Closure Letter from Mr McAree

Dear Parents

It feels like in the last two weeks you will have been bombarded with letters and information, as things have changed so rapidly, due to the ongoing COVID 19 outbreak. This marks the last of the letters I will be sending for the foreseeable future, while the students are in school. Communication from this point forward will be done while the majority of our students are working remotely away from the school, as indeed, will be many of the staff.
There are numerous things to update you on, clarify where we can, and to provide you with information before the school closes to comply with the governmental directive.

Student work

In assemblies this week, we have explained to all students in school, how to access their work and the expectations for its completion, during the school closure. Students will be set work according to their timetable each day of the normal term, through the school’s Virtual Learning Environment (Firefly). This work should be completed in the students’ exercise books, which they should now have at home, as over the last three weeks we have made a conscious effort to ensure these were with all students.

We know that some students will be running out of room in books, or may not have theirs at home currently. If that is the case, we have a supply of blank exercise books available at school for students or parents to pick as needed. These will be located in the school’s Reception area on a table and can be accessed while the school is open between 8.00am and 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

The work will be checked on their return to school – in the weeks after Easter, as it becomes clearer what the length of the closure will be, we will advise how we might be able to do some assessment remotely.

Whenever possible, the Sixth Form will have video conference lessons to support the work set on Firefly.

For students with no internet connection, printed work will be sent home weekly.

Departments will be monitoring that students access the tasks set, and all staff will be available (health permitting) during the students’ normal timetabled lessons by email, to help support with work. Heads of Department are also contactable via the contacts page on the school website, if needed.

A guide on how to access the work and systems is here: Remote Learning in the Event of School Closure

We cannot emphasise enough how vital it is that parents encourage students to complete the work being set. In a worst-case scenario, they could be working remotely from school for a number of months and catching up on the missed learning would be difficult. Together we have to try and ensure that they remain engaged in their schooling.

Staying Safe and being Mindful of others

I do want to remind all parents why the drastic step of closing the schools has taken place. It is to protect people and to try and stop contact between different groups within our communities, and to allow people to look after themselves and their families. Students will have work throughout the closure period as if they were in normal school and they should be inside, completing that work during the day. Students and parents should adhere to the guidance around social distancing and we all have a responsibility to ensure that we follow that guidance. Hanging around with friends, being out and about in their local area and, in worst cases, causing any disturbance that may divert the emergency services from their vital work, would be completely unacceptable. It is all of our civic duty to make sure the very situation they are off school to help address is not made worse through their actions.

Many students are already volunteering to help neighbours and elderly relatives and it is those stories we want to celebrate and encourage in the coming months. I would like to think every student would look left, look right, look across the street and help support the elderly and vulnerable at this time. That could be by tidying a garden, getting some shopping or actually just calling Grandparents more often, to keep them feeling supported and connected with us all.

There is no doubt that occupying the students and ourselves at times will be difficult, but it is certainly a challenge we can all meet.

Year 11 and Year 13 Qualification Awards

As you will be aware it has been decided that there will be no GCSE or A Level exams this summer. We have now been informed on how the grades will be determined – they will be a combination of teacher predictions and statistical modelling so that the grade distribution matches quite closely previous years.

The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received, if exams had gone ahead. To produce this, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment – clear guidance on how to do this, fairly and robustly, will be provided to schools and colleges. The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in. Ofqual and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that it is as fair as possible. More information will be provided as soon as possible.

The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. It is the aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to.

The exact details will become apparent as the next few weeks go by – as we find out more the detail we will inform parents and students in Years 11 and 13 directly.

In the meantime, we would encourage all students to complete the work set to the highest possible standard, bearing in mind it is highly likely that it will be used to form part of the judgement of the grade they should be awarded.

Pastoral Contacts

Student Managers and Directors of Learning will be in touch with students and their families periodically through the normal term time within the closure period. If you have any concerns or indeed want to ask something about school, then please do email them. We do not know if any staff may at some point become unable to respond for a variety of reasons, so please copy both contacts into any correspondence. A reminder of the Year group contacts for ease are:
Year 7

  • Mr Anderson –
  • Miss Elliot –

Year 8

  • Mrs Cruickshank –
  • Mrs Wood –

Year 9

  • Mr Buttress –
  • Mrs McGahan –

Year 10

  • Miss Mulholland –
  • Mr Metcalfe –
  • Mrs Jones –

Year 11

  • Ms Ledger –
  • Mrs Mingotti –

Sixth Form

  • Mrs Swan –
  • Mr Booth –

Reporting a Safeguarding Concern

As a school, acting in a remote capacity or not, we are always committed to ensuring the welfare and safety of all our students. If any members of the school or local community have concerns about the welfare of a student, or if you have any safeguarding queries, please contact our School Safeguarding Team who will be in contact as soon as is feasible. Our Designated Safeguarding Leads are: Mrs Cruickshank-Hunter and Mrs Mothersdale who can be reached using the dedicated Safeguarding email:

Child Care Provision for Key Workers

The Secretary of State has asked all schools, where they can, to provide Child Care for Key Workers. We conducted a survey on likely demand for, during this week on behalf of Cumbria County Council. We have written directly to the 48 parents who responded about how this provision will be put in place next week. We would remind all parents that the governmental guidance is that many parents working in key sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home, and every child who can be safely cared for at home, should be.
The staff who will be supervising the children have all volunteered to do so and will be doing it in addition to providing the remote support of learning for each of their classes. I am sure you would want to offer them every support and at times these staff may not be available as readily during school hours, as they would be otherwise. This will be due to their commitments providing this additional service for the families of those Key Workers.

Keeping in Regular Contact

We are acutely aware that we will need to keep in regular contact with parents and students alike. We will do this through a weekly update Newsletter, as well as being available during term time via email. Unless we have a total travel ban imposed, we will ensure that the school itself is manned
during term time if you do need to phone. We will see that any messages are passed onto the appropriate member of staff.

The next couple of months will be odd – our school community will not be together physically, but we will still all be connected. We will be here for the students and you, if you need us. Supporting where we can and always planning and thinking of when the school will again be allowed to return to its normal running. We hope we will see the students at some time in the summer term.

The school, for those of us who will be in, will certainly be little more than an empty shell without that vibrancy each and every one of them brings to our community. I wish everyone the very best for the days ahead and hope that you and your families are all able to stay safe.

Yours sincerely
Mr Chris McAree

Closure letter March 2020 (pdf)

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