With it being the end of the “Easter holidays”, here’s a chance to get in touch with all our Bro Edern families, at the start of what is officially the summer term. It was a strange Easter for us all this year, so we hope you are all well, and have managed to keep safe and healthy.
The new ‘normal’
In our last blog, we talked about finding our new ‘normal’, whatever that may be. Our new ‘normal’ may have a completely new body clock. The clocks have gone forward since we started our lockdown, and we have seen some sunshine at last, after the long winter. Maybe our new ‘normal’ is spending more time in pyjamas, maybe our new ‘normal’ involves healthy eating. Our new ‘normal’ may be noisier than ever before, or unexpectedly quiet. Maybe our new ‘normal’ means practising for the next Bake Off (does anyone actually have any flour ?!), keeping up with Joe Wicks, or just eating a lot more chocolate. Whatever your new ‘normal’ is, try to make it work for you.
The question is, will things ever return to ‘normal’ after this?
We doubt it very much. Things may never go back to what they were.
Diolch. Thanks. Danke. Merci.
We know that many of our parents have been working tirelessly for the NHS and we would like to thank you for all your work in keeping us all safe. The daily images on our screens are sobering, to say the least. Many of you have worked incredible hours in different hospitals or surgeries in the area, while some of you are in local care homes, or in the Hubs for Cardiff schools. Thank you all.
We have all learnt many new things in these strange times. For one thing, it’s been a time of learning new vocabulary: from lockdown to furlough, from antibodies to PPE, these have all become part of our new everyday vocabulary. The news currently seems to be a never-ending sorry tale of despair and lack of planning, but at least Huw Edwards is back on our screen after his own bout of pneumonia!
The Easter holidays
In the midst of all this, our Bro Edern families have been trying to get their children out of bed, trying to motivate them to eat something sensible (an Easter egg for breakfast, obvs?!) and trying to motivate them to do something half-decent with their time. Some have been learning some cooking skills, some looking after younger siblings, some having time to get back into an old hobby or practise an instrument.
Deliberately, we did not set any work for our pupils over the Easter holidays, because for once, no one was in a mad rush to complete work before the exams, and everyone – pupils, staff and parents – needed a little break after the crazy period before Easter. The word unprecedented is still heard daily from all directions, and yes, without a doubt, the whole thing is still unprecedented.
The new term
But now, with the summer term looming, we, pupils and staff, need to try to re-engage with our work. It’s always difficult after two weeks’ holidays, but this year promises to be harder than usual. We will all need to find a new rhythm that involves more self-discipline than usual, because the shape of the school day is not there to support us. We know that many of you are looking forward to having a pattern to your day, along with academic tasks to keep your children busy. We also know that some of you would prefer that we as a school, with our hassle-inducing work and expectations, keep out of your way! There is, of course, an expectation for us to set work for our pupils, and we are trying our best to do this in a meaningful and sensible way.
Please remember that we as a school are always here to support you as a family at the beginning of this new term. If things are difficult for your child, then please do not hesitate to contact us via your child’s Head of Progress and Wellbeing. Details are at the bottom of this blog.
Thanks to the 227 parents who responded to our questionnaire before Easter, evaluating the first two weeks of work that their children received at home. Your responses have enabled us to refine our provision for the coming weeks.
In brief: Most parents are very happy. More want more work than want less work.
Responses came from a cross section of parents with children of all ages:
Thank goodness, the accessibility of our work scored very highly across the age range, even in year 7, where pupils do not currently have iPads. We didn’t really expect major problems with year 8+ pupils:
The question of how long our pupils spent completing their work was interesting. It varied from year to year, but as you might expect, the amount of time spent working increased more or less in line with pupils’ progression through the year groups. 68% of year 7 pupils spent over 2 hours a day completing work, 64% of year 8 pupils, 78% of year 9 pupils, 86% of year 10 pupils and 69% of the Sixth Form (with their exams, of course, cancelled …)
Things look promising: 85% of parents believe their children completed over 60% of their daily work before Easter, and 67% believe their children completed over 80% of their work. A number of parents stated in the questionnaire that their child intended to work leisurely over Easter to catch up
Very few parents disagreed with the amount of work the school had set before the holidays. Only 17.1% of parents thought the work was either too much, or not enough, with a few more believing it wasn’t enough. It is clear, therefore, that we are quite close to the mark with the volume of work set, but we will look at the comments of the parents who did not agree and try to act upon these comments.
With regards to the difficulty of the work, once again our staff seem to be very close to the mark when setting tasks for our various classes. It is clear that Bro Edern staff know our pupils well. Phew! Only 7% disagreed with the difficulty of the work, with more believing it to be too easy than too difficult. Again, we will look at the views of individual parents and try to act on these comments. With year 7 in mixed ability classes working independently from home, it is quite a challenge for us to ensure that the work is suitable for everyone, but we try our best to ensure that everyone has access to the work, while ensuring that everyone is challenged and learning new things.
One thing that became clear in the questionnaire was the fact that many pupils do not enjoy working from home, although just over half are managing to #joio. It is clear that many will be pleased to see Bro Edern open its doors once again, once this difficult time comes to an end. However, a number of parents commented that their child was enjoying the new freedom to work at their own tempo, which was interesting.
So, with our parents effectively more than happy with the arrangements before Easter, we will carry on in the same vein. It seems that the vast majority of our parents are very happy with the arrangements and it is clear that the vast majority of pupils complete the vast majority of their work. We would like to thank all our parents for their support during these difficult times for encouraging their children and for all the positive messages that have come through the questionnaire.
To Zoom or not to Zoom?!
Many parents have said in their comments that they would welcome face-to-face teaching and learning for their children. Many have suggested the Zoom app, which has grown tremendously in popularity over the past month. If only life was that simple! Unfortunately, there are a number of child protection issues (and issues for staff) why we cannot currently consider using this app (or similar apps) for our lessons at Bro Edern. Instead of justifying our decision here, it would be best if you read this Guardian article:
Some staff have started to plan lessons that include advance video recordings, so this is currently the best compromise we can offer you. This will not happen in every lesson, but we will try our best. If your children miss the cheerful faces of Bro Edern staff, then hopefully they have seen our Easter video by now:
Some changes …
There were several helpful suggestions from parents in the questionnaire, so we will act upon these immediately:
Lessons set by the beginning of the day
This was really useful feedback from many of you. We have therefore asked teachers to try to ensure that all daily work is available by the start of the day so that pupils can just get on with it. If a given lesson isn’t until lesson 6, the lesson doesn’t “officially” happen until 2:32pm, but for the new term, all lessons should be in place by the start of the day. Obviously, some teachers are under pressure, looking after their own children at home 24/7 while running their entire timetable from the kitchen, and some are on duty at the Hub in Glantaf. Therefore we ask for a little flexibility and patience. We will try our best!
Length of lessons
Some parents have noted that some lesson tasks last longer than 53 minutes, which is the length of a ‘normal’ lesson in school. We have asked staff to adhere to this max 53 minute limit for the new term so that pupils can complete their tasks within the time constraints of the ‘normal’ school day. “Homework” will not be set on top of all the homeworking!
Many non-Welsh speaking parents have asked for more bilingual instructions alongside their children’s tasks. We will try to supply more bilingual instructions for the new term, including guidance for parents on how long a task should take, noting over how many days some longer tasks should be completed. There should also be clearer deadlines for tasks that need to be submitted online in Google Classroom.
Major pieces of work should come with bilingual guidance for parents, following this agreed pattern:
Task: Write an essay about …
Length: about 4 sides of A4 paper of average sized handwriting
Help: pupils have notes, a text book and online notes
Timing: Should take around 2.5 hours (they have 3 lessons this week)
Deadline: to be submitted via Google Classroom by 3pm on Thursday
Year 13 pupils
With their Bro Edern studies coming to an abrupt and premature end, one of the most important things for year 13 to do now is to keep a close eye on the developments from UCAS. They tweet under the handle @ucas_online or https://twitter.com/ucas_online They make regular important announcements, such as this important one from this weekend: https://twitter.com/ucas_online/status/1251456107488387074?s=20
Year 12 pupils
The arrangements for year 12 and their forthcoming exams during year 13 have now been announced by WJEC and Qualifications Wales, and passed to you by letter before Easter.
Here’s our letters’ folder: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1qfG61j7HQFMWVSRPMejdRdqrlgJukA8m
Here is the announcement by Qualifications Wales:
Here are all the Qualifications Wales details for the CoronaVirus period:
Year 12 should continue to the best of their ability with the independent work set by their teachers. There is plenty of work that needs to be done to finish the AS courses that underpin the year 13 work, and also to start working on next year’s courses.
Many year 12 pupils are now 17 years old. Your child could start preparing for their driving lessons by revising the Highway Code (online copy only available in English) and preparing for the theory exam.
Another thing that your child could learn to do as they have a little spare time on their hands is to learn touch typing. This would always be a very useful skill for them in the future, whatever their plans.
Year 11 pupils
The deadline for your child’s Bac work has now passed (13 April). Thanks to all who have supplied Mr George with plenty of marking! Many pupils have coursework in different subjects that needs to be submitted soon. They should work diligently on this work, communicating regularly with their subject teachers.
You should have received a letter about entry arrangements for the Sixth Form during the week. Year 11 need to complete their option choices for the Sixth Form by Wednesday (22 April) after which they will have a clearer idea of what they plan to study next year. Please note that the Sixth Form option columns have been created based on the free choices made by year 11 a while ago.
Here’s a copy of the letter about the Sixth Form options: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1EBi78hhYNfgVmR7JKZOHhsq5wVXQeQYVwMdcr_az4EA
In order to prepare for life in the Sixth Form, and in the absence of all exams, we will soon begin introducing Sixth Form Transition Tasks, so that year 11 can turn their sights towards next year and begin preparing for the challenge of A Level courses, which are always significantly more difficult and intense than GCSE courses. This should give year 11 pupils a new focus and start preparing them for life after GCSEs.
If your child’s 17th birthday is early in the new school year, they may also want to get ready to start driving – see the year 12 details above. Similarly, see the links for online touch-typing courses – a very handy skill for life and work.
Year 10 pupils
We are aware that year 10 pupils are working hard and spending a lot of time on their work. They are they year group currently spending the most time working, according to the questionnaire. We would like you to thank your children for their hard work, and please praise them and encourage them to keep working consistently.
Year 9 pupils
Year 9 have completed their GCSE option choices, but for now they must complete the remainder of their year 9 work. By Whitsun we need to input the final KS3 data for every year 9 pupil, in every subject, and that means finishing year 9 work in all subjects. After that, year 9 pupils will be able to start studying their GCSE courses, which will be all the core subjects including the Bac, and their three option subjects.
In the questionnaire, several year 9 parents asked about set books for GCSEs, as their children currently have more time to read than usual. Great thinking! In Welsh the pupils who are currently in 9a1 and 9b1 (ready to be split into Set 1 and 2 next year) will read Yn y Gwaed for their literature course. Set 3 (which will be (more or less) half the children currently in 9a2 and 9b2) will read Ac Yna Clywodd Swn y Môr or Llinyn Trôns.
In English most pupils will read Of Mice and Men while Year 10 Set 1 (which will contain half the current 9a1 and 9b1 pupils) will most probably read To Kill a Mockingbird. These are world-renowned classics, so it would be good for your child to start reading them now. Our departmental staff will set the year 9 pupils, moving them from their current classes to sets, and decide which books your child will read for the exams. The set books can be bought online, or for the English language books, there are PDF copies available on the web:
Remember that all codes for the Google Classrooms in different subjects are on the wal: http://wal.broedern.cymru
Year 8 pupils
Year 8 pupils have started their home tasks effectively and will continue in the same vein, with the lessons being delivered through the different Google Classrooms of their subjects. We will look at the timing of year 8 work because many of you have asked for more work. Remember that all codes for the Google Classrooms in different subjects are on the wal: http://wal.broedern.cymru
Year 7 pupils
The daily routine for year 7 will continue, with daily tasks all on one page. This set up has been well received by year 7 parents:
The combination of subject-based tasks and a variety of video tasks so that pupils can hear standard spoken Welsh daily at home seems to work well, and the vast majority of parents are really grateful for this. One parent responded “too many videos to watch, which is disappointing”, but the fact that pupils watch Welsh at home keeps them in daily contact with the language, which means we reinforce Welshness and our pupils’ standard of Welsh, even when they cannot attend school.
Our work reinforcing our pupils’ Welsh language skills from home has been quoted and supported in this article on the BBC Wales website over the weekend: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-52209165
One update to the work of year 7, after the initial settling-in period, is that pupils will be expected to send some tasks to their teachers for feedback. The aim this term is for year 7 pupils to send in one featured task a day. Year 7 pupils will send their work through one central Google Classroom that has been set for their teaching class (not their registration class). Full instructions for this will follow, including a how-to video.
Here are two videos, the first in Welsh for pupils, the second in English for parents to get to grips with Google Classroom:
Language Immersion Unit pupils
The Language Immersion Unit pupils, who are still learning Welsh brilliantly under these difficult conditions, continue to receive work directly from Immersion Unit staff for those lessons when they are usually in S5. Congratulations to the pupils who have been busy with the recent tasks. Remember – pupils should be in bed at 3am, not beating their scores on Quizlet! Immersion Unit staff receive a ‘ping’ to tell them about the latest progress. Sleep, please!
Contacting the Head of Year
Some parents have stated in the questionnaire that they do not know who to contact if there is a problem with their child’s work, or with any other school-related matter. Before the school closed, each child received an e-mail with contact details for their Leaders of Progress and Wellbeing. Here are the details again. All staff will try their best to respond as soon as possible, but it may be difficult for staff to respond immediately.
Every Bro Edern staff e-mail address finishes with @ysgolbroedern.cardiff.sch.uk
Year 7: Mr Gary Ellis – GEllis@
Year 8: Mr Kerry Lerwill – KLerwill@
Year 9: Miss Rita Bevan – RBevan@
Years 10 and 11: Mr Huw Voyle – HVoyle@
Sixth Form: Miss Nia Land – NLand@
So, that’s it, a *bit* longer than intended! Thank you for your patience, if you have got this far.
The current lockdown is set to last for a minimum of a further three weeks, and who knows what will come afterwards? Hopefully this blog explains what lies ahead over the next few weeks for Bro Edern pupils, parents and staff.