We are nearly there.
The holidays are eagerly anticipated and richly deserved by students and staff.
It seems a long time ago the Prime Minister announced the third lockdown and much has happened in education subsequently.
I want everybody to enjoy their break in the context of some restrictions being eased on Monday.
We need to remain cautious, vigilant, and respectful to keep everybody safe, but there will be time to get plenty of fresh air in the good weather.
I would like to thank again the parents who have collected additional lateral flow testing kits to enable children to continue testing twice a week over the holidays to help keep everybody safe.
Every parent I have spoken to has been grateful of the testing procedures, which make them feel more comfortable about sending their child to school.
I am pleased to say we have had no further positive cases since last week which suggests testing is going well, social distancing is being observed and, generally, people are maintaining the standards to keep students and staff safe.
Further advice on face coverings in schools is set to be announced by the Government during the holidays to give us clarity before we return.
The Easter weekend, a significant event on the Christian calendar, falls just before Ramadan this year – to be confirmed for 12th or 13th April – which will last for 30 days from sunrise to sunset.
We will celebrate both.
Every child was given a cream egg this week to symbolise Easter and we are launching a competition to design a card for Eid.
The winning entry, judged by the Imam from the local mosque, will be professionally made and printed, just as we do for our Christmas card competition.
It is part of our efforts to celebrate diversity and do so widely.
We are respectful of each other’s cultures and observing cultural practices and how families live their lives.
Looking beyond the holidays, the PE team has started planning sporting fixtures before the May half term.
It will give students the chance to pull on the jersey or bib with the academy logo on it, and take pride in representing the school.
The last time they did so was more than 12 months ago and, for Year 7s, it will be their first opportunity to represent the Academy.
Hopefully, this will give students something to look forward to in the next phase of our roadmap to returning to an exciting, vibrant academy.
Happy Easter and Ramadan Mubarak.
It felt great to be back at full capacity on Monday.
School has been vibrant and busy, almost like normal. It is good to see children happy and pleased to see friends and staff.
We have hustle with a bustle. You can forget how important that is to a school and its community.
I think we are getting the provision right. Staff, students, and parents are working together to make the best of it.
But it is not easy for any of us. We are allowed to struggle to get back into a working and learning routine.
That is why it is important we help and support each other, recognising there are issues beyond the school gate which may make school life more difficult.
That is okay and we understand.
Generally, the students have adapted well to the new-look classroom and style of learning.
We are not putting students through tests, rather teaching them content and skills, and helping them with their aspirations.
All our students, including 11-year-olds, can tell me a career that interests them.
The other day, one described wanting to be a joiner while the girl next to him knew the subjects she needed to take to fulfil her ambition of becoming a vet.
Our job is to help them get there.
It is reassuring our students have retained high aspirations and goals even though we are in the middle of a pandemic. They are not going to let it get in the way of their dreams.
Those conversations suggest our extra-curricular activities around careers, such as our Futures programme, are working well.
I would like to again thank those families who have picked up COVID-19 testing kits and are supporting their children use them. The more who do so, the safer we are.
We have read Government guidance on testing over Easter and will be communicating further now we have finalised our plan of how the extra testing kits can be collected.
Finally, just to confirm a commitment I made to Year 11s last week.
They will be given details around the teacher-assessed grades process tomorrow and Friday.
We do not want them worrying unnecessarily and staff will be there to support and guide them.
We will get through the process together.
Welcome to my first weekly blog.
As you are aware, Mr Adnitt has switched role to Executive Headteacher. He continues to support, advise, and challenge but is responsible for more than this academy.
His weekly blog has been well read and received. I hope mine will be too.
We always knew it was going to be a busy two weeks and so it has proved.
Unfortunately, three positive tests have meant an early return to home learning for some. It is something we had hoped to avoid but the figures reflect what is going on in the wider community.
It reminds us all that we need to stick to the rules and procedures, in and out of school.
We must follow the advice around good hygiene and wearing face coverings.
School will be undertaking its last lateral flow tests tomorrow (Thursday), meaning all year groups have been tested three times since their return.
The Government is expecting students to self-test at home twice a week to help keep everybody safe.
Now many students have experienced the test, we hope as many as possible will take up the opportunity to self-test.
Parents have been invited to pick up the kits from school and there has been a good response. We want them to contact us if they have any questions or concerns.
The guidance has not changed if a student is feeling ill or showing any COVID-19 symptoms. They should stay at home, get themselves tested and, if necessary, self-isolate.
To beat this pandemic, we cannot relax.
If we all do our bit and reduce infections, we can look forward to getting back to something like normal.
As a senior leadership team, we are planning for after May half term, with after-school clubs, trips, and visits from companies to the academy. We hope this planning comes to fruition.
I am conscious how Year 11s are to be assigned grades has still to be finalised.
Teachers’ assessments will take on board tasks undertaken in a classroom and not under exam conditions.
We will communicate exactly how this will work to Year 11s and their parents within the next week.
Given the uncertainties, Year 11 has been brilliant. I would also like to thank parents for their support, patience, and trust. We have had a lot of messages and kind words.
What this whole experience has taught us is how much our students value education and being in school.
We are committed to beating COVID-19 and beating it together, returning to all the great things that happen at this academy.
We will get there.
Students have arrived back at the Academy this week with a fantastic mindset.
They have been so positive and clearly pleased to be back and among their friends. Staff are delighted to be back teaching face-to-face.
It has been great to see everybody enjoying people’s company, something many have not experienced since the turn of the year.
A well-being and recovery curriculum has been operating this week to ease the students back into formal learning.
It has been a chance to reset and for them to share experiences over lockdown. While there have been formal lessons each day, we think this has been important. Attendance has been excellent.
Our testing of students and staff has gone well.
Unfortunately, a Year 10 tested positive today which has meant close contacts self-isolating and needing to learn from home.
It shows the procedures we have put in place are working and, as time goes on, students and families will be reassured about the testing process.
I would like to give a huge ‘thank you’ to the testing team.
They have done a fantastic job in terms of the numbers being tested and the way it has been coordinated and delivered. It is all calm and orderly.
After Easter, we are hoping the local and national picture continues to look positive and we can provide the clubs and after-school activities we are so proud to offer our students.
It is something for everybody to look forward to.
There is still some uncertainty about Year 11 grading. As soon as we know, we will communicate with parents.
What is certain is their time in school is limited and they need to make the best of it.
We will certainly be working hard as a staff to ensure they are prepared for their next steps in education.
As always, please stay safe and well.
It is only days before school reopens fully – and staff are really looking forward to welcoming everybody back.
Years 10 and 11 will return on Monday, Year 7 on Tuesday, and Years 8 and 9 on Wednesday.
Three lateral flow tests have been organised for each year group in the first two weeks, before families will be asked to continue them at home.
All the details about the return can be found in Head of School Mr Dalowsky’s letter.
The Government’s guidance recommends face coverings are worn in classrooms in addition to communal areas in the three weeks until Easter.
The Academy is going with that advice and we will review it then.
What we hope is COVID-19 infection rates stay low to enable us to open up even more.
Plans are in place for clubs and activities to return after Easter.
We will be sticking to the same regime that was in place during the Autumn term.
Students are reminded to:
- Keep socially-distanced at all times;
- Maintain their superb level of conduct and behaviour; and
- Remember the importance of personal hygiene, with regular sanitising and washing of hands.
A wider public health responsibility rests with us all. We need to keep infection rates down to enable the gradual return to normal across society.
Exams will, of course, remain different this year.
We will be informing students and parents about the appeal process for Year 11 grades once we have the final details.
They can be reassured students’ futures are not in the hands of an algorithm as they were, at least initially, last year.
This time, it is in the hands of the students what grades they achieve, with teacher assessments based on work across Years 10 and 11.
That is why it is important to keep going with the home learning for these final few days.
As always, please stay safe and well.
I hope students were able to follow my advice before half term and enjoy a break – and have returned to learning re-energised.
For those studying at home, we had the welcome confirmation from the Prime Minister this week that children would return to school from the 8th March.
We are digesting the guidance to ensure we get everything right.
Parents can be reassured that, when the academy does reopen fully, we will not be compromising on the social distancing measures put in place last term that protect students and staff.
Primary schools will return on 8th March but secondaries have been given the option of a staggered start over the course of that week to enable COVID-19 testing of students and staff.
We will be taking this up and communicating with parents shortly to confirm arrangements and issue consent forms.
The testing programme is a big undertaking for schools, and we are determined to ensure it is managed safely.
Colleagues have a lot to do before students return.
I know the vast majority will be looking forward to returning – and staff are keen to welcome everybody back.
However, there will be some who feel nervous and apprehensive. This is perfectly understandable as many will have been without normal social interaction for weeks.
I want to reassure them and their families about the return to school.
As in September, the curriculum will include a recovery element, allowing teachers a chance to check on progress and students time to catch up.
As well as the academic side, this will include students’ wellbeing.
In the meantime, if any families have concerns, please get in touch with your year group ATL, who will support.
One welcome difference to the curriculum provided up to Christmas will be the safe return of sports and other out-of-school activities.
We will provide more detail soon, but we need to get back to providing an all-round education experience which nurtures well-rounded young adults.
It is going to take time but at least there is light at the end of this long tunnel.
As always, please stay safe and well.