Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (15 June 2020)

Dear Parents

I start this week by reflecting on the odd things Covid19 has led to. The main one for me that caught my focus this week, was that for the first time in my life, Coventry City have won a league title. Now don’t get me wrong, I was on the terraces at Wembley in 1987 when Gary Mabbutt’s knee won us the FA Cup in 1987, but I never thought we would win a league. That we certainly did after the cancellation of the rest of the League One season and yes, it took multiple relegations etc to climb back up from, but what a great week.

To many of you, the mini triumph of my home city football club may seem a non-event. As a kid growing up as we played consistently in the old Division One and then the Premiership, I would have baulked at the notion that Coventry would ever have been in the third tier of football, so why would I care if they won the league at that level. Things over time change though and at this point in time it is worthy of celebration. I highlight it as next week we welcome back to school Year 10 and Year 12, which is likewise worthy of a celebration.

If you told any of us 6 months ago that we would be grateful we could have 25% of two-year groups at school, we all would have been shocked. That though is the situation we are in and I cannot state enough just how much I am looking forward to at least some of our students being back from Monday. We are fully utilising every day we have left to get as much on-site face to face work done with these year groups. I am really heartened as I write this newsletter, that only just over thirty students in Year 10 and about ten in Year 12 have indicated they will not be returning straight away. I am sure there are a few more that will also not be in, but overall, I think it speaks volumes that our parents have confidence in us and students want to be back.

Like Coventry, what we need now is a kick on from those in charge to push to win the next league. Winning League One, getting some students back, is a start, but it’s not what the fan base or schools need long term. So, I am going to be outspoken this week, not demanding that Coventry spend a fortune to ascend to the Premiership, but to ask for some clear decisions from the Government. Our children need decisions that are thought through, that have definitive timelines, that are not left for schools to interpret – actually just some direction. They need to tell us what they want doing, having discussed it and considered what is possible, and we will get it done.

The statement from the Education Secretary on Tuesday, effectively ended any hope of changes beyond those planned for Year 10 and Year 12 in Secondary schools; before the end of term and left lots of questions unanswered. Those questions need answers sooner rather than later. We want to know when we can get more students back, when we can see students in year groups that have been out of school since March and what September looks like and what we should be planning for, even if that is a scenario A and scenario B.

I say that as the Headteacher of a school, where we think we have provided well for our students, where our staff have upskilled and delivered remote learning we are proud of, where virtually all our students have engaged well. I made a list of what we are doing and it is a long list: live seminar sessions for Years 7 – 9, live lessons for Year 12, video lessons in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10, copious amounts of online learning materials, seven assemblies a week, hundreds of weekly pieces of email support, hundreds of telephone calls to students and parents, House competitions, Year 11 bridging lessons, Sixth Form seminar programme, Key Worker provision and more… It is amazing that last week we did more online lessons than the Oak National Academy, that is funded to the tune of £30 million by the DfE!

That’s our school, however, we are seeing a head of steam building in the national media to say students have all fallen behind and we need some sort of national mission on education. It has saddened me a little and irritated me more. The majority of our students don’t need catch-up sessions in the summer, our students need a rest and so do our staff. With your support we have, on the whole, managed remote learning well and while we know it’s not as good, or as impactful as normal school, let’s not imply the students have been doing nothing and that somehow, they have a gulf of knowledge. Our Year 12 are not behind, Year 10 are, in the main, still on track.  Our KS3 students have not been abandoned, as some in the media would have us believe has happened countrywide. Let us tackle where provision has been poor and challenge why some schools have not supported their students, but let’s not give a knee jerk reaction for every child, when many are working hard and grafting away. Summer activities might be good if they were focused on getting our students socialising again, but ours are doing their school work and shouldn’t lose that time to relax. Yes, there are a few individuals we might want to work with, but let’s target that support and do it right.

I don’t often vent openly about how frustrating things are currently, that is normally reserved for my poor long-suffering wife, but I want to assure you as parents that we are doing all we can within what we are allowed to do. Coventry winning a league is great and I’ll raise a glass to that and hope beyond hope that the season for the unexpected might continue with us seeing clear, succinct, unambiguous plans that we can all work towards for September and beyond.

Years 7, 8 and 9 Live Help Seminars

The seminars we started last week have been going well. The timetable for these is attached here and where email support is not enabling a student to overcome any issues with the work, these will continue to be available. Email support remains the default mechanism of course for interacting with staff and should always be tried first. If, after doing this, a student is unable to overcome the misunderstanding or issue, they should be encouraged 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 (shown on the timetable), asking to be invited to the meeting at the very latest an hour before it starts, 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.

Key/Critical Workers Child Care Provision

The Key/Critical Workers Child Care provision continues on site and it is always good to see the students who use it.  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 for your child to take up a place in the hub, then please do email Mrs Dixon, wdixon@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk for further information at least 24 hours 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.

On which note I will finish this week’s Newsletter – it has been a long week though surprisingly uneventful in terms of new developments, though I am starting to wish for some now!

Take care.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree
Headteacher

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