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The final furlong - neck and neck!

26th May 2021

The week before half term is upon us and we have a real sense of having nearly completed a half term like no other. It has been wonderful to get back into classrooms and visit all our schools. Following a period of restricted covid access, and of course remote provision, to witness first-hand classroom learning and engagement has been fabulous. It does however remind us of the challenges of this term and the mental and physical effort all our staff have expended in keeping children safe, happy and educated.

Bubble restrictions have largely remained, although it has been lovely to see smiling faces in secondary schools as the necessity for classroom masks has been lifted.  Colleagues have been working harder than ever to engage, assess and support our children to excel in the classroom. There are no doubts that this academic year has been disjointed and has presented challenges around potential learning gaps. However, at our headteachers’ meeting last week we agreed that we are keen to explore reframing this as ‘bounce forward’, rather than using the language of ‘catch up’, ‘learning loss’ or ‘recovery’.

Alongside this renewed focus on classroom practice and student progress we are also aware that our secondary colleagues have been grappling with the beast of Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). Intra Trust moderation, both formal and informal has supported this process, but we are all in no doubt that the setting, marking and awarding of grades due to the covid pandemic have been placed squarely on the shoulders of our staff. Colleagues have responded to these challenges with professionalism and purpose and been guided by integrity and equity. We are indebted to you. Thank you.

The endeavours of this half term therefore leave us feeling as though we are all in step; keen to meet the challenges that await us, but equally keen to complete the final furlong of the half term and take stock. I am inclined not to say ‘rest’, even though I encourage all our colleagues to find some relaxation during half term, as I am aware a number of colleagues will be working through half term and in the weeks afterwards validating grades, reporting systems and liaising with exam boards.

While the journey is challenging on occasion, we are together, in step and focused on our goal of providing the best for our children. We approach the final furlong, in step and united.

Jack Mayhew, Executive Headteacher  Athena Schools Trust

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