COVID-19 Update 21-05-2020
Re-opening schools, supporting learning, Year 7 and 12 reports, parent survey results, delivery of laptops for disadvantaged students and Young Enterprise success
I hope my letter finds you well and looking forward to some reasonable weather as we approach the Whitsun break.
It has been an interesting week in the education sector. I met with the Local Authority and many of the county’s secondary Head Teachers on Monday to discuss plans for reopening across the county. It is fair to say that there is not going to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach as we enter June so I intend to give you more of a flavour of my thinking here.
When I wrote to you last week I made it clear that we would not be opening immediately from 1 June. This remains my position as nothing has changed to indicate there is any merit to accelerating our opening. After a busy week where we also gathered some parental feedback (more about that below) we will be taking a cautious approach to the month of June.
It is worth noting that, as an Academy, we are not a school accountable to the Local Authority. This is the case with almost all secondary schools in the county and it is clear that every school is exercising its ‘academy freedoms’ to do what is best for its pupils, parents and staff.
I have pondered long and hard about any plan to reopen and I have decided to take the following approach: I have a son in Year 10 who has Type 1 diabetes. No doubt, you will have seen the news headlines about how 26% of all coronavirus deaths in this country are linked to a form of diabetes. With this in mind, I will be asking one question of myself when I take any decision related to opening our Academy: If I do this, would my son be safe?
In repeatedly asking this question as part of my detailed planning, you can be assured that my decisions have become very considered and incredibly risk-averse. It has certainly sharpened my mind by making this personal. I share this with you as it hopefully displays my commitment to ensuring that no stone is left unturned in keeping all of your children safe when we do come back to school.
This week, I have walked our site and begun, in earnest, to plan for how our building will be used to best effect when pupils do return. In addition, I have installed a further 14 hand sanitiser stations around the whole academy site, bringing our number now to 19.
You may have also seen my plea this week for help in manufacturing some fixed and mobile screens for use around the site. I intend to modify the main reception area, parent room and medical facility to allow for safer working as a result of the pandemic. This protects pupils, parents and staff and is a sensible way forward.
The outpouring of support has been incredible. In little over two hours from sending out an initial message, I received over 50 offers of help. I am immensely grateful to all of you who signposted us or contacted companies on our behalf. Even Radio Lincolnshire and the Echo offered to help us! It just goes to show what a wonderful community we have and it is a privilege to serve.
I do not intend to publish a curriculum plan for next week. It is important that all students take a break. In addition, my House teams have been working long and hard for as long as I can remember, including over Easter. They need a break next week. If you have any urgent queries or concerns next week, please contact main reception where the duty member of the senior team will be able to help you.
Some weeks ago, we asked Year 11 pupils who had taken practice and mock examination papers home to complete to keep them safe for a future time. We are now ready to receive those papers. From Monday morning, our parent room in main reception will be open to receive any Year 11 examination papers. There will be a box per form. We ask that you bring your papers into main reception and drop them off in your child’s form box, clearly labelled with their name. There is no need to book in via reception as this will be a walk in service. We will be sending our Centre Assessed Grades to the examination boards by 12 June.
From Tuesday 2 June, we will be in a position to offer online one to one support to Year 10 and 12 students in English, mathematics and science as ‘subject surgeries’ where learning issues have arisen. Where parents desire it, I intend that this service will be available face to face and one to one with a teacher from 5 June, one day a week. Appointments will be available from 2 June and it will be possible to book through main reception or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Monday 8 June, we will be offering wider online support in pastoral terms as well as offering further subject surgeries. I will publish this detail next week. We have a clear plan with every date in our calendar mapped for all activities but there is no rush to bombard you with specifics at this stage.
In short, I do not expect a wider opening of the Academy until later in June at the earliest. The government will be considering all available national data related to the current lockdown measures on 28 May. As a result, it is wise for me to wait until then before releasing further details of how we intend to operate in case my plans need to change.
From after the half term break, Year 10 will receive far more online learning opportunities as we ramp up our provision in this area. More about this next week.
I am confident that our plans remain amongst some of the best produced anywhere for our pupils at this challenging time. This week, we have been asked to be part of a Local Authority Case Study into successful working during Covid-19 as our study and pastoral arrangements are considered strong practice for others to mirror.
Year 7 and 12 reports
I promised that Year 7 reports would be published by the half term break. These are now available on Go4Schools.
Year 12 reports will follow very soon. I will update you on this when I write next week.
Parent survey results
We have now closed our survey to parents in order to collate initial feedback and to plan for any face to face meetings with students. 13 parents have requested an online academic mentoring session for their child and 8 have suggested they would value a face to face meeting. I will publish details of how to book these when I write to you next week.
It is clear that there is much concern about any attempt to open before September. The overwhelming number of responses made clear that September is the earliest most parents would be prepared to send their children back to school. With this in mind, I will plan very carefully. Thank you for the time taken to complete our survey as this has proved very useful.
Delivery of laptops for disadvantaged pupils
You will remember that I said we would be in touch with you if you are eligible for a new laptop under this government initiative. Our list of eligible pupils does not match the data the DfE hold. As a result, we are in negotiations for more machines which, I hope, will be with us in early June. I appreciate this is proving long-winded. On this occasion, it is not of our making.
Young Enterprise success
Despite the ongoing pressures of the Covid-19 crisis, each week a ray of sunshine still comes my way. Our sixth form YE company, Solare, have made a huge impact this year with their sustainable t-shirt business. I am delighted to inform you that we won three awards in the county YE competition. Solare picked up the awards for Sustainability, Marketing and the Company of the Year Award. In the process of winning these accolades they beat schools like Priory LSST and Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School which is no mean feat as they always perform well in Young Enterprise. In fact, my own daughter is in Year 13 at KGGS. How I have enjoyed being at home this week….
Further to this initial announcement, we have also been placed second nationally in the Sustainability category. This is all testament to our amazing Business department, particularly Mrs Myers, who has supported Jamie M and his team in making this project work so well. Congratulations to all involved!
As usual, I will keep you updated on developments via the Academy website and parent email. I will also ensure that our social media channels are updated accordingly.
If you have any further questions with regard to whole school arrangements, please email the Academy at email@example.com.
I could not sign off without mentioning Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s focus is kindness. You may have seen our social media posts signposting you to available services at this difficult time. We will only get through this together so I am really happy that so many of our youngsters are talking to their tutors on a regular basis.
At times like this I am always reminded of the well-known quote by Plato when he said, “Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.”
Please keep talking as we continue to navigate these interesting waters.
I will continue to stay in touch with you and as circumstances change. In the meantime, please take care and stay safe.
Mr D Hardy