4th February 2021

I hope that you and your families remain safe and well.

Firstly, as I am sure you are aware the government is preparing us for the potential return of students back to school from 8th March.  Whilst the intent is most welcome, we do not have much in the way of certainty, or know a great deal about the finer details and logistics.  We believe this return to school will be dependent on safety in the community, as much as the principle of it being the right thing to do for our young people.  Whether the return will be staggered, operate on a rota system and whether it will be examination year groups that return first remains to be seen.  All I can assure you is, that as we discover the facts, we will keep you updated with our plans.  We understand there will be more tangible information released by 22nd February, so we will be in touch shortly after that date.

Whilst we consider uncertainties, it is also worth reminding our Year 11 & 13 students and parents of the lack of clarity regarding the cancellation of exams. The Ofqual consultation closed on 29th January and we hope to have some understanding of the outcome of this later in the month.  Again, we will keep you updated.  Until we receive clear guidance from Ofqual about how grades will be awarded we will be unable to publish any projected grades for our Year 11 & 13 students.  Therefore, we would be grateful if students and/ or parents did not request these from teachers.  We would remind you of our earlier advice, that it is business as usual, and for our students to continue to work towards completing their exam courses as best as they can.  When we know more from Ofqual we will contact students and parents about the revised dates for postponed Parents’ Evenings, we hope this will allow us to offer more clarity and reassurance moving forward.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the students, parents and staff that took the time to respond to our recent surveys.  There was an overwhelming response and we are still working on our analysis of the feedback.  We know we have a lot to learn from this feedback and we will do our best to let you know what tweaks and refinements we will make in response to your comments and suggestions.  Once we have had time to make some decisions we will provide an update for you.  The vast majority of your responses were well measured and positive, those that were less so were equally well received; we will use this feedback wisely.

As you know, we have been open daily during lockdown to provide as normal an experience as possible for our key worker and vulnerable children.  We have operated a reduced staff rota to supervise the children in school, to ensure routine and a structured timetable.  Our teachers have provided the same excellent remote learning content for all students, regardless of whether they have been working from home or in school.  We recognise how hard the vast majority of our students have been working and how challenging remote learning has been for us all to adapt to.  The feedback from students, parents and teachers in our recent surveys suggests that there is a lot of work developing that is left unfinished.  Many students are struggling to complete all of their remote learning work from the last half-term.  We are also aware that this is causing and adding to some students’ anxieties.  Consequently, we want our students to be able to use the February half-term holiday as an opportunity to switch-off, to recharge and to have a proper break from remote learning.  We are therefore assigning the last day of this half-term, which is Friday 12th February, as a day for our students to catch-up.  Teachers will not be delivering any online lessons on that day, nor will they set any independent work, other than directing students to complete any unfinished work they may have.  Furthermore, they will not set any homework for the half-term break.  For those students who will have finished all work and do not have anything to complete it will be an opportunity to avoid screen time, a day to do something different, their teachers may choose to offer some ideas and guidance on this.

Additionally, I recognise how wonderfully hard our staff have been working to keep the school open and to maintain a sense of normality at this difficult time.   Understandably, I want to give our teachers and support staff an opportunity to get a good break too and not have to rollover any outstanding work to the half-term week.  I think they need a well-deserved break as much as our students do.  Taking this into account, I have also given our staff the directive of using Friday 12th February to catch-up.  This may include planning, marking or preparation for lessons after half-term.  After all, this has been a half-term like no other in history and I believe it calls upon extraordinary actions to ensure we get through the next one in one piece, together.

Stay safe, take care and thank you for your continued support.

Kind regards,

Mr Farr