Headteacher’s Weekly Newsletter (17.4.20)

Dear Parents

I hope that you and your families are all well and staying safe. As I write this weekly update, we have been informed by the Government that the tight lockdown will continue for a minimum of 3 weeks, before any consideration to easing any of the current conditions will take place. There is little doubt now, that it is extremely unlikely, we will be returning to school this side of the May half term. Looking beyond that, it is much harder to try and predict and I remain hopeful that as a school community we will back on site in some manner in June. I like to take the optimistic view!

While the lockdown continues there is much to keep you up to date with.

Student Remote Learning

At the start of the term we outlined the system for remote learning for the coming weeks for each year group. Initial feedback has been positive and students are generally well engaged in their work. It is important they do all that they can to keep up with their peers and complete the work set for the week, over the five days they have. Teaching staff are always on the end of their email to help students, and in Year 12 and some Year 10 classes, there are regular face to face lessons as well. It is important students mark their work as complete on the VLE (Firefly) once they have completed it, as this allows us to track their engagement and identify which students we need to contact to see how we can support them further to access their work. Remote Learning Guide (Summer Term) & IT Support

Year 11 into Sixth Form Bridging lessons

Next week, we will start Year 11 bridging lessons for those wishing or thinking about joining the Sixth Form in September. Students will be invited by staff to join the lessons for the subjects they indicated on their applications; we hope these will not be overly onerous, but help fire interest and promote skill acquisition that will ease the gap to A Level and Level 3 BTEC study next year.

The timetable of lessons will be placed on the website if students who didn’t make an application to the Sixth Form wish to look at the type of work in subjects. Similarly, if any student wants to sample a variety of lessons to help them decide on courses for September, it gives them a good opportunity to understand the differences between them. Instructions about how to join the lessons will be placed on the website with the timetable.

House Contests

The students are getting regular invites to take part in House contests while we are working remotely. These have produced some excellent entries. My favourite was the “My dog ate my homework”, the Hero Easter eggs produced some fantastic entries, both of which have galleries on the school website.

We also have the current Photography Competition, Making History project, Time Capsule project, Portraits Competition and Music Competition. I would encourage students to engage in these, as the wide variety of competitions and things to contribute to, hopefully cover everyone’s talents and interests.

 Assemblies

One thing we miss as a school, is whole school assemblies. So, this week we are going to try and hold one each day at midday for a different year group. We start the week at midday with Year 11. Ms Ledger, Mrs Mothersdale and myself will host an online assembly and we hope students will watch. The students will have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with us as presenters and for my part, I hope it enables to clear up any queries they have about the exam grading process – what Ms Ledger and Mrs Mothersdale have planned is yet to be revealed!

Students will be sent a link to connect to the broadcast on Monday morning and if all goes well, we hope to hold Year 10 on Tuesday, Year 9 on Wednesday, Year 8 on Thursday and Year 7 on Friday. Links will be sent out to students via their school email addresses on the relevant morning of the assembly. We will also hold Year 12 and Year 13 assemblies next week, once we know everything works and will schedule them appropriately. Fingers crossed the technology works as it should (and more to the point we can use it properly)!

GCSE and A Level Results

The original announcement regarding the awarding of grades to Year 11 and Year 13 this year stated that it was hoped that results would be issued in July. It has been clarified today that the results will be given to students on the originally planned results days. We will write to the students involved later in the term, but for reference the dates the results will be issued are:

  • Thursday, 13th August – A Level and AS Level Results
  • Thursday, 20th August – GCSE Results

If parents or students have any questions that we didn’t manage to answer in our separate communication regarding the process, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the relevant year teams at school.

Extra-Curricular – Enrichment Activities

We are well aware that some students like to know more than they are taught in lessons and are curious about subjects. In order to try and foster that inquisitiveness and to provide wider access to things other than set lesson work, we have brought together links and recommendations for students in each subject. These are on the school website under Extra Curricular Online Opportunities: Extra Curricular Online Opportunities.

Free School Meal Vouchers

In our previous Newsletter, Mrs Mothersdale set out how to apply for Free School Meals, if you are now finding yourself in the position where you are applying for Universal Credit due to the prevailing economic situation. The guide on how to make an application is on the school website: Guide to Applying for Free School Meals. We know these applications are being processed relatively quickly by the County Council and once we have notification, we can ensure parents receive a £15.00 voucher per student, each week, to help towards providing lunches while they are not in school.

The national system has had some initial teething issues, but is now working well and we are getting vouchers out to all eligible families as quickly as we can each week.

Calendar Post May Half Term

We took the decision this week to cancel all of our residential trips for the remainder of the academic year. Parents of the students involved have been written to separately. We took that decision for a variety of reasons including to help parents who were struggling or concerned about upcoming instalments, the need to limit any loses and to give us maximum time to work through the DFE scheme for recovering costs.

In a similar way, we are looking at all planned events in June and July and will be looking to remove as much as we can from the school calendar. These include the formal exam weeks for all year groups, which we believe will be an additional and inappropriate strain on the students. If we are back in school, we will have a need to do assessments, but these will be done in normal lesson times. Our priority if students are in school will be stability, staff being in lessons and getting back to routine to try and bring some sense of normality to the end of term.

Key Workers Hub

Over Easter, the Bank Holidays and this week, emergency childcare provision was provided at Trinity School in Carlisle for those wishing to access it. This arrangement will continue for the rest of this term. Across the local schools of William Howard, Caldew, Trinity and Richard Rose Morton, we are working together to ensure that provision is always available for the children of Key Workers and those students classed as vulnerable. This provision will be staffed by people from all the schools involved, our staff ran the Hub over the Bank Holidays and the first week of this half term and I thank all those who volunteered to do so.

This has become an essential collaboration for us at William Howard, as we have given over key areas of the school to Brampton Medical Practice, in order to support local NHS needs. They are using some of the main areas of the school as a large pharmacy, as well as some areas for office functions. Therefore, we are not able to provide the emergency childcare provision on site. If you are a Key Worker and wish to use the hub please email: carlislechildcarehub@caldew.cumbria.sch.uk, at least 48hrs before you require a place for your child. You will be sent further details at that point.

We would of course remind you that the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the coronavirus spreading. You should only be sending your child to a hub school if you have no other childcare provision available.

Contacting Us

The school site, while it is open and used as NHS pharmacy, is not staffed by the school on a regular basis. The majority of our work we can do off site and there is no real pattern to when staff are on site to take phone calls or look at mail. The most convenient manner in which to contact the school is email. The school general email is mail@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk and more direct email links are provided in the contacts section on the school website. Someone will normally get back to you within 24hrs of any email, either by phone or electronically.

Do not hesitate to contact us about any concerns, queries or if you need some advice about a school or pastoral matter. Pastoral staff, teachers, admin and everyone else are eager to help where we reasonably can.

The wonderful community spirit being shown by so many, is in many ways a positive to celebrate in what is otherwise for many, a concerning time. We hope that our students are still able to feel part of their school community, even though they are apart from their friends, wider peers and staff.

As always, I wish everyone the very best and encourage everyone to continue to take care and follow all relevant guidance.

Yours sincerely

Mr Chris McAree
Headteacher

 

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