11 results which are likely to place us in the top 10 or 15% of schools nationally for the progress our students make whilst with us. We offer only courses that our students will benefit from in the future and have avoided gaming our results by choosing courses that don’t allow students to progress further to A level which makes our progress even more impressive.
We are equally proud of the broad range of opportunities we offer to challenge and inspire our students from the Duke of Edinburgh award to expeditions to Sumatra, Ghana and Nepal. Our rich tradition of sporting success speaks for itself, as does our four year winning streak against all of the local schools in the Varsity competition. We also offer a rich programme of music and performance through the electives and our productions which start with Year 7 students performing a West End show in the summer term.
Catmose is unique in our ethos which is based on trusting our students, allowing them to arrive early and stay late, to access to all of our award winning facilities and to be equally valued alongside staff for the contributions they make to our community. This was in great evidence last night with so many of our students joining staff to make our Open Evening the successful one it was.
We experienced an incredible week in Iceland. Each excursion gave us all an opportunity to improve our photography skills within a spectacular context. Pippa Sanger, our trip leader, is to be congratulated for the planning she did before the trip and her meticulous organisation during it to ensure everything went smoothly. The highlight of the trip for me however was the time spent with our students who embraced everything that was thrown at them (quite literally in the case of the weather). We walked in snow blizzards, wind and rain. We crossed rivers, climbed hills and got wet every day but the students remained interested in every aspect of the trip. It was a privilege to share the experience with them.
We started our trip with a bracing walk amongst mud pools and steam vents with dramatic views of the vigorously bubbling Gunnuhver, Iceland’s largest mud pool. We also had the opportunity to view Reykjanesviti Iceland’s oldest lighthouse.
The following day with the weather due to make a turn for the worse we headed for the magnificent waterfall of Skógafoss. It is one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls – with a wide, thundering curtain of water 60m high.
Onto Vik, a tiny coastal town, we walked down to the black sand beach and viewed the remarkable sea stacks – Reynisdrangar.
The weather made a turn for the worse and so our visit to the glacier was curtailed due to a snow blizzard. Sólheimajökull ‘sun house glacier’ has been retreating since the end of the 19th century at a rate of around 100m per year. The photographs captured were magnificent despite the inclement weather.
The weather continued to worsen and so that evening we missed what would have been a spectacular display of the northern lights. We headed off early the following day, driving through the storm before visiting Seljalandsfoss, this waterfall’s plume spills 60m over a former sea cliff. From Seljalandsfoss, we walked along the cliff base to Gljúfrabúi waterfall – it’s hidden inside a gorge and we needed walking boots and rainproof gear as we needed to walk through a river to enter the canyon!
Off to rainy Reykjavik for an afternoon of shopping and getting very wet. The coach at one point drove through what we thought was a river – it was simply the road!
The National park of Thingvellir is where Iceland’s parliament was established in 930AD. The site straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, its rift valley forming where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates pull apart at an average of 3cm a year.
Gulfoss are double falls, dropping around 33m then plunge into a mile-long gorge – one of Iceland’s most photographed waterfalls; we certainly took a few ourselves!
One of our favourite stops was to meet the Icelandic ponies.
The Geysir eruption was something to behold, if a little tricky to capture!
On our last day we took the opportunity for street photography around Reykjavik before flying back home. Alas the Aurora proved elusive although some of us managed to capture it with our cameras even if we couldn’t see it with the naked eye.
Student photographs from the trip: