Welcome from Jo Duncan

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Annual Conference has been held – remotely – during this past week. This annual event is usually a great opportunity to network with colleagues and hear inspirational speakers. It also offers a pause, with space to think about some of the broader educational issues which we are facing today. While there was no networking for obvious reasons, the other two elements of the Conference remained.

Beyond the inevitable discussions about Covid-19 and the challenges posed to schools, there was a focus on the importance of the arts, technology in the classroom, diversity in the curriculum, moving forward with sustainability initiatives as well as the latest information on GCSE and A Levels for the summer 2021. These are all current topics of discussion at Wycombe Abbey.

Given the situation we faced in summer 2020 with the use of centre assessed grades (CAGs) for examination results, there was considerable discussion around the purpose of assessment as well as the thorny issue of fairness (or lack of it) in last year’s process. Talks are currently taking place between the Associations and examination boards to ensure that this situation is not repeated going forward and that we have assessment systems which are fit for purpose. Government and Ofqual (the examinations regulator) are planning to try to run examinations for both GCSE and A Level in the summer of 2021, although this current position is subject to change. I will keep parents updated.

In terms of technology in the classroom, Digital Awareness UK spoke on the developments in the digital space. They made reference to the Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ which focuses on the invasive nature and negative impact of digital technology on each of us as individuals. It is worth watching if you haven’t seen it. They also talked about the undeniably positive impact of technology during lockdown to allow teaching and learning to continue, as well as the power of technology to enable young people to come together to share their thoughts about important social issues. As a School we are continuing to consider how we can encourage the responsible use of devices; embracing the positives that technology brings with the impact inappropriate use can have on pupil wellbeing. You will find an introductory article by Mr Binit Shah, our new Director of Digital Learning, later in this newsletter.

As previously announced, Mrs Avani Hurribunce has been appointed as Lead Teacher – Diversity and Inclusion; she is setting up a working party for pupils across the School to open up discussion on this issue.  I will keep you updated on this. Sustainability also remains an important topic for the girls and the Head Girl Team are working on this with the Bursar, Mr Mark Mackenzie Crooks.

Finally, following my letter to parents last week, the girls have shown a fantastically positive attitude as they have moved temporarily to horizontal, year group dorms in Houses.  I would also like to acknowledge the incredible generosity of a number of parents in the funding the SAMBA II testing machine which has now arrived in the Health Centre. It was used for the first time yesterday and we hope this will greatly reduce the time spent in isolation going forward.

With best wishes

Jo Duncan

Headmistress