Our Manor 4-8 January 2021

Message from the Principal

Happy New Year! I genuinely hope that you managed to get some time to wind down and find some time to relax over the Christmas break. This has been a tumultuous week across the nation and the world as well as in education.

Within education, this week has been extraordinary and probably the most challenging of my 25-year career. Unbelievably, I have had to write to you several times since our last newsletter on 17 December, the last day of the autumn term. Therefore, I will not regurgitate all that I covered in that correspondence.

We recognise that the government is dealing with a very difficult situation and trying to find the right balance to protect people’s health while maintaining the economy. However, in my view the timeline of the week, the timescales we have had to deal with and the lack of future planning have been unacceptable as they have meant that we have not been able to communicate with you as we would wish. The following short timeline is not a political statement – just a factual account of events unfolding and what we have achieved.

Our understanding at the end of last term was that all students were to return on 4 January and all students to be mass tested to begin on 4 January but no further details we available at that point.

Over the Christmas period this changed to a delayed and staggered start with exam groups returning on the 11th and other year groups on 18th January, with schools providing remote learning for 1 or 2 weeks. We set up for this.

Mass testing kits were to arrive on Monday 4 January with all students to be tested on arrival, staff tested weekly, close contact students tested when required and consent and registration to be gained for all students.

We set up for this and on Monday 4 January vulnerable/key worker students were in school and remote learning provision was set up and implemented. Exam preparations for January vocational exams were also organised.

On Monday regarding mass testing: equipment received, risk assessment written, protocol devised, consent and registration form designed for staff and students, volunteers sought and lead staff trained.

At 8pm that evening, the Prime Minister announced that a national lockdown would be implemented, schools would be closed to all but vulnerable and key workers children until 22nd February at the earliest, and that exams were cancelled but no indication was given as to what would replace them or how grades would be calculated. Later still that evening, the DfE confirmed that vocational exams would be going ahead in January with the guidance being delivered at 10:52pm.

As I have stated here before, there is no additional notice for school leaders. We find out the information at the same time as you do via media leaks and televised statements.

Tuesday 5 January we received updates on: Free School Meals, recording attendance, and remote learning expectations including the statutory requirement of 4 hours of remote education offered per day being confirmed.

For us this meant that mass testing would be delayed until students return, although we are still expected to test students and staff who are in school.

Clarification was given on Tuesday morning that vocational exams would be going ahead as planned and that the Education Secretary would make a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday about exams and schooling.

At 10:21pm we received a bulletin stating that it was up to schools to decide if vocational exams would go ahead or not but that students wouldn’t be penalised -without any further clarification. Our first vocational exam of the year was less than 12 hours away the following morning.

We had spent a very early morning period on Wednesday 6th January ensuring we had a plan for students who were turning up for their exam at 9:00 am and a letter to send to parents in the examination groups later in the day (which you can see in the exams section of this newsletter).

Gavin Williamson addressed parliament and outlined that the DfE would work with OFQUAL to come up with the detail around exams but it would be based on teacher/school judgements rather than an algorithm but we await further details. He also reinforced the messages about high quality remote learning, citing that if parents were unhappy with the quality that they should refer to the school in the first instance, then the Principal, and then OFSTED if still not satisfied.

None of us would disagree that high quality remote provision is important to support students and parents/carers to ensure that progress is enabled and lost learning is minimised whilst students are out of school. Included in this newsletter are a number of sections that cite how you can support the delivery of home learning in a variety of ways.

In setting up huge systems around whole new ways of working to move an entire school online, there will inevitably be some teething problems and I hope that you would work with us to resolve these problems. I know many of you already have and I would encourage you to remain patient – we are monitoring the homelearning@manor.school email address heavily and responding to all queries as quickly as we can.

To provide some context, over the past six months at Manor - like in many other schools across the country - we have achieved a lot. We have created blended learning processes and protocols, updated IT systems, trained staff, run pilot schemes (sixth form digital week) to gain student feedback, and planned and delivered sessions to students who are in school and at home simultaneously. Unlike in the first lockdown, teachers and leaders are still ‘teaching’ and present during their full teaching load whether they are at home or in school.

This has been achieved in the middle of a global pandemic where the in-school processes are all brand new due to social distancing and pods, with very little additional funding or resourcing (although some support with IT provision is now coming through). I also recognise the huge role that students and parents/carers have played in supporting us in doing this at a time that is difficult for us all.

We want to keep improving, continue to work with students and parents/carers to refine our systems, and be the best that we can be. Therefore, on the week beginning 1 February we are having a Remote Learning Focus Week where we will be actively seeking feedback once we have been running the system for a few weeks.

Thursday and today have been slightly quieter, although we received further amendments to the guidance which has caused us to revisit and update our risk assessments. Staff on site are supporting our vulnerable and key worker’s children, enabling us to support the NHS and other critical industries and we are very happy to do so.

This week we have been inundated with positive messages from many families about a whole range of factors including the quality of remote learning, free school meals, the in-school provision, quality of communication, and care and welfare of students. This has been hugely appreciated and made a big difference to the wellbeing of all of us in school or working from home who have been working exceptionally hard to meet the needs of students.

I believe that Gavin Williamson’s comments about OFSTED were unhelpful. We are not shy of external scrutiny (and would welcome it if they came to look at our provision) but in my view, now is a time when communities should be working together; schools, students, and parents/carers to support each other. So please keep sharing your positives with us as they really do provide a boost and perhaps consider also sharing via OFSTED Parent View to demonstrate what communities can achieve working together.

Jay Davenport, Principal

Remote learning guidance for students and parents/carers

We have been really impressed with the way that students have engaged in remote learning so far this week. Following feedback from students, teachers and parents/carers, we hope the guidance and hints/tips below help provide some further guidance for how to successfully engage in the learning available.

Formats of learning

Remote learning may take a number of forms, including elements of live lessons, pre-recorded video content, carefully sequenced deliberate practice tasks, and in a small number of cases project work. Most lessons will take one of the following formats:

  • Live lesson via Microsoft Teams.
  • Live introduction via Microsoft Teams followed by pre-recorded content and/or deliberate practice tasks.
  • Pre-recorded content, deliberate practice tasks and/or project work.

It is important that students engage in their learning fully during this time, particularly live elements where participation will be recorded. In live lessons, teachers are available to support and provide feedback. In the small number of lessons where there is not a live element, teachers can be contacted via the department or individual teacher email addresses for queries.

Feedback and assessment

All classes will continue to complete tasks that allow teachers to assess progress. These tasks might be a number of formats including Microsoft Forms, assignments on Teams, and documents/photographs of student work to be sent to the teacher.

As well as assessment continuing to gauge progress, teachers will continue to provide feedback to students on their learning and ensure that the teaching responds to the progress students make. This may be individual feedback on tasks completed or it may be in the form of whole class feedback during a live lesson.

Webcams, microphones and chat functions

When joining live lessons, students will start by joining the ‘lobby’. When teachers admit students, the default position should be that students turn webcams and microphones off. This is partly to protect those participating in the call and also to ensure the efficiency of the session. At appropriate times, students may ask students to volunteer answers using their microphones and where appropriate students may then turn on their microphone when told to do so.

The chat function is a really powerful tool for asking and answering questions, as well as monitoring the knowledge of students throughout the lesson. For this reason, it is important that this feature is used for learning purposes only. Students should not use the chat function of Microsoft Teams as a social opportunity.

Hints and tips for learning online

There have been lots of hints and tips for students to engage in learning. We wanted to highlight a few sources of support for students and their parents/carers.

  • Microsoft’s OfficeLens is a great app that can be installed on Android or Apple phones to take photographs of handwritten work or drawings. OfficeLens will then convert the pictures to necessary formats and allow for easy uploading to Microsoft Teams or sending via email.
  • We have a small number of devices available to loan to students who need support to access home learning. If you require support, please contact homelearning@manor.school and the IT Support Team will be in touch as soon as possible.
  • Students who have access to an Xbox or PlayStation can access Microsoft Teams via the web browser installed on the console. This works best with a USB keyboard and mouse plugged into the console.

Exams update

Mr Davenport sent a letter to the parents/carers of examination year groups (Years 10-13) on Wednesday outlining the current position on exams, with a particular focus on vocational examinations happening in January. You can download this letter via the following link. We will continue to communicate with you any further updates on both the January exam series as well as the summer exams.

On-site COVID testing

We are set up to conduct lateral flow tests on site. Led by our Sport Centre manager Tom Hatton with support from the rest of the Sport Centre team, Manor School staff and local off-duty responders, tests are offered to all on-site staff to support the efforts to combat COVID-19.

BBC education support

In response to UK schools moving to remote learning, the BBC is to deliver the biggest education offer in its history across more of its platforms. The new offer from the BBC will ensure children can access curriculum-based learning, even if they don’t have access to the internet.

Starting on Monday 11 January, BBC Two will cater for secondary students with programming to support the GCSE curriculum, with a least two hours of content each weekday.

Content will be built around Bitesize Daily secondary shows, complemented by Shakespeare and classic drama adaptations alongside science, history and factual titles from the BBC’s award-winning factual programming units.

Bitesize Daily secondary will also air every day on the BBC Red Button as well as episodes being available on demand on BBC iPlayer.

This TV offer sits alongside a wealth of online content which parents and children can access when and where they need it. BBC Bitesize is home to two-week learning packs for English and Maths in KS3 as well as This Term’s Topics for other subjects to be used at home. For students in Years 10 and 11, the Bitesize GCSE offer allows students to pick their exam board and subject to find everything they need to help with their studies. Visit bbc.co.uk/bitesize/secondary for details.

Online behaviour

While we have been incredibly impressed with the maturity, engagement and behaviour of students this week, we must reinforce the importance of positive engagement in remote learning.

We expect high standards of behaviour and engagement in learning. During remote education we will continue to apply our Inclusion Policy and reinforce our three school rules of Ready, Respectful and Responsible. Where students cannot meet these expectations, we will follow up and sanctions may be put in place in line with the incident.

The behaviours we expect of students when using technology is outlined in the Nene Education Trust Acceptable Use Policy. Inappropriate use of the chat, abusing the tools and functions provided or actions that put students or others at risk online will be followed up and sanctions applied.

If a student is disrupting online lessons, we will use our normal school system of Ask, Tell and Consequence, which may result in a student being removed from the online lesson.

Remote education safety tips

To help with the remote education process, National Online Safety have put together some tips for both parents and children on how they can stay safe and look after their wellbeing. Click the images below to enlarge them.

Ski trip update

We have now received an update from the tour operator of the ski trip due to take place in February. The visit has been cancelled by the operator. This means you will be entitled to a full refund. We are awaiting final details about how payments will be refunded and will communicate with you shortly.

Music news

Christmas Concert

On Thursday 17 December we released our pre-recorded Christmas Concert, and whilst not having a concert in the main hall with our audience was strange, we are so proud of all of the students who performed on video and helped to make the concert a success. It was a delight to watch on the last day of term. Thank you so much to all who purchased a ticket, and we are so pleased to say that we raised £274.97, which will be donated to the charity Action For Children.

College scholarship

Congratulations to Henry G in Year 13 who has received a scholarship to The Royal Northern College of Music in recognition of an ‘exceptional audition performance’.

The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) is a leading international conservatoire set in the heart of Manchester, that attracts talented students, teachers, conductors, composers and artists from across the world. Home to over 300 teaching staff and more than 800 students from 60 countries, the RNCM offers professional musical training at the highest level through exceptional teaching, learning and performance opportunities.

Term 3 House Competitions

The first competition this term is a STEM competition, running until 20 January.

We would like students to design a bed that someone could live in for a month. It should allow someone to exercise, eat, drink, sleep, wash, work etc. without having to leave the bed.

Students should draw their design (by hand or digitally) and annotate it, explaining why they have chosen the different features and how they would work.

The Art & Design department will choose the winning design, which will earn 500 House Points. For an extra 100 points, students could build a model of their bed design out of recyclable materials. The House with the most entries will also win 500 points.

Please send all entries to House@manor.school

Manor Maths Challenges

Mrs Radd is back with the first maths challenges blog of the new year. The theme for this week is Magic Squares.

Sixth form open events

Following the trial exam results assembly, we are stepping up the support to help students plan for the next academic year. Mr Hill will continue to support students applying for college remotely, so please encourage your child to respond to any emails he sends them.

For students who are planning on returning to the sixth form, we encourage them to participate in the following events.

Tuesday 12 January from 5pm - Virtual Open Evening

From 5pm on Tuesday, you will be able to watch subject information videos, ask subject leaders questions, and watch an introduction from the sixth form leadership team. The live chat will be open from 5pm – 7:30pm.

For subjects that are new in the sixth form, we have produced 10-minute 'micro lessons' to help students get a feel for the subjects.

All events will be launched at 5pm on and can be found on our website.


Students were given a hard copy of the sixth form prospectus on the final day of last term. You can access a digital copy here.

Sixth form entry requirements

To study in the sixth form, all students need a minimum of 5 GCSE or BTEC qualifications at grade 4 or higher. We also expect students to achieve at least a grade 4 in English and maths. We understand that students have had a turbulent year and we will work closely with students, parents and carers to ensure that, where appropriate, we are flexible in our approach to this.

Application form

You can find an application form on the school website. In students’ Work. World. Wellness. lesson on Wednesday 13 January, staff will support them to make applications and be on hand to ask any questions they have.

We hope you find the virtual events informative and give you an insight into what students can expect in the sixth form. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Darren Carter, Assistant Principal