Coronavirus Update 6th July 2020 ‘The extraordinary will take care of itself’.
Dear Parents, Carers and Students
I hope that you and those around you are all well and coping as best you can with all of the challenges associated with living and working within the Covid-19 pandemic. As we start week #16 of lockdown and are almost at the end of Term 6 of our ‘normal’ academic calendar, I wanted to write to you to provide some important updates:
• Returning to school in September
• Opening for Year 10 and Year 12
• Face to Face Meetings for Year 7-9 before the end of term
• GCSE and A Level Exams 2021 Consultation
• End of Term Arrangements and Summer Holiday Provision, including Free School Meals
Returning to school in September
At the end of last week, the government published their guidance for schools regarding their return to school in September. We were delighted, as I’m sure you were, with the announcement that all pupils will be returning to school in September. We completely support the government’s ambition for all pupils to be able to return for academic, social and welfare reasons, and we will do all that we can to enable this.
Of course, this is an exercise in the balance of risks, balancing the short-term public health risks (related to transmission of the virus) with longer term public health considerations of children’s education and its impact across their future lives. Clearly this is a significant challenge and we are thinking very hard about how best to achieve this and make it a reality for the safe return of our 1100 students to as near as normal experience in September. Please rest assured that as soon as we are in a position to share more about what we are planning, we will without any delay.
I’m sure you’re also aware that plans, especially in the current educational climate, often need to change as this dynamic situation unfolds, so please bear with us while we work at this. As such, we plan to keep you well informed, throughout the summer, of the plans for our return in September, to help filter some of the (sometimes misleading) media gossip and understand what it means for their families. We will, before the end of the summer term, write to you with our intended plans for our return, and keep you up to date on a regular basis in the summer (even if to say that plans remain as they are). Thank you for all the messages of support in acknowledging these challenges and in working so constructively with us as we work through them.
Opening for Year 10 and Year 12
Although under very strange and unwanted circumstances/conditions, we were delighted to be able to welcome back Year 10 and Year 12 students for some face to face learning opportunities with specialist subject teachers in school over the last 4 weeks. It has been a great joy seeing the vast majority of Year 10 and 12 students on site, with fantastic attendance and great engagement in the sessions that have been provided. I am extremely grateful to the staff who helped overcome the challenges and logistical considerations associated with a safe wider reopening and for the impeccable behaviour of our wonderful returning students. Student and parent feedback on the wider opening provision has been overwhelmingly positive about their experience and the exercise has increased our confidence in helping to prepare for an even wider opening to more year groups in the future.
Not all Year 10 students were able to take up the opportunity to come into school for our planned recent face to face sessions so we have put together a bespoke package of support for those students between Monday 13th and Thursday 16th July Parents of these students received a personalised school comms email invite last week which included a survey for parents to complete by Friday 3rd July. I am grateful to the vast majority who completed the survey swiftly and urge those who have yet to complete it to do so ASAP by clicking on the below survey link:
Face to Face Meeting Opportunities for Year 7-9 before the end of term
At the end of June, it was also announced in a DfE email to Headteachers that, if we had capacity within our schools to do so safely, we could open wider to all other year groups (other than Year 10 and 12 who we were already catering for) and ‘invite students who are under 19 years old in for a face-to-face meeting, before the end of the summer term, where it would be beneficial.’ As part of our continuous commitment to pastoral care our immediate thinking was to look at how we could use this new guidance to cater for children in Year 7-9 who haven’t had the benefit of the wider opening provision in place for the older year groups. Unfortunately, the combination of restrictions on space and the limitations of time remaining in the term have meant that, we cannot offer these beneficial face to face meetings to all our Year 7-9 children. Instead, we have used the information gathered through our pastoral phone calls and the home learning engagement survey report to help identify and prioritise those who we think would benefit most from a short face to face meeting opportunity with their Head of Year or Head of House before the end of term. Parents/Carers of these identified children will have received a letter and/or a telephone call last week inviting them in.
GCSE and A Level Exams 2021 Consultation
Last week also marked the release of Ofqual’s proposed amendments to next year’s GCSE and
A Level exams. Importantly, these are only proposals at the moment, but it does give us an understanding of likely changes and we’ll write to Year 12 and 10 parents with more detail on this once the consultation has concluded and the details confirmed. Please be reassured we are also thinking about how we ensure that students in all year groups are able to thrive on their return to school through careful consideration of any necessary adaptations and support.
End of Term Arrangements and Summer Holiday Provision, including Free School Meals
With everything going on its hard to believe we are in the penultimate week of term 6 and near the end of an extraordinary school year. The government has said it is not asking schools to be open over the summer holidays and there is also no expectation they will be open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
As such, as a school we will be closing our premises at term end on Friday 17th July and will be allowing staff to take time to refresh and make the necessary changes before we reopen the school gates to the autumn term to Year 7 on Thursday 3rd September and all other year groups on Friday 4th September. This means all provision of remote learning activities will cease on Friday 17th July but our in-school provision for vulnerable children and children of critical workers finishes slightly earlier on Wednesday 15th July.
Wiltshire Council is in the process of gathering details of local providers who will be able to offer summer holiday activities and putting this information together into one accessible booklet. It is intended that the booklet will be available online and is likely to be updated regularly as more providers finalise plans so once we have all the details we will share them with you.
The government has also confirmed for those families who normally receive free school meals they will also be available throughout the summer holidays and we have already confirmed these arrangements are in place with the FSM voucher provider that this is the case for our families.
We continue to hear so many great stories about the engagement of our young people in positive
ways in the community during this difficult time. We are so proud of the way that they have managed this challenging period in their lives.
Could I please highlight, however, that as some of the necessary virus control restrictions are further loosened and we see more venues for leisure, tourism and other activities associated with the ‘pre-Covid 19 normal’ open/start to be allowed, we all remember our personal responsibility to our community in adhering to the guidance, staying alert and controlling the virus.
Whilst reflecting on recent weeks, thinking about the end of term and the summer holidays whilst continuing to make new plans for September, I’m more confident than ever that we can pin our hopes on achieving some semblance of normality and near ordinary routines, for our pupils and our staff, once the autumn arrives. I was thinking about this when I stumbled across William Martin’s poem, which suggests – reassuringly, that if we tend to the ordinary, then “the extraordinary will take care of itself.
Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
Please continue to stay in touch with us as often as you need and we will do whatever we can to help and support you.
Thank you, again, for all your support and continued generosity in these difficult times.
Look after yourselves and those around you.
Rod Bell - Headteacher