Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (5 June 2020)

Dear Parents

Like always at the moment it has been another incredibly busy week in school. In my role I sort of expect that to be honest and while there are undoubtedly more things to react to, I cannot really complain, it’s my job. My private mini rants that my long-suffering wife has to put up with about the lateness of announcements, changes in direction, guidance that is issued at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, are just my release valves. Last night, is a good example, as a DfE email landed at 9.52pm! However, the next day I am lucky to be back in my office and back onto whatever the tasks at hand may be. Puncturing my work day, I get the pleasure of hearing directly from parents, students and staff about the engagement and provision we are providing. What made me smile the most this week, was when Mr O’Connor was organising letters to students where he revealed that in Key Stage 3 we have only got serious concerns that we are constantly following up with 6% of students. Given that a recent report said nationally that much less than half of students were engaged in their remote learning, it is very pleasing. This is a positive reflection on the whole school community of parents, students and staff working together.

I have no hesitation in saying that our staff have responded magnificently to upskilling themselves in supporting our students remotely in an ever-expanded manner. Many balance family care and home schooling, with carrying out their own work and they are at times, I know, feeling the pressure of the two things together. That said, it never ceases to amaze me how they are adapting, working as teams to support each other, our students, and showing true flexibility to make things work, no matter what the Headteacher has thought of as the next change! I am conscious in all my weekly newsletters I am yet to publicly thank all staff for what they do, which I am sure you will agree they deserve.

Equally, students are adapting, sometimes working round device access and internet issues and managing to keep their learning continuing. Others are helping relatives or looking after siblings, each student is having a different experience. The support for the students from the vast majority of parents has been humbling. There is a collective endeavour to engage and learn as best as is possible. I really look forward to the day we can get back to some sort of greater sense of normality and as a community of learners, we get back on site together once again.

Until that time, if there is anything we can do to help, don’t ever hesitate to contact the Year Group Teams, Subject Teachers, Curriculum Leaders or myself. We will always try and find a solution, it might take time but there is normally a way forward. As always, there is much to keep you updated with:

Years 7, 8 and 9 Live help seminars

As I explained before half term, we have made changes to the remote learning support for Years 7, 8 and 9 this half term. The first part of that change the students should have seen in the form of video lessons that are now accompanying their work which is set. We hope these provide a good link to staff and also make the work a little easier to understand and start.

The second element of the change was that we are aiming to provide online seminars for students, where the email support was not enabling them to overcome any issues with the work. Email support remains the default mechanism for interacting with staff and should always be tried first. If after doing this a student is still unable to overcome the misunderstanding or issue, there is the opportunity to join a live seminar with a member of staff who will be available to help them. In order to join one of these sessions, students need to email the lead teacher directly, asking to be invited to the meeting, at the very latest an hour before the start of the session, outlining the issue. These will be open only to those students who have asked to take part and by giving staff an indication of the problem, prior to the seminar they will be best placed to help the students.

KS3 Seminar Programme

We will need to see how these go and will review them as we go, but we hope they will be beneficial for some students.

Setting of Work by Staff

A query we have dealt with this week is that students are sometimes a little confused that their originally timetabled teacher for a subject is not the one necessarily now setting them their work. This is because we have internally been rearranging which staff deliver which element of provision, so that we play to their strengths and ensure full curriculum coverage, while also releasing enough staff for the upcoming return to school of Year 10 and Year 12, taking into account staff availability to be onsite.

Face to Face Sessions for Year 10 and Year 12

We wrote to parents of Year 10 and Year 12 earlier this week outlining our plans to meet the Government’s ambition to have 25% of each year group, back on site at any one-time, receiving Face to Face support for their remote learning. The letters and wider documents are all available on the website to view https://www.williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk/return-of-years-10-12-to-school/.  Subject to Cumbria Education Trust Board’s approval, we hope that we can start implementing these plans on Monday, 15 June. It will be great to see more students back in school.

A reminder that any Year 10 or Year 12 parents who do wish to feedback on the proposals can do so through the dedicated email: feedback@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk.

Parent Broadcast
We are hoping for Trust Board approval for the Face to Face sessions to start on Monday, 15 June to be given on Monday. If the Trust Board approve the opening, then we will be holding a Broadcast Event for Parents on Tuesday, 9 June at 5.30pm. This should enable parents to be taken through the plan for the reopening, as well as having the chance to ask any questions they may have, using the chat facility. The link to the live broadcast is below and it can be watched through any browser, or inside Microsoft Teams. https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_ZjcyMmZiYTgtOWMyYS00MDgxLWIwZjUtY2RmNzRjMDYyZTI2%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%225a9287e5-0f25-4c15-918d-ef838cef61b2%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22a11c8549-9a9b-40d9-b12d-fbae55d4d219%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d
We will also send the link out by email to parents on Tuesday afternoon. If you cannot make the Broadcast then it will be available using the same link as a recording after it has finished.

Face Masks for Transport
As I write this newsletter, the normal curve ball has been thrown our way, with the announcement that from Monday, 15 June, everyone on Public Transport is going to be required to wear a face mask. School transport is normally governed by the same regulations and we will be seeking clarity from the Department for Education whether it does indeed cover school buses. It is a topic we will update parents about early next week, as we find out more. As a school that is virtually entirely dependent on school buses for access to site, it is something we will be working to clarify, so we can put in place a solution if needed.

Parental Discretion for students not to attend
As our information clearly communicates, it is down to parental discretion if their child from Year 10 or Year 12 attends school, for their Face to Face sessions. We would ask that any parent exercising this right, can let us know by emailing us via feedback@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk, stating the students name and form group. This allows us to best match staffing to need, and will also mean that we will not be following up absence.

PD Curriculum

From this September, schools across the country will be changing the way in which ‘Relationships and Sex Education’ is covered in the curriculum. This is to meet new statutory guidance, which has come from the Department of Education. Whilst for some schools this will involve major changes and revisions, for us, this only means some development of the existing PD Curriculum. Before school closed down in March we were able to consult students across all Key Stages, and we would now like to invite you to share your views on our proposed policy. If you click on this link you will be able to access the draft policy, as well as some questions for you to consider: https://vle.williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk/questionnaires/rse-policy-questionnaire

Director of Learning Changes

As we prepare for the next academic year, one of the first stages is always letting students and parents know who the Directors of Learning are. Normally we would make changes in September, but with the hopeful return of Year 10 to site for some Face to Face provision and the need to do Transition for Year 6 into Year 7, we are letting people know some of the changes now.

We have made the decision to move our most experienced Director of Learning, Ms Ledger, to take Year 11 next year, as she is well versed in the demands of GCSE year groups. She will start to work closely with Mrs Jones and Miss Mulholland for the remainder of this year. As Mr Anderson is also eager to follow the current Year 7 into Year 8, which we want to support, though he remains in charge of primary/secondary transition, Mr Metcalfe will be moving from his current role with Year 10 to start deeper transition work with the new Year 6 students. The Directors of Learning for the rest of this academic year are:

  • Year 6 (New Year 7) – Mr Metcalfe
  • Year 7 – Mr Anderson
  • Year 8 – Mrs Cruickshank
  • Year 9 – Mr Buttress
  • Year 10 – Miss Mulholland and Ms Ledger

Key/Critical Workers Child Care Provision

The Key/Critical Workers Child Care provision has returned to WHS from the hub at Trinity and it has been great to see some of our students back on site. We have the names of everyone we think will be using the provision and we continue to be in touch with them directly about arrangements on a weekly basis. 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 24hrs in advance of the place being required. We need that level of notice to ensure appropriate staffing levels 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 in the Notices section here. If you would like any support with this, please contact Mrs Mothersdale via email emothersdale@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk.

Mental Health Support

A huge thank you to all the students who completed our mental health survey before half term. We are analysing the results and overall, they are very positive for our school compared to other schools. One area we’ll cover more over the next week is the question “Do you feel that your school has provided enough support for your wellbeing and mental health?” For this, 21% answered unsure to the question, with 9% not really and 4% not at all. We have a number of ideas to develop our support more explicitly, but I would like to remind yourself and students that you can look at our wellbeing page https://www.williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk/whs-wellbeing-info/ where we have a wide range of advice.

We are also working on what support is needed for the return to school of students using research called “The Recovery Curriculum”. Therefore, our focus this final half term is about relationships and our community. More information will follow on this in due course, but if you have any ideas or would like to contribute to our wellbeing strategy, please do get in touch with Mrs Mothersdale emothersdale@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk

Have a good weekend and take care.
Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree

Spread the word. Share this post!