Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (16 July 2020)

Dear Parents

Over the coming months and years many people will look back and write much more eloquently than I, about just how unusual, challenging and at times surprisingly uplifting the last few months have been. We will all have our own memories, interpretation of the times and experiences to share. As a Headteacher I will no doubt offer my reflection on the last term and a bit of school at some point. I want to take the opportunity though in what has been an undoubtedly sad and worrying times for many, to highlight what I have been fortunate enough to see that deserves celebration.

The students have amazed us with their engagement, not only in the remote learning we have provided, but their adaptability to the new systems and ideas we introduced. Just some of the things they have engaged with include quizzes for Years 7 and 8, becoming proficient in Microsoft Teams across all year groups, taking part in remote assemblies, House competitions, tasks, challenges and literally hundreds of VLE set work and video lessons. Their resilience, one of our school’s core values, has been a credit to themselves and their parents.

From the very first Monday of shutdown, as over 130 staff gathered on Teams for the weekly briefing at 8.00am, I have been humbled by the dedication everyone has shown to delivering the best education we could over those coming weeks. Their collective sense of responsibility, our schools’ second core value, makes me proud that they work for us at WHS. No matter what circumstances they faced at home within families, or like yourselves juggling work and home schooling they have kept going. They haven’t missed a beat, adapting to the evolving ideas of the leadership team, staying together as departments and supporting each other, while always being there to help and assist any student who contacted them. Across the staff, there is not one of them who has not taken their responsibility for the students’ learning and supporting families with the utmost dedication.

There are some specific unsung people who I do need to mention, highlighting the third of the school’s core values. That value is respect and I cannot emphasise enough how much I have respect for what these individuals do, and how they have helped us to continue to function. The first is Wendy, our Admin Team Leader. She has been in work organising the support staff, mailing out work, sending out messages to mention but a few things, nearly every day and often late into the night. The other two people are Sowena and Ian, our Site Staff. They have worked constantly, supporting not only the school, but also the Pharmacy that was on site for well over 100 days. They have been here maintaining the school site without a break since March. I am sure all three (and everyone else!) will be glad to not have me asking yet more of them and their teams, for a week at least!

With the recognition due now given, it is safe to say the summer holiday is nearly upon us. When I manage to get into a pub (I have to admit it is my ambition for Monday), I will raise a glass to everyone mentioned. I am going to take a day reading the papers and trying to switch off, I may even leave my phone and email at home. But before I have that moment of intentional solitude next week, there are few things to bring to your attention.

September 2020 – Provisional Plans

To make things easy to find, we will be putting a link on the homepage of the school website to a dedicated section, which will contain all the information regarding September re-opening of the school for all year groups. This now contains a document explaining the provisional Operational Details for September, as well as a map showing the Year Group Bubble areas and a FAQs document, which we will keep adding to, about what we currently have planned. When we put updates on the page of any great significance, we will alert all parents to this. There are a few things we communicated in last week’s Newsletter I would nevertheless remind all parents of:

Timings of the Day

While we operate in Year Group bubbles, the school day will be: Period 1 starts 8.45am – School finishes at 2.45pm

The new arrangements of the day and the move to a static lunchtime and a smaller break, as well as removing the need for movement time between lessons cuts 30 minutes from the school day. Period 1, not registration, will start at 8.45am and school will finish at 2.45pm, while we work within these parameters. To reduce staff movement, the Period 1 teacher each day will be in charge of the Pastoral time between Period 1 and Period 2; we will be working a floating Tutor period into the week on a rotating basis, so students have weekly contact with their normal Form Tutor for Pastoral stability. The Library will be open until 4.30pm, for any student who needs to use it.

Start of Term

We will be opening in a phased manner over the first two days of the term. To be precise we are intending to open for the following Year Groups on the two days as follows:

  • Thursday, 3 September – Years 7, 9, 11 and 13
  • Friday, 4 September – Years 7, 8, 10 and 12

Year 7 will be in both days to help their orientation to the school and so they can meet as many staff as possible. On each day the students will spend the first two periods with their Form Tutor. All students will be expected to be in school as normal on Monday, 7 September. We know that this “soft start” may cause some parents concern, but we also hope that it is recognised that getting 1450 students operating in the school successfully under the new conditions, is vital for a safe and productive start to the term.

Student Timetables

While the students are in bubbles, they do have timetables very much like any other year. Once we officially “roll-over” our management system to pick up the new timetable, the student versions will appear in the SIMs App, which Years 8 – 13 students and parents have access to. This will happen sometime in August. Year 7 will be given their timetables on the first morning back on Thursday, 3 September.

Summer Holiday Activity Directories

To support parents and carers looking for childcare and activities during the school summer holidays 2020, Cumbria County Council and partners have launched an online directory for each district of Cumbria, which lists local options for holiday camps, childcare providers and other support services and activities.  You can find the directory for the Carlisle Council Area here: https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/childrensservices/childrenandfamilies/cfis/.

Cumbria County Council will be updating the directories on a regular basis as they receive more information. They will also be posting information about events and activities on their Facebook page @ChildrenandFamiliesInformationService throughout the summer holidays. There is further guidance for parents about attending out of school settings available on the government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-parents-and-carers-of-children-attending-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Uniform Shop

The uniform shop will open on school site during the summer holidays on the following dates:
Monday, 17 August to Thursday, 27 August from 9.30am to 3.00pm (weekdays only).

All relevant regulations will be followed for a retail outlet as they are at that time and further details will be available nearer the time on the school website.

Results Days

We have written separately this week to Year 11 and Year 13 parents. As a reminder the results days take place as follows:

  • A Level – Thursday, 13 August from 8.00am
  • GCSE – Thursday, 20 August from 8.00am

Students will be required to queue in a socially distanced manner, though they can bring someone from their family with them to pick up their results. We would ask that students and parents do not congregate outside the school after collecting results. The normal assistance from our pastoral staff, teachers and Inspira will be on hand.

The VLE is still there

I would remind students and parents that the VLE does not get switched off over the summer. If they haven’t quite kept up with all of the remote learning, or want to do some of the wider activities that are on there, please do use the site to access these. The very best thing any student could do is to make sure they are fully up to date with their peers, so that the start back in September is as smooth as possible. https://vle.williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk

Contact With School Over The Summer Holiday

The site is open all holiday as we have some major work ongoing in Maths, to totally refurbish some classrooms. The main office is not open the first 3 weeks of the holiday and I would strongly suggest that if you need to contact the school over this period that you use email via mail@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk. This is monitored by multiple staff, so will be the one that will get the fastest response. We are going to try as a school to have a clean break for the first 3 weeks of the holiday, but will of course answer questions or support if needed to.

Which leaves me at the end of my now 16th Newsletter, since we were instructed to close the school by the Government, due to the Covid19 Pandemic. I promise that I will take a rest from writing for the first 3 or 4 weeks of the holidays, at least! It will be great to hopefully focus on the final arrangements for everyone being back in school in September, around late August.  Enjoy your summer break.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree

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