March 19, 2020

Update on School Closure + Online Learning and Support – 19/03/20 at 16:00

Dear Parents,

I am writing to offer further information and support following the announcement made yesterday by the Prime Minister that all schools will be closed from the end of the day on Friday 20/03/2020 until further notice. The exception to this is that schools have been asked to remain open for the children of ‘key workers’ as well as vulnerable children, for example those with social workers and those with an EHCP. See more about this below.

We know this news is a shock to all parents and that most of us are now having to adjust to new ways of working and living, to keep ourselves safe and to support the government in its strategy to combat the national emergency.

Carry On Learning…

From Monday, we aim to provide our education to all our pupils online to help pupils establish good home working routines; to ensure progress made and targets are met; and to continue with our support services and home school communications. The only difference is in the delivery. Staff will be posting each lesson, each day, and there will be a mechanism which will be explained to all pupils and parents for them sending in work for checking or marking online. Teachers will mark and provide feedback on the work completed on the Show My Homework (Satchel One) platform. They will be able to issue merits for good work and contact home if there is no engagement with the lessons set so parents are aware of what is being done. Parents can also access the platform to keep their own eye on things. These lessons will even include PE sessions and Issues lessons to ensure we continue to deliver the full curriculum. Pupils who currently have lessons with Mrs Crawford or are engaged with Mrs George on her ELSA programme, will also be kept up to date.

Carry On Supporting…

Pastoral support for any reason, or pupils who require more social and emotional contact time, will have the opportunity to email their key staff and to request a phone conversation.

All the teaching and classroom support staff are working their normal hours of work from home. In school we will have a skeleton administrative and facilities staff and will put in teachers to support those we know to be coming in from home for those who fall into the specific government categories of ‘key workers’ or who are considered ‘vulnerable’.

The scientific advice shows that it is safe for this small number of children to continue attending – but asking others to stay away will help us to slow the spread.

Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.

From Monday 23rd, we will be open from 08:30 to 16:30 for children who have both parents in the exemption categories, should parents wish them to attend. We fully advocate the importance of this provision.

Examples of key workers include NHS staff (nurses and doctors), police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus. The government is to propose a full list of such key staff, but at the time of writing this is not available.

We are contacting the parents of the children in the ‘vulnerable’ category directly.

Those children in school will be supervised as they do the work set on the online platform. They will not be taught and the supervisor may not be one of their usual teachers. They will be expected to bring in their own drinks and packed lunch as our catering department will not be operational. School uniform need not be worn for those in school from Monday.

It is imperative that if you fall into the category and require your children to be in school that you let us know by Friday 12:00 at the latest, so we can ensure we have the correct staffing in place for Monday.

Year 11 Pupils

I am desperately sorry for our Year 11 pupils many of whom have been working really hard towards their summer exams. You will be aware that examinations have all been cancelled.  As yet it is unclear what the examination boards are going to do in making awards to pupils so all get what they deserve, but there will be a plan coming soon. Below is the official statement from Ofqual, published today:

We welcome the certainty that the Secretary of State’s decision not to hold exams this summer provides in these challenging circumstances. We will now work urgently with the Department for Education to work through the detail of this decision and to provide more information as soon as possible.

As soon as further information is available I will ensure it is communicated to parents.

Meanwhile, the Year 11 should continue to work on their subjects and to continue with their learning. There are lots of reasons for this: a) we may be asked for supporting evidence of work done to justify possible grades b) pupils need to have a structure in their school days and to be fully occupied if they are to be wholly well c) they need the continuation of learning to prepare in terms of their work ethic and their knowledge and skills for what comes next for them post-16.

Form tutors and teachers will be expecting all work set to be completed from Year 11 pupils and they are still available for help and support by Show my Homework communication.

I have had a number of queries emailed in which I will respond to now. I have rolled together responses on a similar theme.

1. Fees: Will there be a reduction?

We are not currently in a position to consider fee reductions. We are still providing educational and support services to all our pupils and the staff are working their normal hours from home to ensure this continuity of provision. Our costs, therefore, are not diminishing in spite of the children not being present. Of course, the government are suggesting there may be some financial support available to businesses. We do not know as yet if we would be entitled to anything, for what or in what time frame. If we were to benefit from such, we would ensure that this was passed on to fee payers.

We appreciate that some families may be experiencing hardship because of their working situation and on a case by case basis we would consider if there is anything we could do; but we are unlikely to be able to offer reductions. Please contact the Bursar, Mrs Hudson on if you would like to discuss.

2. Can we invest more in technology / provide other ways of teaching via Skype/Zoom, etc.?

We have an ICT strategy which starts with securing the infrastructure so that we can look at changing working practices, adding wifi throughout our buildings and looking at usage of ICT to benefit the children’s learning. This plan is in its first phases, and it is a longer term and hugely costly strategy. Whilst some of the technologies suggested may enhance remote learning, they are not all possible from all staff to all pupils, and in the first instance we are going to communicate all work by the Show My Homework platform which we are all better acquainted with. I am sure that as we settle in to home working practice things will evolve, but in the first instance we need to settle into routines and ensure the children and staff are online and operational.

3. Specifics of practice regarding work, marking and parental access to the online platform

Today, Mr Thompson and Mr Dean have been writing notes and training pupils in how to access and use the online platform fully. There will notes for parents and for pupils on our website and emailed shortly to help parents understand how this all works and to be able to monitor their children’s work. We will be providing individual lessons day by day and pupils will have the opportunity to submit work in a variety of ways: which you can read about on the information sheets. Please be patient as we go live with this next Monday. Any queries can be sent directly to the teacher, to Mr Dean or to Mr Thompson.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support. Please send in by email any concerns not yet addressed which I can add to tomorrow’s communication. We will not be closing down our community just reaching out to you in a different way.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Pam Hutley