Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (3 July 2020)

Dear Parents

Who would have thought that this week came the week after the hottest days of the year last Wednesday and Thursday! While the weather was little inclement at times and the temperature dropped, the positivity around school has been fantastic.

After we decided to extend our Key Worker provision to target specific identified students we felt were “otherwise vulnerable”, due to the lack of engagement in their work, we have pushed the limit of the 25% combined cohort of Year 10 and Year 12 being on-site. Those students have really impressed with how they have engaged this half-term and this has allowed some really good intervention work being done now and over the summer, before September, to enable students to catch up. They will hopefully now be much closer to their peers in the autumn which is pleasing. Year 10 and Year 12 continue to attend in good numbers, as I write today we had 76% and 91% attendance, respectively, much higher than is being achieved nationally. The students are seeing the worth of being back and I have to thank the staff for using the time so productively with the students to really assess and secure learning, before the summer break.

The engagement across the school with the video lessons, remote learning, live support seminars, bridging lessons and everything else we are doing, also remains high. It is not how we want to teach the students long term I am sure we would all agree. So, this week I start with the arrangements for the virtual Years 7, 8 and 9 Pastoral Check-Ins, before giving you a provisional insight into our thoughts about the Government’s announcement about September. Other announcements around exams I have written specifically to Year 11 and Year 13 parents about yesterday to keep them informed (copies are on the school website if you should wish to read them).


Pastoral Check-In meetings with Years 7, 8 and 9

As I outlined last week, we intend to hold Microsoft Teams meetings with Years 7, 8 and 9 parents and students in the last week of term:

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

These are designed to 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. We have already held some targeted meetings with students and parents, which we anticipated were going to need to be longer and these continue over the next fortnight. Those parents are not expected to arrange a meeting with their child’s tutor.

We will be sending out a link on Monday, by email, to all parents of Year’s 7, 8 and 9 students, which will take you to an online booking system on the school website. The system gives you the option to book a slot to see the tutor, we will send out the Teams Invite to your child’s school email address with instructions for joining the meeting. Every child should know their username and password for their email, especially during these current times, however, please check with your child that they are able to access their school email now and please report any difficulties with access to the Student Helpdesk – studentitsupport@cumbriaeducationtrust.org.

We will need to keep tightly to the time allotted, and if some conversations develop and need more time, we will ensure that this is done before we break up for the summer, although we may have to cut it short on the evening of the initial appointment.


September 2020

Thursday saw a slew of guidance around the ambition to reopen schools fully in September. As you would expect we were eager to see what was leaked accurately and what had been made up in the various media reports of the last fortnight. To be fair, the guidance is pretty comprehensive and we have draft plans already on how we can achieve year group bubbles, maintain KS4 and KS5 specialist teaching, have lunches in bubbles, all while keeping the planned timetable in place. The plan needs a lot more detail and working on, and over the coming days we will be doing just that, no doubt finding holes, flaws and problems to overcome along the way. That said, I do expect to be able to share with parents by Monday, 13 July the majority of the plans and what September will look like.

I can assure you that students will be doing all their subjects in one form or another, they will be taught a normal timetable and they will be very welcome back when they arrive. We will not have a staggered start as it is impractical for our school with so many transport routes, although there may be a need to change the school day slightly because of some of the measures. Yes, students will be a lot more static and in Years 7, 8 and 9 teaching in specialist rooms will generally not be possible, as we bubble year groups in areas of the school, some setting arrangements may also vary. There are some things we need to work with the local authority on, such as school transport, but again the guidance is pretty clear and we will be looking at face masks and seating plans for example, on bus routes, which is not overly problematic.

The list of variables is a long one, but if nothing else as a mathematician I love a huge array of variables to find a solution to – linear algebra and optimisation in action as Dr Griffel would have pointed out, way back at Bristol University! As I said to another Headteacher, it is all doable with a little thinking. It will not be normal, as the guidance prevents it being so, but it will be as close as we can get it and we will do it in such a way that we can switch to normal with a few days’ notice once we are allowed to.


Head Boy and Head Girl

The election for Head Boy and Head Girl was a closely fought affair as always. The quality of the candidates was truly fantastic and the student body really engaged in the process through their assemblies and online. Over 700 votes were cast, which given it was done remotely, represents a 67% turnout of the eligible electorate in Years 7, 8, 9 10 and 12, which is the same as the last general election! The results were:

 Head Girl – Olivia Harrison                                          Head Boy – Harry Sidaway

Deputy Head Girl – Becca Smith                                Deputy Head Boy – Ellis Mayson

This student leadership team will be a very strong one and I look forward to working with them.


Student Leadership in Action

I cannot over emphasise just how capable our students are and how seriously they take their role as leaders in the school. The student House Heads epitomise this with their quite brilliant guided tour of WHS for Year 6. This is available at https://youtu.be/ph2YS_5odtU and is worth a watch.


Years 7, 8 and 9 Live Help Seminars

The seminars continue and the timetable is available here: KS3 Seminar Timetable (6 July 20).  Where email support is not enabling a student to overcome any issues with the work, these will continue to be available to help and support them. 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 their issue.

On which note I will finish this week’s Newsletter – as the problem solving goes into overdrive this weekend and next week! As always, I hope you all take care and have a good week, remember to keep encouraging the students with their work. They have done great so far and we have just the two weeks left to go before they get a well-deserved break.

Yours sincerely

Mr McAree


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