Together we are Outstanding
2020 has challenged every one of us, in every aspect of our lives. So, when we reviewed the year in our self-assessment report, our focus was on the impact of lockdown on students the effectiveness of our response; and the lessons we have learned from these experiences.
Right from the start, we at RSFC made a strategic decision to continue teaching and learning as normally as possible. This was to minimise any disruption to students’ education, and to support mental well-being. Consequently, in late March the college switched all students over to a virtual version of their existing timetable, and broadcast lessons and tutorials using Microsoft Teams. On the first day of lockdown, and every day of lockdown, it was “lessons as usual” for students and staff alike. And as usual too, our year 13 students finished in May, our year 12 students finished in July. Farewell assemblies took place for both year groups, with around 1300 students and staff logging in to say our goodbyes.
Throughout lockdown students and staff worked together learning about the challenges and benefits of teaching online. They supported one another to provide the best alternative to in-class learning we possibly could. Consequently, student engagement and attendance continued to be very high all through the spring and summer terms, with the regularity of our timetable helping provide structure for everyone. In short, we were able to support students’ wellbeing and academic progress. No-one is pretending that what we did was as good as students being in college full-time; it wasn’t, but it was the best alternative in the circumstances. In effect, our online college was a field hospital operating in the time of a national emergency. And a damn fine field hospital at that.
In 2020 the performance of our students was outstanding, with an overall achievement rate of 95% (national average 85%) and a DfE progress score of +0.43 (well above average). Additionally, our two-year retention rate was the highest ever recorded by a sixth form college – a testament to students’ dedication, and the support on offer from the college’s outstanding teachers, SPDLs and support staff.
Following a validation of our self-assessment report which involved external stakeholders, RSFC was rated Outstanding for overall effectiveness, and in all four key judgement areas. This is a fitting testimony to the outstanding work and commitment of everyone connected with the college – the staff, students, parents, carers, employers, and the local authority. But we are not done yet and we certainly have no intention of resting on any laurels. As we move forward, we will ensure that any student whose education has been disrupted because of Covid-19 is fully supported so that they are able to fulfil their academic and personal potential.
Finally, there is so much we have learned in 2020. The obvious ones are around the new ways of working we have adopted because of online learning. For example, we can now record lessons that students can watch if they miss a session or for revision. But these technical lessons wane in comparison with the other, more human things that we have learned: how important structure, purpose and ambition is to our lives, how together we managed to tackle the challenges of lockdown, and how together we will continue to tackle them until, together, we move on to a new and brighter future.