Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (19 June 2020)

Dear Parents

I have to start this week by thanking the many parents who have sent emails and called to pass on your thanks to the staff and school for the manner in which we continue to work with you, to deliver the best remote learning we can. The comments are appreciated and always passed on in an appropriate manner.

It has been a busy week, that goes without saying I suppose, as such I will get straight to the news and updates for you for once!


Year 10 and 12 Return

Normality in some ways returned to the school starting Monday. As I have said all along, as soon as we could, we opened for the maximum number of students we were allowed to have on site. The numbers of students taking advantage of the Face to Face sessions has been heartening. We have nearly 80% attendance in Year 10 and over 90% attendance in Year 12. These are really pleasing, but what was even better was the rapport and engagement from students in the lessons and how well they adapted to the new arrangements we have had to put into place. It was also warming to see so many staff in person again and I know from everyone who has taught in person this week, our students have really enjoyed being back. Our timetable for Year 10 and Year 12 is such that we are using every day we can between now and the end of term. Along with the hub students we are also providing for, we are as close as possible to the 25% of the combined Year 10 and Year 12 cohorts we can have on site.


Government Changes to Secondary Guidance

I should be used to the Department of Education changing guidance documents on a near daily basis. This happened as usual this week with the confirmation we could not have more students on site than 25% of the Year 10 and Year 12 cohort, with the normal curve ball. It was reported widely in the media that we could invite every student in for a one-off meeting to discuss their work. As normal, the detail of most reporting was lacking, as the guidance makes it clear that we cannot have more students on site than would equate to 25% of Year 10 and Year 12. That leaves us with several issues, and shows the total lack of thinking of the change and how practical it is because:

  • As a rural school, where most students get transport to school, how would you go about organising to see nearly 700 students for a 15 minute meeting, without having more than 90 on site at once – which is our 25% of Years 10 and 12 limit?
  • What is the purpose of a meeting with one member of staff? If we have the students meet all their teachers we would need all staff on site for nearly 2 weeks solid – how would we then provide the remote learning we are? How would we supervise the students in their groups of 90 while they waited for their meetings with each member of staff?
  • Our timetable for Year 10 and Year 12 leaves one day spare, the last day of term. If we do the one-off meeting for students in Years 7, 8 and 9, we have to suspend the Year 10 and Year 12 timetable for 2 weeks, or we have students in for just a 5 – 10 minute chat, each on the last day. The students would need to leave site to keep to the guidance immediately after their meeting.
  • The guidance is clear we have to keep to bubbles, restrict contact and be mindful of social distancing so we can’t even do a tutor meeting where we invite parents. That would put us in the position of gathering hundreds of people on site at the same time.

I cannot emphasise enough just how citycentric and ill thought out this policy is and how impractical it is to enact if you have put in plans for Year 10 and Year 12 like we have. I assure you we are trying to figure out a way of seeing more of our students and hope that we might get more helpful changes at some point in the coming weeks. An embryonic idea is starting to develop that might see us circumnavigating many of the issues highlighted, by doing individual meetings remotely (which we hope could also involve parents). Hopefully we will have some details on that for you next week.

I will be clear that whatever we do must not affect what we are already providing, which is of high quality and is keeping the vast majority of students on track with their work.


Year 11

Leavers Assembly

This Friday we had our Year 11 Leavers Assembly for our students. It will be the same but different experience to normal and the recording will be made available to everyone as we know not every Year 11 will be able to see it live.

The Prom

The Year 11 Prom is re-booked for Friday, 16 October and we have fingers crossed that we can see our Year 11 for the best of send offs, even if it will be belated.

Sixth Form Acceptance Letters

We have submitted the ranking and centre determined grades for all our students. We are now not in control of any moderation that may be statistically applied to the grades, but we do know what we think the students would have achieved. We cannot share that information, but instead have written to all our Year 11 students who have been doing Year 12 bridging lessons to confirm their place in the Sixth Form next year. These confirmation letters mean we will be accepting the students into the Sixth Form no matter what moderation and standardisation may happen to their grades, as the statistical models to maintain the national grade distribution is applied.


Year 8 Creative Curriculum

A massive thank you to Year 8 for getting their choices for the creative curriculum in Year 9 submitted. Ms Pigdon is now working through these and we hope to be able to confirm choices as soon as is possible. I am sure Year 8 are all looking forward to studying the wide variety of subjects that were on offer.


Year 6 Transition Work

Before sitting down to write the Newsletter this week, I had just joined Mr Anderson, Mrs O’Connor, Ms Pigdon and Mr Metcalfe to record a broadcast for our new Year 7 parents. It is odd doing a Transition Evening as a recording, but we are not currently allowed to have a gathering of parents as you can imagine.

The work on transition has certainly not been forgotten and Mr Anderson and other staff have been contacting primary schools to gather information on our new Year 7s. We have a detailed plan of broadcasts, live meetings and other engagement activities planned for the students and parents over the coming weeks, which we hope will help with the transition process.


Years 7, 8 and 9 Live Help Seminars

The seminars continue this week and they continue to go well. The timetable for these is attached here: Seminar Timetable KS3 22 June 20, 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

As always, I will take the opportunity to remind all parents that 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 who has previously indicated to us they may utilise 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 email Mrs Dixon, wdixon@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk at least 24hrs 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 although surprisingly uneventful in terms of new developments – though as I do one final read through, catch-up funding is being announced!

Take care.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree

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