Sir William Borlase's Grammar School

A letter from the Chair of Governors

Mrs Charlotte Redcliffe, the Chair of Governors, wrote a letter that was published in this year's edition of 'The Borlasian'.

I am sure everyone remembers March 20th when, because of the threat of Covid-19, all UK schools closed. At that time, we thought that, at worst, students might be at home until after the Easter holidays. How little we knew!

Closure presented SWBGS staff and leadership with not one but many challenges. How to maintain contact with all students, and ensure their wellbeing? How to maintain teaching and learning, so that no students fell behind? How to support mental health and promote healthy interactions? As Chair of Governors, I felt we had a mountain to climb and no guide to help us.

However, as a result of the school’s forward-thinking decision in previous years to embrace Bring Your Own Device, it was well-placed to implement remote learning. The leadership team and staff worked flat out over the weekend, and in two working days, Borlase@Home sprang into life.

This was a truly remarkable achievement, that delivered a near-seamless transition to a virtual teaching environment.

Not content to rest on its laurels, the Borlase team have taken staff and student feedback, and continually reviewed and improved the virtual experience. New apps have been introduced, best practice shared and pedagogic techniques continually refined and developed. As a Governor, I have been astonished and humbled by the creative effort, energy and sheer hard work behind this delivery.

As well as staying on top of the curriculum, Borlase students have participated in virtual extracurricular activities – clubs, societies and even choirs (virtual hockey remains work inprogress…) Additional academic support remains in place for students who need it. Pastoral support, key worker and SEND provision is fully operational in the virtual and socially distanced world. Tutor groups are still in place, and assemblies are being held. An on-line parents’ evening was even held for Year 8, to help them with GCSE options.

The next announcement from the Government concerned ‘A’ Levels and GCSEs; there would be no examinations in summer 2020, and student grades would be awarded using a complicated algorithm based on prior performance and school predictions. The Borlase team studied the requirements carefully and applied them rigorously. All data was reviewed, moderated and checked again. The time and effort involved was truly monumental, especially for those leading the process, but the staff and governors have absolute confidence that every student has been fairly treated.

Looking forward, what next? We know that SWBGS can provide an excellent education when all students are on site. We have also proved that the school can step up and deliver a truly extraordinary virtual experience, when the students are off-site. The question is; what will be needed in September? Next steps are to work out how to deliver a combination of on-line and on-site learning. It won’t be easy, and there will be many challenges to overcome, but all of the staff have been working incredibly hard to be ready for whatever September brings.

SWBGS staff have also been reaching out to other schools, offering to share what they have learned and the best practice they have developed, to help them prepare for September.

Covid-19 was, we hope, a once-in-a-lifetime challenge.

I know I speak on behalf of the whole governing body when I say that the way the whole school rose to that challenge was truly extraordinary and inspirational.

I am proud to be associated with such an amazing body of people.

Mrs Charlotte Redcliffe

Chair of Governors