BCA Remote Learning – Letter to Parents

By 13th January 2021 Big Creative Academy

Dear Parent/Guardian,

In light of the current lockdown I am writing to you today to give you assurances about the education your young person will receive in this difficult period. The past year has been extremely challenging, however our staff and learners have adapted well and are ready to meet the challenges invoked by lockdown.

We accept that with Creative Arts subjects it is difficult to replicate the working environment of vocational subjects and activities such as group work and practical objectives may not be achievable in the same way from home, given that professional equipment is not available to our learners. The awarding bodies, Ofqual and the DfE also accept this and have laid out their guidance for the weeks ahead, as well as implications for assessment, final grades and progression beyond this year.

Timetables and Delivery

Over the following 6 weeks our staff team will deliver 4 hours a day online lessons through MS Teams with additional distance learning activities to be completed each week and returned to their teachers using remote learning delivered through our dedicated online platform ‘Frog’. In addition to the 4 hours there will be 1 hour of wellbeing per week and a 1-hour professional development session every 3 weeks, focussing on progression and the next steps beyond BCA. Details of timetables as well as communication from the Principal are located on the Student Dashboard, the landing page when you login into ‘Frog’. This can be found at bce-london.frogos.net as well as through their app, available from Android and the App Store. Most of the learners have this installed on their phones and can also access it through their BCA email accounts under Outlook365.

Qualifications and plans for Assessment

Presently there will not be GCSE exams in the summer of 2021 and instead teachers will again be requested to allocate learner evidence and final standings to awarding bodies for certification in the summer 2021. Early indications from vocational awarding bodies (where there is no exam) are similar, where learners’ evidence and Teacher judgements will form the final grade. Currently, the minister for education has stated that algorithms will not be used to inform the process. The assignments delivered before lockdown and the assessment of work that followed will be used as a guide to current standings within each class, as well as any work going to towards the upcoming Final Major Projects for UAL qualifications and Coursework for BTEC qualifications. It is therefore paramount that all students approach their studies with the same vigour as if they would have done had the Academy still been open. Teachers will make a judgement on each student’s professionalism over the period, quality of work they submit (within their limitations), commitment to learning online and integration with online activity. More detail will follow in the coming weeks where we will keep you updated, and of course adapt our delivery wherever necessary.

Functional Skills and Vocational exams however are permitted to go ahead at the discretion of each provider. Should a centre choose not to deliver exams there will be an opportunity in the summer or the provider can request to special consideration. We are currently lobbying awarding bodies, the DfE and OfQUAL about this, as it doesn’t hold parity with other final grade intentions and are concerned that this could disadvantage some students. Early indications are that this will be reviewed and are currently awaiting the detail from Pearson Edexcel.

Student Participation – Maximising your chances

It is therefore absolutely crucial that students do everything they can to maximise their learning and development this year. Not only because education is the most powerful tool in the development of young people but also because evidence of research, discovery, practice, reflection and engagement with activities set by teachers will be used to evidence and justify final grades for all learners.

We do however fully recognise that some learners will not have access to devices, equipment and data in the same way as others and that home circumstances vary between households. We are currently working on allocating devices to those that need them most, as well as acquiring data for those without a permanent connection to the internet. Tutors will work together to ascertain this information from you and pass on to network providers, along with your mobile number to increase your accessibility at no cost. Please do contact the Tutor of your young person to ensure this provision is secured if you are concerned about the limitations of Internet provision in your household.

Onsite Provision

In addition to the online program for learners, we are anticipating that there will be the need for extra support required for many learners. Learners with Educational Health Care Plans and Vulnerable Learners will have access to the Academy itself and will be contacted by the Interim Director for Student Services and SENCo, Nick Iszakovits, to organise this provision. In addition to this our Teaching Assistants will monitor any students who are not engaging with online provision as much as they could and will support these students, along with the teaching team to find solutions to be able to engage with education to their fullest potential. This could mean these students coming to the Academy and working independently with Teaching Assistants onsite, so as not to fall behind with their studies. It is important to mention that any learners who do not engage in the normal way and with the given ‘safety nets’ above will face sanctions in the normal way any learner would with regard to the Learning and Behaviour policies at BCA.

Bursary and Free School meals

Students who were in receipt of a bursary prior to lockdown will still receive a bursary as normal. The payment schedule for bursaries will be uploaded to Frog so that students are aware when they will receive payments. Bursary is still tied to participation and if students are not attending their online classes, it will affect their receipt of a bursary.

Students who were eligible for Free School Meals will be given a fortnightly payment equivalent to the cost of free school meals for that period of time. To explain, the government provides schools a payment of£2.39 per day for each student in receipt of Free School Meals. We will total all payments for 2 weeks and will pay £23.90 to each student who is eligible for Free School Meals every other Friday, beginning on January 15th.  We apologize, but we will not be taking any further applications for bursary or Free School Meals. For any questions or queries, contact Nick Iszakovits.

Over the coming weeks we will re-introduce our enrichment offer, albeit online. We want learners to have access to learning activities outside their normal program so that they can investigate other aspects of life and continue to be inquisitive and curious about the bigger world around them.

We will continue to listen closely to Learners for feedback and development with our curriculum. Learner forums will go ahead as normal, conducted remotely, gathering the views of learners who represent their year groups to improve aspects of delivery. This will be led by Nick Iszakovits.

As ever, the commitment to the wellbeing of our students and their ability to acquire knowledge and develop skills remain our number one priority at BCA. By working together, we are determined to leave no learner disadvantaged and complete the year on equal standing ready for the next steps to higher education or employment.

I hope that your young people will endeavour to hold on to their dreams, think big and not let the current situation derail their plans for their future. Although this period will live with us forever it is important to learn from it and use the experience to truly understand how valuable education and self development is, to protect our world and each other for the future.

Cyrus Armstrong-James

Vice Principal – Curriculum

Supporting information from DfE, UAL and Pearson Edexcel

DfE guidance to schools on remote education:

In developing your remote education, we expect you to:

  • teach planned and well sequenced remote education and training programmes to give students the best chance to build their knowledge and skills
  • have systems in place to check, at least weekly, for persistent non-attendance or lack of engagement with remote education and to quickly agree ways in which attendance and participation can be improved
  • provide clarity to students and teachers on the arrangements for how remote education will be delivered, including the use of digital platforms (sometimes referred to as virtual learning environments) that allow interaction, assessment and feedback
  • ensure both staff and students are trained and confident in their use of digital platforms
  • give particular consideration on how best to support vulnerable and disadvantaged students and students with special educational needs who may not be able to access remote education without support
  • identify a named senior leader with overarching responsibility for the quality and delivery of remote education, including that provision meets expectations for remote education set out in this guidance
  • publish information for students (and parents) setting out your remote education offer on your website by 18 January

When teaching students remotely, we expect you to:

  • set clear expectations of students concerning their participate in remote education, so they know when and how they are expected to engage and demonstrate their learning
  • use your best endeavours to deliver as much of students’ planned hours as possible – we recognise for some students this may not be possible for example where a student is undertaking a course involving practical teaching and training which necessitates the use of specialist equipment and supervision or with respect to work experience and placements
  • as far as possible provide students live online teaching in lieu of face to face delivery, given Ofsted and many providers found during the first lockdown that learners generally prefer interactive ‘live’ online lessons and that it results in greater engagement. Where students are unable to attend ‘live’ lessons they may benefit from recorded lessons
  • confirm with students the different ways in which they will receive assessment and feedback and provide students with individual assessment and feedback to support progress in their learning. The nature and frequency of assessment and feedback should reflect the individual need and the courses they are enrolled on and should be at least once every week for academic study programmes and at least fortnightly if undertaking technical or applied general study programmes
  • consider how to transfer into remote education what we already know about effective face to face teaching, for example:
  • provide frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher or through high-quality curriculum resources
  • provide opportunities for interactivity and intentional dialogue, including questioning, eliciting and reflective discussion
  • enable students to receive timely and frequent feedback on how to progress, using digitally facilitated or whole-class feedback where appropriate
  • use assessment to ensure teaching is responsive to students’ needs

UAL Position Statement

There are a number of ways in which UAL is making changes to our qualifications in 2020/21 academic year to ensure that as many students as possible are able to receive their results in Summer 2021. The adaptations available to centres include the following:

Closures January 2021 – Guidance and next steps

Government has recently announced that all schools and colleges in England must move to remote learning until at least February 2021. Similar guidance also exists with variations across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We understand that teaching staff, students and parents will be concerned about this and the impact on student learning. You will also have many questions about assessment, moderation of work and ensuring fairness for students in these circumstances.

The cancellation of exams applies to GCSE and A Level. We are awaiting further clarification and guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual regarding Vocational and Technical Qualification (VTQ) assessments. We are working with the Federation of Awarding Bodies and other awarding organisations to seek this clarification

The majority of our qualifications do not finish with a summer exam. This is helpful in the current circumstances as we are better positioned to make reliable and informed assessment judgements about student performance. For the few qualifications in our portfolio that do end with a controlled assessment, we have also been able to introduce additional guidance and flexibility.

In view of this, we expect our existing adapted delivery guidance to provide centres and students with most of the flexibilities required to support teaching, learning and assessment. We will, however, be reviewing, updating and supplementing this in line with emerging guidance from regulators and government. In particular we plan to issue further guidance on:

  • The ratio of remote and face-to-face delivery permitted by DfE, Ofqual and other regulators• Requirements regarding final major project units• Digital moderation and provision of qualification grades

    • Contingencies, should preferred approaches not be possible.

    UAL Awarding Body intends to publish fuller guidance for centres to support creating and presenting evidence for digital moderation, however, in view of the recent announcements we will now delay this for a few days in order to take account of the new situation. We need further guidance from government and regulators in order to do this and will update centres as soon as possible.

    This is an anxious time for centres, students and parents. As with the situation last year, our priorities are to ensure fair, reliable and meaningful results can be awarded this year. We will seek to minimise the burden on our centres, balancing practicalities with the well-being of all concerned.

    We hugely appreciate the efforts of educators and students at this time. As with previous lockdowns we will work collaboratively with centres to ensure that no groups of students are disadvantaged or treated unfairly in this situation. Despite the challenges ahead we look forward to delivering consistent standards that reward the hard work of students this year.

Pearson Edexcel Position Statement

Dear Colleague,

Following the Prime Minister’s 4 January announcement of a new lockdown and the news that schools, colleges and training providers will close to the majority of learners, we have been working with the Department of Education (DfE) to understand what this means for BTEC exams scheduled for January. Our aim has been to bring you the clarity we know you need and deserve, as soon as possible.

The DfE confirmed on January 4 that they expected scheduled vocational exams to go ahead and it has updated that guidance today (5 January) to give schools, colleges and training providers the choice to offer students vocational exams, should schools and colleges judge it right to do so.

We want to ensure that you are supported by us regardless of the choice that is made by your school or college on whether exams take place. If your college or school decides to offer exams, you will be able to run your external assessments as planned and if your school or college decides not to offer vocational exams, we have agreed the following with Ofqual and the DfE to ensure that no learner is disadvantaged.

  • We will certificate any learner who is unable to take their exams and has enough evidence to receive a certificate that they need for progression.
  • Learners unable to take their assessment this January may be able to take their assessment at a later date. If that is not possible, we will put in place arrangements to ensure no learner is disadvantaged.

If you choose to continue with vocational exams this January, please find our existing guidance on the BTEC approach to adaptation to delivery and assessment in 2020/2021 on our dedicated webpage. BTEC exams commence on the 6 January with some tasks already in progress.

Here are some useful links:

We recognise the huge amount of work you have already undertaken in line with government announcements regarding lateral testing and the staggered return, to enable the safe return of learners, I want to pass on my thanks to you, for your enduring commitment and support.

If you have any questions or need support, please contact us.

We will update you with further information soon. Thank you for your continued patience during these unprecedented times.

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