Letter from Mr Spiers, Headteacher

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you once again for your support this week with ensuring your children are actively contributing in online lessons and that their classwork and independent learning are of the highest possible standard. I’m pleased to be able to report that we are seeing a sustained increase in overall engagement, and this means scholars are more likely to remain on track with their studies.

The government announced this week that the return to schools will be delayed until at least 8th March and that further details are to be set out on 22nd February. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and update you as soon as we receive further information. In the meantime, we will press ahead with our remote learning plan, wellbeing calls and community classroom provision.

Year 11 parents may be aware that the Ofqual consultation on arrangements for GCSE grading closes today. We will share the outcomes of this consultation with you as soon as we receive further information. In the meantime, scholars must continue to work hard in online lessons and submit work of the highest possible standard.

Finally, we continue to be very aware of the increased time scholars and staff are spending in front of a screen and the impact this may be having on some members of our community. As such I am asking for your support with our new digital down time initiative. Here we will be ringfencing specific times where scholars and staff must move away from the screen and become active. We will write to you with further information and a range of recommended activities. Digital down time will take place at the following times:

· Wednesday 3rd February – periods 5-6 (14:00-16:00)

· Thursday 11th February – whole school digital detox day

· Friday 26th February – period 5 (14:00-15:00)

· Monday 1st March – periods 5-6 (14:00-16:00)


Thank you once again for your support.

Mr Spiers

Dates for the Calendar

28 September

Open Day

29 September

Open Day

01 October

Black History Month

AGFS Updates, 29th January 2021

Expectations for Scholars When Completing Online Learning

It is vital that all scholars are working in a way that closely emulates their school experience. Please ensure your child is following the steps below:

1. Get up at the same time every day

2. Have breakfast before morning registration so they are prepared for the morning

3. Wear appropriate clothing in case their camera accidentally turns on

4. Sit at a desk/table. Scholars should not be sat in bed or on the sofa. If you do not have a suitable place for your child to work please contact Ms Gainey (vgainey@arkgreenwich.org) to enquire about your child attending our Community Classroom provision

5. Take short breaks in between lessons. Scholars should stand up, stretch, and move away from the screen. Lessons are now finishing 5 minutes early to enable this to occur

6. Cameras and microphones should be turned off. Microphones should only be turned on when the teacher asks your child to.

7. Scholars should not listen to music or play games while they are completing their work to enable them to focus fully on their school work

Thank you for all of your support with ensuring your child is able to access and engage with our online provision.


Top Tips for Supporting SEN Scholars with Online Learning

1. Changing the background of documents on Google Classroom can help scholars with their ability to read, particularly if a scholar is dyslexic. This can be done by following the simple steps below:

a. Open the document

b. Select File

c. Select Page Setup

d. Change the page colour to light blue


2. If your child is having trouble reading the text on Google Classroom, they can use a screen reader. To install and use this please follow the steps below:

a. Download the ChromeVox extension for Google Chrome. This can be done by selecting extensions and then going to the Google Chrome Web Store. It is free.

b. Once installed open the document

c. Select Tools

d. Select Accessibility Settings

e. Click on ‘Turn on screen reader support’

f. A new item will appear in the menu called Accessibility. Select this

g. Select speak

h. Select speak selection

i. Highlight the text you want read


3. To enable your child to type using speech please use the link here and add the extension to Google Chrome. This will mean that your child will be able to say what they want to type into their microphone and it will appear on the page.


Free School Meals Eligibility

If you have had a change in circumstances and believe your child could be eligible for free school meals (FSM) please fill in your information via the link below and we will be notified immediately of the outcome. Anyone eligible for FSM will also be issued vouchers to cover lunches over breaks, so we strongly encourage any family who believes they could be eligible to complete this short form. The Government has temporarily extended eligibility for free school meals to groups with no recourse to public funds.


Support for Vulnerable Families in the Borough

If you're vulnerable and self-isolating, and don't have anyone who can help, the Royal Greenwich Community Hub can provide support.

· Freephone 0800 470 4831 (Mon to Sat, 8.30am-6pm)

· royalgreenwich.gov.uk/communityhub

How To Help Your Child While Remote Learning

It is unlikely that your child will run into technical difficulties when accessing their online lessons. That said, the following tips will help you troubleshoot any issues:

1. Scholars’ IT login details can be found on a sticker in their planner.

2. Our website holds guides and video tutorials walking you through how to handle any IT issues.

3. Remember to check whether the correct user is signed into the platform. Alternatively, please email info@arkgreenwich.org where a dedicated member of our team will aim to provide fast response support on a case by case basis

Provide Covid Testing Consent Before Return to School

The government has asked secondary schools across England to set up COVID-19 testing for students and staff as they return to school in person. As we prepare for this return, we ask that parents and carers provide consent in advance for their child to be tested for Covid-19, helping us to identify the virus early and reduce transmission rates. Thereafter, students will only need a test if they are identified as a ‘close contact’. We support this government initiative as it will help to provide a further layer of security, on top of the existing strict safety and hygiene measures that are already in place across our school.

The process is relatively straight forward and approximately 30 AGFS staff have already received training to ensure the process runs smoothly. Our aim will be to get as many students and staff tested as possible before they return to face-to-face teaching and learning. Testing of students is optional, but strongly encouraged. All information on testing at AGFS can be found here. If you wish to volunteer to support with testing at AGFS please email: coronavirus@arkgreenwich.org.

To provide consent for your child to be tested for Covid-19 please click here.

Download our New Parent App Today!

We've heard our families loud and clear, and we are thrilled to announce the new parent app, MCAS. This application has now replaced Xpressions and allows parents to access attendance details, behaviour notices, communications and more all in one spot. All parents have received an invitation to MCAS and will also be sent a letter with directions for downloading and use in the upcoming days. We look forward to 100% use in the next few weeks. To learn more click here or on the tile below for further information.

If you have not received an invitation to join MCAS, please email info@arkgreenwich.org.

Self Care Tips During Lockdown

We recognise how difficult it is to spend so much time indoors and online during the lockdown period. It is increasingly important that you encourage your children to take time for proper exercise. A 2017 study showed that increased physical activity can reduce depressive symptoms in children and young adolescents. Here are a few key tips to encourage more activity and positive mental health: 

· Watch this video on supporting your child’s and your own mental health

There are lots of places that you or your child can go to for advice or help, and below are some links to useful websites:

· https://www.childline.org.uk

· https://www.headscapegreenwich.co.uk

· https://youngminds.org.uk

· https://www.samaritans.org

If you or your child need support you can also get in touch with the school via the following channels:

· Emailing info@arkgreenwich.org

· Speaking to your key contact

· Logging a concern on the Sharp system

Careers and Aspirations

Latest updates on Year 11 GCSE examinations can be found here.

Year 11 Post-16 Applications

All Y11 Scholars must apply to a minimum of five post-16 providers before Friday 12th February 2021, if they have not already done so.

Applications to post-16 providers can be done in various ways: online via their school website, printing and posting the application, or sending them via email. Please refer to the post-16 providers’ websites for further guidance on how to apply, paying particular notice of the post-16 application deadline date to ensure applications are submitted on time by scholars.

Scholars may also need their student UPN/ULN or UCI number when completing post-16 applications, as well as their most recent predicted grades. If you are unsure of your UPN/ULN or UCI number, you may request this information from the AGFS Careers Lead, Mrs Neville at lneville@arkgreenwich.org.

When completing your applications, alongside being asked your personal details and current GCSE predicted grades, you will be asked for details of a referee at Ark Greenwich Free School. Please use Mrs Neville at lneville@arkgreenwich.org as the referee, as this will ensure all reference requests sent from the post-16 provider are delivered to the AGFS Careers Lead for completion and will avoid any unnecessary delays.

After scholars have submitted an application to join a post-16 provider, it is vitally important to advise the AGFS Careers Lead of each application completed by filling in the details at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/Post16ApplicationMade

If any scholars require any additional support with the post-16 process or in completing individual applications, they can also contact the AGFS Careers Lead Mrs Neville at lneville@arkgreenwich.org who will be able to support them.


GCSE Options Career Meetings for Year 9s

Scholars that have not had their 1-1 career meeting with our Careers Lead, Mrs Neville, will be contacted via telephone to discuss their career ambitions and GCSE Options by the End of February 2021.


Work Experience for Year 10s

Finding work experience has been limited because of the pandemic and what is available in the current climate and many scholars are struggling to secure a placement. To help support you, our Careers Lead has posted onto SMHW various WEX opportunities for scholars to undertake, mostly over the February half term, and AGFS would encourage scholars to sign up for one of these placements. These are online/virtual WEX and whilst, may not be of a direct interest into your chosen career, like any experience, there are transferable skills to gain and will give you an opportunity to see the world of work in practice.

Virtual WEX does not replace the face to face WEX placements we hope you are able to undertake in September, but are additional placements. However, at present AGFS nor the employers may let a WEX occur due to the pandemic. We will of course keep you updated.

Alternatively, scholars can search for placements with Speakers for Schools S4nextgen here https://www.s4snextgen.org where they will find a huge variety of placements on offer.

Please do not hesitate to contact our Careers Lead, Mrs Neville at lneville@arkgreenwich.org if you require any additional support.


NHS Work Experience Opportunity for Students in Years 10 & 11

We are pleased to inform you that the NHS Live Virtual Work Experience Programme is now available to support our aspiring healthcare scholars with work experience opportunities during the pandemic. Scholars now have access to their own specific work experience programme that will be highly relevant to the following healthcare careers:

· Nursing

· Midwifery

· Paramedics

· Physiotherapists

· Occupational Therapists

· Radiographers

· Art, drama and music therapists

· Dietitians

· Operating Department Practitioners

· Radiographers

· Podiatrists

· Osteopaths

· Orthoptists

· Prosthetists and orthotics

· Speech and language therapists


Scholars can learn more and register for the programme here.

Scholars of the Week

Congratulations to this week's top scholars for achieving the most golden tickets in their year groups. Each scholar has exemplified the school values of Ambition, Growth, Fellowship and Scholarship. These scholars have finished out January with a bang, each achieving 20-30 golden tickets this week!