This term has divided itself into distinct phases rather neatly and, such is the unusual landscape in which we find ourselves operating that I have frequently found myself relating the management of the academic programme (in a predictably grandiose manner) to the phases of a NASA mission. The first three weeks, leading up to the extended Coach Weekend were all about the launch – using a more interactive and dynamic set of platforms to build a powerful furnace of engagement and to propel both staff and pupils into a ‘new normal’.
Both teachers and pupils have worked with breathless industry during that period – whether that be in compiling and creating resources for the various UVIth Programmes, refining and re-scheduling schemes of work for the IVth and LVIth Forms, concocting timetables and processes for our Fifth Form as they prepare to enter upon their Post-GCSE programme or guiding our youngest pupils through a stimulating and varied theme week. It feels now as if we have broken through the initial turbulence of the atmosphere and entered into a calmer mode of orbit.
As with any mission, however, while the launch is critical, the moments that follow are far from idle. This week saw our first tranche of Shrewsbury U lectures taking place alongside lessons in the ILM qualification. That almost every single member of the U6 has now engaged with this process enthusiastically and determinedly is a testament to the sort of Salopian spirit and resilience which makes it such a privilege to be associated with this school. The Fifth Form, too have been engaging in a few spacewalks – enjoying some introductory sessions on study skills and the Extended Project Qualification in preparation for the inception of their Sixth Form experience next week.
In the last week before exeat and in the first week after we return, we are running a series of assessments for the Third Form, Fourth Form and Lower Sixth respectively. These are not examinations – and pupils will not be expected to prepare for them on anything like the scale they would have done had they been sitting summer exams on site. We want to use these ‘in-flight checks’, along with our regular pupil-feedback surveys to ensure that our plan is working, that pupils are making good progress and to make those necessary and important refinements to the programme to ensure that we stave off ‘fatigue’ and ensure that the best possible education is being provided for all, even in these difficult times.
After Exeat, of course, we will be ‘landing on the Moon’ – no single year-group will be in quite the same position as it would ordinarily. The Lower Sixth and Fourth Form will be in their assessments, the Third Form will have made the transition into a timetable that allows them to embark on their GCSE subjects and the Fifth and Upper Sixth will be experiencing a meaningful taster of what the next phase of education will feel like. If we have phased everything correctly, then we should be able to touch down safely and securely – more Apollo 11 than Apollo 13, if our luck holds!
In all of this, the Salopians themselves, in all years, have been utterly magnificent. Rising to challenges creatively, following instructions to the letter and acting in intellectual defiance of the current context. It is a privilege to be associated with them and we look forward very much to a moment when we can implement a plan for a successful re-entry!