PARENT UPDATE – 27th MARCH 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

The world seems to change slightly in between each time that I write – and it seems that we are likely to be dealing with a new type of normality for an extended period of time. What has remained a constant is the kindness, support and determination to work together to get through this and ensure that our children and our community are able to function as well as possible in such challenging times. I hope that this will endure in our society in general, even when this crisis eventually ends – we are all dependent upon each other and at times of emergency we realise that there is so much more than unites, than divides us.

With specific reference to Wollaston, I would like to thank every member of the school community for their amazing efforts in coping with mass remote learning / home schooling, as well as in school provision for the children of key workers and those who need additional support. There is also much “behind the scenes” work continuing to ensure that we continue to fulfil our safeguarding and educational mandates, as well as protecting and working with our large workforce as a significant local employer. This is week one of a totally new way of delivering education and I would like to thank parents for the incredibly positive feedback and also for the suggestions for possible improvements. We keep our provision under constant review and will continue to amend and improve as the weeks progress.

I have included below, some updates regarding guidance and provision from Central Government– and how we are making this work at Wollaston School. There remains uncertainty in some elements – and of course this is all new for the Department for Education as well. I have spoken to our regional lead at the DfE this week – and it is clear that they are working flat out to provide details of systems and processes (particularly around exams). They did also pass on thanks from the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, for all that we are achieving together. We ran through an audit of current activity and strategy, and the DfE were highly complementary about our approach and the provision that we are providing at Wollaston School and across our Partner Primary Schools at Irchester and Bozeat. I made specific mention of the incredible support that we have had from parents and the entire school community and they also asked me to pass on thanks to you for enabling such effective partnership working at such a difficult time.

Exams and Qualifications for Year 11 & Year 13

It is fairly clear that whilst there was a need to cancel exams to provide some certainty, there is not yet a full and detailed plan of how marks will be awarded. There is some guidance available – but this does not yet have the detail of exactly what or how grades will be awarded, or indeed what teachers or students will need to do. Please also note that even the use of the term “predicted grades” is confusing as some schools use this to describe a teacher assessed grade and others use this to describe a statistical modelling of student achievement based on their prior attainment. You can see why the task ahead will be significant!

The current guidance is below, but I have also tried to summarise the key points and explain the actions that we are asking staff and students to take in advance of more detailed guidance. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020

The Key Points:

  • Exam boards will award a “calculated grade” based on a range of evidence including non-examined assessments, mock exams, predicted grades, teacher assessments, prior attainment and historic school performance. There is no formula or process as yet.
  • Exam boards and Ofqual will award grades – these will not be solely school or teacher decisions, but will be heavily informed by them. This will follow the model of moderating teacher assessments, which exam boards have a great deal of experience of.
  • Students will be able to sit an exam – as soon as reasonably possible after schools reopen (or as part of the 2021 exam series) if they feel the calculated grade does not reflect their ability in a given subject.
  • There is currently no specific requirement for students to undertake specific assessment work at home, although it is expected that they should continue to study.
  • There will be further guidance to come out regarding completion of unfinished coursework.

Actions Required:

  • Teachers will begin work on developing a “projected grade” for each individual student in each individual subject. They will take into account all of the work undertaken in assessments, mocks and in non-assessed components to arrive at this judgement. This will not be able to be shared with parents and students until we have the final guidance from the DfE / Ofqual about precisely how the process will work.
  • Teachers will revisit all mock exam and assessment papers and grade according to 2019 grade boundaries. (We usually mark more harshly to mitigate against grade inflation and to ensure that students have a clear buffer zone to achieve the grade that they are targeted.
  • Teachers will continue to set work for Year 11 and Year 13 which will be in line with GCSE / A-Level standard and allow for on-going study and learning.
  • Please ensure that students in Years 11 and 13 continue to complete the work set. There is no need to do anything additional to this and we would not at this stage recommend “revising” as we have no detail of when or how this exam series will work – and it will only be necessary if students are unhappy with the calculated grade.
  • Please can students pay particular attention to those subjects which they may be studying at University / A-Level / College. It may be useful to undertake additional reading and work here – not in the interest of servicing grades, but just to ensure that they are fully prepared for the next academic year.
  • Please can students ensure that they do not throw away or discard any of their work in any subject. We do not yet have guidance on what will happen with coursework elements or what may be needed. Obviously there is no access to work in school, but we will also ensure that all work remains.

I appreciate that uncertainty can provoke anxiety. I also know that our students have worked so hard, for so long, to achieve great things in their education in every single subject. They deserve to excel and please do be assured that we will fight for every single grade, with every single student. We are expecting more detailed guidance next week – in the meantime, please encourage students to remain calm, feel confident in the great work they have achieved throughout their education and to continue to undertake the work set on Go4Schools.

Remote Learning on Go4Schools

Thank you to all for the magnificent work in helping students to learn from home. I know that many have invested considerable time in this and are enjoying learning alongside their children. It is really important that students continue to enjoy a routine – and please do encourage them to follow their existing timetable at the scheduled time as far as this is possible. It is really appreciated where students have been able to follow this routine and have a set space to complete their work. We will continue to roll out additional pastoral challenges as the days and weeks progress, including some contact with form tutors, to ensure that we maintain variety and interest in the time ahead. Thanks also for some of the feedback regarding new found respect for educational staff as a result of this experience of home learning! We massively appreciate your support with all of this – and if you do need additional support or advice with encouraging or helping students to complete work, please email teachers or year staff and we will provide this remotely.

We have had a request to ensure that it is clear what work needs to be completed at specific times, particularly with longer scale project work as this can seem overwhelming. In order to assist with this:

  • Teachers will start to break down project work into what needs to be accomplished in each individual single or double lesson.
  • Please can parents encourage students to only spend the designated amount of time on each subject – according to the timetable. There may not be a need to finish absolutely everything – as teachers are likely to set enough work to occupy even those who work most rapidly. In order to aid with this, we are looking to introduce a system of core work and extension work which will be clear what must be completed and what is additional.

If you need assistance with accessing Go4Schools – please email access@wollaston-school.net

Please also note that we will not be setting work as per student timetables during the Easter holiday, however, we will look to set a series of challenges for students to complete over the break, as we are aware than many usual holiday activities will be unavailable to families.

In –School Provision

We have had a small number of students on site – and thank you to parents who have certainly been heeding the call to keep their children at home if it is safe to do so. We are proud to support key workers and those needing additional support and have managed to maintain a balanced curriculum and provision for those who cannot be with their families at this time. I would also like to say a huge thank you to all of our parents and family members who work in critical positions in the NHS, the emergency services and in food production. On behalf of all of us at Wollaston School – we are proud to have you as members of our community and thank you for all that you are doing to support our loved ones and our society at this difficult time.

We will be opening during Easter to continue this support (excluding weekends and the bank holidays) and will be in touch with families shortly regarding the practical arrangements for this. A reminder to parents of children who are attending – please can they bring PE kit every day, as we will try and facilitate as much physical activity as possible.

We are keeping the groups sizes of those in school very, very small – this does require more staff to be in school, but it also does ensure that we are able to reduce risk of transmission. This is in line with Government guidance to use all available staff to achieve maximum social distancing. We are of course encouraging regular hand washing and ensuring a 2 metre distance from others at all times.

For those coming into school, and indeed for all, please do remember to follow the guidance regarding your families health: If you have symptoms of a persistent cough or high temperature – please self-isolate for 7 days. If anyone in your household has symptoms, please self-isolate for 14 days.

School Functionality and Supporting Students

Although we have a vital role to play at this time, we are also limiting the need for all members of staff to be working on site at all times. All teams are now working on a rota system, which is designed to support every individual to be on site for a limited amount of time whilst maintaining our core on-site functions. Clearly there is a need to maintain site security, ICT functionality, cleaning provision, finance & payroll, catering and free school meals. We will also ensure that there is first aider on site at all times and the administrative support to comply with the new DfE and LA daily returns.

In terms of contact with the school, please do use the email staff list HERE in order to get in touch with relevant school staff. A reminder also of the Senior Leadership areas of responsibility during this period of closure:

  • Whole School Leadership & Communications – Mr J Birkett (Headteacher).
  • Remote working & Go4Schools – Mr Tony Mills (Assistant Headteacher) & Mr J Cunningham (Assistant Headteacher).
  • Exams & Qualifications – Mrs S Lydon (Deputy Headteacher) & Mrs E Stevenson (Associate Assistant Headteacher).
  • Safeguarding, Additional Needs & Student Support – Mr K Beeby (Deputy Headteacher) & Mrs C Barton (Assistant Headteacher).
  • In-School Provision for children of Critical Workers & Children requiring additional support – Mrs K Worger (Senior Assistant Headteacher), Mr J Litt (Associate Assistant Headteacher) & Mrs Z Correa-Humphries (Associate Assistant Headteacher).
  • Free School Meals Provision – Mr W Taylor (School Business Manager).

There is also a significant amount of work which can be done off site to continue to support children and families. We are staying in touch with those who need it and are providing regular support via email and phone and I know for some this is already proving invaluable. The flexibility, commitment and imagination that has been shown to make all of this happens in a collaborative, systematic and professional way, has been incredible and I want to thank you to staff and parents sincerely for ensuring that we are able to do so much in such difficult circumstances.

We will continue to review all of our practices regularly, in line with the guidance as it is updated and will continue to ensure excellent operational capacity in a rapidly changing situation.

Free School Meals

From next week, we will introduce new collection points for free school meals at the following locations. Irchester Community Primary School, Bozeat Community Primary School and Earl’s Barton Primary School. We will of course retain Wollaston School as a collection point. We hope this will be helpful to parents and children in making the packed lunches more accessible.

After Easter we will be moving to an e-voucher scheme which will allow parents to use the free school meal entitlement in a local supermarket. We will continue to provide food for those on site throughout Easter and the summer term.

Recruitment

Whilst we continue to focus on the best possible education provision in the current climate – I am also aware that the future will arrive at some stage, and I want to ensure that we are well placed to support our students when schools do re-open, whether that be in a couple of weeks or a couple of months. We have had a number of strong applications for the Head of School / Senior Deputy Headteacher post, which we will shortlist for during next week. We will run the recruitment after Easter, and I hope to design a creative process, involving staff and students as planned. This is likely to involve a bit of remote technology such as ‘Zoom’ and possibly some written responses to questions. Further details to follow, and I am determined that we emerge from this, proud of what we have achieved together in crisis, but well prepared and ready to face the future, making good on our mission to inspire, motivate and achieve.

The Future

Thinking about the future, just to feedback from the DfE that there is no definite timescale that they are working to regarding re-opening schools. It is clear that the Government will always follow the scientific advice regarding these measures. Please do not assume that schools will not re-open before September, they may do and we may want to do this in a phased and careful way to aid transition. I also need to be clear – this is not what anyone is saying will happen – but just that in turbulent times, we need to avoid imposing our own assumptions about a rapidly changing situation. Who could ever have imagined we would be where we are now, even a couple of weeks ago?

Congratulations if you have made it to the end of this update! Thank you all for absolutely everything that you are doing. I am so proud to be part of Wollaston School at this time – it is a privilege to be working with such a dedicated and positive team of students, staff, parents and with such an incredibly supportive community.

Thank you.

All Government advice regarding Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

If you are in need of comfort or inspiration – please find below a piece of writing by a student in Year 6 at Irchester:

“I can’t stand it!” Sobbed Superman into the phone.
“It’s okay to feel worried,” replied the voice softly, “But you need to know, it’s not the end of the world, many other things have happened that are ten times bigger than this and look, we’re all still standing here perfectly fine.”
Superman was standing in a telephone box down a shady alleyway shedding tears into the phone. “How am I supposed to be able to do my job when I have to stay two metres away from everyone? It’s the government’s guidelines. I have to follow them. I’ve already been told to ‘stand back’ by three people today. I might do something wrong and stand too close to people and get put in jail! Bad guys go into prison not superheroes. I might go somewhere I’m not supposed to. I might do something I’m not supposed to. I might spread the virus!”
“All those scenarios contained the word might, might is not an all the time word but a sometimes word and anyway all of those things could happen today, tomorrow or any other day in your lifetime. So just because all this Coronavirus stuff has come around doesn’t make any of those thing more likely.”
“Really?”
“Yes! So stop worrying about it and get on with what you do best… saving the world!”
So off Superman went refilled with positive energy not worrying about the coronavirus or anything linked to it. He felt on top of the world. He felt amazing. He felt like Superman again, full of confidence and pride.

The next day, Superman was interviewed about the Coronavirus and what he thought about it, at a two metre distance from everyone else, and what he said inspired me and probably quite a lot of other people. “I was told by someone very close to me, that there was nothing about this Covid-19 malarkey that made anything anymore possible than any other day of my lifetime. Everyone’s worrying about it because it’s never happened before. They’re scared of the unknown. But let me tell you this, if your worrying about the Coronavirus there’s been many other phiascos ten times as worse as this and I bet you everything your thinking about the Coronavirus contains the word might. Might is not an all the time word but a sometimes word. I was once worried about the Coronavirus.” Everybody gasped. “Yes, me Superman, the man who’s supposed to be fearless but nobody can be fearless, not even me, it’s about overcoming your fears, not keeping them locked up inside of you. But I was told that it’s nothing to worry about so all you people worrying about it, stop. You can talk to your parents they always have good advice, that’s what I did.”
So I asked my parents and now here giving his advice to all of you reading this. If Superman can worry, so can you.

Kind Regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

MONDAY 23RD MARCH 2020

Dear parents / carers,

We trust that the first day of our students working from home has gone well. Please let your children know that Wollaston is a much quieter and sadder place without them all!

Thank you to all eligible parents for only sending children into school if there is absolutely no other alternative. We remain ready to host children of Key Workers and those requiring additional support, but must stress that this should be a last resort. The current Government guidance is:

If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be. You should only be sending children into school if you cannot keep them safe at home. Please see link for more information:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

Restrictions on visiting the school site

We would be grateful if all parents and visitors could avoid visiting the school site unless absolutely essential. If you need to pick anything up, please email office@wollaston-school.net and we will arrange a collection time. We do want to ensure that all social distancing measures are applied as fully as possible.

Bus Service

There was limited demand on the school bus service this morning. In light of this, Souls have notified that they will operate transport using one bus that will conduct pickups as follows:

  • Great Doddington: 08:10am
  • Bozeat: 08:20am
  • Wollaston School: 08:28am
  • Irchester Church: 08:33am
  • Irchester Post office: 08:34am
  • Irchester Gipsy Lane Turn: 08:35am
  • Wollaston School: 08:40am

Students are reminded to maintain social distancing and space themselves out as far as possible on the bus.

Distribution of Free School Meals

We will continue to distribute Free School Meals from outside of the external Kitchen Door in the main car park. These are available to collect between 11.00am – 13.00pm. We are looking at ways to distribute to local primary schools to facilitate more convenient pick up points. More details will follow in due course.

Exam Grades for Year 11 & 13

Please note that we still await guidance from the Department for Education and Ofsted regarding the process for awarding grades. There is currently no need for students to generate work or produce a portfolio. There is also no need to drop off examples of work at school. We will of course notify students and parents of the next steps as soon as we have them.

School Organisation

There is a list of staff contact details on the school website https://www.wollastonschool.com/about/staff/ which will allow parents and students with the opportunity to stay in touch at this time. Work enquiries should be sent to the relevant teacher in the first instance.

We are also restructuring some Senior Leadership roles to cope with a completely new way of working. These are as follows:

  • Whole School Leadership & Communications – Mr J Birkett (Headteacher).
  • Remote working & Go4Schools – Mr Tony Mills (Assistant Headteacher) & Mr J Cunningham (Assistant Headteacher).
  • Exams & Qualifications – Mrs S Lydon (Deputy Headteacher) & Mrs E Stevenson (Associate Assistant Headteacher).
  • Safeguarding, Additional Needs & Student Support – Mr K Beeby (Deputy Headteacher) & Mrs C Barton (Assistant Headteacher).
  • In-School Provision for children of Critical Workers & Children requiring additional support – Mrs K Worger (Senior Assistant Headteacher), Mr J Litt (Associate Assistant Headteacher) & Mrs Z Correa-Humphries (Associate Assistant Headteacher).
  • Free School Meals Provision – Mr W Taylor (School Business Manager).

Remote Working & Learning

Please see the update below ‘Accessing Work From Home’ which has a link to a letter from Mr Mills & Mr Cunningham regarding Remote Working & Learning.

 

As ever, thank you for the continuing support and messages of goodwill. This is a totally new way of working, so please bear with us as we find a new routine in these uncertain times.

Stay well, look after each other and please follow all government guidance – https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
We can get through this together.

Kind regards

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

 

ACCESSING WORK FROM HOME – Monday 23rd March 2020

Please click HERE to read the letter regarding accessing work from home.

 

 

FRIDAY 20TH MARCH 2020 – PM UPDATE

Dear Parents and Carers,

It has been with a sense of both sadness and pride that we have said goodbye to our students this afternoon. I cannot conceive of a comparable set of circumstances and I know from speaking with a number of students, parents and staff, that the current situation is difficult to make sense of and provokes a range of emotions. However, what is also abundantly clear is that we stand together and rely on one another for both comfort and inspiration.

To Year 13 and Year 11 – thank you. You have greeted the news from Government with dignity and stoicism. It says something wonderful that you have been both disappointed in the decision, but brave enough to accept that it is for the benefit of society in general. Once this situation is over, I look forward to being able to speak to you as full year groups again and formally recognising your great academic and personal qualities, as part of celebrating your time at Wollaston School.

The Government have just released the overview of a plan for awarding grades and I will provide more detail on this in due course. The briefing note can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-details-on-exams-and-grades-announced

Our thoughts now turn towards next week and a new way of working. I will not overload with detail now, but wanted to make you aware of arrangements for Monday.

Free School Meals – A reminder that on Monday, and throughout the week, ALL children who are entitled to free school meals (or parents / carers of these children), can collect lunches from the kitchen between 11.00am and 1.20pm. This is regardless of whether they are attending school next week or not. We are hoping to have a delivery service to local areas running later in the week.

Work for students staying at home – For those students who will be at home, please encourage them to follow their normal timetables. We hope that the sense of routine will be helpful. Most lessons will have resources populated throughout the day and the Heads of Year are also looking at ways of introducing additional challenges for students as the days and weeks progress. We are also going to explore setting some meaningful content for Years 11 and 13 as bridging work into the next stages of their academic or vocational careers.

Students of Key Workers attending school on Monday – For those who are key workers, and have registered their children to attend school, and other students that the school have contacted to attend school, we look forward to seeing you on Monday. There will be a total of between 60-80 students from across the year groups, and the school day will function at the usual times. We will be organising students into small groups, in order to preserve the principles of social distancing as far as is practicable.

Please ask students to go to the canteen when they arrive and we will register and greet them from there. We will aim to provide an inspiring curriculum and all of the support required. It would be useful if students could bring their PE kit and should attend in school uniform. We will have kitchen facilities open, or if preferred, students can bring a packed lunch.

We have been assured that school transport will run as normal next week.

Thank you to everyone for your messages of support and kindness. These are testing times, but such times also have the power to bring out the very best in us; individually and collectively. It is the best of us that I have witnessed yesterday, today and throughout this terrible situation.

Have a restful weekend and take good care of yourselves and each other.

Kindest regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

 

FRIDAY 20TH MARCH 2020 – AM UPDATE

Dear Parents and Carers,

The Government have overnight announced details of the key worker scheme and qualification for vulnerable student status. These can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision

Eligibility is determined on one parent meeting the criteria.

The Government’s strategy is based on the following published principles:

  1. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  2. If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
  3. Parents should not rely on childcare from those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  4. Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  5. Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

Thank you for sending in your responses so far, and if there are any outstanding, we would appreciate it if these could be completed by 3.00pm today.

It looks likely that we will have a small, but significant, cohort of students and we will be aiming to provide as full a curriculum as possible. Naturally, things will be organised differently and we will also be mindful of the principles of social distancing as fully as possible. We will not be able to provide details of provision in advance of Monday, but once we are underway there will be a regular timetable introduced that we will publish to all relevant parents and students

As ever – thanks for your incredible support.

Kindest regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

THURSDAY 19TH MARCH 2020 – PM UPDATE

Dear Parents and Carers,

Please thank your children for a really calm and purposeful day in school, especially as our Year 11s and 13s are experiencing a real sense of loss about the absence of final examinations. We will continue to reassure, console and smile with them – and be ready tomorrow to finish the week together with a quiet positivity and pride. This will not be the end of their Wollaston journey – when this is over, we will be ready to celebrate with all the more energy for the hardships endured.

In the meantime, we await with interest, the Government and Ofqual’s proposals for awarding grades. Once these are announced, we will do everything necessary to secure the best possible qualifications for every single student. They deserve it and we will fight for it. In the meantime, it is probably not worth speculating on the likely process, but please make sure that no-one throws any work away! We will have to wait and see what is required…..

I would also like to pay tribute to our Key Stage 3 students in Years 7, 8 and 9, for whom today was their last “normal” day at Wollaston, most likely for some time. Thank you for your mature and sensible conduct, continued hard work and support of each other and the school. Please work hard on the tasks that your teachers set for you on Go4Schools in the weeks ahead. We are looking forward to having you back at school as soon as we can, as positive as ever and ready to achieve wonderful things together.

Limited School Opening – Children of Key Workers and Children Who Require Support.

As I write, we are still awaiting details of exactly who is classified as a key worker. As soon as I have details, I will of course communicate these to you. In the meantime, thank you for your responses to the earlier email, these are going to be invaluable in our planning. It is clear that there is a small but significant demand and eligibility, both in term time and during what would have been the Easter holidays.

I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to our wonderful team of staff, a great number of whom have offered to work during the Easter holidays to support the children who will need this. It has been a humbling and inspiring response. It is already clear that we will be able to open almost continually throughout this period, which will be of significant service to society.

We have also heard that a full bus service will run next week to gauge likely demand and ensure transport is no barrier for students who need to attend.

Free School Meals

There has been a Government announcement regarding Free School Meals Provision today, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plans-set-out-to-support-pupils-eligible-for-free-school-meals

The scheme announced does not quite seem ready to go yet, and so in the meantime, and for the first week at least, we will provide a meal to all eligible students from our kitchen.  These can be picked up at any time between 11.00am and 1.20pm from Monday onwards.  I would like to thank the kitchen staff for making this possible. I am also going to liaise with community groups who may be able to support with delivering meals directly to the villages, which may make it easier for some children to access this service.  Please get in touch with Mrs Louisa Nixon if you may be able to help with this nixonl@wollaston-school.net

Finally – an exciting new poster for use in educational settings!! Just a reminder that the best form of prevention is washing our hands. The poster can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

All other Government information can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Another day – and another amazing response from the Wollaston School community. It is a privilege to be back working with you all in person – and thank you so much for everything that you are doing to support. Whatever the future brings, I have no doubt that we are ready to face it together.

Kindest regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

THURSDAY 19TH MARCH 2020 – AM UPDATE

Dear Parents and Carers,

Good morning, and thank you for all of the messages of support overnight. They mean a great deal to us all.

Although in some ways the announcement was expected, the scope and implications have still come as a shock to everyone. There has been considerable upset and confusion and I have received a number of specific queries. I just wanted to clarify a couple of repeated points more generally as it will take time for me to respond to all emails individually. I know that there is particular distress from our Year 11 and Year 13 students about missing out on the finale to their school careers. We share in this distress and will do all that we can in the weeks and months ahead to mitigate against it.

I appreciate parents explaining to students in Years 11 and 13 that we cannot facilitate a “Leavers’ Day” today or on Friday. These are by their very nature close and intense mass gatherings and it would be dangerous to allow this. I also do not want to encourage anyone who is unwell or vulnerable to come into school for any such event for fear of missing out. I know this will be a disappointment – but I genuinely believe (and the national advice is that) there could be lives at stake. I would be incredibly grateful if you could explain this rationale to our students.

I do promise that we will ensure that the ending of both Year 11 or Year 13 will not go without ceremony or celebration.  For obvious reasons, I cannot give a date or details, but I undertake that when it is safe to do so, we will mark the wonderful achievements of these year groups in all of the ways that are now traditional at Wollaston and many more besides.  Not least because it is these year groups who have been asked to sacrifice so much in order to protect others in our community and in society more generally.  Our students deserve that, and we will all need something to look forward to and celebrate when it is right to do so.

We do not yet know of arrangements or processes to award qualifications.  Ofqual and the DfE are working on this in the coming days. Students should not worry about mock grades or illness.  We will work with all relevant authorities to ensure that every single student gets the grades that they deserve. Please note it is a national decision to cancel the exam season and not one that could be reversed.

It genuinely has to be a parental choice whether or not for their child to attend school in the coming two days (announced partial closures excepted).  As above, there cannot be any form of closing events or group gatherings for any year groups, so students should not feel that they will miss out on anything.  As mentioned previously, we will also have a high number of cover lessons and a limited staff.  However, of course if children want, or need to be in school for any reason we will be delighted to see them and we want to play a role in keeping society functioning smoothly, particularly for those key workers, of whom we have many.  Please do just remind students that now is a time for cool heads and collective responsibility. We have significant work to do before the weekend.

Moving forward, and based on current advice, Wollaston School now has four strategic priorities:

1.Work with Ofqual and the DfE to ensure that every student receives the qualifications that they deserve.
2.Provision of an education on site for children of key workers and those children who are vulnerable or who need additional support.
3.Provision of a “distance learning” education for all other children at the school through the Go4Schools website.
4.Provision of Free School Meals throughout the closure for all those who are entitled.

We have a great deal to do in a short space of time and I will ensure that we are in a position to start on the above from Monday.  We expect to get some further details from Government today – and I will relay these as soon as I have them as well as how we will apply these to our priorities above.

As always – thank you for your unstinting support and I apologise again for the bombardment of communication.  In a time of uncertainty, one thing I can guarantee is that you will be tired of these emails by the time we get back to some form of normality!

All best wishes and please do look after yourself and each other. All Government advice on Coronavirus can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Kindest regards,
Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

WEDNESDAY 18TH MARCH 2020 – 21.00PM UPDATE:

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will by now have heard the news that schools will close to the overwhelming majority of students as of 3.00pm on Friday 20th March 2020.

It is clear that we are facing a grave national emergency and that events are moving in a direction that no-one could even have imagined as February rolled in to March.

It is also clear that schools will play a vital role in supporting students who need it and in keeping our society functioning in the weeks and months ahead. I know that is a mission which we will fulfil to the best of our collective ability – working in partnership with yourselves to serve our community with purpose and pride. I have no doubt that this function will be a vital one.

We do not yet have the details of how this will all work in practice and there will be much planning required in the days and weeks ahead. I will keep you informed every step of the way.

What we do know so far:

  • The 2020 GCSE and A Level Summer Examination series has been cancelled. If you are a parent of a child in Year 11 or 13, please do explain to them that the Government has promised to ensure that they receive the qualifications that they deserve.   Please do also assure them that their hard work has not been in vain. An education really is about more than a grade. Their knowledge, learning and skills and abilities will serve them well for the rest of their lives. They will be a year group that are likely to go down in history!
  • There is no determined time limit on the closure.
  • Schools will remain open to some students, to allow parents who have critical jobs to remain at work
  • Schools will also be open to children who will need our support.

In terms of the next two days:

  • The Year 11 English Mock Examination will not run tomorrow.
  • Owing to social distancing guidelines, we cannot host or support any mass gatherings or assemblies for Year 11, or indeed any other year group.
  • We will endeavour to run as normal a timetable as possible for the year groups and students who remain in school on Thursday and Friday.
  • The partial closure will remain in place as per the previous email.

Given the announcement, I understand that many parents may now take the decision not to send their children to school tomorrow in the interests of minimising any risk to health now that the central decision has been made. I will always support parental decision making in this regard.

However, we will warmly welcome those who do choose to attend and attempt to provide as normal a day as possible. However – I must stress, we cannot provide or allow any form of collective event or gathering during the day as this poses a risk to the health of adults and children alike in accordance with current Government advice. It is clear this is becoming increasingly crucial.

This is news which will take some processing from us all. We can then start to get a grip on how we function as a school and as a community in the days, weeks and months ahead. I will be in regular communication throughout – so I apologise in advance for the bombardment!

Education is important. We will endeavour to provide this remotely, in a way that is as effective as possible. We will also fight to ensure that our wonderful Year 11 and Year 13 students get the grades that they deserve.

There is no escaping that this is an historic time and the announcement today is both sad and shocking. We can feel that tonight, and then tomorrow start to look again at how we will be able to support our young people and society in an entirely unprecedented environment. There will be much to do. It is a challenge that I know together we will rise to.

As ever, thank you for your ongoing support. We could not wish for better students, parents, staff and community.

Kindest regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

 

 

WEDNESDAY 18TH MARCH 2020 – 3.30PM UPDATE:

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you again for another excellent day at Wollaston School. We continue to be overwhelmed with support  and incredibly proud of the way in which we are continuing to work together at this difficult time.  I appreciate that I am sending this update in advance of the Government Press Conference so if an update is required later in the light of new information – I will send this later tonight.  My own personal 7 day isolation ended about 15 minutes ago and I am about to go out and face the world for the first time in a week. I am very much looking forward to being back at work tomorrow.

However, as expected there are increasing absences from school from both staff and students which will make running  full school provision unsustainable.  A number of staff are now self-isolating following the guidance to do this if anyone in the family displays symptoms.  To this end we are announcing the following measures:

Partial Closures of Wollaston School

Thursday 19th March 2020: We will be CLOSED to students in Year 10 and Year 12. We will be OPEN to students in Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 11 and Year 13.

Friday 20th March 2020:  We will be CLOSED to students in Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9. We will be OPEN to students in  Year 10, Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13.

There are likely to be further partial closures next week, and a full closure remains a possibility.  However,  given the uncertain nature of the current situation and the rapidly changing advice, we will only announce our decision regarding this in my update which I will send out at approximately 6pm on Friday 20th March 2020.

Please note that these measures are for logistical, safety and operational reasons.  We need to ensure that we have adequate staffing to provide a safe environment and adequate supervision of all classes.  There are of course likely to be a significant number of cover lessons.

Year 11 English Mock Exam

The Year 11 English Mock Exam will continue as planned tomorrow, although we will space out desks in the Hall to ensure a safe space between students.  As a result of the reduced capacity we will also use a number of smaller venues and ensure students are not in close proximity to each other.  We will make arrangements to post the paper on Go4schools following the exam in order that Year 11 students who are absent or isolating can sit the exam.

Setting work for full or partial closures

During this week we have been phasing in sharing lessons resources and work on the Go4Schools homework module.  Please note that we will not be able to guarantee complete lesson coverage, but we aim to ensure that students who are not in school have meaningful work to complete.  We are advising teachers and students to follow their usual timetable for each day and to look on the Go4Schools homework module for details of the lesson to be undertaken.  Any family or parental support with learning, will I am sure be gratefully received!

Year 12 Parents Evening

The Year 12 parents Evening scheduled for the 26th March 2020 is now cancelled.  Teaching staff will instead write a short written report on Go4Schools detailing  current progress and targets for improvement.  These comments will be made visible to parents on the Go4Schools website on the 26th March 2020.

RAG Week 2020

As much of the fund raising relies on mass gatherings and shared events, we have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel the 2020 RAG Week.  When restrictions are lifted, we will look to reschedule it this academic year if at all possible.

Reporting Absence

If you have already called in to report that your son or daughter is self isolating, we are suspending the need to call in on a daily basis.  This will free up the absence line for what is now a considerable number of daily calls.  Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Government Advice Regarding the CoronaVirus

All guidance and links to specific advice can be found through this link. https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

We do encourage all members of the community to follow this advice.  This is a 7 day isolation for the first person to show symptoms and 14 days for all other members of the household.  The trigger symptoms are a high temperature or a persistent cough.

In terms of preventative measures, washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds remains the headline advice and of course we continue to monitor toilet facilities and undertake additional cleaning to ensure that the school site is as hygienic as possible.

In closing, I do just want to say again how valued your support is to all of us at the school.  It means a great deal to know that we have your backing and I am sure that, come what may, the way in which we work together will be a considerable source of light in a dark time for us all.

Mr James Birkett

Headteacher

 

TUESDAY 17TH MARCH 2020 – PM UPDATE:

Dear Parents and Carers,

Apologies for the frequent messages, but these are unprecedented times and I want to ensure that I share information regularly.

Firstly – I would like to thank students, parents, staff and the wider community for their incredible support of the school and our students. Your messages of support have been greatly valued, as have the solutions, flexibility and understanding you have shown as we negotiate an incredibly uncertain and fast moving situation. We are really proud of how we are coping and thriving as a school community and I am sure that this will continue in the times ahead. Reports from today have praised our students and they have been a credit to yourselves and the school as a whole.

Residential School Trips

After much negotiation with tour operators, insurance companies and the DfE, I am pleased to say that we have now been assured of full refunds, where applicable, for the following educational visits:

  • Italy Ski Trip
  • Year 7 Residential
  • D of E Expedition
  • WWI Battlefields Trip
  • Summer Berlin Trip

These visits are now officially cancelled. There is likely to be a delay in issuing refunds as we await payment from both tour operators and insurers. We will chase these pro-actively, but please bear in mind that with any claim, there is always going to be a wait. Thank you also for bearing with us as we have negotiated this solution; it has been an anxious time for parents, students and staff alike. I am pleased that we have managed to secure this solution without needing parents to accept less than a full refund and without the school needing to subsidise from its own contingency funds.

Coronavirus Update

The amended timetable has served us well today as we have coped with increasing staff and student absence. It is a source of great pride how Wollaston School functions as a supportive community and we will need to continue to draw on this. We are planning to open as usual tomorrow for all year groups, although of course there will be an increased number of cover lessons. However, we will need to review our capacity regularly in the light of staffing availability and our first level of contingency planning will be to partially close for certain year groups. If we need to do this, we will aim to take the decision the evening before and we will publicise by e-mail and on the school website. However, I cannot rule out emergency situations and I would ask parents to check their emails each morning and evening.

Although schools are by their very nature, unable to practice social distancing, we will not be running full year group assemblies for the time being. We are also suspending all non-essential meetings to enable staff to be available to work directly with students and increase our capacity to cover for absent colleagues.

As mentioned previously, we are also phasing in the use of Go4Schools to share lesson resources to support those students who are self isolating.

Please find below instructions regarding when to stay at home:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

There is a subtle change to this guidance, which is that if you are the first in your household to display symptoms – the isolation period is back to 7 days. The 14 days is for all other members of the household to allow for an incubation period and then for symptoms to develop and then abate. This is great news personally, as it means I am cleared to return on Thursday and I am really looking forward to being back in school!

Finally – thanks again for all of the help offered and messages of support – it does make a massive difference to us as a school as we work together so positively in such difficult times.

Kind Regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher

TUESDAY 17TH MARCH 2020 – AM UPDATE:

Dear Parents and Carers,

As I am sure that you are aware, the Government advice regarding staying at home has now changed to the following:

· If anyone has the symptoms of a persistent cough or high temperature, the entire household should stay at home for a period of 14 days.

A link to the Government advice can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

We are of course advising all staff, students and families to follow this guidance, which is likely to mean increased absence in the days and weeks ahead.

The Government’s current position is to keep schools open and of course we will endeavour to do so. It is also clear that the social distancing measures announced on Monday evening cannot apply to school settings. If your child or your family have a specific underlying medical condition or vulnerability, we would advise seeking medical advice regarding the most appropriate course of action.

There is also now Government advice on social distancing, particularly for those with certain medical conditions and for those over the age of 70. This can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

This remains a highly fluid situation and I will be in contact as soon as we receive any further guidance.

Kind Regards,

Mr James Birkett

Headteacher

 

 

MONDAY 16TH MARCH 2020:

Dear Parents and Carers,

This is a time of considerable uncertainty, and I know that as families, schools, communities and as a society, we will need to work together to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, both in terms of health and in also in continuing to provide good quality educational provision to our young people.

As we are all aware the current situation is rapidly changing and Government / Department for Education / NHS advice is being regularly amended and reviewed. In light of this, I will write to parents more regularly than the weekly letter, especially where there has been a significant change either at Wollaston School or nationally. In the meantime – please find below details of the current situation:

  • We have a small number of students and staff who are following NHS 111 advice and staying at home because they have met the criteria of either a high temperature or a continuous cough.
  • On a personal note, I have also been advised to stay at home until Thursday, as although I have symptoms which are slightly inconsistent with coronavirus, I have met the criteria above and taken advice from PHE and the DfE. I am cleared to return on Thursday morning and am available remotely in the meantime via my PA, Mrs Louisa Nixon, nixonl@wollaston-school.net.
  • If other staff or students need to stay at home, we will not name them or publicise this– I just felt it important to let parents and students know of my current situation.
  • Individuals staying at home are not categorised as cases of Covid-19. They will not be tested for the virus and the NHS and DfE have asked not to be notified of these cases. The stay at home advice is a blanket, preventative measure to ensure that all those attending public places are healthy and well.  For the sake of clarity – we have no known cases of staff, students or parents who have tested positive for Covid-19.
  • There is no action required from schools when staff or students need to stay at home under the new NHS guidance. The current direction to schools is to stay open in all circumstances, unless specifically instructed to close by Public Health England or the DfE.
  • We continue to employ additional cleaning staff – including at weekends, to ensure the cleanliness of the school site.

Contingency Planning

  • In order to support students who are absent – we will start to phase in sharing lesson resources on the Go4Schools homework app from this week.
  • We would be grateful if parents of absent students could avoid emailing individual teachers directly to request work. This is likely to create an unmanageable number of individual requests. We aim to make this unnecessary through the strategy to post lesson resources as above.
  • We will also use the Go4Schools homework module to set work in event of a closure.
  • We will advise teachers and students to follow all usual timetables, enabling work to be set and completed on a scheduled basis, which should be helpful for students and staff to manage workload.
  • If you cannot access Go4schools please contact franciss@wollaston-school.net or rowlandc@wollaston-school.net

Trips, Visits and PD Day

  • We are currently reviewing arrangements for the Personal Development Day on Tuesday and Mr Beeby, Deputy Headteacher, will provide an update to all parents by letter this afternoon.
  • The current Government advice is that International trips should not go ahead. I am currently liaising with our insurance and travel operator regarding the Italy trip in order to secure full refunds for families.
  • We are also taking advice on the Berlin and WWI Battlefields trips regarding securing refunds.
  • The Government advice is for domestic trips to continue as planned. We are aware of course that this could change, but in the meantime we are planning to run the Year 7 residential as scheduled.

There remains of course, considerable uncertainty about what the Government will decide regarding it’s schools strategy in the weeks and months ahead. There have been numerous reports from imminent closure, to legislation to force schools to stay open, to opening to the children of public service personnel only. It is impossible to know which may come into force at a given time and I will notify parents of any developments as soon as I am made aware of them.

In terms of the Wollaston School and Nene Valley Partnership strategy, this is as follows:

  • We will follow all Government / DfE / PHE advice. Where there is a query – we use the DfE helpline to access additional guidance.
  • We encourage, expect and support all members of the school community to follow NHS advice regarding when to stay at home, and in following hygiene procedures, including washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and using “catch it, bin it, kill it” when dealing with coughs or sneezes.
  • We will remain committed and ready to support our local community with a good quality education provision at a time of considerable need for the country. This may include remote provision in the event of closure or adapted arrangements if the school remains open.

Thank you, as always for the support of our school. I know that the coronavirus is worrying for both families and society. If you do have any questions or concerns – please do get in contact with us. These are challenging times – and I am certain that we all have a crucial and collective role to play in helping our community function, thrive and support each other to get through this in the most positive way possible.

Regards,

Mr James Birkett
Headteacher