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Half term review

26th May 2020

How to review this half term? My overwhelming feeling is of pride in the girls – this has been a very difficult time for them as it becomes clearer and clearer how much they miss their friends, and how much they miss their school. For the first time ever, girls in school are coming to a sense of what a school really is whilst they are actually attending. So often that understanding does not come until after they have left – but the girls are realising that the sense of community, friendship and support as well as challenge and of horizons opening backed up by a scaffold of adults who believe in them when they do not know what they are capable of is what a school offers. It’s not just a place to attend lessons and get out of as fast as possible! I must pay tribute to all our girls who have been in quarantine as well – their resilience and strength has shone through as they worked with us, chatted with us in progress and boarding groups and kept themselves active, in body and mind.

A very close second comes a widespread sense of gratitude – firstly, to the staff who have changed what they do and how they do it so fast. I applaud their flexibility and willingness to adjust while keeping the aim of offering girls the best education possible under these trying conditions. As one parent said ‘you have all had to turn on the head of a pin and you have done it with great grace and resilience.’ Secondly, to all of the parents who are supporting their daughters through this time and taking on teaching and support roles – thank you for all of the emails, appreciative of what teachers do and I have passed them on to the staff. I am very aware of how much parents are doing at home while trying to work themselves in order to maintain school routines and am very grateful. The girls are, after all still very young and have had so much taken away from them.

At our usual half term analysis of performance we felt that the girls had learnt so much this half term in terms of self-discipline, time management and motivation and their understanding of the value of learning has leapt ahead. It’s so true that we do not appreciate what we have until we lose it. We also felt that everyone at school had developed and acquired IT skills at a rate never previously seen. Our skills-based approach has made a difference already and in years to come the girls will recognise what they gained during this time.

Girls in year groups with ‘examinations’ this season  – I think the majority of current Shell (Year 11) and Study II (Year 13) who wish to resit will choose do so in the Autumn resit season (as soon as we know when that will be and which subjects will be included) rather than let a whole year pass. I also think that if they go for a summer resit they will not stand up well next to the actual candidates for that year who will just have finished their specifications, and will be fresh out of the starting blocks whereas the Year 12s/14s resitting will not have done much for several months and so may form the lower end of the cohort – that could be an advantage to this year’s Upper Transits (Year 10).

The Year 14 girls – current Study II – will hopefully be in university. This year, universities are desperate for students as their finances have been really stretched and I would not be surprised if some were broken by this. With Manchester announcing that the Autumn term will be done online and Cambridge announcing that the entire year’s lectures (although not necessarily tutorials and seminars) will be done online, many students are thinking again and deferring.

The Key Stage 3 girls will receive their newspapers this week – I have seen some really amazing work coming through and I think we are going to be very proud of what the Remove (Year 7), Inters (Year 8) and Lower Transits (Year 9) achieve. Miss Werger has worked all weekend to ensure they get to the girls. We all owe her expertise a real debt and I thank her for her enthusiasm and encouragement of the girls over the course of the project. That is also echoed to all the staff who worked with those girls this half term.

Our plans for the next half of term are to have the Remove and Inters working towards the cross–curricular project on Oxford. We live in an historic, cutting edge and beautiful city which offers a great deal of inspiration. As usual for the cross–curricular project, the girls will be taught in normal lesson time with subject-specific Oxford-related topics and activities for the first week. This will be guided by the RLF as before. All lessons will be recorded so pupils in different time zones can catch up by stream. We will then re-write the timetable somewhat for the subsequent weeks when the girls would normally be spending a great deal of time on curriculum trips and activities: in the second week the girls will use their newly-developed research skills to research the topics taught in the first week further. Staff will be available on Teams for questions during normal lesson time. We will ask for two hours’ research time spread across the day but we will also require an hour of being outdoors (for example, walking, volunteering, gardening, delivering to vulnerable people), an hour’s exercise, an hour developing a visual diary and an hour’s Oxford-related reading or listening to an audiobook.  We will supply the reading list. In the next week we will ask the girls to write and refine both monologues as usual and dialogues. Again we will have a re-written timetable along the lines of the one outlined above but adding in the play lists the girls developed this half of term. This will then go to Mrs Constance who will have the luxury of a week to write the play rather than the usual weekend! In that week the girls will be set to making costumes and props for the characters for whom they have written script. In the final week the girls will learn lines and film themselves so that we can edit their work together to make a dramatic piece to remember.

For Upper Transits (Year 10) and Study I (Year 12) lessons will continue as normal and for Shell (Year 11) and Study II (Year 13) we are going to ask whether they wish to go on ‘end of exam’ leave or continue with their individual and collective WWRW programmes.

We also plan to teach the Lower Transits (Year 9) next half of term as they are coming up to the beginning of their GCSE courses in September and we would like to prepare them. They will be taught according to their normal timetables. As this will be a great deal of time in front of a computer we will not be setting prep in the usual way although there may be some aspects of work to be done ’after hours’. We recognise that they will be sad at missing the cross-curricular project but ask for your support in explaining the long-term goal of better GCSE results. We also expect the girls to do all the subjects they would normally be doing in the Lower Transits. Some girls have asked if they could only do those subjects for which they have opted next year but they do not know how often these choices change between Hilary of the Lower Transits (Year 9) and September of the Upper Transits (Year 10) – we cannot cut off possible options at this stage.

The school remains open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children and even though most of us are physically apart, the spirit of Wychwood seems to me to be very much at the forefront of people’s thoughts. “The best way out is always through” wrote Robert Frost and we will push on through until we can open our doors to everyone again and reunite in person. Have a lovely half term

Andrea Johnson