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Headteacher's Update - Tuesday 9 February

The following update from the Headteacher was emailed to parents and carers on Tuesday 9 February:

Dear Parents and Carers

As we approach half-term, I would like to thank you again for your support during this very unusual period. Your positive comments and constructive suggestions are always listened to and are regularly communicated to our staff team.

We continue to focus on the quality of our remote provision and have been pleased with the response of our students to their live lessons. Attendance at lessons, albeit remotely, remains high and students appear engaged with the interactive activities that are taking place. We have maintained high levels of home contact throughout this period of lockdown and have listened carefully to comments made by students during their weekly form tutor periods. We will continue to shape our practice and be mindful of the feedback we are receiving.

Staff are working flexibly and creatively to ensure remote learning is effective. As I have said on many previous occasions, it is simply not possible to replace the interaction and spontaneity of face-to-face classroom teaching. However, teaching and support staff have adapted well to their unfamiliar teaching environments and have delivered high quality remote lessons across all year groups. Staff are increasing their range of technological skills by attending regular training events and should be praised for the innovative ways that lessons are being delivered. Recent training has enabled teachers to use new techniques to add variety to lessons and Spiral, Socrative, Zeetings and Google Classrooms are now being used regularly to enhance the quality of lessons.

Students are contributing positively to their live lessons and are working conscientiously to complete set activities. We all realise how important it is to continue to work hard and to ensure that all required lesson content is covered. However, students should be reminded that live lessons (including any supporting tasks) should not take longer than one hour in total and lesson activities should not be saved until a later time - this will create a build-up of work and may cause a feeling of being 'overloaded'. Students should feel confident enough to talk to their teachers about any concerns they may have - staff will do all they can to support them.

As the period of lockdown continues, we recognise the pressures associated with remote learning on both our students and staff. We have therefore introduced a number of activities that will reduce screen time, beginning with "Well-Being Wednesday". During the afternoon lessons of this day (10 February), students will be encouraged to move away from their devices and participate in a selection of off-screen activities. There will also be a series of challenges set by members of our senior team and Heads of Year. Good luck to all involved!

COVID-19 asymptomatic testing routines are now well-rehearsed and established - thank you again to the large numbers of volunteers across our school community who are supporting our testing programme. Under current plans, staff will be tested twice weekly and all students will undergo initial testing when they return to school. Plans for daily testing of 'close contacts' (to replace the need for self-isolation) have been paused and we are awaiting further clarification from the DfE. Please remember that if your child exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive, they should remain at home.

We are expecting a number of announcements from the DfE over the next couple of weeks. This will include details of the Government's response to the consultation regarding summer examinations, which closed on 29 January. I know many members of our school community responded to the consultation and around 90,000 responses were received in total by Ofqual. We have been delighted with our Year 11 and Year 13 students who, despite the current uncertainty, have attended their remote lessons in large numbers and have remained focussed on extending their learning. In the background we are preparing for a number of potential scenarios, and we will be in touch with parents, carers and students once the guidance has been confirmed.

The Government has suggested 08 March as a potential date for reopening schools but we do not currently know what format this return will take. The pandemic has presented often unexpected changes over the last few months and I think we have all learned to wait for the detail rather than attempt to 'second-guess' any anticipated announcement. We will ensure our students are fully supported when they return to school and we look forward to seeing them again in the near future.

We have planned carefully for the eventual full re-opening of our school and have made a number of further adaptations to our site to ensure the safety and welfare of our students. As has been a consistently applied approach, we will continue to follow all government advice and recommendations.

I strongly recommend that students take a well-earned break over half-term, forget about work for a while and enjoy some free time. Our school will re-open to vulnerable students and children of key worker families on Monday 22 February and at this time, remote lessons will resume.

During next half term we plan to hold online parents' evenings for Year 10, Year 8 and Year 7, the first of which will be for Year 10 on Tuesday 02 March. Further information will follow. In the meantime, I hope you have a relaxing break and I will be in contact again after half-term when further information regarding our school re-opening should have been made available.

Gary Peat