Thomas Deacon Academy is a non-selective, inner-city Peterborough school of over 2,000 students. At GCSE results have been consistently below average. In 2019 (our last examined outcomes), 33% achieved at least a 5 in English and maths, (59% achieved 4+) the Progress 8 score was 0.03. The sixth form has almost 350 students, over 1/3 are in receipt of the 16-19 Bursary and a large proportion come from an IMD postcode; most of our students are EAL. The curriculum is mainly A-levels with some vocational qualifications.
The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the closure of all schools, had a huge impact on our current Y13 students. Their GCSEs were cut short resulting in no exams being taken, impacting on their exam skills and motivation, and leading to an extended period out of education. TDA serves a deprived population meaning that during the second lockdown in January 2021, and any self-isolation periods, many students had limited, or no, access to equipment that could effectively facilitate online learning and, where available, devices were shared between multiple family members as they attempted to work and continue learning from home. Many of our Sixth Form students were also required to support their families through additional childcare duties or in taking up paid work to support financially, given the impact on employment in the City. Many of our parents are employed in low-paid, unstable roles and/or are self-employed, often working in the hospitality industry, call centres and as taxi drivers. The financial impact on these families was therefore vast, affecting their ability to respond to the changing needs in educational requirements and with implications for our students to contribute financially. Additionally, a large majority of the parents of our Sixth Form students have not completed Post 16 education themselves and are not therefore equipped to support home learning at this level. Many of our parents have limited English and for the majority English is not their first language.
In September 2020, the school purchased physical resources in the form of revision guides, textbooks etc. with one resource for each A level subject, for each student to support their learning and in case of future lockdowns. For vocational subjects teachers collated their own ‘workbooks’ and printed these for students.
Year 12 students sat end of year exams in June 2021 for all of their subjects using standard exam papers e.g. AS past papers. Students did not perform well in these exams due to a combination of lost learning through lockdown and self-isolation periods and lack of exam technique/practice. We have been working with departments, through tutors and with individuals to support progress in this area. UCAS predictions this year are therefore challenging but are based on holistic teacher assessment with knowledge of prior attainment.
Throughout their time in Sixth Form, students have also been impacted by teacher absence as a result of the pandemic and a lack of available cover. This has been particularly problematic for students in business, history and health and social care. Since the start of this academic year a large number of students and teachers have had to spend time isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms and/or positive tests for themselves or family members (teachers with care responsibilities) which continues to impact learning and progress.