HEADTEACHER UPDATE – 21st April 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope that this letter finds you and your family, friends and loved ones safe and well.
This remains a troubling and distressing time, and we remain committed to doing all that we can to support our students remotely, during the period of school closures. There are numerous national updates, sources of help and advice, as well as refinements to our provision listed below. It is an unusual feature of the current situation, that although it feels that school closures have been with us for months; we are only on school day 12 of remote learning. As such, I know that we are collectively feeling our way with this. It is not a situation that either schools or parents could possibly have planned for – and I also know that we are all looking forward to returning to school as soon as it is safe to do so.
I would also again like to thank you for your messages of support and appreciation. As we are all currently disconnected from each other – these do mean a great deal to us as a school community, as we attempt to navigate the most appropriate path through such uncertain and challenging terrain.
As has become customary – this is a marathon read, as I have tried to ensure that we have links to all current guidance in one accessible place.
School Closures and Longer Term Planning
This is a beginning to a Summer Term like no other, and whilst we now know the plan for awarding qualifications to students in Years 11 and 13, there is no set timetable for a return to school for students in other year groups. Latest information for parents on school closures can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers
As there is no end date scheduled, we are aiming to continue to refine and improve our approach to remote learning, making use of nationally available resources. More details can be found in the dedicated section below. Remote learning can never capture or recreate the interaction, practical activity or expertise that a normal day at school can provide. I know that parents are working incredibly hard to support your children, and I do want to put it on record how appreciative we are of your efforts. However, I know that some families are finding this incredibly challenging to maintain.
With this in mind, we are trying to include more easily accessible “grab and go” tasks, as well as sharing details of some of the new national resources available. We are also aware that individual family circumstances have a big impact on what can be achieved during a usual school day. As a general rule, we would not want school work at home to be a source of conflict or anxiety for families. We recognise that families are doing their best – and that is absolutely good enough. Please do also remember that Mr Mills email@example.com and Mr Cunningham firstname.lastname@example.org can be contacted via email for any questions or feedback regarding online provision.
In terms of a return to school timetable, parents may be aware that there has been much speculation in the media regarding possible dates. The clarification from the Secretary of State has been welcomed in confirming that this will be guided by the medical evidence and that schools will only open when safe to do so. One of the challenges here, is that it is impossible to maintain any form of social distancing as part of normal school operation. We work together as a group of nearly 1500 students and 200 staff – in a relatively small physical environment. When the time does come to consider a plan for a return to school, we will of course look carefully at how we manage this to ensure a low risk of transmission for every member of the school community.
We do believe that it is beneficial for students to continue to follow their timetables where possible as a sense of structure can be beneficial. However, please do be assured that this is not compulsory. If this is not possible because of family circumstances, please do design your own schedule which better suits the timing of your day. Please do bear in mind though that a regular routine can be helpful in promoting good sleep, rest and working habits during this period of time.
We are also aware that in setting work for students, the quantity is never going to be perfect for every single student. To guide you with managing this:
- Teachers are going to distinguish which tasks can be considered “extension work.”
- Please do not routinely go over the guided time period for tasks. If something remains unfinished, is not accessible or needs to be completed briefly to fit in with the time available that is perfectly acceptable.
- Whilst we will provide, and would like students to follow a full timetable and curriculum, we do understand that parents and children will need to make their own decisions on what is reasonable and practical. We also recognise that some students may find it beneficial to spend additional time on subjects that they have a particular interest in. As with all of the above – we recognise that these have to be decisions taken by families. We just want to ensure that there is relevant and engaging work available for students to access across the full breadth of the curriculum.
- There are some newly launched national support resources for education at home. Details can be found below if parents wish to explore – and they include some daily lessons. Teachers will look to incorporate these into some of the work set as a means of allowing students to access video and sequenced lesson plans.These resources can be found here:
Finally – please do be assured that when we do resume, we are not going to be immediately launching into testing or assessments. The content we are covering through Go4Schools is important and part of the national / exam curriculum, but we do know that once schools return this will need revisiting and consolidating.
In terms of accessibility, if you are having any issues obtaining appropriate work, please contact Mr Mills email@example.com for further guidance. We have taken a number of steps for families who need it, and will also sign up for the national scheme to access IT equipment for those who require this. More information will follow as we receive this.
Helping Students to Stay Safe Online
As part of remote learning and the need for social distancing many students and families are spending much more time online. Please find below links to Government advice regarding online safety and details of a number of different organisations which can provide additional support and guidance.
- Thinkuknow provides advice from the National Crime Agency (NCA) on staying safe online.
- Parent info is a collaboration between Parentzone and the NCA providing support and guidance for parents from leading experts and organisations.
- Childnet offers a toolkit to support parents and carers of children of any age to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support.
- Internet matters provides age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls on a range of devices, and a host of practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world.
- London Grid for Learning has support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online.
There have also been reports of some extremist groups using the coronavirus crisis to spread false news and encourage radicalisation. Guidance for parents can be found below – and this also contains information regarding how to report any concerns about online content. https://www.ltai.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Parent-Guardian-Online-Radicalisation-Information-and-Support-V.2.pdf
Supporting Good Physical, Mental Health and Well Being
We have been asked by the NHS to share the following advice regarding when to contact different services if you have a concern about your children’s health. Of course, parents and children continue to suffer with various conditions unrelated to coronavirus. A copy of this poster can be found here.
The Northamptonshire Children’s Safeguarding Board have also put together a guide for parents and young people to offer information and sources of additional support. Please click here.
We are also aware that the current situation can be challenging to the mental health and wellbeing of adults and children. There is Government Guidance on this here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing
In addition, please find below details of how to contact local Children’s Mental Health Services below in case of urgent need.
Mental Health Support for Children and Young People
Chat Health – CAMHS Live www.nhft.nhs.uk/camhslive
CAMHS Crisis Team:
08.30 – 22.00 7 days per week 0300 1111 022 (Option 1)
22.00-08.30 7 days per week 0300 330 1011
Where a young person may be in crisis it is possible to contact the cafés below:
- The Reach Collaborative – 3rd Sector Youth Counselling Services. http://reachyouthcounselling.org.uk/Welcome.html
- The Lowdown have also just launched an online emotional support helpline at https://www.tidio.com/talk/wellbeingsupport
Free School Meal Provision
We have now moved to a supermarket voucher system for all Free School Meal provision and have now ceased providing packed lunches to be picked up.
The first payment has been released successfully and we hope that this will support families in making best use of this entitlement. For any queries regarding this system, please contact Mr Wayne Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you as always for your continued support. I will of course continue to provide regular updates as news or guidance changes. It is impossible to plan too far in advance at the moment – so in the meantime, I hope that you all remain safe and well, and that contact and work from school is helpful in providing a sense of routine, familiarity and structure.
Mr J Birkett