Mr McAree’s Weekly Newsletter (27.3.20)

Dear Parents

After a week which brought undoubted changes to everyone’s lives, it seems a good time to touch base, as we start what will be an odd Easter break. In many ways I have been fortunate to have been in work all week and as such having some sense of normality as we have provided a childcare facility for children of Key Workers. While that physical location has given me a sense of normality, much of the school’s work has continued. We are still holding our regular meetings, albeit via video links and we are constantly talking about student engagement and how we move forward with assessments, exam weeks, etc. after Easter, while remote schooling continues.

We know that the coming weeks will continue to be a challenge, but we will do all we can to make sure that school remains a focal point for our students once the Easter holiday is over. It is highly likely we will be physically closed until the May half-term. To that end we are looking not just at curriculum work, but also House challenges and extra-curricular activities, that we hope will keep a sense of competition, connectiveness and enjoyment amongst many. As we firm up those plans we will get information to you.

Child Care for Key Workers

We have provided childcare for Key Workers at WHS this week. Numbers have been relatively small, as parents have only used the service as a last resort, and I hope we have helped parents where needed. Going forward, we have worked with other local secondary schools to move to a hub model, which will be based at Trinity School in Carlisle, in the first instance over Easter and potentially beyond.
This allows us to limit the number of buildings open, as well as reduce the number of staff, by sharing staffing at Trinity school. This will allow us to ensure appropriate provision is available throughout the period of school closures.
We will be informing all the parents who indicated they were Key Workers about future arrangements, at the end of the Easter holiday. We have been in direct contact with those parents requiring Easter provision already.

Student Work

We have seen many photographs of desks, kitchens and bedrooms turned into mini work stations, so we know the students, in the main, are taking their work very seriously. There is a high completion rate currently by the students and this is encouraging. Our pastoral teams after Easter will be proactively contacting and chivvying where needed, as it is essential no student falls behind their peers, for when they return to school.
Feedback is welcomed to the department teams and individual teachers, on work that is being set. It is a very fine balance between continuing to develop skills and knowledge and allowing students to access work. Please do keep that coming as it is helpful – remember no-one has ever worked in this way before, so it is a learning curve for us all. I would remind parents and students alike that all staff are available during their normal timetabled lessons to answer queries and help as best they can remotely, do contact them if you are stuck!

Year 11 and Year 13, Qualification Grades

At the point of writing, there has been no national update beyond what we were told last week. The detail of how internal Teacher Assessment will work and then be used to calculate a final grade is still unknown, though we expect some clarity next week. Once we have that clarity, we will of course communicate it immediately. The current information is best summarised:

  • Step 1 – The awarding bodies will be asking teachers to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.
  • Step 2 – To produce the above, teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance in mock exams and non-exam assessment.
  • Step 3 – The exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in.
  • Step 4 – Calculated grades will aim to be provided to students before the end of July.
  • Step 5 – If students do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis.
  • Step 6 – If students do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again.
  • Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

It would appear to us that any work currently being completed by Year 11 and Year 13, we should be able to use as part of the evidence base. It is for that reason that every student in Year 11 and Year 13 should continue to work to the very best of their ability.

Year 10 Reports

The yearly written comment report for each student in Year 10 was issued to parents on Wednesday via the SIMs app. If you do not have access yet to the Sims App, or you need a copy of the report emailing to you, please contact Mrs Dixon via wdixon@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk and we will see that this is done.
Any queries or questions regarding the reports should be directed via the Year Group Team in the first instance.
Keeping in touch with Year Group Pastoral Teams
Our Student Managers and wider pastoral team are all still working and in regular contact with many of our students. If you feel your child needs support in some way, or you have any concerns then please do not hesitate to contact them directly by email. They will be happy to phone you back as soon as they can.

Free School Meals

When we were instructed to close last week, we were very conscious of the impact that this could have on families where students are in receipt of Free School Meals. As a result, we sent every students family an ASDA voucher to help them meet the additional cost of feeding the children, while they are at home all day. Once the school term restarts, we will continue to do this, until such time the Government introduces a national voucher scheme.
We are acutely aware that due to the current conditions many families may be applying for Universal credit. This is the qualifying criteria for Free School Meals and given the school or, we hope
the Government, will continue to issue vouchers to support families we would encourage you to apply for Free School Meals. This can be done via Cumbria County Councils website: https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/childrensservices/schoolsandlearning/freeschoolmeals.asp and a help sheet is also available on our website in the Notices section. If you would like any support with this, please contact Mrs Mothersdale, (emothersdale@williamhoward.cumbria.sch.uk).

I do hope you have a good Easter and look out for an update at the end of the second week, before school and lessons start again on Tuesday, 14 April. It just leaves me to say how grateful I am to all parents for their understanding, as we develop the manner in which the school will continue to operate. I hope all students enjoy a rest from their school work over the Easter break. Take care one and all over the coming weeks.

Yours sincerely
Mr Chris McAree
Headteacher

Download as a PDF: Weekly Newsletter (27 March 2020)

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