We are now starting week 5 of this remote school half-term and I hope despite that, everyone was able in some way, to enjoy the bank holiday weekend. There is now a sense of rhythm to the setting and completion of work by students and staff, but I will be honest and say that I am fatigued by the sheer volume of video calls I now take part in. I pray for the return of face to face conversations and actually I have enjoyed the occasional proper phone call I have made recently. I doubt I am alone in that mind and that we all yearn for some sort of return to normality and old routines!
In my last newsletter I promised to update you once we had some clarity from the Government over what next steps would be. We have now heard from the Prime Minister and it is on that note I will start, though as always, there are other things to update you on:
Greater detail will be released in parliament on Monday, but it is now clear that Years 10 and 12, all things being equal, will be returning to school after half term at some point. Given they were not mentioned in the first hoped for tranche of the return on Monday, 1 June, the assumption has to be that their return would be sometime on or after Monday, 8 June. As for Years 7, 8 and 9 their return to school, physically inside the building, would appear to not yet be mapped out.
As with all things at present, the announcements tend to be followed by a slew of finer detail in numerous documents that will no doubt arrive in the following days. I hope that this will give us some further, more precise detail, to aid planning and that we can pass this on to you – as always, once we have that greater clarity, as soon as possible. In the meantime, students and staff will continue with our current way of working up to half term, as we were expecting.
Office 365 – remember WHS students get it for free!
All students have free access to Microsoft Office 365 under the Microsoft Student Advantage Scheme that allows qualifying schools to provide a copy of Office 365 Pro Plus to their students at no charge. Instructions on how to access and install the software can be found here: https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/download-and-install-or-reinstall-office-365-or-office-2019-on-a-pc-or-mac-4414eaaf-0478-48be-9c42-23adc4716658. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this year from Monday, 18 to Sunday, 24 May 2020. The theme is kindness, which is very apt at this time. Kindness is of course defined as doing something for yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. This is what many students, parents and members of our community are showing in abundance currently and it is a fact that we know from research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism. Over the next few weeks, we’re inviting students to show kindness and experience the positive feelings it brings and this will be a recurring theme in our assemblies before half term.
Home Science Lab
We know that one element of school that students really miss are practical lessons. Health and Safety and parental sanity concerns do stop us recommending some experiments in the home as we know the fire brigade and other emergency services have far too much to be doing at the moment. However, the WHS Science Technicians have been putting together some experiments for you to try at home, that we promise should be engaging and interesting. The first 3 have been posted on the school website here and a new one will be added each week for you to run in your own home laboratory.
My Money Week Competition
Cumbria Education Trust are delighted to announce that they are working in collaboration with Cumbrian Business, More Handles for our “My Money Week” competition. This year’s competition is to design a front door and handle with the theme of Cumbria. This can be favourite places to visit in Cumbria perhaps on your daily walks, it could be people from Cumbria or even products made in Cumbria. The design will be the whole door including the handle! You can download the competition form here. If you would rather just draw a design and send a photo in, that would be great too. On your entry we need your name, school, year group and reason for your design. The competition closes the week after half term and there will be a prize of a Junior ISA of £50 for each winner, in each CET school, with the overall winner receiving £100. The winners will be decided by More Handles and the money awarded to winning students and pupils in each school comes from a prize fund we received as a Financial Education Centre of Excellence in 2015.
Student Work Books
Last week we know many parents did visit the school to pick up spare books for students to work in. We will again on Tuesday and Wednesday open the Lecture Theatre at the school and place spare books in there. Parents can come and collect blank books for students to use if they wish and are able to. We will put up clear signs of how to access the Lecture Theatre using the ramp to Student Services. I cannot emphasise enough that no parent should be entering the main school foyer; this area is being used by the NHS and we do not want their staff distracted or disturbed.
Thank you for the Parental Support
Staff are constantly letting me know about the positive messages that they are receiving from parents during the period of shutdown. Whether that is a dedicated thank you or the general enquiry about how they are when speaking to staff on the phone, or by email about different things they all mean an awful lot to the staff. I just wanted to pass on my thanks to all parents for their support as it is greatly appreciated by everyone at the school.
So, as we look forward we now have an idea of what the next phases will be in these unprecedented times. In the short-term little will change for our students and I hope that they will continue to engage with the work that is being set and take time to participate in the assemblies, the House competitions and everything else available to them.
The hope has to be that we are now starting to slowly move to the time when our school community, whether all together or by year group, can start to reassemble. We are all missing the interactions with the students, colleagues and that closer partnership work with parents. It is certainly worth looking forward to when those connections can be renewed and refreshed in person. As always – take care.
Mr Chris McAree