April 2020

Published: 27 April 2020

I hope this update finds you and your family safe and well. I am immensely proud of the way that our pupils, parents/carers and staff have responded to these unprecedented times over the last month and risen to the challenge of remote working. Engagement has been high on our Google Classrooms and there has been a real sense of teamwork from all our community to make this work. Beyond the work of the school some of our staff have been working full time in the Children’s Hubs (and also trying to juggle this with putting learning online for our young people); staff and pupils have also been involved in making visors for the NHS and other frontline workers, and just this week, we have another two members of staff making scrubs.  We also have staff and some senior pupils supporting the delivery of lunches being made by the East Lothian Community Kitchen. As a school community, we should be so proud of what we are doing to support one another both in our local and wider community. Thank you!

Home Learning / Remote Timetable

We have learned a great deal during the first few weeks of home learning and have used the recent ‘Remote Learning’ survey, where we gathered your views and have added in to that feedback from staff, to look at the best way of supporting everyone during this time.  As a result of feedback, we have now arranged that Subject teachers will post work for the week on a Monday to allow pupils to work through this at their own pace. Submission deadlines will also no longer exist to remove the pressure on young people trying to balance their work /IT access, as this is variable for many of our young people.  However, even though there may be no set submission dates for work, please encourage your young person to submit work regularly to the teacher for feedback as this will be important in helping them progress in their learning. Pupils can ask teachers questions in Google Classroom so please also remind them, if they are struggling with a piece of work, they can get support either through this classroom or by emailing their teacher direct using their EduBuzz email.  Feedback from our learners and parents showed that most young people were able to access 3-4 hours a day and therefore it would be great, where possible, if pupils aimed for this. However we understand that this may differ between households. For those without ICT, we are preparing booklets again and we aim to have these available from a week on Monday to be picked up from the Haddington Hub.

Timetable Change

Our calendar date for timetable change was previously 1 June. However, given that there are no longer examinations for students to complete, it makes sense to move our pupils forward a year group in mid-May (19th) - please note May 18th is a holiday for pupils.  This decision has been made after consultation at school level via the questionnaire sent out during the Easter break, which gave parents/carers and pupils the opportunity to comment on this move.  In all year groups, from parents/carers and pupils, between 64% (S1) and 92% (S5) agreed with this proposal.  After further discussion with the other secondary schools in East Lothian, all our schools will start their new timetables on this date. I have sent an email to all pupils, via their EduBuzz accounts to also let them know about the start of the new timetable so please can you ask them to read this. Thank you.

Almost all students in S2-S5 have now made their subject choices for next year, but anyone who has not yet done so should contact Mr Russell at drussell@knox.elcschool.org.uk, who is currently finalising classes ready for this timetable change. It is, of course, difficult to finalise the fine detail of individual learner pathway choices without the possibility of face-to-face conversations with pupils. However, where necessary we will find online ways around this to ensure that all students have satisfactory outcomes.  The virtual timetable year groups will follow will not be exactly the same as if they we in school and will be outlined as an overview for each year group.

S1 progressing from S2 will stay in exactly the same classes, with many of the same teachers where possible, and therefore very little change for them and work will continue seamlessly and as a continuation of what they are already doing. A virtual timetable is being prepared for them based on 3-4 hours of learning a day and will be shared with both parents and pupils in a week or so.

The new S3-S6, will also follow a virtual timetable based on their learner pathway choices and may have some new teachers in their ‘google classrooms’. The school will be in touch with all learners in S3-S6 to remind them of their subject choices in readiness for their new timetable so they are sure of the subjects they should be studying.  The timetable each day has been based around 3hrs 45 minutes of study, or 5 blocks of 45 minutes, as in the feedback from pupils and parents/carers this was highlighted as the optimum amount of remote learning most young people were able to access in a day and commit to on a regular basis, and for those sharing IT resources, allowed a school day to be ‘shared’. If young people wish to do more than this they can, and there will be extension tasks and research projects they can undertake and they should discuss this with their teachers to ensure it is pertinent to them.

Finally, we would like to stress that all our young people’s health and wellbeing is our top priority and this is the number one consideration in all remote learning.  Please encourage your child to do what they can and not to worry about ‘falling behind’ as this is not a time for comparing who is able to do what but to acknowledge that any learning is advancing knowledge and that often quality of learning is more important that quantity. As every pupil will be accessing a flexible programme of learning, there is also no one to ‘fall behind.’ Please be assured that when learning resumes face to face at the school we acknowledge that pupils will be at different stages and will take account of this as we move learning and teaching forward in all of our classes.

SQA

You will remember last week that I sent you the latest update from SQA regarding the estimate process. Lesley Brown, Chief Operating Officer at East Lothian Council wrote a response to this and it would be good for parents/carers to read this if you have a young person in S4/5/6.

Scholar UK- “Emergency Access” to Courses

A reminder that all S3-S6 pupils registered with SCHOLAR are now able to access all of their courses by logging in using their normal account details. There may be a small number of pupils who have not yet been registered on our system and who still require access. If this applies to your young person, please ask them to contact any teacher through Google Classroom and they will be able to help them with this. Mrs Clubb is also able to help support pupils with this if they contact her through their EduBuzz accounts.

S6

It was extremely sad that we were unable to say a proper goodbye to our S6 in the fashion we would have wished with the closure of schools happening so quickly.  We are also aware, that for many of them going off to University, college or employment this period of time and with no exams, they may feel that they have nothing to focus their minds on and keep their motivation up.  Although this may not be of interest to all, Harvard University is offering a lot of free courses over the next 10-12 weeks that I feel may be of interest and would be worth encouraging your young person to have a look at and may link to their future courses or employment or just be a course they may wish to follow as it is an area of interest. Many of the courses sound very exciting, who wouldn’t want to say they are a ‘graduate’ of Harvard or add this to their CV as learning they did during the lockdown.  Parents/carers may also see course of interest to them as I know a few staff have identified some they may do to further their learning.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

Chris Trotter, our SDS link, has been in touch today to say there are lots of courses at Edinburgh College with spaces still available on them. Application forms can be found online at Edinburgh College or parents/pupils can contact Chris Trotter for support with this and to talk through options. This can be done by emailing him at chris.trotter@sds.co.uk . If you would like to speak to a Careers Adviser please phone 0131 665 3120. Details of all SDS centres can be found on My World of Work

Children’s Hubs / Provision of food

Families entitled to Free School Meals should now be receiving a weekly food box delivery. If there are any issues, or any families who have not yet taken up their free school meal allocation, but wish to do so, then please contact admin@knox.elcschool.org.uk.

A small number of our pupils are being supported within the Haddington cluster’s children’s hub at St Mary’s Primary School. As of this week the operating hours of the provision have been extended from 8am until 6pm. This will be a welcome development for some of our families.

Free School Meals/Clothing Grants

We are aware that some parents/carers circumstances may have changed as a result of Covid-19 and this may mean you are now eligible for Free School Meals and/or a Clothing Grant.  If you think this may apply to you, please visit the Free School Meals and Clothing Grants area of the East Lothian Council website for further information and the relevant forms. If you need help completing these forms there is support available on the website or alternatively please contact your young person’s Pupil Support Leader (Guidance teacher) who should also be able to help you via a telephone call/email.

Psychological Services

East Lothian’s Educational Psychology Service has provided some useful advice for parents and carers which can be found on our school website (here, here and here).  

Musical Medley

Please take time to watch the wonderful musical medley our young people have put together during lockdown.  The array of talent is phenomenal and it is so nice to connect with our young people visually at this moment in time. Please share this link with family and friends to make their day too and spread the word of our wonderfully talented pupils far and wide.

Finally, our school community will continue to illustrate resilience in the months ahead as we support each other. If there is anything we can do to help you in the months ahead please contact the school via email on admin@knox.elcschool.org.uk and we will direct it to the member of staff most able to support you.

Stay safe, stay home and be kind to one another.

Sue Cook

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Published: 21 April 2020

Welcome back to our Summer term. I hope you have all managed to have a restful and pleasant Easter break, and although perhaps not full of the normal activities you would do as a family, the sunshine managed to tempt you out and about for your daily exercise. 

We are very much missing the buzz of welcoming the pupils back to school this morning and seeing their lovely smiles at the front door as they come in refreshed after their break. We are however looking forward to welcoming them back to our virtual classrooms for learning and teaching.  A huge thank you again to all our parents/carers for your support in encouraging your young person to engage in this on a day to day basis as we know many of you are balancing this support alongside working from home too.

During the holidays there have been a few updates I would like to make you aware of:

SQA Estimates Process

Yesterday we received SQA guidance on school approaches to finalising pupils’ estimate grades, and we will now consider that information across subject and faculty teams, prior to finalisation of those estimates for submission on 29 May.

We have been clearly advised by the SQA that ‘there is no requirement to set additional mock or prelim exams or homework tasks for the purpose of determining a candidate estimate’ and they have also very clearly stated ‘No candidate should be disadvantaged if they were unable to complete any work set after (schools) were closed’. They add that ‘Where candidates have completed additional work after school and college closures, teachers should exercise caution where that evidence suggests a change in performance. In many cases, it is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work was done.’

We will of course ensure we use a range of evidence to come to a decision about each pupil’s estimate grades in all of their subjects so that their ability is rightly and fairly recognised and rewarded. In the meantime, between now and the change of timetable, any work will focus on worthwhile skill development for next steps in learning, rather than on work designed to inform ongoing estimate finalisation.

International Trips and Excursions

As you are aware the school trip(s) planned for the summer term will now no longer be going ahead due to the current situation with COVID19. In this regard I know you will be waiting on refunds of payments you have made towards the trip. I have had confirmation from the Council that we can now move forward with the processing of refunds and that this will commence over the coming week. Please be aware that the processing of refunds will be dealt with at school level and may take a period of time before repayments show in your online account. In this respect I would appreciate your support and patience in allowing this work to be undertaken which we will do as quickly as possible. Many thanks for your co-operation and understanding.

Questionnaires of Remote Learning and Change of Timetable

Thank you very much to all parents/carers and pupils who completed the survey monkey questionnaire over the holidays. We are analysing the results of these and will share the main findings with you soon.  We will use your feedback to help us take the school forward in the coming weeks and months.

Have a good week and stay safe, stay well and be kind to yourself and one another.

Sue Cook

Published: 03 April 2020

A huge well done to so many of our young people who have engaged really well with remote/home-school working, using Google Classroom and also the hard copy booklets issued to those without digital access (we will aim to post new work out post Easter to the young people who require hard copies). 

As you may have noticed, there seems to be an overwhelming array of work on offer digitally and whilst that is excellent, it makes it difficult for our young people to know what to do and which platform to choose. For this reason I would suggest first and foremost they focus on the work provided by their teachers on Google Classroom. Beyond this, if they are in S3-S6 they can access all courses on Scholar UK and follow the tutorials and tasks on this (more details below). If your young person wishes to work over the Easter holidays (as no formal work will be set by our teachers during this holiday period), BBC Bitesize has some excellent online resources and also has a programme on BBC Scotland (TV) from 10am on weekdays.   Scholar UK (S3-S6) can also be accessed at all times and carrying out a focused research project on an area of interest is highly valuable too.   

Finally, thank you to you all as parents/carers for facilitating learning at home and trying to maintain a routine with your young person (people) as this can be quite a challenge, especially as many of you will be continuing working from home too.  If your young person can manage to do two/three hours of learning a day that is really great as we know that access to laptops etc. may be required by other family members as well.  Too much screen time is also not great for them and time off computers and devices can also be productive. Encouraging young people to exercise, outside if possible, to get some fresh air into their lungs should be encouraged as this is great for both mental and physical health. Reading a book is also excellent for developing literacy and extending their vocabulary which in turn helps support learning across all subjects. This time of school closure and Covid-19 should also afford you time to connect as a family and engage in other activities such as baking or cooking dinner, playing board games or them doing some household chores (which they may continue once back to school too…).

The Parent Council has been posting some really great information to support Parents/Carers on their Knox Academy Facebook Page and also on their new account on Twitter. Please follow them on Twitter . It would be great to get as many of you following them as possible and to build up our community support for each other at this time and going forward. Thanks.

SQA Update

On 2 April SQA has published a FAQ that aims to provide learners, parents, and carers with answers to some common questions about how they will deliver a fair, safe and secure set of results over the coming month.  Teachers will receive detailed guidance after the Easter holidays about how the SQA want us to gather evidence for grade estimates, so at this moment in time I am not able to give any further information in regard to this. Please be assured that all our young people’s work will be rightly and fairly recognised and rewarded. It is worth highlighting that the grade estimates submitted to SQA by teachers cannot be shared with pupils or parents/carers as the SQA will decide the final grades. 

Scholar UK- “Emergency Access” to Courses

All S3-S6 pupils registered with SCHOLAR are now able to access all of their courses by logging in using their normal account details. There may be a small number of pupils who have not yet been registered on our system and who still require access. If this applies to your young person, please ask them to contact any teacher through Google Classroom and they will be able to help them with this. Mrs Clubb is also able to help support pupils with this if they contact her through their EduBuzz accounts.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS)

SDS is continuing to provide career, information, advice and guidance for all of our young people.  Pupils and parents/ carers are still able to contact our Careers Adviser, Chris Trotter for support. This can be done by emailing him at chris.trotter@sds.co.uk . If you would like to speak to a Careers Adviser please phone 0131 665 3120. Details of all SDS centres can be found on My World of Work

Cancelled International Excursions

Knox Academy is working with East Lothian Council, Foreign Commonwealth Office Advice and our Travel Companies in regard to the excursions we had planned to Italy and France in May. Trip Leaders will liaise with parents/carers as soon as we have any update on this. Thank you for your support and bearing with us on this.

S1 and S2 Reports

Unfortunately due to the system needed for all staff to complete these being unavailable remotely for most of our staff, we will be unable to complete these reports.  We apologise for this.  Although not a replacement for a report, the diligence awards sent home in December for your young person will have given a strong indication of the subjects they were demonstrating hard work and commitment in and ideally all subjects should have been listed on this certificate. Any subject missing indicates that a little more effort and commitment was needed in this/these subjects.

Free School Meals/Clothing Grants

We are aware that some parents/carers circumstances may have changed as a result of Covid-19 and this may mean you are now eligible for Free School Meals and/or a Clothing Grant.  If you think this may apply to you, please visit the Free School Meals and Clothing Grants area of the East Lothian Council website for further information and the relevant forms. If you need help completing these forms there is support available on the website or alternatively please contact your young person’s Guidance teacher who should also be able to help you via a telephone call/email.

Thanks

As you may be aware if you follow us on Twitter (Twitter_logo_blue[1] ) a number of our staff have been helping at the Hubs, which are providing learning for young people whose parents/carers are keyworkers.  We have also had our Design Technology staff helping to make visors for frontline care workers and these are being distrubuted to a variety of places local and wider community. We also packaged up all our safety goggles and safety glasses at the school and they have also been distributed to frontline care workers.  We also have a number of our senior pupils and parents/carers helping with deliveries of hot/packed lunches to homes across ELC and also involved in many other supports. A huge thank you goes to all of you for doing this, and whatever you are doing, it all helps build our community ethos.

As we now move towards our Easter break, please enjoy the time you have together as a family. If you do need some support from the school during the break our school email account admin@knox.elcschool.org.uk  will be monitored by our Senior Leadership Team, on weekdays only, and we will respond to any urgent enquires during this time.  Non-urgent emails will be responded to once the Easter break is over.

We are all thinking of you here at Knox Academy and very much missing our daily interaction with all of our pupils, staff, and parents/carers. Please look after one and other; stay safe, stay well, stay home and most of all, as our school vision says, “Always choose kindness” – be kind to one another. Once we get through this what we will remember from all of this will be the sense of community we all shared, how we gained strength from it and how important kindness is.

Sue Cook