Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (22 May 2020)

Dear Parents

It seems odd to be writing an end of half term newsletter when I haven’t seen but a handful of the students over the preceding six weeks. We have seen a small number of students in the Key Workers Childcare Hub at Trinity, in the two weeks that we ran the provision. Occasionally, I have seen some students if I have popped into a shop in Brampton on the way home from school, but certainly not in the manner or level of interaction that you get so used to as a Headteacher. Nor, other than over Teams, have I really seen our staff. There is a small core of us who tend to be on school site every day and that number has been increasing slightly over the last week which is encouraging.

That said, I do know that the staff are working tirelessly off-site to provide the best support they can for remote education for our students, many balancing young families or caring for elderly relatives, like we all are. I have been saddened by some of the media comments about teachers not working during the current situation, that is certainly not the case at William Howard. From our Admin team, SEND Department, Pastoral Support, through to our teachers, we are doing all we can to stay connected with students, parents and each other. It will be great when we can see some students back in school, but that prospect, even for Year 10 and Year 12, seems to come and go depending on who you are listening to from the Government on any particular day. If there is one thing that I yearn for is a definitive statement on what Face to Face sessions for Year 10 and Year 12 actually means. Now 5 days after we were promised the Secondary School Guidance on that, we still wait.

What is now clear to us as a school, is that next half term will start as this did, with all year groups being supported by remote learning. For many, if not all, this is likely to continue for the remainder of this academic year. So, we have taken some decisions how we will provide that remote learning, which we hope will help parents keep students motivated and engaged. Those changes centre on putting our staff in front of students to explain work and giving students a mechanism to ask for help, other than by email. That is where I will start then:

Changes to Remote Learning after half term

The fundamental change is that we are going to start to provide pre-recorded videoed lessons delivered by our staff across Years 7, 8, 9 and 10. We have weighed up the options of live lessons, but we are acutely aware that students often share devices in households and parents in many cases are working from home, which can cause broadband bottlenecks. Live lessons would disadvantage too many students so we are pre-recording the lessons and links to these will be in the Tasks section of the VLE, next to the work that has been set. We hope that this will help students be able to engage positively with the tasks being set more readily. I am sure they will welcome hearing from and seeing staff as well. As a second change we are going to introduce seminar sessions starting in the second week back. Students will email staff to be invited to a live Teams meeting, where they can ask in real time about any pieces of work they are finding difficult. The details of how these will work we will outline after half term, they will have limited capacity and the default support for students will remain by email.

These two elements mark a significant change and in my opinion a step-up in provision. They are only possible as we have had time to invest in additional IT capacity and the fact that our staff are willing to be so adaptable. Across the year groups this will look like:

Years 7 and 8

The first week on Monday and Tuesday, the students will be set some mini projects through the VLE (Firefly) to complete as we finalise training of staff and the uploading of lessons. The first tranche of subject lessons will be available starting on the Wednesday. Each week they will receive:

Maths (x2), English (x2), Biology, Physics, Chemistry, French, Geography and History lessons and recommended Healthy Living activity. They will also receive, on a fortnightly rotation, work for Technology, PE, ICT, Drama, Music, RE, PD and Art.

All the tasks when set will be accompanied by a pre-recorded video lesson.  Seminars will be available after week 2 for students who need additional help that cannot be supported by email.

Year 9

The first week on Monday and Tuesday the students will be set some mini projects through the VLE (Firefly) to complete as we finalise training of staff and the uploading of lessons. The first tranche of subject lessons will be available starting on the Wednesday. We are also switching them onto their Options subjects starting the first week back, so lessons will stop for all students in History, Geography, French, Creative Curriculum, RE and ICT, unless they have taken them as an Option. Each week they will receive:

Maths (x2), English (x2), Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and their 3 Option subjects plus a Healthy Living activity and a Wellbeing activity.

All the tasks when set will be accompanied by a pre-recorded video lesson.  Seminars will be available after week 2 for students who need additional help that cannot be supported by email.

Year 10

Their work will be set, as it is being currently, for the first week back. All tasks should be available on the first Monday students return to school after the half term. Recorded video lessons will be in place for the second week to support the tasks set on the VLE (Firefly) along with seminars with staff.

Year 12

Teaching lessons through Teams will continue as it has up to this point with supporting work on the VLE (Firefly).

As we have done throughout this period we will keep on reviewing things as we go, as we see how they are progressing and your feedback to year group teams, is invaluable. I am sure there will be a few teething problems with the lessons, but once through them we will have something much better on offer for our students to support their learning.

Year 10 Information, Advice and Guidance and Work Experience

We are conscious of Year 10 having the right information, advice and guidance in a similar way to what we would have been able to provide in school. During next term we will be welcoming Post 16 providers into the weekly Year 10 assembly to explain the different education and training routes students can undertake after Year 11. We have speakers from the Colleges, Sixth Form, Apprenticeships, Armed Forces and the Training sector lined up to give these talks and we would encourage all students to tune in to understand all the various routes open to them at the of Year 11.

In addition, to further support students with their career choices we will be arranging 1:1 virtual career meetings with our careers advisor, Mrs Meakin, after half term for some students. Those students will be notified of when their appointment will be and how to attend the meeting via their school email or by contacting home.

At WHS we highly value the opportunity we give to our students of taking part in work experience and this is something we hope to be able to offer during the next academic year. We are waiting for some further guidance from DfE on procedures for students visiting a workplace and when we have this information we will communicate this to parents. Scheduling this will be done, once we can ascertain what the likelihood will be of students being able to secure worthwhile placements.

Key/Critical Workers Child Care Provision

As we notified you last week after half term the Key/Critical Workers Child Care provision is returning to WHS from the hub at Trinity. We have the names of everyone we think will be using the provision and we will be in touch with them directly about arrangements. If you would wish to take up a place in the hub then please email Mrs Dixon, wdixon@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk for further information, at least 48 hours in advance of the place being required. We need that level of notice to ensure appropriate staffing levels are in the provision, as well as for catering.

Free School Meals

We are acutely aware that due to the current conditions many families may be applying for Universal credit. This is the qualifying criteria for Free School Meals and given the Government, will continue to issue vouchers to support families, we would encourage you to apply for Free School Meals. This can be done via Cumbria County Councils website https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/childrensservices/schoolsandlearning/freeschoolmeals.asp  and a help sheet is also available on our website https://www.williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk/guide-to-applying-for-free-school-meals/. If you would like any support with this, please contact Mrs Mothersdale, emothersdale@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk.

If you get a moment…

We post a great deal of material on the school website and on social media to celebrate what our students are doing and if you haven’t visited lately or aren’t on our social media channels, do think about having a look. I am sure many of you will have seen “I want to Break Free”, some “Do-Re-Mi”, but there are the items such as the uplifting Small Acts presentation, Acts of Kindness, Baking, individual stories, amongst so much more to see. It always brings a smile to my face to see just how well the majority of students are engaging in what is a difficult time for everyone as we spend time as a physically dispersed school community.

On that note, I will wish you all the very best of half terms. I for one am looking forward to a little downtime. The DfE and Government will hopefully give us clarity about the next half term, as the review is scheduled for Thursday, 28 May. We can then continue to plan and deliver in the best way we can as a school, for the most important of people – our students. As always thank you for your support and I would like to sign off thanking the staff, from cleaners to teachers, who continue to do all they can for the students on our behalf.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree

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