21 Aug 2020

Letter from the Principal

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,

I hope all of our students and families have had a successful first week back at school! We are now also one week into using our adjusted daily schedule and anecdotal feedback from students and parents has been varied. I have put together some further information below about the new daily schedule, which I will add to weekly as we learn more from students about how we can further support them.

Going forward please note the following:

1) As part of our strategic focus on developing communication with our parents/guardians and ensuring they are well informed about our overall programmes we will be hosting our first-ever Back to School Information Evenings in the coming weeks via Zoom. The proposed dates are: Middle School – Years 7-9, Sept 3rd, 4pm – 7pm; Senior School – Years 10-12, Sept 8th, 4pm – 7pm; Year 13 Sept 15th. Further information to follow in due course.

2) As you are aware we cancelled the international component of our November CAS Week a few months ago. With the ongoing pandemic and the levels of uncertainty in regard to the public health picture we have now decided to cancel Hong Kong-based CAS Activities. We have still kept the week on our calendar in the event that we are all back in school and we may be able to do alternative school-based activities with our students that week.

3) When I wrote last week I didn’t anticipate hearing from the IB a few days later about making considerable changes to their process for the award of grades for May 2020. Much to the delight of 63 of our students there has been a further upward adjustment to our overall IB grades. The graph below outlines the current distribution of grades. Our overall average grade now stands at a staggering 38.4.

4) This week also saw the release of more of our IGCSE results. I will share with you our overall performance once the grades from the various examination boards have been collated. We have no information from the boards as yet as to how they want results enquiries to be handled. Our apologies to our Year 12 students who were delayed in receiving their results from us due to the global google disruption which affected our email system for several hours yesterday. Congratulations and well done to all our Year 12 students on what looks like another excellent round of IGCSE results.

5)  Please don’t forget to sign-up for the ESF App so that we can streamline all communications to go through that platform. We are currently at 75% sign up! Not a bad number so far but behind our sister schools if that helps to motivate anyone!

6)  Adjusted Daily Schedule and Bespoke Learning

  • Students gave us regular feedback last academic year that the structure of the online school day made managing their workload difficult and was exceptionally intense and exhausting.
  • Educational research about online learning is also telling us the same thing. Simply transplanting the face-to-face school day to an online school day is not the best way to support students in their online learning.
  • For any adult reading this you will know how exhausting sitting all day every day in meetings in front of a screen with cameras on, can be.
  • With 100% of students in online school currently, we have to have the courage and take the opportunity to experiment with our daily structure and try something new.
  • For face-to-face lessons teachers are not typically ‘teaching at’ students for 60 minutes. More typically teachers will have something they need to teach, a lesson objective. The teacher will spend time explaining, discussing, giving examples,and having individual and group discussions. Teachers will then often set a task or activity for students to practice and demonstrate their understanding.
  • With the adjusted daily schedule, all of the above will still happen except that the students will have a consolidated period of time every afternoon to get their task or activity completed ready for the next lesson. It will allow students time, without the scrutiny of a camera, to get their work done. It will empower students to decide how much time they need to spend on various tasks and activities and physically move around whenever they want or need.
  • In the afternoons, apart from completing classwork or home learning, students may request or be requested by a teacher to attend small group or individual sessions with their teachers. This is especially the case for Senior School students.
  • I would emphasise that these are not half days. Students should not make alternative out of school arrangements during this time and must be available for individual or small group sessions with their teachers as needed.
  • We plan to pilot this schedule for three weeks and then get parent, student and teacher feedback.

I hope the above is useful and informative for you. I wish you all a relaxing and safe weekend with your loved ones!

Kind regards.

Carol Larkin