25 Feb 2021

Letter from the Principal – March 1st – March 12th Schedule

Dear Parents/Guardians

Thank you to all parents/guardians who have engaged with us directly or through the PTSA over the course of the day to express their concerns, their disappointment or their frustration about our daily schedule for March 1st – March 12th, published yesterday.

Thank you also to those who have acknowledged the challenges and recognise the particular concern for students taking examinations in May/June.

What other schools are doing

Parents/guardians are correct that some ESF schools are able to have more students on campus. The reason for this is due to the difference between the legal capacity of our campus and the size of our enrollment. Sha Tin College has an enrollment of 1250 students and the legal capacity of our building is 1290.  This is a small difference and so when we bring in 1/3 capacity we are limited to slightly more than two year groups.

In some other ESF schools the difference between those two numbers can be up to 500 places. These schools can therefore get more students on campus and still be within 1/3 EDB capacity-of-campus requirement. This is something that is out of our control. Until EDB changes the 1/3 capacity requirement we will be limited to what we have now.

Run a longer school day

There have been some suggestions that we could run a school day with an AM session from 8.15 – 12.30 and a PM session from 1.30 – 5.30.  This is not possible. The school day is from 8.15 – 3.20 for students and staff.

We operate a five period day. Technically a half-day is therefore 2.5 lessons of instruction. When we bring students in currently they get four periods (Years 7-9) or five periods (Years 10-13) of instruction. As such when students are on campus they are getting a full or almost-full school day. With the adjustments we have made to our daily schedule we are still able to meet the EDB requirement for a half-day.  While implementing this suggestion is within my control I will not ask the teaching staff to teach a school day ending at 5.30pm.

AM/PM Schedule

Three ESF secondary schools are running AM/PM sessions. This is what the AM/PM schedule would look like for Sha Tin College.

Two year levels could come on campus in the AM and a different two year groups could come on campus in the afternoon. While this increases access to campus there is less instruction time for students who are on campus, and there is a dramatic increase in disruption for student travel. This is especially the case for students who live further away from the College. Equally our bus service could not accommodate both of these schedules, so PM students would not have access to the school bus service. Implementing this schedule is within our control. For March 1st – March 12th we will not operate this schedule. Clearly however I have devised the schedule and it may be something we consider implementing in the future.

Why are external exams still going ahead?

I understand the frustration and concern of parents/guardians about the fact that IB and IGCSE Cambridge exams are still going ahead. For some of our students this has been welcome news and for others it has been disappointing. This direction is clearly outside our control or sphere of influence. All that we can do is respond appropriately and act to support our students and ensure they are well prepared. In that spirit, for their remaining four weeks of schooling the needs of Year 13 students in particular need to take priority.

Why are teachers not getting tested?

This is not something that Sha Tin College will decide on unilaterally. This is a decision for us to take alongside our ESF colleagues and I know at the moment that this is under discussion.  The vaccination programme ahead also offers hope.

There is no solution I can implement that will satisfy everybody.  Be it online or face-to-face our teachers, support staff and leadership team are working the hardest they can to provide quality teaching and learning and genuine care for your children. I fully acknowledge that all year levels have suffered throughout this pandemic and no-one would disagree that the sooner we can get everybody back on campus the better.  That said, the pandemic presents very real challenges and before everything else we are going to act for the health and safety of all our community.

I know these are especially tough times.  I will continue to engage with you on all of these issues and welcome your feedback and your ongoing engagement. We certainly all want the same thing and hopefully before too long that will be possible.

Kind regards.

Carol Larkin