Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (26 June 2020)

Dear Parents

I have to admit that on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, I scooted out of work just after the end of school (which I have firmly locked into being 3.15pm) to push a lawn mower around in the garden. It was just one of those jobs that needed doing and with the recent showery weather, the lawn was getting a little ragged. Order is now restored in the garden, but it made me think of the routine things that we all just do in our lives, Covid19 withstanding.

The last two weeks of school, with Year 10 and Year 12 back and giving a sense of routine to those of us in school everyday, have pivoted towards our normal planning for the next academic year 2020-21. Ms Pigdon is deep in the timetable sorting out staffing, we have the School Improvement Plan drafted, Form Tutor lists being confirmed, the calendar for Parents Evenings, reports, exams, Year 6 data processing and roles and responsibilities all being tweaked, to mention just a few things. It has felt good to be back doing the normal organisational things for this time of the year.

We don’t have the normal events to look forward to though, the foreign trips that would have been departing this week for example, but there is light at the end of the tunnel that gives me an optimistic view on next year.

 

September 2020

The Government clarification that we will see all students back in every year group in September is certainly a welcome one, if not overdue. The rumour is very active around what that will look like and we expect the detailed guidance early next week. I am anticipating we will need to make some adjustments to potential timings of the day, to spread out breaks, increase cleaning of common areas, but I am expecting social distancing to be removed so we can actually get students into classrooms as normal. As they say – let’s see what gets published next week!

 

Catch-up funding

The big-ticket announcement of the last week, was the £1 billion in catch-up funding and tutoring support for schools.

National Tutoring Service

£350 million of this has been set aside by the Government to pay directly to tutoring companies to subsidise 1:1 tutoring for disadvantaged students, where schools, if they commission the tutoring could benefit from up to a 75% reduction in the cost. It is not free tutoring, it will cost the school money for each student if it is used. The DfE have invited tutoring companies to bid for the money, whether this will see anybody in the local area make a submission we wait to see. The detail of the system is still to be seen and we will watch developments eagerly to see if it is something that we can take advantage of.

Catch-up money

£650 million will be split between all schools on a per student basis. The exact amount we will get as a school is not yet known, or indeed any conditions attached to the grant. It will need to pay for any tutoring we commission, as this will not be free, as well as enable us to put some support in for those students who have fallen behind their peers. What was not so widely reported was that on the day of the announcement the Year 7 Catch-up funding we receive was removed, so some of the monies we receive will have to be spent replacing that fund, which we had already budgeted for.

 

Our own Intervention

Since half-term we have already started our own catch-up system. We have been asking certain students in Years 7, 8 and 9 who have not been engaging with their remote learning, to attend school for some time each week. This is to try and limit the gap between themselves and their peers who have been completing their remote learning. It is helping us to understand the gaps that exist and allowing us to put 1:1 intervention in place, meaning that in September any gaps will be minimised.

 

Students need to keep on going

With 3 weeks left of term, it is crucial students across every year group keep going with all their work. I am aware from our pastoral teams that one or two parents are saying that they are allowing their children to relax a little as they approach the summer break. As a school we always work up to the end of term and even in remote learning, that remains our expectation. Year 9 for example are doing important work in their Year 9 Option bridging lessons and the students must have completed these lessons before September. If a student has become a little behind, don’t forget that the VLE is available all summer and any uncompleted tasks since half-term can be done over the summer holiday. This would ensure that they are fully up to date with their peers in September and may also help break up the long holiday.

I am sure students knowing that any catch-up work in September and beyond will be in addition to their normal school day will help to motivate one or two.

 

Reports

We are currently writing Year 12 reports, as we would do normally, given that live online lessons have seen Year 12 students not miss a beat really. These will be with parents and students in the next fortnight.

For Years 7 and 8, we are conscious we have not yet had written reports, beyond the data report earlier in the year. As you aware, as we have adapted to the shutdown many of the staff interacting, setting work etc have changed in subjects from the original timetable. Therefore, we have decided we are going to be reporting in each subject on how well each student has engaged with their remote learning and these reports will go out in the final week of term.

 

Face to Face meetings with Years 7, 8 and 9

Having seen the majority of Year 10 and Year 12 over the last few weeks of term, we are generally aware of where they are, as they prepare for Year 11 and Year 13 respectively. Where students have not been in school, the pastoral team will be contacting parents to get updates before the summer and to make sure we understand any potential issues before the return to school in September.

In terms of Years 7, 8 and 9, we are conscious of touching base with all the students and parents. The current rules on social distancing mean we cannot hold a Parents Evening on site, so we have decided to go online instead. Parents will be receiving a letter next week, asking them to book a slot, to have a 10 minute Microsoft Teams meeting with their child and tutor. These will be Pastoral Check-In meetings which we are aiming to hold on:

  • Year 7 & Year 9 – Tuesday, 14 July, 3.00pm to 5.30pm
  • Year 8 & Year 9 – Wednesday, 15 July, 3.00pm to 5.30pm

We will schedule them as Teams meetings and will need to keep tightly to the timelines in order for everything to work. It will enable us to talk through reports with Year 7 and Year 8, discuss starting GCSEs with Year 9 and how they have found the bridging work in their options, as well as reflecting with all the students on their remote learning. Some students and parents will be receiving requests for meetings, where the Year Group Teams or Senior Staff think a meeting in school may be more appropriate, rather than a tutor conversation online.

 

Uniform

Several parents have been enquiring about uniform for the new academic year. It is our intention to open the uniform shop for a fortnight towards the end of the summer holiday. Whatever the restrictions are at that time, we will ensure they are observed and we will provide you with further information in the Newsletter during the last week of term.

 

PD Curriculum

From this September, schools across the country will be changing the way in which “Relationships and Sex Education” is covered in the curriculum. This is to meet new statutory guidance, which has come from the Department of Education. Whilst for some schools this will involve major changes and revisions, for us, this only means some development of the existing PD curriculum. Before school closed down in March we were able to consult students across all Key Stages, and we would now like to invite you to share your views on our proposed policy. If you click on this link you will be able to access the draft policy, as well as some questions for you to consider.

 

Children’s Wellbeing

As you will be aware, we ran a student survey to get an understanding of how are students have coped during this time and to ensure that our whole school wellbeing strategy is meeting the needs of our community. Following this, we would like you to complete the following survey here. This is confidential and will enable us to ensure that as well as general support, we can offer the appropriate targeted support to those students and families who need it over the coming months. If you have any queries about the survey or our wellbeing offer, please get in touch with Mrs Mothersdale emothersdale@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk

 

Year 7, 8 and 9 Live Help Seminars

The seminars continue this week and they continue to go well. The timetable for these is linked 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 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 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 – next week we will hopefully see the guidance issued for September and we will be able to update you on that.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree
Headteacher

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