Headmaster's Update for Parents: February 2021

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Perhaps like me you are still prone to alternating between periods of despair and a sense of joy that the worst is over. In this battle of the emotions it is our faith that points us to the victory of good over evil, hope over despair. In the words of Captain Tom, “The sun will shine again, the birds will sing and we’ll all have a lovely day tomorrow.” Let’s keep praying.

Remote Learning

Last week’s form teacher phone calls allowed us to gauge pupils’ response to remote learning. The vast majority of pupils are working hard, attending all lessons and getting used to the demands of a new working environment. A small number continue to express a preference for this style of working over attending school in person!

  • Teachers are working hard to assess completed pieces of work but it is difficult for them to check ongoing classwork. I know that many of you are standing in for the teacher by carrying out this sort of checking work, whether looking at presentation, work completion, or the clarity and accuracy of expression etc. Support of this sort helps in maintaining high standards and will ease the transition back into fulltime schooling.
  • Please continue to alert us via School Synergy if your son/daughter is going to be absent from remote learning. This applies to all absences and not just those related to COVID-19.
  • School Synergy have informed us of the launch of a new default view for Parent Portal to be ‘mobile first’ which will be released during the week commencing 8th February. The Portal has been written with a focus on clear notifications and communication. The dashboard highlights what needs action both for the parent and for each of their children. They have created a short explainer video for parents here.
  • On the School Synergy Parent Portal we have enabled visibility of lesson attendance which gives parents a view on remote learning attendance. Currently this is only available on the “Old Portal” view which can be accessed via a button on the top right corner of the portal window. Lesson attendance is accessed via the attendance menu item and then lesson attendance. Code '6' means attendance at live lesson/engagement with online learning, 'UA' means absence at live lesson/lack of engagement with online learning in that lesson.
  • It is still not too late to let us know about any difficulties in accessing a suitable computer or broadband. We don’t want any pupil to be disadvantaged due to an inability to access or use appropriate technology.
  • The school website contains a section devoted to the school’s response to the pandemic, one which is full of helpful tips and ideas for supporting home learning and managing emotions and general wellbeing. You can find it by following this link.

National Mental Health Week

Next week is National Mental Health Week and in addition to resources already available on the school website, Mrs Parkinson is recommending the following links.

If you have concerns in relation to your child’s mental health and wellbeing please contact the appropriate head of year and they will be able to offer support and advice.

Quest Award

Too much time in front of a computer screen can be wearisome. Perhaps now is the time for your son/daughter to investigate the School’s Quest Award initiative. This specially designed award scheme is an ideal way to encourage extra-curricular work away from the computer screen. The deadline for submitting completing projects is looming and so please find out more by visiting the web page here.

Known Unknowns

We continue to operate against a background of ‘known unknowns’.

Return to school

The most likely return date to school is Monday 8th March and it is my understanding that the government’s plan is for this to apply to all year groups at the same time. The prime minister has promised that a ‘road map’ for school opening will be announced on 22nd February. Whatever the date, we will be ready.

Public Examinations for years 11 and 13

The Ofqual period of consultation is now over and we await their decision as to the most appropriate way of awarding this year’s GCSE and A-level qualifications. We do know that the decision to award a particular grade will largely lie with teachers and this has led us to model a range of scenarios to prepare for a series of eventualities. The devil will of course be in the detail. However, students in 11 and 13 can plan with some confidence for a full series of internal exams shortly after our return to school. The results from these mocks will be one important source of assessment in helping us to arrive at the correct final grade.

Testing for Coronavirus

We continue to plan for the COVID testing of pupils on their return to school using the lateral flow tests which have been made available to all secondary schools. Parental consent will of course be sought before this takes place. However, government guidance on this issue may change and so the topic sits as a final ‘known unknown.’

We could feel frustrated by the predicament we face but far better to be patient, optimistic and prepared to respond in the right way at the right time.

With my ongoing best wishes.

RD Jones

Almighty God,

In you we see what it means to prosper together.
Lord, help us to trust that you walk alongside us,
Seeing you in the valleys as well as the hills,
Seeking your guidance as we take each step,
And transmitting your hope when the climb feels hard.
Lord, help us to set a strong and steady pace,
Moving to a rhythm that creates calm,
Keeping everyone on the journey together,
And enabling moments to pause and to rest.
Lord, help us to look to the prospering of others,
Believing we are inter-connected,
Knowing that when one suffers, we all suffer,
And when one is honoured, we can all rejoice.
Lord, help us to know we belong to one another,
Feeling we are loved when it seems we are alone,
Falling into your embrace when our strength has gone,
And finding peace in the eye of the storm.