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Information for university and college admissions teams

Thomas Deacon Academy is a non-selective, inner-city Peterborough school of over 2,000 students. At KS4, 2020, 40% achieved at least a 5 in English and maths, (63% achieved 4+) the Progress 8 score in 2019 was 0.03. The sixth form has 350 students, 32% receive the bursary and a large proportion come from an IMD postcode; around 80% of students go on to HE. 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. Although some online systems were in place, these had not previously been well utilised by teachers or students, with huge variation across subjects in availability and quality of resources; teacher knowledge, understanding and skill in utilising virtual resources; and connectivity and equipment availability for teacher home use. Whilst the Academy responded rapidly, for some subjects this resulted in limited delivery over the initial period.

In addition, TDA serves a population of relative deprivation meaning many students had limited, or no, access to equipment that could effectively facilitate online learning. For many of our students, resources, where available, were shared between multiple family members as they attempted to work and continue learning from home. Furthermore, many of our Sixth Form students were 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 June 2020, the school purchased physical resources in the form of revision guides, textbooks etc. for each A level subject, and distributed these to each student studying in the Sixth Form to supplement their learning. For vocational subjects, teachers collated their own ‘workbooks’ and printed these for students instead.

In June/July 2020, Sixth Form students were invited to return to school once a week for 2 hours. The focus of this contact time was on wellbeing, distributing resources, target setting and the UCAS process. Approximately 65% of students (then in Year 12) returned to school for these sessions. The vast majority of those not attending were genuinely shielding due to their own, or a close family member in their home, being vulnerable.

Students in Year 13 did not undertake formal assessments/mock exams during Year 12 and, due to the challenges of accessibility outlined above, we were unable to provide robust online assessments during lockdown. UCAS predictions are therefore based on prior attainment and teacher assessment since the return to school. Students had however, already completed their EPQ projects prior to lockdown, therefore these grades are based on marked and submitted work.

On our return to school in September 2020, we have so far managed to maintain face to face learning for all students. However, some students and teachers have had to spend time isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms and/or positive tests for themselves or family members. The school is striving to build effective online teaching and learning platforms through Teams and teachers are currently being trained to utilise these in the event of future lockdowns, teacher absence and to support any student absence from school. An IT audit has identified students with no/little access to suitable technology, and schemes are being put in place to support through the additional purchase/loan of equipment where possible.