Without a shadow of a doubt, this latest lockdown has been an extremely challenging one for us all. Being stuck indoors for an extended period of time and being out of our usual routines, not seeing loved ones and, in some cases, not seeing daylight because we were all glued to our screens has been a real challenge. As a headteacher, I am privileged to have such fantastic staff who have gone the extra mile, and our school continues to run smoothly and deliver an outstanding curriculum for all of our students.
As a school, I feel that we have achieved so much, and we have gone from strength to strength to improve standards in what have been extremely challenging times. In all my years of working in schools, I have yet to see a group more committed to the cause.
Here are some of our most spectacular achievements during an unforgettable lockdown during the long dark winter months.
Attendance to our online lessons was nothing short of phenomenal. The attendance of our students (86%) was three times that of their counterparts nationally (26%) and double that of children from middle-class homes (40%). I doubt this would have been possible without our high-performing pastoral teams, with their excellent tracking and monitoring systems. Our support staff were assigned to a year group, and our teachers immediately intervened if students did not attend their lessons. Our average attendance to online classes in the first lockdown was around 50%.
During this lockdown, we managed to call our students 21,000 times! That is equivalent to each student getting fifteen telephone calls in the eight weeks that the school was closed. During that period, our staff also conducted at least 114 home visits for welfare checks. If I could summarise this in one word, it would be ‘astonishing!’
Making sure that our students could access our exceptional online learning platform using our award-winning Dynamic Progress Reporting (DPR) was my number one priority when I learnt about schools closing. We quickly distributed over 350 laptops and devices so that our students did not miss out. This meant that, on average, 94% of our students were logging onto our DPR at last five times or more each week, and over 65% of our students were submitting their work online so that teachers could assess it and give them feedback.
Other remarkable achievements during this period include setting up The Cumberland School foodbank, which resulted in some of our most vulnerable families receiving a hamper full of fresh and non-perishable food items just before the February half term. Seeing our staff going around and delivering these to our families brought tears to my eyes.
The good news kept coming; 1 in 20 of our Year 11 students gained a scholarship worth more than £50,000 for their post-16 education through our Scholarship Programme. This momentous effort is attributable to our famous duo of ‘Deen and Green’, our fabulous Careers team, who have worked tirelessly on this endeavour.
To acknowledge our outstanding students’ hard work, we set up a unique rewards system where students received Golden Tickets when they performed exceptionally well in lessons and they also received positive phone calls home. Believe it or not, we even delivered pizzas to their homes on Fridays as part of our rewards system. Reading an email from a joyous Year 9 parent after receiving her delivery was the greatest moment of the whole week for me – thank you Sophie! During this period, our staff gave over 35,000 merits to students, and incredibly, our dedicated staff also received at least 182 thank you messages, in a single week, from our students expressing their gratitude.
The success of virtual assemblies has been remarkable. We maintain standards; all of our online assemblies start with our ritual 3-2-1, SLANT to get students’ attention. We also publicly reward our DPR gurus; we acknowledge the week’s work, address mental health issues, and give well-being tips to students. Wednesday, which is assembly day, is my favourite time of the week, and I tune into every single one.
Our school and our Trust are best known for their innovative approach to Teaching and Learning. Remote learning has made lots of things possible, and we are looking at ways of adapting the practices we have developed going forward.
I feel very honoured and privileged to be part of this great school!
Thank you, TCS family!