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.

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.

Principal’s Blog

We are all in a state of limbo, waiting for key decisions to be taken.

While we do so, it is important students and parents know a lot of work is being done to ensure the academy’s ready to reopen fully when it can.

The academy’s new senior leadership team’s using this period to look at the curriculum, learning environment and systems and procedures.

Mr Dalowsky, in his new role as Head of School, is very clear that one question drives their work: how can our offering to students be further improved?

We would like to return as soon as possible but know that will only be when it is safe to do so.

When the academy’s fully open again, students will hopefully notice the difference to classrooms and their learning experience.

We cannot wait to provide, for instance, those extra-curricular activities – away from the academic programme – which benefit our students enormously.

But, until then, students need to maintain the excellent engagement with our online platform.

The biggest frustration for staff is not knowing the process for centre-assessed grades.

Until we have the details from the Department for Education, we cannot make the predicted grades Year 11 need for Further Education applications.

That is why it is so important they continue with their online work. They especially need to log on to tutor sessions to keep up-to-date with Mr Murray’s work on next steps.

Parents / carers of Year 9 are reminded that, in the absence of a normal Parents’ Evening, appointments can be booked for a consultation event with all subject teachers and tutors between Monday 8th and Friday 12th February.

Please go to SchoolCloud – The St Lawrence Academy before next Friday (5th) to book slots and contact Mr Stainton directly with any questions.

I note coronavirus rates in North Lincolnshire have fallen and are among the lowest in the country.

This is positive news.

Nobody likes being in lockdown. A school should be full of children learning, not empty classrooms.

We must keep going and follow the guidelines. Only by doing so will the wait be over, and we get back to something like normal.

As always, stay safe and well.

Principal’s Blog

Nothing will substitute students learning with a teacher in a classroom – but we are having a good go with our online offer.

Our young people agree, with 91% accessing the live lessons on a regular basis.

That is a credit to our students, their support network at home, and our staff, who have worked so hard to adapt.

What is more, the numbers are increasing, with more accessing in week 2 than in week 1. So the word is getting out about the quality of our online offer.

We have set a tough challenge.

As well as the live lessons, which follow students’ timetables, tutor time and our Personal, Social and Health Education is online in the form of Futures and Character sessions.

A large majority of students are accessing everything daily.

We have strategies in place for the 9% failing to log in regularly and for those not attending every lesson.

We know it is not easy, but I spoke about the importance of routine last week and it is clear from the figures most of our students have adapted to remote learning.

To the end of last week, staff had delivered 829 live lessons across all year groups, a fantastic effort.

Parents and carers can be reassured we are not asking our students to stare at a screen non-stop for five hours a day and our approach is a blend of a variety of strategies.

Teachers are delivering content through the live lessons before the students are set a task, which might not be online. That variety to their learning is important, just as it is in a classroom.

We have three times as many attending school as the first lockdown but that is manageable, with those 30 to 40 students receiving the same online lessons as working remotely.

Our inclusion and support team, as well as our PE department, deserve our thanks for supporting these students in the academy and conducting the testing programme for staff and students.

Those staying at home are helping the community bring down the numbers of infections.

I am hopeful that, in the next few weeks, I will be able to share plans on how Year 11s will be awarded their grades.

In the meantime, it is important they continue to do what is asked.

Mr Murray’s overseeing their college applications through the Futures programme.

A video has been produced to help with personal statements, phone calls home being made, and one-on-one virtual meetings taking place with careers’ advisors to support with next steps.

Some colleges and training providers are asking for predicted grades and that is difficult when courses have not been completed and there is still uncertainty over the exact process of final grades being awarded by teacher assessment this year.

Schools do not know whether they will be assessing against the whole course or the parts students have done. We are unsure if Year 11 students will still have to sit some form of assessment in the weeks ahead. I appreciate that this uncertainty is unsettling.

Hopefully, decisions will be made by the Department for Education soon.

Regular phone calls home continue across all year groups. It is important where a student has a problem or there is a change in circumstance, that school is informed.

The same goes for those struggling with remote access, for whatever reason. Please talk to your Achievement Team Leader for your year group, or to Mrs West.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

 

 

Principal’s Blog

Routine has never been so important for our students.

As adults, we sometimes struggle with it, so I do understand the difficulties in what we are asking our young people to do.

Our online learning follows their school timetable and, while the vast majority are in a good routine and logging in every day, some are not.

Could I ask parents and carers to encourage children to log in to the learning platform and check their emails regularly.

The emails require them to log on to a different platform. We are sending out important information – for example college applications for Year 11 – via email and that is why students must check emails daily.

You or we do not want them to miss deadlines.

I am pleased we went ahead with vocational exams, taking place over the last week or so.

The Government left the decision up to individual schools and academies, but I know our students have benefited from the experience.

Only a very small number did not take them, and we knew and understood their reasons for not doing so.

Students took their exams in a safe environment and their conduct was exemplary. Well done!

Members of the senior leadership team have done a great job setting up a COVID-19 testing centre over the last week. My thanks to them for doing so.

It means we can regularly test those staff and students in the building during lockdown and, in theory, we should be able to handle 300 people daily.

Staff have volunteered to train and service the station, but we may, at some point, appeal to members of the public to support.

We have around 40 children in school – deemed vulnerable or those of key workers – and there is a really good atmosphere. They are doing the same work online as peers are remotely.

The live lessons are working well, with teachers providing content through some live teaching delivery before students are set a task, which is mostly online.

Where members of staff are unavailable, online learning is provided.

We are keeping as much face-to-face contact as possible, making it as real as possible. It helps reassure the children when they see their teachers regularly.

Finally, our free school meal voucher system is working well and given the headlines, is a reason we did not want to go down the route of providing food parcels.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

Principal’s Blog

It has been a dramatic 36 hours or so for everybody.

For those trying to provide the best quality teaching and learning experience for our young people, we are still coming to terms with what this lockdown will mean.

Our immediate concerns are setting up a high quality online learning timetable and providing a safe environment for students sitting vocational exams over the next week in hair and beauty, hospitality and catering, sports science and health and social care.

As we stand on this Wednesday morning, all these students should expect to sit exams from tomorrow onwards.

If this situation changes, we will let students and parents know immediately.

Unfortunately, that is the situation we are in. We are finding out changes through news bulletins and having to react accordingly.

I do appreciate the Government has had to make difficult decisions but, up to Monday’s announcement, we were planning the logistics around setting up a coronavirus testing centre and having all students return from the 18th.

Now, the academy is only open to vulnerable children and those of key workers.

While it is a time of uncertainty, I would ask students and parents not to worry unduly.

We will be doing everything we can as an academy to support our young people.

For instance, thanks to a huge amount of work, we are in a much better place altogether than 12 months ago to deliver online learning.

While not the same as being in a classroom, our online platform is up and running with content for students this week and, from Monday, teachers will be delivering live lessons.

They will do so either from their homes or here at the academy, where we have invested in IT to cover this eventuality.

Students need to be logging in daily and we are, once again, indebted to the support of parents with this.

Our students are our priority and we care about them. Their education, their wellbeing, their safety and the safety of their families are important to us.

Whatever you read or hear please remember this and keep supporting us in the work that we try to do.

Most important is that our academy plays its part in reducing the spread of this dreadful virus while maintaining the best possible education for our students.

I wish you a safe and healthy New Year.

 

Principal’s Blog

Wow – we have almost made it!

Nobody could have foreseen when we were breaking up 12 months ago the year we have had.

Even in this last week of term, it has had its twists.

More students could be accommodated in the academy than we thought possible a week ago because of the reduction by the Government of self-isolation to 10 days.

Without wishing to sound like a stuck record, I would like to thank all our staff who have stepped up to the plate, adapting to last minute changes in plans to support our students.

The students have been incredible.

They have shown tremendous resilience and met the challenges head on. Everybody has worked together to get through this difficult period.

The vast majority of feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

They accept we are trying to do the best we can in not just challenging circumstances, but circumstances which change seemingly at the drop of a news bulletin.

Of course, I understand these issues are not restricted to schools. Businesses, organisations, and individuals have had much to deal with, particularly those who have lost loved ones to this pandemic.

Christmas is always a reflective time of the year. This one will be even more so.

None of us know what the New Year will bring but, whatever it is, we will deal with it together and be stronger for it.

The last day of term is Thursday and it is important, particularly given the lost time this year, that students are in the academy for these final days.

Attendance for those meant to be in school dropped yesterday (though improved today) and, for those who are not ill, absence will be classed as unauthorised.

Their education provision is in school, they are not learning from home.

Tomorrow, all students have an opportunity to take part in our virtual Christmas concert in their tutor groups.

We had a fun Christmas jumper day last Friday, raising £86.30 in support of Save the Children. Some pictures are here.

Students and staff also made donations in support of the neonatal care unit at Scunthorpe Hospital.

Representatives from its charity The Health Tree Foundation collected them from under our Christmas tree and thanked everybody for their generosity.

I will finish my last blog of the year on that positive note.

As always, please stay safe and well over the holidays.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Principal’s Blog

It is not getting any easier as the end of term comes into sight.

I was sorry to send home Years 9 and 10 yesterday but, having sought advice from the Department for Education, was left with no alternative.

Single positive tests for coronavirus in each of these year groups meant a proportion of students were close contacts and needed to self-isolate.

Others will have been relieved to hear that, while learning from home, they did not need to self-isolate in the run up to Christmas.

We will review the situation on Friday but there is the possibility this situation will remain the same until the end of term and these year groups will not return until the New Year.

This is because, in recent blogs, I have mentioned the difficulties we have faced almost daily on the staffing front because of the virus.

Just before we opened on Monday a colleague tested positive and a further five were asked to isolate after being close contacts. This was in addition to a number of known staff absences that we had already planned to cover on Monday morning. It created an impossible situation.

On Monday evening a further five staff were contacted via NHS Track and Trace in unrelated incidents. So we will do our best to continue to provide education provision through to the end of term.

We will always ensure the academy safely provides the highest possible quality of learning for students in the building and to those at home.

It is essential students fully engage with online learning.

On this front, this year has been a big learning curve, but I feel we are providing high quality online resources and, where possible, live online teaching will take place.

We will be emailing students directly about their timetable and how to access this support.

Those with any difficulties should contact the academy.

I would like to stress that, as far as Years 7, 8 and 11 are concerned, it is business as usual for now and students in these year groups should attend the academy as normal.

Indeed, some Year 11s face external exams in January and it is important we support those students as much as we possibly can.

There might be only two weeks left until the end of a very long term but, given the time in the classroom all our students have missed, it is important they engage, work hard and, for those in school, take advantage of the low numbers and how we are operating.

As always, stay safe and well.