Letter from Mr Spiers, Headteacher

Dear Parents and Carers,

On Wednesday afternoon we protected time for our first whole-school Digital Detox session. Scholars and staff were encouraged to step away from the screen, get outside and become active. We’d love to hear from you with pictures and feedback on your child’s achievements during the Digital Detox.

Continuing with the theme of getting active, parents are reminded that on Thursday 11th February there will be a full Digital Detox Drop Down Day. Our whole-school target will be to run/cycle 1000 miles and we will be fundraising for the YMCA who have been supporting vulnerable families with food hampers over the lockdown period. Parents are encouraged to get involved too, and we look forward to celebrating the efforts of the whole school community during assemblies the following day. Please send any pictures of your family’s endeavours to info@arkgreenwich.org.

Scholars are continuing to engage well with online learning, and this will be important as we build towards assessments when they return to face-to-face teaching in due course. We will be reminding scholars next week that Independent Learning (IL) still applies during the lockdown period. Please continue to help us by ensuring your child is well prepared for lessons having completed the prerequisite IL tasks which can be found on ShowMyHomework. Parents can monitor in the moment attendance, engagement and IL completion using our new MCAS app. Over the coming weeks we will be sending home an interim report to all parents on their child’s engagement in online learning.

Staff are working hard to stay in regular contact with all our families through weekly wellbeing calls; I hope you are finding these weekly check-ins useful. Our onsite testing programme is fully functional and being accessed daily by staff and scholars in community classrooms as part of a broader set of safety and hygiene measures to keep our school COVID secure. In advance of returning to school, parents are reminded to provide consent for onsite testing using the link here.

We are very keen to welcome all scholars back to school as soon as the government allows us to do so. We are expecting an update on arrangements for returning to school on 22nd February and will update you accordingly thereafter. We are currently anticipating a staggered return from 8th March.

For Yr. 11 Parents, the outcome of the recent OFQUAL consultation on arrangements for GCSE examinations is also scheduled for 22nd February. Again, we will update you as soon as we receive further information. In the meantime, Yr.11 scholars should continue to demonstrate the very best of themselves in online learning as this will put us in the strongest possible position to be able to justify the grades that scholars need and deserve to be able to access the post-16 provision of their choice.

Thank you as always for your ongoing support.


Mr Spiers

Dates for the Calendar

28 September

Open Day

29 September

Open Day

01 October

Black History Month

Digital Detox Drop Down Day- 11th February

Next Thursday there will be a second whole-school digital detox– but this time it will be for a full day. As a community, our objective will be to run, walk or cycle 1000 miles in a single day, so do get planning! As part of this initiative, we would also like to fundraise for the YMCA, an organisation which we have been working with to supply our most vulnerable families with food hampers throughout lockdown. To submit your photos and miles on the day click here. To donate via WisePay to the YMCA click here

AGFS Updates, 5th February 2021

Contact Tracing During Half-Term Break

If a scholar tests positive for coronavirus and develops symptoms during half-term break, parents are asked to email coronavirus@arkgreenwich.org with the information so that the school can assist with track and trace. The scholar and other members of their household should isolate as per the guidelines.

If the school is made aware of a positive case within our community we will work closely with Public Health England to identify anyone else that needs to isolate and you will be contacted if this applies to your child.


Free School Meals During Half-Term Break

During the half term break, the Royal Borough of Greenwich will be issuing vouchers for all families receiving free school meals. These will be issued to parents directly from the council to either your mobile number or email address. The value of the voucher is £15. The bar code will be sent to you via text or email and you can then redeem these at your local post office. Once redeemed, you will receive a cash payment. Please be aware, you only have 3 months to redeem this voucher. Should you have issues, please contact Corin at Corin.Hammersley@royalgreenwich.gov.uk


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.

Year 9 Options, Due 26th February

We’d like to extend a thank you to all the year 9 scholars and parents who joined us this week for the Options Launch event on Wednesday 3rd February.  A recording of the Launch Evening Meeting can be found here. To view the full options booklet, click here or see the attachment tile below. Or to view certain subjects, click the links below:

· Careers, video here

· English

· Maths

· Science


· Art and Design, video here

· Computer Science, video here

· Drama, video here

· Geography. video here

· History, video here

· Music, video here

· PE, video here

· Religious Studies, video here

· Statistics, video here


Independent Learning at AGFS

Scholars at AGFS typically leave the school in Year 11 with grades that are between a half and a whole grade higher than their same ability peers nationally. This achievement places the school in the top 200 schools in the country. The academic success of our scholars can be attributed to high quality in-class teaching, supplemented by frequent, highly structured independent learning tasks. Scholars are working very hard in remote lessons, which is to be celebrated. Genuine success during this period will be a result, however, of this strong engagement in online lessons plus the continuation of independent learning.

Independent learning at AGFS is the same across all subjects:

At Key Stage 3, scholars use Quizlet and Google Forms to test themselves on the ‘core knowledge’ they need to be able to access lessons and make rapid progress. Scholars should spend 20minutes revising the knowledge on Quizlet, before completing pre-requisite tests (PRT) until they sore 80% three times in a row. This level of mastery will mean knowledge sticks.

At Key Stage 4, scholars complete the above, as well as additional tasks set by their teacher. To help scholars organise their time, we advise the following independent learning study schedule.

Key Stage 4 study schedule:

Thank you for your support in monitoring your child’s remote learning and independent learning so that they can be in the best position possible when schools begin to re-open from 8th March.


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 below 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.


Safeguarding and IT

Please be advised that everything that is done on a school device and during online lessons is tracked by our safeguarding software, SENSO. This is in order to ensure that scholars are safe when they are using school devices. Any inappropriate usage may result in sanctions. Please remind your child of this and ask that they only use the school devices for school work.

As we continue during the lockdown period we know that scholars are using their devices more and more often. It is vital parents monitor the usage of these, particularly their phones.

Some key reminders:

· Scholars should never add anyone or accept any friend or follow requests from people they do not know personally.

· All social media profiles should be set to private to stop people from accessing them and to limit what people see.

· The minimum age for someone to have an Instagram account, TikTok account or a Snapchat account is 13. Scholars who are younger should not be signing up.

Many scholars are in Whatsapp groups and unfortunately there have been a number of bullying incidents related to these. The minimum age for using Whatsapp is 16. Scholars should not be in group chats with lots of people and should only communicate with people they know well. If they are worried about anything in a group chat they can leave that group.


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 basi

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.

Join MCAS Today!

Want to track your child’s work completion and online attendance  in real time? Now you can, with 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 by letter and email. 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.

Provide Covid Testing Consent Today!

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

Careers and Aspirations

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


Career Pathways for  Years 7 to 11

WhiteHat x Digital Catapult: How to Get into Tech (for Non-Techies!)

Wednesday 10th February 2021, 18:30 – 19:30

Who: any age - Y7-Y11

What: WhiteHat and Digital Catapult have come together in honour of national apprenticeship week to celebrate the amazing work done by apprentices. Digital Catapult works with a range of organisations - including startups and scaleups, established businesses, investors, government and public sector, research and academia - to discover new ways of solving industry challenges, increase productivity and open up new markets.

The tech industry has long experienced a skills gap, as the demand for top talent has exceeded supply. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the disparity as businesses saw the increased value of IT skills and tech support.

Many falsely believe that coding, or tech in general, is not for them. Myths such as needing a college degree, needing to be good at maths, or even believing that you won’t belong in the tech world.

At this webinar, you will hear from current and former apprentices who did not go to university and had no prior tech experience on how they have successfully carved out a career in tech!

Why might I attend this event?

  • To gain an introduction to non-stereotypical career paths within the tech industry
  • Learn about the different types of roles involved in tech and how innovation in tech can change societal problems.
  • Hear from a panel of experts within the tech industry on why apprenticeships are a fantastic career accelerator
  • Learn how WhiteHat supports young people to develop digital skills

Find out more: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/whitehat-x-digital-catapult-how-to-get-into-tech-for-non-techies-tickets-132804450687


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.


Year 9 UCL Scholars Programme (Literacy Skills Programme)

Wednesday & Thursdays during school holidays, 10:00 – 13:00

Who: Year 9

What: A free online literacy skills programme for Year 9 students from across the country, delivered in partnership with UCL and the National Literacy Trust

The programme has two parts – online events and an online mentoring programme with current UCL Student Ambassadors.

The live events will take place during the school holidays in February, April and June. Each block of two days will focus on a different skills area to develop reading, writing, speaking and listening skills through sessions expertly put together by the National Literacy Trust. More information can be found on our website.


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.


Work Experience for Years 10 and 11

Medical Projects have spaces on their "Virtual Ward Round Course". They have actually built a hospital ward where they can live-stream hospital patient cases directly to aspiring medical students. Details of the next Ward Round Live course below:

Name: Ward Round Live
Ages: 15+
Next Date: 15th February 2021
Time: 10am - 4pm
Link: https://educationprojects.co.uk/medical-projects/ward-round-live/


Please find below further WEX opportunities on offer in conjunction with Speakers for Schools.

Haworth Tompkins Architecture Insight Evening

· Dates: 2nd March 2021

· Eligibility: 14 – 19 year olds keen to find out more about a career in architecture.

· Application Deadline: 15th February 2021

Green Skills in the Construction and Engineering Industry

· Dates: 6th April 2021

· Eligibility: 14 – 19 year olds keen to find out more about a career in architecture.

Application Deadline: 7th March 2021

For a full list of placements - sign in here to search and apply


What Career Live & What University Live– Online Event for Years 10 & 11

What Next? are holding a virtual 'What Career & What University' event on Saturday 20th March, 11am - 3pm. The event will be a highly engaging online experience, replicating the physical event format. Students will be able to speak to universities and companies to get all the information they need to make a decision about their future.

The essential event for school leavers is going virtual. Speak to top universities and companies in real-time, get expert advice and benefit from one-to-one support to help you kick-start your future.

Registration is now open. For students to gain access to the online event platform, scholars must register using this link by 5th March 2021.


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.


Ark Alumni: Year 11

This is a reminder that all Year 11 scholars are expected to sign up and join the Ark Alumni network by Friday 12th February 2021. This is a mandatory task.

If you have not signed up to the platform yet, you can do this here.

What can the Ark Alumni Network offer you after Y11:

· Support during 6th form for those going to university or applying for an apprenticeship

· Job opportunities, work experience and internships from our partners

· Exclusive events with our partners including interview skills and other workshops

· Online networks managed by our alumni where they can ask questions about different A Levels/courses/careers/universities etc.

· Resources to support them to develop their employability skills

· Exclusive offers and ‘freebies’ from partners

In a little over 6 months you will leave the AGFS family to embark on your next journey into further education and then into your chosen career pathway.

As a staff body at AGFS, we want to keep in touch with you and provide continued support to you. By joining the Ark Alumni programme you can keep in touch with us, your friends and other scholars who have attended an Ark school, who can offer valuable advice on choosing subjects, universities and career pathways.

Why do we want students to join the Ark Alumni network?

We can continue to support students once they have left school and minimise the challenges they may face by providing them with access to financial support, career development opportunities and networks to support their personal and professional development.

Beyond Ark ongoing support and opportunities programme provided through the Ark Alumni online platform and monthly newsletter.

The Beyond Ark programme will provide school leavers and alumni with support in four key areas which have been identified through surveys, focus groups and interviews with alumni: Professional skills, Independent learning, Independent living and Resilience. This support will be accessible through the Ark Alumni online platform, in addition to a monthly newsletter.