New Term Arrangements (Updated 5 January 2021)

Dear Parents

To use the Government’s own words:
“Colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term.”

I have to admit I didn’t think we would see such a long period of time for remote learning announced last night. I was expecting a delay to the full return to school, but not the planned loss of on-site provision for the half-term and possibly beyond.

Thankfully, as a school, we are well placed in terms of Remote Learning, and our Vulnerable Student and Critical Workers provision is working well. These will continue to be in place, and our Curriculum Leaders are preparing our plans for ongoing assessment across year groups for the next half term. I am sure, as in the first national lockdown, things will continue to evolve and improve further in what we can offer as we go along.

Exams

I talked to Year 13 and Year 11 today about the statement we received last night. Once again it is appropriate to use the Government’s own words:
“In the circumstances, we do not think it is possible for all exams in the summer to go ahead as planned. We will accordingly be working with Ofqual to consult rapidly to put in place alternative arrangements that will allow students to progress fairly.”

This statement is quite clear, and is the current position. It was clarified late last night that all vocational exams scheduled for January and February will still currently be going ahead, and we wrote to parents and students this morning outlining these arrangements.

Looking further ahead, it means that all GCSEs and A Levels have been cancelled for this summer in their current format. Alternative Assessment will be put in place – this is potentially not a total cancellation of exams as assessment does encompass coursework, exams, as well as teacher assessment. We will not know what this alternative form of appropriate assessment will be, certainly for a few weeks, and it would be unwise to speculate, but it certainly will not be purely teacher assessment like last year, as there will be some mechanism for moderation of standards, whether that is common work or work completed in formal timed conditions (exams). The spectrum of how this appropriate assessment will be done is very wide indeed.
It is therefore imperative that students continue to fully engage in their remote learning, completing their syllabuses and any assessments they are set. They should not in any way feel that they cannot continue to improve and demonstrate ever higher standards in their work and levels of attainment.

Lateral Flow Tests

The planned-for Lateral Flow Tests that we had scheduled for this week will now no longer take place. We were in the position to conduct these for all students who wished to have one, and I am sure that preparation will not be totally wasted as they will no doubt play a part in the return to school when it comes.
We will be conducting weekly tests on students attending the Hub provision and also the staff who are manning it.

Spare Books

The period of remote learning is clearly now longer than we originally thought would be the case. As such, students will start to run out of room in their class books. There will be a supply of spare books which can be picked up by parents or students outside Main Reception every weekday. Please do not worry if the book does not quite match the colour normally used by a subject.

WHS Transport Routes

We are conscious that some parents pay for their child to be transported on one of the routes provided by the school. As a school we have suspended any further direct debits until further notice, so the February direct debit onwards will not be requested until further notice and normal school is resumed.

ICT Support

All students can ask for ICT support if they are having difficulty with any aspect of connecting to or accessing their remote learning. Students who have a school laptop should also use the support link if they are having any issues with the laptop they have been provided with.

Free School Meals

We will be sending vouchers in the coming days through the Wonde system to all eligible families for next week. The system for getting support to families may change beyond that if the Government introduces a national scheme but, to ensure coverage and support, we have already initiated this for the first two weeks of term. Any eligible family who has not received their vouchers must contact Mrs Mothersdale, (emothersdale@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk) as soon as possible.

Updates

As we now move once more to being a remote school for the majority of our students, we will be reintroducing the weekly newsletter for parents to keep everyone informed of developments.
I hope that everyone stays safe in the coming weeks and, as always, would remind you, if in doubt, to ask. We will always do our best to support the students in these challenging times.

Yours sincerely
Chris McAree
Headteacher

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