Please find below some of the most frequently asked questions from parents and children about our school with answers from our leadership team. We hope that you will find this useful.
What pastoral support does The Academy offer?
Our pastoral support is exemplary and we have a lot to offer your child. We allocate each child a place into one of our four houses, Eagle, Falcon, Kingfisher, or Osprey. Each House has tutor groups and your child will usually meet their tutor first at a Transition Event – usually held in June. Each House also has a Head of House and a lead member of the Senior Leadership Team. Tutors and Heads of House pick up on any pastoral issues. We also have a Behaviour and Intervention Team (BIT) who will support your child with any issues they may face. Intervention is in place to help with things like social skills, anger management, emotional literacy, and attendance. Some may also be provided with mentoring to help them.
Who will my tutor be? Do siblings go into the same house?
Your child will usually meet their tutor at the first Transition Event and our system is for your child to have the same tutor throughout their 5 years at Dorcan, though of course sometimes this is not possible. Siblings are usually put into the same house, but this cannot be guaranteed.
Will I be allowed to be in the same tutor group as my friends?
When you apply and information is sent from the primary school to our Transition Team you are given the opportunity to nominate another student who you would like to be placed with. We do this, if possible.
How do we as parents communicate between home and school?
Every student is given a ‘Link Book’ and this can be used as the main line of communication between home and school. Please record any messages for the tutor in there – they will read this in the morning and act on it or pass it on to the relevant person. You can also contact the school via email; you will be given contact details for your tutor, Head of House and SLT lead at the initial meeting. Please allow 24 hours for a response to an email because teachers are usually busy teaching all day. You can also phone the school switchboard and leave a message for someone to contact you or arrange an appointment at a time that is convenient to you both.
I have things that I want to discuss that are personal to my child. What should I do?
When you first start you will be invited to a meeting with your child’s tutor. At that point it is helpful for you to share any information that will enable your child to have a successful transition. If you need to speak to someone at another time you should either, ask the tutor to help in the first instance or telephone the school for an appointment with the relevant person. This might be a member of SLT, our Safeguarding Lead or SENCo.
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What is the behaviour like in lessons?
Behaviour during lessons is good – it is very quiet and calm around the Academy and students are engaged in learning. Our policy promotes minimal disruption and if there is any disruption it is dealt with swiftly so that the rest of the class can carry on with their lesson and learn appropriately without disturbance.
Are there many rules?
There are, however, we have simplified these into three very clear rules that make it easier for everyone to think about whether they are doing the right thing or not: Be Kind, Show Respect, Do your Best. If they can’t remember the exact rules, students need to ask themselves, am I being kind, am I showing respect to others, myself, or the environment, am I doing my best? Ask if this is the best version of you and can you make a better choice?
What are the different sanctions and what are they for?
Central Detentions can be issued for four different reasons:
each subsequent missed piece up to the end of the half term when there will be a reset. Students at KS4 will receive a Prep Detention each time they fail to hand in a piece of Prep.
Under our behaviour policy students may be given a first warning for behaviour that is inappropriate, for example, talking over the teacher or ignoring instructions. If a first warning is given the student is told why and their name is written on the board. If the student does not change that behaviour, they will then be sent out of class to see the Behaviour team and will be placed in our Reflection Room. During the time in the reflection room there should be a restorative conversation between the student and the teacher who gave the warning so that the relationship can be mended. If poor and inappropriate behaviour continues the sanctions move in line with our graduated response and there may be actions taken such as behaviour support plans, being placed on report, or fixed term suspensions, etc.
Is my child allowed to bring their mobile phone? Are there other things that are not allowed in school?
Yes, your child can bring their phone into school, BUT they must be turned off or on silent at the gate on entering, kept in their bag until the end of the day and not turned on until they are the other side of the gate after school. Again, we have a really simple rule; See it, Hear it, Lose it. If the phone is seen it will be confiscated. It will be taken to Main Reception and your child will have to arrange for their parent or carer to collect it. We do not take responsibility for making the phone call home. If your child makes the decision to break the rule, they will need to accept the consequence of not having a phone on the way home.
We do not allow aerosol cans, fizzy drinks, or energy drinks. There is also an extensive list of things not allowed in school that are illegal such as weapons and imitation weapons, alcohol, cigarettes, smoking paraphernalia, drugs, or drugs paraphernalia etc. See the Behaviour Policy for further details.
I’m worried about my child getting lost and being late for lessons, will they be told off?
This is a worry that most people have about coming to secondary school. Surprisingly, it is easier than you think to find your way around as there are defined subject areas that have signs above the main doors and there are numbers on each door. Your child will have a timetable to show where the lessons are located. On their first day, students are met by their tutor at the front of the school and walked to their tutor base. They are also given a map and shown the routes to each area on their first day before lessons start. If they do get lost in the first week, they will not be punished for being late. Other students and duty staff will help them get used to finding their way around.
Where do I need to buy the uniform from? Can we decide what trousers and shoes to wear, for example?
We have branded blazers and ties that must be bought from our supplier, Price and Buckland. There is a sizing tool on the website for you to use prior to order. LINK These can be purchased online and delivered directly. Ties are branded to each of our houses with a different coloured stripe. Our skirts and some of the PE kit items are also branded to our school colours and can be purchased from Price and Buckland. The full uniform list is published on our website. Trousers and shoes and any other unbranded items can be bought locally but must adhere to our strict requirements that are published on our website. Uniform infringements will mean that your child may not be allowed into lessons until these are rectified.
Is there much bullying at Dorcan?
It would be really naive of us to say there is no bullying. Where there are large groups of children in schools it is inevitable, but what is really important is that it is rare and minimal and when it does happen, it is acted upon and dealt with immediately. It is not something we would ever tolerate at Dorcan because we want our school to be an inclusive place where everyone feels safe. We have a graduated response that we use for incidents of bullying and if it carries on, the perpetrator will be asked to leave the Academy.
What should I do if my child is being bullied?
If your child is being bullied, or you suspect that they are, please let us know immediately by telephoning the school, speaking to your child’s tutor, the Head of House, or a member of the Behaviour Intervention team (BIT). They will ensure that the complaint is investigated and followed up. At home try to talk this through with your child trying to remain calm and making things as positive as possible, reassuring your child that they have done the right thing by reporting this and that things will be resolved.
What rewards are there at Dorcan?
There are many rewards at The Dorcan Academy and we reward mainly for two reasons; one is for academic excellence, rewarding you for the fantastic work you do in lessons, secondly, we reward you for modelling the Dorcan Values, the positive attributes that we value as a school. We reward with certificates and often with vouchers etc., at the end of each term.
Is there a Rewards Trip? What are the criteria?
We have a very popular Rewards Trip that takes place at the end of each year, usually to a theme park for example. The criteria a student needs to meet to be guaranteed a place on the rewards trip are:
What do I do if my child is ill and cannot come to school?
We would like you to contact the school as soon as possible about your child’s absence. The quickest and easiest way to do this is via our absence reporting app Studybugs. You can get the free app and register now at https://studybugs.com/about/parents . If you do not have access to a smart device and cannot download the app then please phone the school on 01793 525231 and leave a message on the answerphone. If your child has been injured in some way, we want to help you get them back into school as soon as possible and there may be ways we can help with this so please do contact us for a meeting.
What do I do if my child has a hospital or doctor’s appointment?
We ask that you present a copy of their letter or appointment card to us as soon as possible, so that we can record this on the register as a medical appointment rather than a general absence. We would ask you to ensure your child attends school prior to their appointment and returns to school immediately afterwards, if possible; this way, they will get their full attendance marks.
Can my child take holidays during term time?
We regret to inform you that this is not possible. We cannot authorise requests such as these as the law states that your child should be in school during term time.
Do you teach in mixed ability groups or settings? How do you decide who is in which group?
We have a core curriculum, that most of our students will follow. To ensure all students are equipped with the best opportunity to support their success, we do have an extended pathway for students who show a holistic strength, and would be best suited to the challenge of studying an additional language. We have a smaller intervention style group in some subjects, who may need extra help with literacy and numeracy to ensure they are ready for the rigour of GCSEs later in school.
We decide who is in each group initially by looking at a combination of KS2 (Primary) results, by information gathered by teachers and through CATS testing at the start of year 7.
What subjects will my child study in Year 7? Is there any difference as they progress through the school?
When your child starts in Year 7, they will study English, Maths and Science as well as the Humanities subjects: Geography, History and RE. They also study French as well as a range of foundation subjects. If they go into the Extended pathway they will study an additional language, Spanish, as well as developing Science in more detail. This is followed into Year 8. As they enter Year 9, they will begin to specialise in three of the foundation subjects and in Year 10 this becomes more specialised as they will have a greater range of subject options to choose.
What is ‘Skills for Life’?
‘Skills for Life’ was introduced to bring together wider curriculum needs including things like PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) which looks at things like ‘identity’ and includes the relationships and sex education programme that delivers age-appropriate information to our students. We also have ‘Digital’ skills for life and this links PHSE to using computers to develop the skills that employers look for in the workplace.
Will my child be taught to stay safe online?
Yes, during the Digital Skills for Life lessons they will be taught how to stay safe online.
What opportunities will my child have to explore the world of work?
We work hard to develop a careers programme that is second to none and meeting the government standards for it, known as the Gatsby benchmarks. We start the experience from Year 7 when we arrange speakers to come into school and visits to take place with colleges and employers. In Year 8 we start to teach about interviews and when students are in Year 10, they have a mock interview day with local employers who come into school, prior to the work experience they undertake.
What clubs are there at Dorcan that I can get involved in?
As well as Academic Prep (Home Learning) club there are a range of clubs you can join including Chess, Coding, Creating the Dorcan Newsletter, Community action group, LGBT+, Cookery, Performing Arts and various sports.
What leadership opportunities will my child have?
We really want to challenge students to improve their leadership skills, therefore we have a range of Leadership roles for students; for example, Head students, prefects and House representatives in the Student Council. Students can also become a Tutor Ambassador or House Ambassador where they get the opportunity to represent their tutor group or their house. Students can also become ant-bullying ambassadors and mental health champions.
Can I take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award at Dorcan?
Yes – in Year 9 we encourage students to join at the Bronze Level. Then students can progress to Silver and Gold Awards in Years 10 and 11. The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a very popular extra-curricular activity at Dorcan.
Are there many school trips to take part in?
There are often trips taking place and plenty of opportunities. One of the highlights of Year 7 is Camp week where we try to get all our Year 7s involved to go camping for a few days towards the end of the summer term and enjoy and experience camp life. In Year 9 there is a very popular trip to Plas Pencelli where students take part in various outside adventure activities. There are also trips to France led by the Languages staff, and various Geography field trips to cities and rivers. Students have also visited New York and taken part in skiing trips to Europe.
Will my child be able to continue with their music lessons?
Yes, we have a fantastic music department and we encourage students to learn to play an instrument or continue with their lessons at Dorcan.
Are there any school productions that I can be part of?
We have a programme of productions and events that we encourage students to take part in including musicals, Christmas shows, concerts and events. Dorcan is also home to the Dorcan Performing Arts Group who meet every Tuesday evening at the Academy, and this club is run for local children by a group of dedicated volunteers who encourage all students to take part.
What does a typical lesson look like?
A typical lesson starts with ‘Threshold’ where the teacher meets the student at the door and welcomes them in. This is followed by a ‘Do now’ activity which is usually a set of questions to recall previous learning. During the lesson we use the ‘hands down’ technique so that we can assess the learning of all our students, and not just those who are keen to put their hands up. Routines in the classroom are slick: students help with distribution and collection of books and materials. We undertake a range of learning tasks during the lesson and then at the end there is a summary of what has been learnt – this could be in the form of a quiz or students writing their final draft.
My child is nervous about answering questions aloud in class. How will the teachers deal with this?
The ‘hands down’ technique helps with this and our staff are skilful at training our students to enable them to gain confidence very quickly.
Will my child have to do homework and how much is there?
Your child will have to do academic prep to support and develop their learning. This is graduated in Year 7 but generally is 30 minutes per subject and there are two to three pieces each night. In Key Stage 4 each piece of work is usually an hour. There is a prep schedule and we place work online for students to access.
What happens if my child gets stuck or has a problem completing homework?
Students can approach their teacher for help or go to the library at break or after school to get help from teachers. Academic prep club operates every night from the library and is staffed with teachers to support your child with their learning.
Does my child need to have their own computer or laptop?
It is not essential as there are opportunities to use computers at school during break or after school, however it is really useful if they do have their own for use at home.
My child does not like reading – how can you encourage it?
We have a programme called ‘Drop everything and Read’ (DEAR) that takes place during tutor time where our tutors read books with our students and help them to develop fluency with text and encourage them to focus on key vocabulary. Students will write this down and this helps them to be rewarded when using what they have learnt in other subject areas. We also have a fantastic library where we encourage our children to read books and offer them advice on book selection. In Key Stage 3, students take part in the Accelerated Reader programme; there are lots of competitions to help motivate children with their reading, as well as events to promote reading across the school.
What happens if my child is behind with their English or Maths?
We have bespoke programmes to support children who may be falling behind and provide Intervention groups at all levels. These programmes run before, during and after school.
Where can I find out about the school’s results?
Our results for the last academic year can be found on the school’s website.
Covid caused a lot of learning gaps for my child. How will you help to close the gaps?
We recognise the impact of the pandemic is far reaching; and as each new year group arrives at The Dorcan Academy, they do so with different gaps in their learning due to the lockdowns and other interventions schools took, to keep students safe.
We have an excellent team of practitioners here who are working hard to help close gaps that are identified. These gaps may be knowledge gaps or skills gaps, and as such we aim to therapeutically treat each as best we can within the classroom.
We have utilised grants and extra resources to provide additional intervention and mentoring to support students who fell behind due to the pandemic.
How will I know how well my child is doing?
You will receive a report about your child three times a year. The report will contain their Horsforth Quadrant for each subject. A Horsforth Quadrant measures two things, how well they are progressing against expected and their attitude to learning. Alongside this, you will also be advised of their engagement in Academic Prep (Home Learning).
We also hold parents’ evenings regularly where you are able to talk with teachers to discuss your child’s progress. Concerns may also be raised directly with you by a teacher if needed, and you are able to enquire about your child’s progress at any time by contacting their tutor.
Is there any support for parents to help them understand what their child is learning and support them in their studies?
Along with parents’ evenings where we will discuss your child’s academic progress we run a range of parental events such as ‘Help your child revise’, ‘Help your child use their knowledge organiser’, ‘Meet the Teacher’ and ‘Meet the Tutor’. We also have information on the school website about our curriculum, which will help to guide your child’s learning.
Does the school provide any support to parents with the challenging job of raising teenagers?
We understand how challenging it is to raise teenagers, particularly as many of us are also parents. In the past we have run classes for parents. This stopped during the pandemic, but we hope to start it again in the future and will provide information as soon as possible.
What transition events do you usually hold?
We start with our September ‘WOW’ week, where we provide a chance for students from our cluster schools to visit the school to experience some taster lessons, tour the school and take part in a Treasure Hunt, try our canteen food, and meet teachers. We have an amazing Open Evening at the end of September or the start of October each year, where we showcase our subjects, tell you about our school and where you can sample food and see some exciting demonstrations. There is also a Saturday morning event where you can meet the Leadership team and take part in some fun family activities. We also have private tours available throughout September and October. We visit local primary schools to talk to Year 5 and 6 at their parents’ evenings. We gather the views of Year 7 on their transition and regularly look at Year 7 books to see how Year 7s are settling in. Primary School students are also invited to many of our events prior to transition, such as our Christmas performances. We run a Parents Information evening prior to transition. We hold a Transition picnic for our non-cluster students, and we have induction days for all transition students where they spend whole days at Dorcan getting used to secondary school life.
What has happened when live events could not be held due to the pandemic for example?
During Covid 19 we became proficient in running on-line streamed events to help our students with transition to secondary school so we have the resources in place to do this again if needed.
Will my child get a chance to visit the school beforehand?
If you have missed any of our regular Transition Events and have been unable to attend previously you could book a private tour by contacting the Academy Main Reception or telephoning 01793 525231.
My child does not attend one of your feeder schools. How will they be helped through transition?
We understand how difficult it is if your child is coming from a different school or has moved into the area recently, so we hold a ‘non-cluster’ picnic event for all children who are in this position. We usually also hold a Summer Club where your child could attend to meet other children who will be coming to the Academy. We do make sure that every one of our students is made to feel welcome. Late admissions are often given another student ‘buddy’ to help them settle in.
How will we get to know about all the Transition events?
Information will be sent through primary schools and will often be put into your child’s book bag. There is a lot of information on our website and our Facebook and twitter pages. Please feel free to telephone or visit Main Reception if you have any questions.
What kind of food is sold in the canteen?
We outsource catering to Aspens. They are required to meet the Nutritional Standards that are part of the law in order to deliver healthy food in schools. They offer a range of foods on a rolling weekly menu basis and can provide for any dietary needs on request.
Can they pay by cash every day?
We do prefer students to use the cashless system that is a biometric system where a data file of each student’s fingerprint is recorded (not a fingerprint). Parents can load money on to the system electronically or students can credit their account through our cashloading machine. However, if they wish, students can also pay by cash.
My child has free school meals. How is this managed?
If your family income falls below the threshold parents should apply online through Swindon Borough Council if they believe there is an entitlement to free meals. This information then passes to the academy and we credit each child’s account online every day so that they are able to have a meal in our canteen.
How long will my child have for lunch?
Usually, your child will have a 30-minute lunch break at a set time. There is also a 20-minute break each morning where food and drinks can be purchased.
Are there rules about what my child can bring in their packed lunch?
We do not inspect student’s packed lunches, but we hope that parents will ensure that the packed lunch is nutritious. Fizzy drinks and energy drinks are not allowed in school.
Will I be able to bring my bike to school?
Yes, but you will need to complete a permission form from Student Reception and you should wear a helmet at all times when riding your bike. You will need to provide a lock so that your bike can be left securely in our bicycle compound. You must not ride your bike on the school premises.
Do you operate school buses? Are there public buses available?
We currently operate our own minibus for some of our vulnerable children, for children that are late admissions to help them settle, or for students who have temporary mobility issues. We may make a charge for this service to help with our costs. There are local public buses run by companies such as Stagecoach and Thamesdown Transport who use a bus stop at our main entrance.
In addition to our Virtual Open Evening we are offering guided tours of the Academy on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout September and October. Please telephone 01793 525231 and ask for Mrs Hitchen to book your tour or follow the link on our home page: Book a tour of the Academy – The Dorcan Academy.
If you have any questions, you can contact us on the following email addresses
Ms LeeTransition Leader 01793 525231 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs TitcombeAdmissions Officer T. 01793 525231 email@example.com
For further information on our Transition Events please visit our Transition Events page