End of Term letter – July 2020

Dear parents,

As we approach the end of term, I wanted to write to you with some reflections on this half term and to begin to explain to you about our plans for opening in September.

Year 10 Learning

Firstly, I must tell you how impressed we have been with how our Year 10 students have been adapting to their in-school lessons blended alongside their distance learning at home. It has been a joy for teachers and support staff to be able to work face to face with your children again! Thank you for your trust and support in our new procedures; our students’ attendance and punctuality have been exceptional and their behaviour and engagement with their learning has been exemplary.

They have been incredibly responsible regarding maintaining social distancing and hygiene control measures and I am really looking forward to seeing them become superb role models in September to all of the younger year groups when they start back as our Year 11 students!

One of the marquees Year 10 have been using as their base.

Distance Learning & Chromebook Leasing Scheme

Our distance learning offer has significantly improved this half term and now includes having a large number of live lessons available each week for students across all year groups and all subjects to access from home. Again, attendance at live lessons has been very high and students and parents have given us really positive feedback about how much they are supporting learning at home. Staff have been very committed to developing their own skills and have identified a range of technology equipment that has helped to enhance the feedback and support that they are able to provide remotely to your children.

We are keen to continue to build upon the skills that your children have developed to use digital technology to support their learning. We will be writing to you tomorrow with details about a very affordable Chromebook leasing scheme for parents that we are launching in our two Trust schools. This scheme allows you to purchase a Chromebook at a reduced cost, includes software and full insurance against accidental damage and theft.

A Chromebook

There is a ‘swap out’ facility that allows the school to instantly support the replacement of a damaged Chromebook so that your child is never without access to their device. There are different payment options and you can spread the payments over 3 years, if you wish, at a cost of only £11 per month. Families will receive a substantial cost reduction if their child is eligible for Free School Meals and will pay a minimal amount. No credit checks are required.

Our ambition is that every child will have their own Chromebook to use in school in their lessons and at home; in a normal school year we expect that this will enhance their progress significantly and in particular for the year facing us, with the distinct possibility of a local lockdown if we have more Covid-19 outbreaks and are required to self-isolate in response to the NHS Test & Trace protocols, this Chromebook will be invaluable so that all children can maintain access to our high quality education when they are at school or when they are at home. We want the Chromebook to become as essential to your child’s learning as their stationery in their pencil case!

Key Worker School

Our students who have been attending Key Worker School (approximately 10% of our school population) have worked incredibly hard and have formed really strong bonds with the staff and the other students in their groups. We are really proud of all they have achieved and of their maturity in facing the additional restrictions that have been placed upon them at school over the past 4 months. Their engagement in their learning and their behaviour has also been exemplary and I am excited to also see them being excellent role models in September, supporting their peers to help them develop the new habits they will need to cope with the new protocols we will need to put in place in September.

A socially-distanced English room

Full Opening in September

We have been working at a fast pace to create our plans for full opening of the school in September and will be ensuring that we have increased handwashing and sanitisation stations around the school, alongside increased cleaning throughout the school day.

There are some key principles that we have adopted in designing our plans. More details will be sent to you in a lengthy document before the summer holiday to describe how we are making the school safe for your child and your family, but here is an overview of our plan.

We will deliver the full curriculum to all children and will keep the school day as close as possible to the usual experience with lessons taught by specialist teachers in their specialist classrooms. Vertical tutoring is vital for our school ethos and I know how highly parents have valued the regular contact with your child’s tutor and how much that has strengthened our home-school partnership that supports your child to grow and flourish in their learning. We also recognise how important social times with their peers are for children and we want to ensure that we retain those opportunities within the school day. School uniform will be worn, in accordance with government guidance.

There will however need to be significant changes to mitigate the risks of transmission of Covid-19 within our school community and we will insist that all children and adults comply fully with these procedures. Whilst we will be as supportive as possible, there will be very limited flexibility with our rules to make the school Covid-secure as the health and safety of every member of the school community has to be all of our top priority at all times. Everyone is expected to fully comply with the NHS Test & Trace protocols and self-isolate as instructed so we can keep the school community safe.

Year groups will have designated entrances and exits to the school building and there will be staggered start times and departure times each day so that we minimise any contact between students in different year groups. It is essential that students only arrive at school during their allocated arrival time slot and that parents never enter the school site (including the car park).

We will keep year groups apart as much as possible on site and we will be creating 4 ‘Villages’ outside the school building on the field (with two marquees in each Village) for years 7 to 10. Year 7-10 students will be escorted a year group at a time to their designated Village and will be supervised back to their next lesson or to their breaks. Students will only be allowed to socialise with students in the same year group in their Village during their break-times. Year 11 students will make their own way from lesson to lesson, but will also only be allowed to socialise within their year group.

We will only offer food during lunchtime (which will now be a longer break) and will have 5 food outlets, one for each year group. Students may prefer to bring a packed lunch which they can eat during their breaks and will then not have to spend time queuing. Each year group will have a designated toilet block to use and we will have additional portaloo’s on site in two locations outside as well.

Classroom layouts will all change so that desks are all forward facing and there will be one-way markings within the school as required. Staff will continue to wear face visors when they are walking around the school building and may put them on in lessons when they wish to approach a child. Government guidance advises staff to maintain social distancing at all times, but we recognise that it can be difficult to teach effectively without the ability to safely stand close to a student when they are in a busy classroom.

Visitors will not be allowed on site (which includes parents) unless it is deemed to be absolutely essential; this will usually be at the end of the school day and for pre-arranged appointments only.

Students must walk or cycle onto the school site. Parents dropping off or collecting their child in a vehicle must not enter the school site, including the staff car parks; please use the nearby public car park so that you do not create an unsafe environment for children walking or cycling to school or leaving school by attempting to drop your child off on the roads outside the school building.

We will need additional time to induct each year group into our new procedures safely and year groups will return to school in September as follows:

  • Friday 4th September 2020 – Year 7 & Year 11 return to school
  • Monday 7th September – Year 8 return to school and Years 7 & 11 attend school as normal
  • Tuesday 8th September – Year 9 return to school and Years 7, 8 & 11 attend school as normal
  • Wednesday 9th September – Year 10 return to school and Years 7, 8, 9 &11 attend school as normal

Important information to watch out for in the coming week

Please keep an eye out for the letter explaining all about the Chromebook Leasing Scheme tomorrow; parents will need to sign up quite quickly to be sure of having a Chromebook available at the start of term for their child.

Please also watch out for the ‘How we are Making the School Safe for your Child’ document with detailed information regarding our procedures for September which will be sent out before the end of term.

Thank you for your continued support over the past 4 months – I remain tremendously proud of all we have achieved together in our school community!

Yours sincerely,
Nys Hardingham