A new school year but not as we know it
We all know that this new school year will be different from the others, but what are you expecting?
The Government has been sharing a lot of information with recent updates, but some of the documents can be awfully long so that it's difficult to find the answers you are looking for. I’ve spent some time looking over these documents to put together some guidance for you that I think will help with managing expectations for this coming year.
Remember that not everything would have changed, some things will still be the same. The main change will be what the school looks like and the layout, but this needs to be different for health and safety reasons.
The Government’s guidance isn’t all mandatory, some of it is optional and will depend on what individual schools decide to do. You should receive a communication before you return to explain any changes.
A more in-depth cleaning protocol will be put in place which should comply with health and safety laws. This means extra cleaning in commonly used spaces and touched surfaces.
Students will be kept in bubbles (most likely year groups) including during breaks and lunch. Breaks may be staggered and changeover times introduced to avoid congestion in the halls depending on the size of the school and its layout.
If students, or anyone in their household, show any signs of symptoms they are to stay at home. This helps stops the spread of the virus.
Classrooms will be different and students' movement will be reduced. It may be that classes stay in the same room throughout the day and teachers move around to accommodate timetables.
Lunch breaks may be taken in classrooms instead of canteens or dining halls. This will be a big change for students and very antisocial, but it does limit the chance of contact with others.
Masks are optional and not compulsory for secondary school students. There has been some debate on this lately in the news, and some statements from Boris, but I feel that if you prefer to wear a mask you will be allowed to do so. It is most likely to be required to wear masks in corridors and when arriving/leaving. Older students should be able to manage social distancing the same as if they were in a restaurant or shop, as is current everyday life.
You can find full information on all changes on the GOV website if you don't mind a dry read.
Changes to the curriculum
I know it will be scary for all students returning to education, even more so for the students going into Year 11 and starting their GCSEs. The unfamiliar is always scary, but that doesn't mean you can't handle it. The more you know about what to expect, the better equipped you will be.
GCSE prep normally starts at the beginning of Year 10, sometimes end of Year 9, and students tend to be finishing the content at the end of Year 10 ready for mock exams in November.
After Christmas is when teachers pick up on any topics that the whole class has struggled with in their mocks, and they cover it again. So normally students would have already had a year or so of learning under their belt before starting Year 11. That’s not the case this year. Students have missed nearly four months of teaching time that will have impacted their progress.
Understanding that students wouldn’t be able to cover the whole curriculum in limited time and with the stress it would have added on top of normal GCSE stress, there has been an Ofqual review of the GCSE curricula and how they will be delivered.
I was happy to hear that maths and science are considered to be the most important subjects, meaning nothing will change there. This really backs up what I always say about maths and science being so vital for your future!
Students will still have to learn science practicals but won’t be doing them. It could be that teachers show videos of what the experiment is and how it is performed. It will still be part of the exam and may involve questions such as what equipment is used or what result you’d expect. In my experience, it may save time as most of mine used to go wrong!
With English there will be a reduction in literature, allowing schools to choose between the texts and poems to be examined.
Practical elements such as design projects and field trips may not be able to take place and won’t be compulsory if they do. This is because it takes away from classroom time and also requires close contact with others.
One module will be removed from history exams. This module is optional and down to the teachers on what topic to remove. As the specification doesn't have to be covered in a set order, different classes will have covered different topics. So it makes sense for teachers to choose which topic to remove. You should be informed by your teachers which module will be removed.
Different levels of support have been provided by schools and teachers during the lockdown, but it hasn’t replaced working in a classroom with a teacher and now students need to learn how to make the best use of their time.
This does not mean that students should start with the feeling that they are 'behind'. Everyone has gone through the same pandemic and the main way students can make the most out of the time they have left is through developing independent learning skills.
Like everything else, study skills are something that gets better over time. So it is a good idea to start early and find what works for you. When you are able to find really effective study methods, and a routine that works for you, then you can make the best use of your time for work, rest, and play. This will make a massive difference to your health and wellbeing, as well as your success.
I offer loads of help for building a revision plan and study resources in the resources tab on this website. But my best advice for you at the moment is to start building your independent learning skills now so you are prepared for whatever happens this year. Make the most of your revision time before the exams.
Government support programmes
The Government is funding a National Tutoring Programme, which will provide a high level of support to disadvantaged students either on a 1:1 basis or in small groups.
There are lots of different factors that can put students at a disadvantage; they’ve had no access to a computer, may be caring for someone at home, suffering from debilitating health conditions, don't have a suitable place to study, disruptive home environment, or just struggling with more stress than normal in their personal life. In an ordinary year, these students don't do as well as others in their exams. In 2020, this difference has been amplified by their limited access to resources when working at home.
We at Green Tutors are putting forward a bid to contribute to this programme, by offering our services to provide GCSE maths and science tuition in schools.
We are here to help
I appreciate that, despite all the free resources and school support, there are still so many things to focus on. I want to help as much as possible.
For those who can book online tuition sessions, I will be growing my team of tutors for 1-1 sessions to make sure that I can help everyone who needs it.
To support those who can’t quite cover the budget of private tuition, I will be putting together an online course for you to build your independent learning skills with access to recorded math and science tuition sessions. This will be at a much lower price than individual sessions, and with a payment plan.
I also understand some aren't in a position to invest any money and only time, so I will be active in my GCSE support Facebook group to support you. There's already lots in the Units tab to help you build your study skills. If you are concerned in any way about the new term, come and join us in the group. I'm happy to answer your questions in there.
If you're interested in any of these options, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also claim a free Revision and Exam Planning Guide on the website by signing up to the mailing list. Head to the homepage to sign up.
Make sure time is balanced between well-being and study! Try not to worry too much and remember to focus on extra things that you enjoy doing and what makes you happy. You've got this.