Now that our Year 3 national tests in Swedish and maths and Year 6 replacement national tests in Swedish, maths and English have been completed, it seems only right that the spotlight was turned onto the performing arts at IES Östersund! A group of our Year 7 students have been working very hard over the past few months to organise our first IES Östersund Talent Show. With help from Mr Göransson and Mr Ekström they put together a programme of performances which included soloists, groups of musicians, dancers, cheerleading and stand-up comedy. The show was open to all Year 4-7 students and we were able to use the aula so that the audience could still watch in a Covid-appropriate way. The show was also streamed live so that our younger students could watch it in their mentor rooms.
It was fantastic to see our students working collaboratively on such a great project and I was particularly impressed by the sisu mindset shown by the performers. It is not easy to get up on stage and entertain an audience and all of the acts showed great levels of courage and determination...plus a lot of talent too!
I am really looking forward to the next Talent Show and the opportunity to see even more of our wonderful students perform and entertain us.
Due to Covid and the special adaptations that have had to be made, national tests this year have been a little bit different. During the past few weeks our Year 6s have sat 'replacement national tests' in Swedish, English and maths. The students have really impressed me with their attitude towards these tests. Many of the tests were taken in the aula and students very quickly adapted to our high expectations that students should behave in a calm and orderly manner when in the test environment. Our teachers have been working hard to mark the test papers and feedback will be given to students and their parents/carers as soon as possible.
Our Year 3 students have also been working through their Swedish and maths national tests and Mrs Nilsson, the Year 3 mentor, has been very pleased with how the students have risen to the challenge of several tests over the past few weeks.
We regularly remind students that it is important to try their very best when in these test situations, but it is even more important to remember that the test results form part of the overall end grade. End results are always a reflection of the continual assessment that teachers make over the year and the teachers work hard to provide appropriate opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways.
The Easter break gave many of our students and staff the opportunity to relax and re-energise before the return to school. The ever-increasing recommendations for reducing the spread of Covid has meant that we have had to be flexible and nimble in terms of planning and delivering lessons. Some of our students will have been taught by teachers who have provided distance teaching. However, students are never left unaccompanied in classrooms and always have at least one, sometimes two, other members of staff to supervise them.
We have also increased our staffing and welcome Ms Arkander to the team. Ms Arkander has already had a couple of days induction and will be part of our team of substitute teachers. Making sure that we have a regular team of staff who are able to substitute for other colleagues and who are familiar with our IES ethos and 10 must haves is an important way maintaining standards at IES Östersund.
Our first Rock Your Socks and pyjamas day was a big success! I even went as far as to wear an odd pair of shoes with my special pink and green socks which had been designed and made in our local Woolpower factory! It was wonderful to meet students in their crazy and colourful socks and even though many students and staff were dressed in their pyjamas we still maintained a calm and orderly learning environment and kept high expectations for all. Although it was fun for us to come to school in cozy clothes it was also an important way to celebrate that we are all different...and that is a good thing! All class mentors have been working with their students to raise awareness of Down Syndrome and the importance of inclusion and acceptance.
Our return to school after the Sports Break felt a bit unusual because all of our Year 7s were on distance learning for the week. We were following the official guidelines and recommendations given to us to help reduce the spread of Covid. I was very impressed by how the staff and students adapted to this new way of teaching and learning. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and support of our IT rep - Mrs Östling. The day before Sports Break, Mrs Östling made sure that all the Year 7 Chrome Books were correctly set up for the Year 7s to take home with them and use during distance learning.
We are really looking forward to the return of our Year 7s in week 12. It will also be good to receive their feedback about how their experiences of distance learning went. It would be nice to think that week 11 was a unique situation but, the reality is that we will need to be prepared to repeat the process in the future. We obviously want to learn from students, parents and carers and our staff's experiences and so please do share any ideas or suggestions with mentors or me.
Each morning I stand at the school gate and welcome students to school. It is such a great way to start the day. A simple 'Good morning' to each and every student who passes me. The rewards are huge. I almost always receive a 'Good morning' or 'Hej!' in return and almost every student gives me a smile too. Sometimes I even get a cheery wave or a Covid-safe high-5! The daily meet and greet is a super way to connect with the students, show we care for their welfare and safety and also pick up on any issues that may be concerning them or their parents and carers who may be dropping them off at school too.
Starting the day outside has also given me the opportunity to notice the ever-lightening days. Long gone are the mornings of standing outside in the dark of night. Now the sky is a bright, light blue and the sun is already shining over the school roof. Spring, or at least vårvinter, is nearly here.
On Monday mornings, all students start the day with 30 minutes mentor time. This is a really important way for the mentors to check-in with their students to develop and strengthen relationships, provide important messages for the week ahead and support the students with setting or reviewing academic goals. Our student care team (SCT) have also been collaborating with all mentors on the theme of sisu superpowers. I have spoken about sisu before and we are working hard to develop a school culture of grit over challenge and adversity. Recently, there has been a focus on the special nature of autism and ADHD and how people can find their own unique strengths by overcoming challenges that these diagnoses present. I am so proud of the open, inclusive and supportive mindset that we are building amongst all of our students and staff at IES Östersund.
We are now three weeks into the Spring Term and our newly opened phase 2 rooms already seem like home. It has been fantastic to see so many students making use of the HKK room and cooking up many delicious items, whilst in the woodwork room students have been preparing to make bird boxes. Our art room is being well used during both lesson times and break times when it is available as an open art space. More laboratory equipment is being unpacked and ready for use in practical science lessons and the textile room is filling up with beautiful coloured wools and fabrics.
All class mentors have been preparing for student-teacher-parent (STP) meetings which will take place during week 5. Obviously, during these Covid times, all appointments will have to take place by video calls. Nevertheless, these will be really important opportunities for mentors to work with their students and their parents/carers to review the goals set in September 2020, create new SMART goals and discuss next steps.
This week saw the return of our students after the Christmas break. We were delighted to welcome returning students and some new students. We look forward to growing together as a community over the coming weeks and months.
We are continuing to work hard, on a daily basis, to adapt and respond to the challenges of trying to keep our school as safe as possible during these Covid times. The challenges increased on Tuesday morning when we all awoke to the huge amounts of snow that had fallen the previous night and continued to do so throughout the day. I was so impressed by my staff's determination to get to work and we were able to keep the school running for all the students who were able to attend. A true demonstration of a sisu mindset.
The first week of term has been used for re-setting our ethos and values, settling into new classrooms and getting used to the new schedules. From week 3, study sessions will begin again and information about these has been posted on SchoolSoft. The mentors are also preparing for the student-teacher-parent (STP) meetings that will be arranged for weeks 4 and 5. Obviously, these will be conducted by video calls.
On Thursday 7th January 2021 I was delighted to welcome all of my staff back to IES Östersund for the first of two staff training days. Whilst the Fritids staff have continued to care for many of our children over the Christmas holiday period, for the rest of the staff, this was their first time back to school after a two and a half week break. It was really good to see everyone again and to see that we were all healthy and feeling excited to be back. During Thursday and Friday we did some work to re-focus on our school goals, to receive first aid training and to prepare for lessons to re-start on Monday 11th January.
At the moment we are all concerned about the worsening news about Covid-19 and the safety of our students and staff is my primary concern. I am in regular communication with IES Headquarters, health officials, union representatives and colleagues. I and my team are constantly reviewing our procedures to make sure that we are making well-informed decisions. As of writing this (January 8th 2021) the decision is that school will re-open for all students on Monday 11th January and we expect all students to be at school for their mentor time which begins at 08:15. We will continue to keep parents and carers updated via SchoolSoft and our social media platforms.
Week 51 has been filled with plenty of festive celebrations and IES Östersund has felt a wonderfully, cosy place to be. I am so very proud of all our students and staff who have worked incredibly hard all term and yet kept standards high throughout the last week of the autumn term. Grades have been set for our Year 6s and 7s and subject rubrics updated and developmental comments written. Although lessons continued as normal throughout the week, we still had time to participate in some fun. There were three different tipspromenad (scavenger hunts with multiple choice questions to answer) to participate in, festive food to eat at lunchtime and special dress up days.
Phase 2 of our school building is now open and so several mentor groups also took some time to move classrooms on the last day of term. This means that when the spring term starts on Monday 11th January 2021, all classes will be ready to start learning again in their new locations. We will also have all our practical rooms in operation and I know that teachers and students are really excited to finally have lessons in the custom built cookery (HKK), craft (slöjd), art (bild) and science (NO) rooms.
One of the activities for all students on the last day of term was to watch a short film which celebrated many of our achievements since the start of August. It reminded me that although many things have felt new, strange, difficult and often uncomfortable for staff, students and caregivers over the past few months, we also have so much to celebrate and be proud of.
I have spoken to all IES Östersund students about sisu. Sisu is a Finnish word and it is used to describe a mindset. Sisu is about resilience and grit and determination. Sisu is about never giving up, even when things seem unfair or difficult or even impossible. Sisu is about developing skills to persevere even when things do not feel comfortable and cosy. I firmly believe that sisu is a characteristic that is a good fit with our IES core values and message. What we have all (students, staff and caregivers) achieved over the past five months has only been possible as a result of a collective desire to build a school which has a clear and unified culture. I would like to thank everyone involved in our journey so far for their cooperation and patience. It has not always been easy. It has not been perfect. But, everyday, we all try to do our best and every day we have taken another step in building a school that we believe in. Thank you so much, merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year! We look forward to welcoming all students back at 08:15 on Monday 11th January 2021.