Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (18 May 20)

Dear Parents

The weather continues to be good, as is the engagement of our students with their remote learning. I have been incredibly impressed by the enthusiasm and standard of work students continue to produce, as well as with the adaptability of staff to planning such a prolonged series of learning remotely. I hope the weather is allowing people to get out and about a little, especially as some of the tighter lock down restrictions have been eased.

This week has been somewhat of a blur in school. The changes announced and expanded on since last Sunday, have certainly caused some work and no doubt some confusion and worry along the way. A positive first step is that we are now able to welcome back our cleaning team to site and we hope over the coming week to start having a growing number of staff able to access the main school site again. In order to do that, we need careful and considered steps to ensure that any return to site is done safely and in a way that maintains social distancing. That process, as you can imagine, is ongoing and incremental and any changes are being dictated by ensuring that adequate risk assessments and procedures are put into place.

It is on that level of planning that I will start:

Planning for Year 10 and Year 12 receiving Face to Face Sessions on Site

After the vague references, during last Monday’s Prime Ministers speech, to Year 10 and Year 12 receiving face to face time with teachers from Monday, 1 June at the earliest, we have seen a large amount of guidance published by the Department for Education. The crucial guidance on what parameters are being set for Year 10 and Year 12 face to face sessions, is sadly not one of the pieces of guidance we have received and we are told it will be published early this week.

We have an outline plan that we continue to work on and develop, but we will need to see the finer guidance around this ambition of the Government before we can expand on what this may look like, or timelines. Once we know the parameters and have ensured that our plans match them, we will be contacting parents of Year 10 and Year 12 students to outline what our plans would be. All things being equal, we would expect to have more detailed information to share with you on Wednesday this week.

Years 7, 8 and 9

It will not have gone unnoticed that Years 7, 8 and 9 were highlighted by their total absence from the guidance published last week. There is no doubt that they will not be returning during June and it is a distinct possibility that they may not be back physically in school until September. We are currently conducting a review of what remote learning is going to look like for them next half term and we are starting to explore what different approaches we might take to replace or supplement what we are presently delivering, with small groups of students. We are also looking at how we might approach the transition of Year 9 into Year 10 more meaningfully around option subjects. Over the course of this week, we will hopefully be in a position to explain how we will refine what remote learning for these year groups looks like after the upcoming half term break.

Examination Grades for Years 11, 12 and 13

We have finally finished the long task of moderating, grading and ranking every student’s exam entries. My task is to now do one final check before we submit them to the exam boards after half term – the manner in which the staff have engaged in this has been admirable, with meetings taking many hours in each subject so that the discussion and the system has been as rigorous as possible. The process however, of awarding final grades will not stop there and we know that the exam boards will be applying statistical models to the grades we submit, in order to maintain national standards. There will certainly be some degree of variation from what we believe students would have achieved in the summer and what they might receive as standardised final grades. It is for this reason, that no student will be allowed to know the grades that were submitted, or indeed their ranking in each subject.

We hope of course, that the standardised grading approach does not throw out what we would consider inappropriate results, but as this has never been done before, we certainly can’t be guaranteed that will be the case. There will be no right of appeal against the statistical calculation, as it will be applied to every student universally across the country. We will of course do our best to support any student wishing to sit the exams in the Autumn, if they get results they do not think reflect what they would have achieved.

Year 11 – Confirming Places in Sixth Form

Once we have done the final check on the grades we are submitting for our students at GCSE, we will be contacting all those students hoping to study in the Sixth Form. We anticipate following half term, being able to confirm course choices for the students, that in our judgement, are able to study the courses that they have chosen in Sixth Form. This is irrespective of what actual grade they may be finally awarded through the standardised grade approach explained previously. We want to ensure that no student who we believe would have achieved an appropriate grade, worries about whether they have a place for September.

Post 16 Transport for In Catchment Travel – Years 11 and 12 from September 2020

For Year 11 and Year 12 students who currently travel to school using Cumbria County Council transport, if you have not already done so, could you think about the likelihood of requiring Post 16 Transport from September 2020. Full details and the Application Form can be found on our website here.

Replies should be sent to the school’s Main Office by Friday, 29 May 2020. If the school does not receive a reply by the deadline, then your details will not be passed onto Cumbria County Council. Please note that availability of spare seats will not be known until after the start of the academic year. This is likely to be as late as October half term. It must be stressed that until you receive your bus pass then you must make appropriate arrangements to get your child to school.

Once you and your child have finalised your plans for September, it would also be helpful if could you contact the Finance Office on Tel: 016977 45700 or via email transport@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk

Wellbeing and Mental Health

As a school we have a comprehensive Wellbeing and Mental Health strategy. This week, beginning Monday, 18 May, is Mental Health Awareness week and we are focusing on the theme of kindness. Many students have shared with us their acts of kindness and we have produced a short film of all these to share in assemblies.

Additionally, we are working with EduKit, an award-winning social enterprise working with hundreds of schools to measure and improve the wellbeing of students. As a response to the current pandemic, they have launched a free home-school survey to help schools to understand how best to support students through this time. All students have been set this as a task to complete on the VLE over the next week. It is anonymous and will allow us to gauge what additional support we can offer. Thank you for supporting your child to complete this.

Key/Critical Workers Child Care Provision

As the wider re-opening of the economy starts, it has become apparent that demand for places in Key/Critical Workers Child Care provision is growing. As a result, the Hub at Trinity School which has been jointly staffed by WHS, Caldew, Trinity and Morton Academy will close on Friday, 22 May. We are aiming to move the provision back into school as of the Monday, 1 June. If you either continue to, or will now need a place in the child care provision, due to your Key/Critical Worker role, can you please click on the following link to complete the Key Worker and vulnerable Group Provision survey, or if you are not able to access this, please email Mrs Dixon (wdixon@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk) for further information by 8.00am on Wednesday, 20 May at the latest.

There will be lots to update parents on for all year groups at various points and we will endeavour to ensure that we communicate with you, as always, as promptly as possible.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree

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