Head of School’s Blog

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.

 

Principal’s Blog

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.

Principal’s Blog

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.

Principal’s Blog

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.

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Principal’s Blog

Our students and their families richly deserve the half term break – and that is what we want them to have.

I am sure they will be pleased to know that teachers will not be setting any remote learning next week.

We would like them to enjoy their holidays and, while adhering to the lockdown restrictions, spend quality time with family and friends.

We have been delighted with students’ approach to remote learning, with high engagement continuing throughout the long, six-week half term.

Parental support has been key and families have spent a lot of time together since the Prime Minister announced the latest lockdown in early January.

But next week is an opportunity to forget logging on and the school routine. It is a chance to spend some quality time together.

My message to students is please come back refreshed on Monday, 22nd February, and ready to go again.

As I mentioned last week, that is also the day the Prime Minister will set out his roadmap to re-opening schools in England from 8th March.

The secondary sector, or particular year groups, may have to wait a little longer but, whatever the announcement, we will have two weeks to prepare. We will be ready.

Associated with a return has been a lot of talk about children catching up. Speculation has centred around working through the summer, tutors, or schools opening on a Saturday.

My concern is that, once out of lockdown, children need to catch up on other things, such as seeing their friends.

They have missed out on social interaction and a quality of life, as well as school, over the past few weeks.

I want us to return to the school that, before the pandemic, was not simply focused on academic achievements but one that offered trips, visits and other opportunities that made our children well-rounded young adults.

I hope then, when the Government’s advisers make recommendations, the focus is on young people catching up with their lives and not just schooling.

That is why next week is precious for our students and their families. Please enjoy it and stay safe and well.

 

Principal’s Blog

Success with the vaccination programme has prompted me to focus on the positives over the last few days.

As well as a high proportion of the elderly and vulnerable receiving their potentially life-saving jabs, there has been good news about the Oxford vaccine reducing transmission rates and its effectiveness not being reduced by the 12-week period between first and second doses.

I recognise lockdown continues to be tough for many families and businesses.

But there are also families benefiting from spending more time together, whether that might be going for a walk, sharing the house chores, or enjoying meals.

That benefit extends to the support families are giving their children with schoolwork, which we are extremely grateful for.

Students have really settled into the live lessons, which make up a large proportion of our teaching.

On the rare occasions they do not happen, students and parents are quick to feedback, which is positive because we have built expectation around high quality provision.

Our online offering has probably been through five different phases since it was launched less than a year ago. That is a credit to the staff, and I thank them again, on behalf of students, for their considerable efforts.

We have probably taken the live learning as far as we can, without going into Max Headroom, virtual reality territory!

But we continue to learn from the experience and our online platform will offer opportunities in the future.

In the short term, schools are waiting for news from the Government on re-opening.

Half term’s only a week-and-a-half away and that announcement is due on the first day back (22nd).

Even if it is not what we want – all children back in the classroom as soon as possible – at least we will have something to work towards.

I note Scotland have announced a phased return, starting with primary children. Maybe that is something we should expect from 8th March? We shall see.

The senior leadership team has run through various scenarios and, whatever the news, we are confident of maintaining our high-quality provision.

Numbers of vulnerable children and those of key workers attending the academy are slowly growing, unlike the first lockdown, which shows our provision is meeting their needs.

We just cannot wait to welcome all our students and staff team back into school.

As always, stay safe and well.