Back To School

For more details on how we are beginning our safe, orderly and effective transition back to school from 1 June, please see our Back To School page for more information and guides for each site.

Message from the Head – Upper School

Hear from our Head on what we're doing to support your child during this unprecedented time at the Upper School

Message from the Head – Upper School

Hear from our Head on what we're doing to support your child during this unprecedented time at the Upper School

The Downsend Upper School Online Learning Timetable, which has proved so successful, was designed and based upon three key principles.

Firstly, we wanted to ensure that the academic provision ensured all our Upper School pupils were able to access and benefit from ‘live’ teaching by our subject specialist teachers, as well as undertaking independent learning tasks, to maximise their academic progress during the remote learning period. By utilising both Microsoft Teams and Firefly platforms, we were able to ensure that all our pupils and parents had access to both lessons, and extension tasks, within a comprehensive, fun and immersive curriculum.

Secondly, we are aware that our pupils are undertaking this learning whilst their families are also facing unprecedented challenges in the workplace, often working from home with a variety of competing interests on their time. Therefore, we created a timetable that has an element of flexibility and choice within it, so that pupils and parents can personalise their experience, whilst maintaining the highest academic outcomes. Daily choices of morning activities such as Art, Music Fitness sessions and Yoga mean that both pupils and parents can start their day in a fun and creative way, allowing working parents the freedom to leave their pupils in the safe hands of the school knowing they will be both engaged and galvanised by the range of options available. In addition, optional sessions for Drama, Design & Technology, Music and PE/Games, alongside extension projects in Languages, Coding, STEAM and Design mean that pupils are able to develop their quest for knowledge in both existing areas of strength whilst developing their expertise in new and challenging topics. Our staff provide top-quality feedback, both written and verbal, to ensure all our pupils develop along a flightpath controlled by their teachers.

Finally, we wanted to ensure that the Well Being of all our pupils, staff and parents were embedded within our online provision, just as it is at Downsend during the normal school year. Therefore, we built-in live morning registration periods and afternoon group tutorials for our pupils to ensure both efficient communication as well as maintaining the key sense of community that all our key stakeholders value so much. We have a live ‘helpline’ for both pupils and parents to assist with any academic, pastoral or technical issues, and the Head of School issues a weekly ‘Thought for the Week’ assembly, ensuring a sense of collaboration, purpose and direction is maintained throughout the online learning period. In addition, we have maintained our charitable causes and donations, curriculum collapse days to reflect important national events such as V.E. day and House competitions for pupils to participate in and maintain their competitive interests.

No one chose this path, and we are all looking forwards to returning to school again. However, in a recent parent and pupil feedback consultation, I conducted of one of our Year 7 pupils fed back that, ‘Everything you have put into place is the next best thing to being at school’.

Karl Newland

Head of Upper School

01372 372197