Senior Headmaster's Blog: Looking forward

It has been a pleasure this week to welcome back nearly a hundred more students, from Year 10 and the Lower 6th.  I know that it is not quite school as they would have known it until March, but it is a very important step towards getting back to greater normality in September, and I am grateful for their confidence in coming back, and very much hope that the change of scenery, and the opportunity to see friends, and some teachers has made it worthwhile.

This week, I am going to focus on the upcoming plans for the end of this term, and into next academic year, to help you with your planning.  Starting with this term, we are going to continue with our published term dates, so the final day of this term will be Friday 3rd July, with remote lessons finishing at lunchtime, followed by the release of Lists (the end of term assembly) to pupils at 2pm on Friday afternoon.  Then, on Saturday 4th July we are holding our first ever virtual Speech Day.  This is a combined Speech Day for FPS and Senior School, and the pupils have been asked to contribute by sending in a recording of themselves singing one of our hymns, 'I The Lord of Sea and Sky'.  Click here to find out more

This does mean that we will not be able to welcome back Years 9 and 11 this term.  I am aware that schools have been given some more flexibility, but this is mostly intended for those who have not been able to access remote education.  With the plans in place for Year 10 and Lower 6th, and the intention to run boarding in the last week as well, under the current restrictions, we have decided that we would not be able to do anything meaningful for those year groups.  I understand that this will be disappointing for some students, but we have been very impressed at the work that has been covered, and with both year groups already starting their GCSE, A Level or IB studies, they should be in a good position for September.

Key Dates
Looking ahead to next term, here are the key dates for you to be aware of:

  • Monday 24th August - boarding houses open for overseas students who need 'quarantine'
  • Tuesday 1st September - Friday 4th September - Progress Checks for current Year 10 and Lower 6th (as they move into Year 11 and Upper 6th, but referred to in their current year group here) - more details below
  • Monday 7th September - Lower 6th induction Day
  • Tuesday 8th September - Year 9 induction Day
  • Tuesday 8th September - return of boarders
  • Wednesday 9th September - return of day pupils, lessons start

Half Term will remain as published (Friday 16th October - Sunday 1st November).  If quarantine requirements remain in place, we will provide boarding over this break for anyone who needs it. End of Term will remain as published (Wednesday 16th December)

Please note that we would look at these dates again if there were a further enforced closure.


A new normal
We are planning on a return to normal in September in that we will have all (or most) students back all of the time.  However, we will be taking significant steps to mitigate risk, so will be considering class sizes, cleaning routines, hand washing, face masks, temperature checks, one way systems, meal routines, large assemblies, trips off site, fixtures, visitors and more.  Given the ongoing levels of uncertainty, I intend to publish our detailed strategy for reopening after reviewing the latest guidance in the middle of July.  Our priorities will be safety, academic progress and the wider aspects of education, including wellbeing and social development.


Progress checks (1-4 September)
Ideally, pupils in Year 10 and Lower 6th will be in school to take these progress checks.  If this is not possible, due to plans already in place, or for other reasons, please let us know, and we will make alternative arrangements, including taking the progress checks remotely.  The purpose of these progress checks is for teachers to assess how well students have got on with remote learning, and inform us of any additional support that may be required, as well as helping students to get off to a really good start next year.  These are not intended to provide UCAS predictions, or GCSE predictions.  Progress checks will be a maximum of one hour long (Year 10) and one and a half hours long (Lower 6th).  Teachers will be explaining revision needs, and revision is strictly time limited for each subject, to reduce workload and pressure around these progress checks.  A schedule will be provided for revision for the week before the progress checks, but it can be spread out, or done at other times.

I know that some parents are concerned that pupils are behind where they would normally be in working towards their exams.  We feel that they are in a strong position, as measured against the current national cohort, which is more relevant than comparing them against previous year groups at this stage.  They can approach next year with great confidence.  We may well have additional time in the working day, which can be used to provide support for individuals or groups, as some co-curricular activities might not be possible, and we will target those interventions as required.  We are working on plans to provide a week of revision for those who want to take this up during the last week of the Easter holiday (12-16 April) to further support preparation for these public exams.

Update on Black Lives Matter
Two groups of pupils, staff and former pupils have met this week, and will be reporting back to me and the Senior Leadership Team on Tuesday, so that we can formulate a full strategy to address concerns, and improve the experience of all of our students.  They have identified a number of areas, and we are looking to maintain the momentum for positive change.  I will update you further in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are continuing to keep well, and as we start the process of easing restrictions, we can start to look forward positively.

Chris Townsend