General contextual information
Our comprehensive school in Tower Hamlets serves a multi-ethnic, majority Bangladeshi community in an area of high deprivation (over 70% free school meals). Most families use community languages at home. Some parents have no English, limiting their capacity to support their children’s education. POLAR4 shows improved HE progression locally, but most go to lower-tariff London universities. There is a strong bias within the community towards studying locally for both financial and cultural reasons. The majority of our students are entitled to financial support from the 16-19 Discretionary Bursary fund.
Our sixth form opened in 2013; student numbers have increased (59 this cohort), but provision remains limited. We run 10 A Levels and a Level 3 BTEC Business / IT pathway. We cannot offer a wide range of A Levels (eg no History or Further Maths) and students are required to select options in timetable blocks, making some combinations impossible. Students can take only 3 A Levels, and we do not enter for AS. We do not offer the EPQ, and are also unable to offer extracurricular programmes such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Performance at GCSE and A Level is below national average. Since opening, we have had only two successful medicine applications and two to Oxbridge.
Our school had not used any kind of virtual learning platforms in the past, but we worked hard to get to grips with Google Classroom as quickly as we could after school closure. Staff would upload lesson powerpoints for students to read through at home. Some subjects recorded brief videos for students. We did not offer any live sessions. From June 15, we ran one lesson a week for each subject in school. Around 70% of students attended these; others were shielding at home. This continued for the remainder of that term.
A key issue for our centre was student access to appropriate technology for learning at home: only 35% had their own laptop/device, fewer had access a printer. The school used the 16-19 discretionary bursary allocation to provide laptops for all students, which allowed them to access learning from home more easily. These were distributed at the beginning of June.
The other key issue for us was students’ home learning environment. Very few of our students have a place where they can work at home. Most do not have their own bedroom and many live in overcrowded accommodation. With local libraries closed, this has had a significant impact on our students. Please note, too, that we were unable to provide students with study facilities in school for the bulk of Term 1. They have had access to a study space in school from mid-October onwards, but for limited hours.
In lockdown and over the summer holiday, more than 80% of our students had to juggle their study alongside significant additional responsibilities in terms of caring for siblings and elderly relatives (most families locally were very wary of allowing their children out of the home).
On return to school in September, students sat diagnostic assessments in order to give us as sense of where the gaps were. They then sat AS exams using 2019 papers and mark schemes immediately after the half term break. These have played a key role in determining their predicted grades.
Please also note that we have had difficulties in providing students in this cohort with revision guides and access to online revision courses, as the laptops purchase used all our remaining bursary and sixth form budgets. Students had access only to the Year 1/AS textbooks until September as the Year 12 textbooks were still with the outgoing Year 13s. We were able to access some funds in October to buy some additional textbooks and some revision guides.
Head of Sixth Form (Years 12 & 13)
Langdon Park School
020 7987 4811 ext 225