Headteacher’s Newsletter (September 2021)

Dear Parents

It is a pleasure to welcome back all of our students, new and old, at the start of this academic year. Having had a very successful 2020-21 in so many ways, it is exciting to think of what may be achieved by the students and staff over the coming 38 weeks of this school year.

The summer has, I hope, provided a relaxing time for all involved with the school and allowed people to reconnect and wind down a little. There is no doubt that, in terms of a school year, the passage of time never seems slow and things accelerate away in front of us at an often-frightening pace. It is important, however, that we remain focussed on where it is we want to arrive. For our young people that will vary massively, for some they have firm plans for this year, for their goals and aspirations; for others these are still embryonic, or others again are yet to form any real direction.

It is having a focus on an end point, as well as realising that even if the first time we get it wrong we can learn from that and plan for future success. We may not achieve the destination until after the first, second, third or even more attempts, but that doesn’t mean we should stop or give up on something. I often wonder how often we have all talked to babies as they form their first words in an attempt to coax a word out of them; how many parents have ever stopped trying to get a baby to say mummy? Indeed, if we are honest, how many of us ever failed a driving test and then didn’t go back and try again, passing eventually? So, as we start this year, I would ask everyone who has influence on our young people to reinforce the message that they should never give up, and always try and try again. The eventual end point is always worth reaching and, ultimately, our level of determination to succeed and resilience is what defines our potential.

Having spent numerous days in school over the summer, it is fair to say that the building always feels soulless without the vibrancy which comes from the students. The ethos and life of the school come through them and, in that spirit, there is much to update you on with regard to this coming year and a reflection on what so many achieved in the last 7 weeks.

 

GCSE and A Level Results

This year was not a normal set of results, as in many cases we knew what the students’ grades were going to be after we submitted them for moderation in mid June. Having submitted samples of portfolios and our Centre Policy, we were of course very pleased that the exam boards confirmed the results we submitted. It is certainly worth noting that the students completed more controlled conditions work than they would have done in a normal exam season, and for many it was a much more intense experience than would have been normal. It did ensure they all had ample opportunity to show the standard of work that they were capable of working at consistently, and to that end the results reflect the tremendous amount of work the students put in during the last 8 weeks of school. The teaching staff had also worked tirelessly marking, grading and internally and externally moderating the portfolios of evidence that were used for each student prior to the results being submitted. The students achieved results that were very pleasing across all subjects at both GCSE and A Level, and they were very much deserved and reflected well what they would have achieved if they had had the chance to do their exams as normal. The students can be very proud of what they achieved and also the excellent pathways that they are now accessing.

The destinations of the students from Year 13 are very high quality, from universities such as Cambridge, Kings and Durham to Paris, as well as on to some excellent degree level apprenticeships. Likewise, our GCSE students have all found good progression routes. Many will return to the Sixth Form and we will warmly welcome them back. Others are in local apprenticeships or at Carlisle College and, as I write, we believe all have a secure next stage in their education to progress to, which is a fantastic achievement given the last year.

As always, we wish both Year 13 and Year 11 the very best for the future. We really do mean it when we say that we will miss them fondly and hope they have positive memories of their time here at William Howard.

 

Year 13 and Year 11 Leaving Events

The relaxation of social setting rules has meant that we are able to hold leavers events, albeit belated, at the start of this term. We felt this was really important as the delay in the lifting of restrictions in June caused some planned events to be postponed at quite late notice, and curtailed or prevented some activities that we know the students wanted to organise.

Our former Year 13 gathered for their leaving party at the Halston last Thursday. It was a lovely evening and I am sure the students enjoyed all being back together before many depart for various destinations and institutions across the country.

This Thursday will see the old Year 11 gather at the Garden at Eden for their Prom. I am sure that they will have a fantastic evening and it will be a pleasure to see many of the students again.

 

Homework

Despite ordering our student planners as normal, they are delayed as the company that provides them has a shortage in their supply chain. These will arrive later in September and will not be available for the students as normal at the start of term.

All students and parents can access the homework they have been set by using the SIMS Parent and SIMS Student Apps. All staff will be recording homework on the system and, actually, the lack of planners will help make sure that this is done consistently! A new activation email will be sent to those students who have not yet used the App, and we anticipate that this will by the end of Tuesday, 7 September. To help parents and students who have not yet used the App or are new to the school we have included  an installation guide:

 

Summer School

Year 6 had the opportunity of joining us at William Howard for a Summer School this year thanks to a dedicated DfE grant. This was highly successful with over 60% of our new Year 7 students taking part in the Summer School. They engaged in a wide variety of activities such as F1 design, Maths, English, Media and Art to PE activities. The new murals on the exterior walls of the gym are absolutely fantastic and will be a lasting reminder of the two weeks to the students. The students were overwhelmingly positive about the whole experience, and they have found new friends as well as familiarising themselves with the school. A huge thank you is due to Mrs Myler, who did such a sterling job organising the summer school, as well as to all the other staff who took part.

  

New Staff

As always at the start of a new academic year there have been some changes of staff. Our staffing continues to be stable, and it is good to see that we start the year fully staffed. The new teaching staff who have joined us this year are:

  • Ms Booker, Religious Studies
  • Mr Little, Physics
  • Mr Tanner, Maths
  • Miss Harpham, Maths
  • Miss Cantley, Law
  • Mr Foley-Marshall, History
  • Mrs Sanderson, Geography
  • Mrs Bowes, History
  • Miss Burns, Learning Support

We welcome our new staff to William Howard and I know that you will join me in wishing them every success in their posts.

 

Uniform

As we have started the year the uniform for the vast majority of students is being worn very well indeed. The students’ standard of uniform within the school is outstanding, and I thank all parents for their support in ensuring that they are smartly dressed and taking pride in their appearance. It is always worth pointing out, to avoid any confusion, that students are required to be in uniform while they are on school buses, and students are expected to arrive and leave school grounds in full uniform. I would like to remind parents that the expectations do not diminish as the year goes on, and it is essential to maintain standards as wear and tear leads to replacements. View the Uniform Page for full uniform requirements.

 

Covid 19 Update

I have deliberately focussed on the students and normal school in the first half of the Newsletter as too often in the last year or so we have talked about Covid-19 first. The pandemic does of course still affect how things are working at school, though the latest Department for Education guidance has allowed us to return the majority of the workings of the school back to near normality. The school’s Risk Assessment is on the school website should any parent wish to read it. There remain some facets to keep you abreast of:

Control Measures

The Department for Education have asked schools to continue to implement a series of control measures. At William Howard these include:

  • Dedicated toilets for each year group. Students should only use the toilets assigned to their year group and must observe the capacity limits displayed on the doors;
  • Tissues and hand sanitiser are available in each and every classroom and other points around the school. Students should observe good respiratory hygiene of catch-it, bin-it when sneezing, and regularly wash hands or use sanitiser;
  • Ventilation – doors and windows will be open more than normal but not at the expense of comfortable working conditions;
  • Students are required to wear a face covering on school buses and will be asked to sit in a designated seating plan;
  • Regular testing is available for all students and staff.

Students can of course continue to wear masks indoors if they so wish.

Lateral Flow Testing

All students have been offered two supervised lateral flow tests at the start of term. These have so far identified a very small number of positive cases. All students are encouraged by the Department for Education to undertake twice weekly Lateral Flow Tests up to the end of September in the first instance. The Government will be reviewing this policy this month and we will let you know the outcome of that review once we know. In the meantime, students have been given home testing kits and these remain available for students to collect from their Year Group Managers if they require any further testing kits.

Positive Cases and Close Contacts

Any positive cases identified within the school will now be dealt with by NHS Track and Trace. They will work with the family of the student who has tested positive to identify any potential close contacts, and they will co-ordinate the follow-up. This duty has therefore been removed from school. In many ways we are grateful but also aware that it has the potential to put delays into the system. We will see how this approach develops in the coming weeks. The main point is that, as I am sure you aware, any close contacts of a positive case of Covid-19 are no longer required to self-isolate, but will be advised to take a PCR test, and will be able to attend school if displaying no symptoms, even while awaiting the result. We should therefore see much less disruption to the students from any positive cases.

 

Contacting Staff

The staff of the school can be contacted in a variety of ways. One way is the dedicated contacts page on the school website that provides direct email contacts for particular members of staff. They will respond to you normally within 24 hours, as teaching and other commitments allow. If you wish to speak to a member of staff then please contact the reception at school on 016977 45700.

As most staff teach the majority of the day, they may not be available to take a call.  They will return calls as soon as is possible, although in some cases that may not be until the following day. I would encourage all parents to contact us as soon as you have any concerns or questions. Dealing with issues quickly means that they rarely become insurmountable. As always, if you have any concerns about how a matter has been dealt with, please do contact myself or Ms Pigdon directly, and we will make every effort to address your concerns.

I thank you in advance for the continuing support I know will be forthcoming during the year. It is by working together that ultimately we will see the students achieve what they are capable of, and I look forward to seeing the students grow and develop over the coming year.

Yours sincerely
Chris McAree
Headteacher

Spread the word. Share this post!