Information for University & College Admissions teams
The following statement details how students at DPA Sixth Form were affected by the school lockdown period caused by Covid-19.
DPA Sixth Form is a relatively small school sixth form (approx. 200 students) based on the site of Ditton Park Academy in Slough. Ditton Park Academy began in 2014, with DPA Sixth Form launching in 2019. Therefore, the current Year 13s are the first cohort of students, thus there will be no KS5 outcomes available until Summer 2021. However, Progress 8 for Year 11 GCSE grades is positive, at +0.17, and therefore we would expect that Value Added at KS5 will be similarly positive.
As a state comprehensive in a selective area surrounded by several grammar schools, the academic mix of our students is varied, and our KS5 curriculum reflects this. For example, in one year-group we have students with the top GCSE grades studying 4 A-Levels including Further Maths and applying as early entrants to the likes of Oxbridge, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine; whilst also accommodating those wishing to study BTEC Level 3 courses or re-sit a GCSE in English or Maths. DPA Sixth Form does not offer AS Levels at the end of Year 12. Outside of their 3 A-Levels, a large proportion of students take the EPQ alongside a variety of extra-curricular enrichment and leadership opportunities.
The majority of our students (approximately two thirds) join us from our own Year 11 cohort, but we also accept approximately 35 external candidates per year. We tend to retain approximately 50% of our Year 11 cohort, with the remainder finding places at local colleges, grammar schools or apprenticeships.
DPA Sixth Form is a multi-ethnic school with students from a diverse range of backgrounds and ability levels. For the current Year 13 cohort, approximately 42% have English as an Additional Language, with the main ethnic groups being Pakistani (34%) and Indian (17%), followed by White British (14%). 30% of the year-group are diagnosed with medical needs and 11% with Special Educational Needs. 20% of Year 13 were eligible for Pupil Premium funding and 25% are eligible for the 16-19 Bursary.
Impact of Covid-19
Many students at DPA Sixth Form struggled to access the online provision for a variety of reasons. Some students lacked laptops or computers; others lacked WiFi; others lacked a quiet space to work as they live in multi-generational homes which are over-crowded due to many sharing the same space or electronic device. This meant that a large number of Year 13 students were trying to complete work simply using their mobile phones. This was very difficult, with 85% reporting that they found the challenges of lockdown made it more difficult to manage their schoolwork; a figure which is almost double the national average of 45%.
The R-rate for Covid-19 in Slough has been above 1 for a significant period of time throughout the summer term and the summer holiday. Given students’ ethnic backgrounds and multi-generational households, this has undoubtedly impacted students’ mental health and ability to positively engage with remote learning. Domestic Violence increased during lockdown, with several students in this year group moving to CP or CIN plans as a result of a S17 or S47 request. Given this combination of challenges, the number of Year 13 students who stopped working during lockdown which was 5 times the national average (50% vs 10%). Although the DPA Sixth Form Team worked tirelessly to support students in facing these challenges in a number of ways including providing professional counselling, a large number of students had their education significantly impacted.
Teaching & Learning
Work continued to be set for Year 13 throughout lock-down using Microsoft Teams, starting on 20th March. The expectation was that students worked independently on assignments which were set, while given feedback from teachers. In some cases, teachers delivered live lessons through Teams, but this varied based on the technological confidence and working situation of the staff involved.
The students returned to lessons on 15th June, however due to government restrictions, only 25% of the year-group could be accommodated at any one time, and approximately 50% of the students were unable to come to school to engage with the face-to-face provision. Given this disparity, students were provided with careers, meta-cognition and study-skills support during their face-to-face time, with subject teaching continuing to be delivered virtually. From 6th July, a reduced subject timetable was put together, with 1 lesson delivered per subject per week. 50% of the cohort were able to access this. Even for those who could attend these lessons, this was a 50% reduction in teaching time than before lockdown. As can be clearly seen, the amount of learning time lost by Year 13 due to Covid-19 has been significant.
The scheduled mock exams at the end of Year 12 were cancelled due to lockdown. Instead, these students were given predicted grades before the summer holidays. These were calculated using a combination of students’ last assessed grades before lockdown, in conjunction with students’ target grades and other evidence-based teacher assessments. When students returned to school in September they sat subject assessments in exam conditions, which were used to update students’ predicted grades for UCAS as required.
As the UCAS Grades Policy outlines:
“The approach at DPA Sixth Form is one that is honest, evidence-led and consistent across all subjects and students. It is essential that DPA Predicted Grades are a true reflection of each student’s ability and potential. In this, attainment and progress as demonstrated through assessments are the main indicator of future performance.”
Instructions on UCAS were provided to students in June and July, however the planned programme of UCAS preparation was suspended. This has included mock interviews and support for personal statements which were changed away from the original plans. Consequently staff are working closely with students this term to support their applications.
Work experience likewise has been severely limited for a number of students due to Covid-19, with many students having set-up placements and opportunities which were then cancelled.