Throughout the period of school closure, and during any phased return to school,  we aim to ensure the Thorpe Hall community is well-informed and properly supported. Headteacher, Andrew Hampton sends regular messages and updates to parents via email.  His messages are shown below. There is also a Q&A page for parents here.

Dear Parents and Staff,

You will have seen the new guidance and plans from the Government to ease the lockdown. As long as the Government is happy that infection rates have not increased, children in the Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be encouraged to return to school from June 1st. Some form of face-to-face tuition is also being considered for Year 10.

Thorpe Hall will now start to plan in earnest how we can achieve a return to school in as safe a way as possible. There are many aspects to consider and I will update you within a few days.

The government has made it clear that schools should not penalise parents who choose not to send their children to school at this time and Thorpe Hall will certainly respect that.

Please be assured that the safety of the children and staff is our top priority and we will update you with our plans as soon as possible.

Yours
Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

In this final version of the daily email I’m going to look at the last two letters of the acronym CIRCLE.

The L of Circle stands for Learning Platform. By learning platform we mean personal organisation. Without being well organised, having your classroom implements with you, remembering to bring in your homework, textbooks and everything else needed to support your learning, things fall apart very quickly. It is surprising how many young people find this aspect of school quite challenging and much of Year 7, in particular, is spent encouraging pupils to put time and energy into organising their school bag, their home learning space and indeed their thinking.

The E of Circle stands for Emotional Awareness. Young people need to develop their awareness of what motivates them, makes them angry, makes them feel joy and what gives them satisfaction. They need to connect the changing shapes of their emotional landscape with the need to continue to study and learn consistently. Learning to cope with the emotional rollercoaster of growing up is as important as any aspect of the curriculum. School, therefore, needs to be a safe place to try out new thinking, new identities and new ways of relating. It needs to be a place where it is acceptable to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail. A school that promotes emotional awareness is a place where upheaval, turbulence and drama are contained within a calm and sensible atmosphere of normality. Let us hope we can return to that normality soon.

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday and VE Day. Have a lovely long weekend and we’ll see all the pupils online again on Monday.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I thought I would keep sending these daily emails for a couple more days and then wind down to one-a-week. I hope you have found them useful. We are all hopeful of some news next week so I will reserve my communications for updates from next week.

The second ‘C’ of CIRCLE stands for ‘consideration for others’. Building on the work of Jerome Bruner, this competency acknowledges that learning takes place within a social context. Given that it is neither practical nor necessarily desirable to teach one-to-one it is vital that learners conduct themselves in the classroom in such a way that they draw to themselves the resources they need but without being selfish or interrupting the learning of others. But consideration for others goes beyond merely not being selfish; young people need to learn to be kind, considerate, generous, obliging and supportive. When a class of young people can adopt those virtues then everybody wins and learning across the whole group is more effective.

The experience of home learning has shown us not just how much we need and miss the company of others but also how important it is to continue to learn how to get on with each other, to balance our needs against the needs of others and be a good team player.

Tomorrow I will wrap up my explanation of the Circle Skills by looking at the ‘L’ and the ‘E’. The L stands for Learning Platform which points at the need for good personal organisation. The E looks at how important emotional awareness is in creating effective learning.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

Today I shall be looking at the ‘R’ of the CIRCLE Skills, which stands for Reasoning.

For me, reasoning is that mental process by which we pull together our existing knowledge and understanding of the world and bring it to bear upon the problem in front of us. Reasoning is definitely a competency that gets better with age and we might expect our senior children to be able to apply reasoning without being prompted to do so when faced with problem-solving tasks in their lessons. When a child shows a certain amount of “learned helplessness” in response to a classroom task, the teacher’s reaction should be to ask them to use their reasoning skills to find the answer. It is a competency that gets better through practice and also one that young people need to be encouraged to spend time and effort applying.

To be good at reasoning you need to be able to deconstruct your existing knowledge, and understand which parts of it are going to be applied most effectively to your problem. It is that deconstruction of knowledge that young people often need help with; they respond well to guidance on how to differentiate between what is important and what isn’t. In this sense getting better at reasoning also promotes an understanding of the hierarchy of knowledge which, again, tends to be something that adults are better at than children.

Of the six competencies promoted by the Circle Skills, reasoning is the one that most promotes the idea of metacognition. Metacognition means thinking about thinking and learning about learning and has been the concept that has underpinned the ethos of the curriculum at Thorpe Hall for more than a decade.

Tomorrow I shall look at the second ‘C’ of Circle which stands for Consideration for Others and, perhaps rather ironically, looks at the significance of learning as a small community of enquiry within the classroom.

Yours
Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I have been looking at the ‘Circle Skills’ which describe the learning competencies that Thorpe Hall School promote. Last Friday I looked at the importance of communication in all its different forms.

Today I want to look at the ‘I’ of Circle, which stands for Independent Learning. One of the things I often say to the very brightest students who pass through our school is that, if they aspire to the very highest academic standards, they will need to develop a strong personal ethos of learning with minimal support. It is one thing to be a good student and listen attentively to your teachers and learn from them, but to go beyond that you have to take ownership of your learning and make it your own.

In looking at independent learning I am building on a theme that has recurred throughout these last few emails. Home learning has given us the chance to reflect on the importance of pupils taking control of their school day, and keeping to a minimum the amount of times they ask adults for help.

We are all familiar with the concept of digital natives, and how those young people who grew up with the Internet on their desk at home are very adept at using Google and other tools to find out almost instantly what they need to know. Those young people for whom using Google has become second nature are extremely good at problem-solving, and that in turn has made them very strong independent learners too. It is as important to be knowledgeable as it is to know how to fill the gaps in your knowledge quickly and with the minimum of effort.

In promoting independent learning I am once again encouraging parents to provide frequent opportunities for their children to engage with their learning on their own, where possible.

When, in a few years’ time, the current pupils of Thorpe Hall go to interviews for their first job, they will be expected to be people who can learn things for themselves using the many sophisticated and available tools at their disposal. This is a future skill we are preparing them for now.

Tomorrow I will look at the ‘R’ in Circle Skills which stands for Reasoning and explore what that means in the context of being a good learner.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

In yesterday’s email I looked at the work of Carol Dweck and her theory of Mindsets. Developing a Growth Mindset is similar to the idea of improving the competencies needed to be a good learner.

Thorpe Hall’s Competency Based Curriculum is inspired by the work of the Royal Society for the Arts who promoted this educational thinking to sector-wide approval in the 1990s. The idea is for schools to give due emphasis not just to the learning content of the curriculum but also to the skills needed to be an effective learner. Like Dweck’s theory, the assumption is that we can learn to be better learners.

In 2008, a group of Thorpe Hall teachers formed a working group to define the way forward for the school in this area. The results of their thinking were consolidated into a learning ethos that is still applied today. The Competency Based Curriculum at Thorpe Hall is called the CIRCLE Skills; the name is an acronym and today I will look at the first ‘C’, which stands for Communication.

In highlighting communication as a competency, emphasis is placed on the huge benefits to learning of the ability to write and speak meaningfully and effectively. The written and spoken word is the medium through which nearly all teaching and learning takes place, and so working on those skills is vital. Being better at communication means developing vocabulary, self-expression, handwriting, spelling, explanation skills, note-taking, contextual speaking, arguing, creative writing and essay writing.

Both at home and at school, adults model good communication through the precise use of language and clear expression. It is perhaps not a great idea to be continually commenting on children’s spoken language but the occasional correction shows them that you are listening carefully and helps them improve.

Tomorrow, I will look at the ‘I’ of CIRCLE: Independent Learning.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I hope you had a good day.

Yesterday I looked at the supreme importance of attitudes to learning and how that is always something that we, and our children, can change. Attitude is a choice and it is a choice that can be made moment by moment.

Many of you will have heard of Carol Dweck and the work she has done on Growth Mindsets. In some ways, her idea is very simple and can be summed up in one sentence: you will get better at something if you work hard and continue to work hard at it. Whilst that seems like a blindingly obvious thing to say, Dweck is pointing at the fact that some people, children in particular, limit what they think they can achieve because they have, what she calls, a ‘fixed mindset’. People with a fixed mindset believe that there are strict and unmovable limits to what they can achieve academically and that, therefore, no amount of hard work will change that.

She encourages pupils to adopt a ‘growth mindset’ in which pupils believe and understand that effort and application will take them way beyond what they thought they could achieve when first faced with a learning challenge.

This simple idea has been adopted by many schools in the last few years. As a learning and attitudinal tool, it is important that it is used to look forward and not backwards. It is not particularly helpful to make judgments about a pupil’s current mindset as that just heaps more pressure on them. It is useful, however, to frame any encouragement of pupils with the idea that if they work hard and persistently they will definitely do better. The ten-minute explainer video which is hyperlinked above is well worth watching if you want to know more about this powerful idea.

Dweck’s Growth Mindset theory aligns well with the competency-based curriculum that has been at the heart of Thorpe Hall’s educational offer for the last 12 years. Tomorrow I will begin to describe and explain that for you.

Have a good day

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

In yesterday’s email, I looked at problem-solving and how we can use the present circumstances to encourage children to be more resilient learners, applying more time and effort before asking for help. Adopting the right attitude is central to this approach.

Charles Swindol, an American educator, wrote:

“The longer I live, the more I realise the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people thank or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a school, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is to play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you; we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Underlying everything I have written about in the last few days is the idea that if a young person can adopt a positive and ‘can-do’ attitude to learning then everything changes. As parents and teachers, it is as important to challenge the wrong attitude as it is to encourage the right one.

Motivation: we can encourage children both to want to work for the reward and to work for the sake of the satisfaction hard work brings.

Problem-solving: we can encourage children to work harder to find the solutions for themselves and challenge the attitude that makes them resort too quickly to finding help.

Another American, Carol Dweck, also writes very interestingly about attitude and what she calls ‘mindset’. That will be the subject of my email tomorrow.

Have a great day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I hope yesterday went well at home.

In these emails, I have been looking at the issues surrounding motivation and how they relate to successful learning in the current context. My emails have been encouraging parents to promote self-reliance at home wherever possible and not to offer more guidance than is strictly needed.

When I was studying for my Masters Degree in Education, I read a piece of research that showed that people spend on average, just 5 minutes trying to solve a problem before they give up. Not all problems are the same and sometimes you just know, almost immediately, if the problem you are trying to solve is beyond you. However, if the problem is an intellectual one, a problem that you can find an answer for with some time and effort, then the buzz of finding the solution is a reward in itself.

Yesterday I focused, in particular, on the problem-solving nature of following and understanding the teachers’ instructions at the beginning of a learning task. Teachers are good at describing what needs to be done to complete a task. Yet they often receive ‘supplementary’ questions from pupils that mostly require the teacher simple to repeat the instructions; the need for additional clarity is rare. In the context of home learning, we have a great opportunity to encourage children to start every lesson with a concerted effort to work out what to do from the instructions without additional help or support. That would be a great start in learning to become better problem-solvers – a skill that will serve them well throughout life.

Being a good problem-solver is largely a matter of what attitude you adopt towards your studies, so tomorrow I will look at attitude and the part that has to play in being an effective learner.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I hope you all had a good weekend.

In last week’s emails I talked about how to motivate your child at home. I looked at the relative merits of extrinsic and intrinsic reward. Today I want to look at the idea of meta-motivation: being rewarded for being self-motivated.

One of the trickiest aspects of home education is defining the role a parent has to play in supporting their child’s learning. This is, of course, very age sensitive, but since Thorpe Hall launched its home-learning provision, the objective has been to try to keep to a minimum the amount of support parents need to offer.
In my experience young people do not need a lot of encouragement to let someone else help them out. That does not mean I think young people are lazy but a sense of ‘learned helplessness’ is easy to adopt and hard to let go. You can imagine the thought process in the young person’s mind going, ‘Every time you do it for me, I learn that you can do it better than me – that’s all.’

In the younger years, pupils in school are encouraged to ask for help if they get stuck and that is appropriate, but there is a line to be drawn. Secondary school teachers find they inherit, in the new Year 7 cohort every year, a group of children who have become used to asking for guidance on things they should now be working out for themselves. For instance, ‘I have finished writing on the first side of this piece of paper, shall I turn it over?’

As pupils progress through each year of school, they need to be encouraged to work through moments of learning uncertainty for themselves. I think that is especially true of simply reading or listening to the instructions the teacher has given at the beginning of a learning task.

Don’t dive in to help every time your child gets stuck. Give them time to work it out for themselves and then reward them for their self-reliance.

Tomorrow I will look in more detail at the issue of problem-solving and how important that is to the learning process.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I hope the first day of school went well for you yesterday.

My last email talked about making the most of using rewards to motivate pupils at home. Today I want to promote the idea of intrinsic reward: working hard for its own sake.

The ethos at Thorpe Hall places some – but not too much – emphasis on extrinsic reward. It is easy for a school to become so busy giving out certificates, stickers and badges that the idea that pupils should strive to be the best they can be simply because that is a good idea can get lost.

For intrinsic reward to be effective people need to take time to reflect on their own performance. The hard thing to do is to take a balanced view of how well you are doing. It is as easy to exaggerate how well you are doing as it is to be too harsh on yourself. There needs to be an internal dialogue in our minds that sets gentle and achievable targets. Targets can be short term: ‘I’ll have a cup of tea after I have completed another 20 minutes of hard work.’ Or medium-term: ‘I’m going to learn how to do that tricky ‘thing’ by the end of this term – that will make me feel really good about myself.’ Or long term: ‘Looking back on how far I have come this year makes me realise how hard I have worked. Next year I want to do even better.’

The goal is to feel good about achieving. Success makes you feel empowered, motivated, strong, resilient. Success gives you the confidence and energy to overcome the failures that will inevitably occur in the future.

So, when you praise your child for their achievements, it is also a good idea to prompt them to explore how it makes them feel. This will give them the message that self-reward is as important as anything the world outside of them can offer.

Have a great weekend.

Yours,

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff

Welcome back to the school term. I hope you were able to make the most of the good weather over the Easter Holiday.

Teachers have taken time over the break to reflect on their teaching methods and prepare some great lessons for the weeks ahead. In my daily emails, I will continue to encourage and guide families to get the most from home learning. The lockdown has certainly tested the effectiveness of digital platforms. My view is that the internet has served us well and that some great teaching and learning is happening across the whole school.

As pupils return to their screens having had nearly three weeks off, there will be some who need some chivvying along to get the most from the first school day of the summer term. Now is a good time to look at the idea of motivation.

Motivation is all about reward, and reward falls into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards come from outside ourselves; in other words, because we have done something well, somebody else gives us a reward. For pupils in school, extrinsic rewards take the form of House Points and certificates, badges and privileges. It can also take the form of praise and approval, and in the home context, attention, comfort and love. Extrinsic reward is great and is, in many ways, what we all work for.

However, there is a downside because not all effort and achievement can be recognised and there are occasions when the distribution of reward can be unfair. For instance, giving a blanket reward to everyone because they all showed great effort feels less satisfying than if there was a rank order to be proud of. Sometimes people can be de-skilled by a culture that puts too much emphasis on extrinsic reward because they feel they only want to try hard for the reward and not just because hard work is a good idea.

Despite the pitfalls, tangible reward for hard work is a great motivator. If you think your child will respond well to reward, I recommend that you come up with ideas for what might work for them and also – importantly – listen to their ideas too.

Tomorrow, I will look at the idea that working hard is a good idea in itself – the idea of ‘intrinsic reward’.

Have a good day.

Yours

 

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff

We are two weeks into isolation, but I am sure for many it feels longer. The Easter break will be welcomed by many but without the stimulus and structure of the school day, some households will face new challenges. The internet is awash with ways to keep young people occupied and I would encourage a daily reading session as well.

Teachers will use the break to reflect on their teaching techniques and continue to explore effective ways of teaching remotely. Although the school will continue to have high expectations of learning and engagement it is important for every family not to worry if their particular circumstances mean that they cannot meet those expectations. We can all only do our best.

The school day will end at the normal times today. My Friday Assembly will be posted on the website and a separate link to the Vimeo site published in the afternoon. If the video won’t load straight away just try again later.

Well done to everyone! It has been a tough couple of weeks.

Have a great Easter break.

 

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

Good morning and I hope yesterday went well for you all at home.

Every day I use the feedback I get from teachers to think afresh about the challenges families face at home in supporting learning.

As a teacher, I know what to do if the learners in front of me are not engaged. Attitude is everything and if, for whatever reason, my pupils are not able to engage with my lesson at any moment I know I have decisions to make to rescue the situation. There is always the occasional lesson that just doesn’t seem to work. It may be a lesson I taught to a parallel class just yesterday and it went well, and yet with the group in front of me now – nothing is happening. In that situation a good teacher will simply change tack, abandon the lesson plan and do something different. There is only so much cajoling you can do before you have ‘think smart’ and fall back on a different strategy.

If you are supporting your child’s learning it’s ok to do that at home too. If your child is just not engaging, and you have tried all the usual persuasion techniques, it is ok to do something else – neither you, nor they have failed. Changing tack is what a good teacher would do. You can come back and revisit that learning another time in most cases. The most precious thing is the trust that exists between you and your child; you need to protect that by being firm but fair. Try to be flexible but with within an agreed structure; be a responsive listening ear but also prepared to be decisive.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

It is lovely to wake up to another day of sunshine and look forward to a day’s work followed, for me and my family, by a long local walk.

As our pupils gradually adjust to the challenges of home learning, staying focused and cheerful, I wanted to share with parents the useful idea of the ‘Learning Pit’. When pupils are in school, if they get stuck, they can raise their hand and ask for help from the teacher. Now they are learning at home, asking for help is a bit more elaborate; but that is no bad thing. Getting stuck, as I have written about before, is very much part of the learning process.

Getting stuck is a bit like falling into a pit. Once at the bottom, you wonder how you are ever going to get out and you begin to despair. But don’t – take the opportunity to think long and hard: why can’t I get this? What do I need to understand this piece of learning and get myself out of the pit?

That is when it is so important that the adult facilitator does not offer too much help – just encouragement to keep thinking. The young person needs to take time to solve the problem and each time they succeed they become a more effective and resilient learner. Each time they succeed they move away from any possible ‘learned helplessness’ that can really hold them back in the long run. Giving the young person ‘the answer’ should always be the last resort.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

I guess, to some extent, we are all educators now. Enforced home-schooling has certainly given us the chance to reflect on what motivates young people to learn effectively and the place social integration has in school life.

Ironically, I have for many years taught a lesson to Year 7 every September about what would happen if we sent everyone home to learn using technology. I ask the pupils to consider what would be better and what would be worse. Over the 12 years or so that I have taught this lesson the constraints in terms of what the technology can achieve have become fewer, throwing into sharp relief the main issue – that of friendship and social interaction. But even that isn’t too bad; we have all become familiar with ‘Zoom’ and ‘Messenger’; and which us of really knew how powerful and flexible devices like PlayStation and X-Box are in bringing people together?

It is new territory for all of us. Teachers, forced to adapt their teaching styles, have reached for visual aids and video and found them to be very effective tools, so much so that I suspect many will retain these resources once schools re-open. Pupils have found that they are perhaps more resilient and resourceful when it comes to learning than they thought they were. Being based at home means that they have to motivate themselves far more and not rely on the nudge from the teacher to retain focus. I have seen a real thirst for learning in the online world that I do not always witness in the classroom.

Though many are stressed and anxious, Parents have been able to connect with their children in a way that never normally happens – through formal learning activities. This will have given them a unique view of their children, how they learn, how they stay focused and what motivates them. It feels like, when this is all over, education will be different, and it will be better.

Meanwhile, I have been struck by how accurate my horoscopes have become: ‘You’ll be spending a lot of time at home?’ Spooky.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff

I suspect today might be the day that, in some households, the novelty of home learning wears off. The key to sustaining focus and effective learning at home is, I think, routine. Forgive me if that sounds very obvious!

I have spoken to a number of parents who continue to require their children to get up and out of bed by a reasonable time, have breakfast and be dressed and ready for schoolwork by 9:00 am. By sticking to a set routine, things will normalise quite quickly and home-based learning will feel not too different from school-based learning.

The trick, in my view, is to gauge how long each session should be. In the Upper School, the length of learning sessions is defined by the existing timetable. However, in response to the feedback from you last week, teachers will be looking again at the amount of work they set. Where appropriate, some 80 minute lessons may be reduced by a few minutes to match expectations with what can be realistically achieved. A pupil who finishes early can always request an extension task if needed.

In the Lower School, there is more flexibility to design learning around the potential concentration span of each child. Again, in response to your feedback, Lower School teachers will be increasing the number of video and audio lessons they send to you.

Mr Ramdin and Mrs Peterson will also be working this week on facilitating the use of MS TEAMS. This is an additional online platform which will allow audio interaction between pupils and teachers in real time. I know that this means that the school has introduced yet another online platform but ‘needs must’ and I think it is something pupils will get used to quite quickly.

Thanks for taking the time to read these daily emails. I hope to offer some encouragement and help every day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

It feels like it has been a long week! Families have reported that they are a lot more tired than they thought they would be, given that they are at home.

I think the pupils need a reward for their hard work and so school will end just a little bit early today, at 3:00pm. I will make an Assembly video which will be posted on the school’s website at 2:45pm so we can watch it together, as a community at around 3:00pm. I will send out the web address so that it is easy to find.

Thank you all for your feedback. There were huge amounts of support and positivity, which is great and some very useful suggestions, many of which we can and will act on. In particular, there were requests for more teacher-pupil engagement in real-time in the Lower School. To that end, we are going to introduce TEAMS in the Lower School over the next few days. I have also noted that the audio and video teacher-talks have been successful and popular, so we will see more of those too.

Surprisingly controversial was the giving over of some single core subject lessons to exercise and creativity in Key Stage 3 (Years 7 to 9). These lessons are discretionary from the teachers’ point of view and were welcomed by some but criticised by others. Given that the overall scores for workload were high, I am not mindful to make these lessons compulsory.

As much as anything, your feedback revealed how tough it is providing home learning that suits everybody. There are households where the adults are still working hard and others where the adults have been able to dedicate their time to supporting the learning of their children. I would ask for your continued support and patience as we continue to make adjustments to try to find the very best fit for all.

At the end of Week One, I have to say that I am incredibly proud of the way the Thorpe Hall community has responded to this situation. The teachers have worked really hard, often well into the evening, and with imagination and perseverance. I would like to thank them and indeed all of you for an excellent first week.

I hope you enjoy your weekend.

Yours
Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

After just a couple of days of home learning, I hope things are beginning to settle into an emerging routine. As the days go by, I will be making suggestions as to how the ‘school day’ routines might be enhanced. For now, though, I am aware that across the whole country people are finding imaginative and exciting ways to make the most of the situation we are in.

The school is planning to build on the sense of remote community through the use of video and some lovely ideas have already been put forward. There will be further chances to hear about those ideas as well as sharing the best moments of home learning with everyone else.

The first feedback survey was emailed yesterday afternoon. In the Upper School, the survey was sent to pupils with the instruction to share the completion with parents. If your child did not share that with you and you would like the chance to complete the survey for yourself, please do email me (sec@thorpehall.southend.sch.uk) and I will send you the link. I would like to digest the results this afternoon, so by then please.

Having spoken to the leadership team yesterday afternoon, things seem to be going smoothly, so there are no adjustments needed to learning arrangements for today.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

The launch of home learning seemed to go very well, so well done all those who engaged and stuck at it for the whole day. It was tiring for sure, but then a school day should be tiring!

We had some issues with a couple of the online platforms not coping with the global traffic – especially in Maths. We will hope that those companies can solve those problems, or we will look at alternatives.

I have gathered various pieces of feedback so far, hearing from one Year 7 class and all the teachers. In the Lower School, teachers will work towards posting the day’s teaching activities earlier than 9:00am so that parents can prepare resources. That should happen over the next couple of days and some of those activities may be posted the evening before.

In the Upper School, teachers are being asked to give a few minutes breathing space between lessons so that pupils can stretch, go to the loo etc. Sticking to the daily timetable seemed to work well but I acknowledge that it is quite intense.

A decision about CHOICE Afternoon has not yet been made and I will email the pupils in Key Stage 3 directly with what they might spend the afternoon doing.

Most importantly, today is the first feedback day. I will be sending home surveys to be completed at around 3:00pm. I would like you, please, to complete the surveys with your child so that I get a flavour of both your experience and the experience of the learner.

Have a good day.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents and Staff,

Last night’s Government announcement was clear that social distancing is now something we all have to take very seriously in order to save lives. The instruction to stay at home could not be clearer and that includes restricting movement between households unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. Children will be eager to see each other and continue their friendships – they should do so digitally, not in person.

I am sure you join with me in expressing our admiration and support for those in the medical profession who will be on the front line of the fight against the virus.

Today we launch our home learning programme in earnest. Many of you and your children will have received emails from teachers piloting teaching methods, giving instructions and generally setting things up. You will also have received an email from me outlining what I feel should be everyone’s expectations of how home learning will work. Never was the idea that home and school is a partnership more relevant than now!

Remember, please, that most (if not all) the teaching and study activities being offered are designed to be done without lots of parental support or intervention. ‘Getting stuck’ is very much part of a successful learning experience and learning how to move forward is an important skill. The very youngest children will turn to their parents for help, but the more mature know that they can message or email their teacher for help; I would encourage you to guide them to do that.

As I wrote yesterday, there will be feedback surveys being sent out tomorrow afternoon so that we can work with you to make any necessary adjustments to how home learning is being managed.

In these difficult, anxious and stressful times, Thorpe Hall will be there for you and your children, providing a sense of continuity and stability.

Please try to stay well and stay at home.

Yours

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents of Lower School pupils,

Throughout this next period, I shall be doing my best to write to you all every day.

In ‘normal’ times the teachers teach, the pupils learn? and the parents help, support, cajole, celebrate, mop up tears, feed, read stories, check homework, wash clothes, create revision timetables and generally parent. Now, in these extraordinary times, you will have to help with your child’s learning in a way that you may never have had to do before. I want to guide you in this new task and help form a new and supportive bond between school and home.

In the Lower School, teachers will be setting activities and tasks at around 9:00 am and will then support pupils’ learning through the day using class Dojo. Supporting home learning for children aged 4 to 10 is very much about knowing how long they can viably hold their concentration. Learning at home is not as easy as learning at school, and we all have to build different expectations into our thinking.

The best thing you can do is to set aside short bursts of time to sit with your child and encourage them to engage with the activities set by the teacher. Some of those activities will be earnest and require real effort and application, others will be more creative and light. The older your child is the more time can be given over to self-directed study, working on their own without the need for close supervision. In the early weeks of this isolation self-directed study will be hard, but the objective for every family will be to extend the children’s concentration span and encourage self-reliance. At a time when there are few positives to be found, this is an ambition which, when achieved, will be a huge bonus to every single child.

Every child and family will respond to this new way of learning differently. Some families will enthusiastically embrace the new challenge and want to get going from the first moment. Other families will find that learning has always been something that happened at school and will need to form a new dynamic around child, parent and school work. There is no right or wrong to this and it is important, I think, not to add to your own stress and anxiety by becoming over concerned about learning at home.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think learning at home is important, it is just that we all have to acknowledge that in many families it will prove a lot harder to achieve than we thought. For some, there will be issues around the distribution of internet-enabled devices and suitable workspaces. Some parents will be actively engaged in working from home and will have little or no time to spare. The internet and the apps we are using may be flaky for the next few weeks making home learning even more challenging. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, so we will move forward together, learning and adjusting as we go.

To that end, there will be the first of regular feedback surveys sent to you on Wednesday afternoon, so that you can tell the school what is working and what is not.

More tomorrow.

Andrew Hampton

Dear Parents of Upper School pupils,

Throughout this next period, I shall be doing my best to write to you all every day.

In ‘normal’ times the teachers teach, the pupils learn? and the parents help, support, cajole, celebrate, mop up tears, feed, read stories, check homework, wash clothes, create revision timetables and generally parent. Now, in these extraordinary times, you will have to help with your child’s learning in a way that you may never have had to do before. I want to guide you in this new task and help form a new and supportive bond between school and home.

In the Upper School, teachers will be setting activities and tasks according to the existing timetable. We will trial this for a few days and see how things go. If this model proves too hard to stick to then we will take feedback from you and adjust as we go along. The first opportunity to feedback will be on Wednesday afternoon – you will receive a link to Google Form.

Supporting home learning for children aged 11 to 16 is very much about knowing how long they can viably hold their concentration. Learning at home is not as easy as learning at school, and we all have to build different expectations into our thinking. Some lessons in the school day will be tougher than others – they will all be designed to be undertaken by your child without your specific support. Some lessons will be earnest and require real effort and application, others will be more creative and light. Mr Turner and I are engaged, today, in auditing the quantity of study opportunities being planned by teachers and hope that we can strike the right balance. We want your child to be occupied but not overwhelmed. In the early weeks of this isolation, self-directed study will be hard, but the objective for every family will be to extend the children’s concentration span and encourage self-reliance. At a time when there are few positives to be found, this is an ambition which, when achieved, will be a huge bonus to every single child.

Every child and family will respond to this new way of learning differently. Some families will enthusiastically embrace the new challenge and want to get going from the first moment. Other families will find that learning has always been something that happened at school and will need to form a new dynamic around child, parent and school work. There is no right or wrong to this and it is important, I think, not to add to your own stress and anxiety by becoming over-concerned about learning at home.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think learning at home is important, it is just that we all have to acknowledge that in many families it will prove a lot harder to achieve than we thought. For some, there will be issues around the distribution of internet-enabled devices and suitable workspaces. Some parents will be actively engaged in working from home and will have little or no time to spare. The internet and the apps we are using may be flaky for the next few weeks making home learning even more challenging.

If things go wrong for your family in terms of accessing the lessons and learning opportunities in these first few days please don’t despair. We will make adjustments and get it right for everyone in time. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, so we will move forward together, learning and adjusting as we go.

To that end, as I said above, there will be the first of regular feedback surveys sent to you on Wednesday afternoon, so that you can tell the school what is working and what is not.

More tomorrow,
Andrew Hampton