21st May 2020
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/P33KyE4uqKo
Dear parent of a year 10 or year 12 student,
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Keeping safe, Keeping learning
I hope this message finds you and your family well.
Last week, I wrote to parents to explain our thinking and planning for after half term, you will recall I said that we do not plan to have any pupils from year 10 or 12 back on site on the week beginning the 1st June. I wanted to confirm and reiterate that in case it had been missed in my last message. We have not set a date yet for when we will have year 10 or 12 back on site.
We recognise this is an anxious time for parents and children. We feel it too!
We have been planning carefully for how to meet the government's request to "offer some face to face support for children and young people in year 10 and year 12 to supplement their remote education" in the next half term. It is not yet clear nationally whether this will go ahead. We are told the government will be making an announcement on whether schools should start to implement these plans on the 28th May. We are not going to rush: safety is our number one priority. The positive responses we have had from parents about the high quality of work on MS Teams means that learning is still continuing remotely. This is important as the government's own guidance is that remote education is the main way that year 10 and 12 will be educated, with any onsite activity simply supplementing and supporting that.
Although we have no confirmation, we have been planning carefully for a phased return, with each phase needing to meet the following test before we implement it: "Does this step improve upon the provision we are already offering remotely and can we do it safely?". Only if we can answer yes to both these points will we move forward. We will ensure that parents have at least a week's notice before each phase begins. I would like to explain our phased approach to you in this message and give you the chance to give your thoughts about it.
Phase 1: Site and Staff preparation phase.
This phase has already begun and will continue into the next half term. During this phase, students will continue to work from home on MS Teams as they have this last term. We will be adapting the site to make it COVID-secure and checking our risk-assessed plans with staff and other organisations to ensure that we are confident that any future phases are safe to progress with.
Why have this phase? For many of our staff, they have not been onsite since March, and we have a duty of care to our staff to give them time to come back on site with time to acclimatise to the new ways of working and be confident and ready to welcome any students back safely. The importance of not rushing this phase cannot be underestimated, and needs to happen fully to ensure that future phases take place correctly.
Phase 2: Welcome phase
When we are ready, we will move to phase 2. Students will be given an appointment to come in to school on a one-to-one basis (one parent can accompany them to school) to meet with a member of staff, preferably their tutor, to discuss:
Why have this phase? It is vital that any pupils from year 10 or 12 who return to the school feel happy and safe to do so, and that this return can be managed in a controlled, safe way. We need to acknowledge that the sudden school closures, the national lockdown and loss of freedoms, routines and certainty, plus the threat of the pandemic will have created the potential for trauma in many of our pupils, even if no-one they know has fallen ill. Also, the inevitable reduction in communication with our pupils means that there may be safeguarding or welfare issues that have arisen in the lives of pupils which we will need to give the chance for them to disclose. Finally, the difference in diligence of approach and opportunity that students have had to access remote learning (both electronic and paper based) will mean that different pupils will be at different stages in their learning, and an opportunity to have a discussion about the work they have managed to complete and any issues with their ability to work remotely can be had. It is noted that different families have access to differing levels of resources and so the opportunity to obtain work resources such as paper and pens can take place so that remote learning can continue to take place at home.
Phase 3: Curriculum Catch Up Phase
Small numbers of targeted students will be invited in to work with teachers in accessing the learning that has been on MS Teams. There will be a different subject focus each half day, with heads of department able to select which pupils they would like in based on what we know about how far they have got with their learning. Staff from the relevant subject will be invited in to support the learning taking place on the relevant half-day. Learning will take place in computer rooms or on laptops so that students are not doing different activities from those at home, and so that staff are not having to set different work for different groups of pupils. This ensures there is not a divergence of learning taking place.
Why have this phase?
It must be acknowledged that the amount of learning that has taken place will differ between families due to a range of factors, including access to resources. This catch up phase will allow us to target those pupils who need extra support with catching up with their work while allowing those that don’t require it to remain at home at continue with remote learning. Also, by having small numbers in at this stage, it allows us to see our adaptations to the school site in operation and to tweak as needed before there are larger numbers of pupils on site. The length of this phase will differ for year 10 pupils and year 12 pupils, who are likely to be able to move to the next phase faster.
Phase 4: Curriculum Progression Phase
We may only get as far as phase 3 during the summer term, and phase 3 matches the government expectation of supplementing remote learning. However, we are already planning the next phase in case the national picture continues to improve and we can move to it.
For year 10, the year group would be split into two sides (probably the sides they are already on), with half the year group having one subject in the morning and a second subject in the afternoon, with the other half of the year group having the reverse of these subjects. Rather than follow the normal timetable, this would reduce the amount of travel for staff and the number of days they were in. It would also reduce the amount of times that students travel around the school building. Students would stay in one room for the day, and only allowed out at lunchtime. We plan that the different halves would have different arrival times, lunch breaks and departure times to reduce the amount of contact time.
For year 12, we would offer a similar morning or afternoon "session" approach for each class rather than their normal timetabled hour lessons to reduce the amount of times students would need to travel to and from school.
Why have this phase?
Once we have given time for those in year 10 and 12 that need it to catch up as best we can, and if we are still in a situation where we are only expected to have year 10 and 12 in (we will need the space to spread pupils out), we will move to a curriculum progression phase. This fourth phase goes beyond the government expectation to “offer some face to face support for children and young people in year 10 and year 12 to supplement their remote education” and so we would need to be convinced as a school community of the need for this phase. We would only be able to move to this model if the vast majority of students were willing and able to come in to the school, that it meets the test we set ourselves, and that, most importantly, local and national rates of infection have continued to drop dramatically.
We believe this to be the right way forward and in line with the advice we have received from a range of sources: not to rush, to take each step in the light of the national and local situation at the time, and to ensure everyone involved understands why we are taking each step. I hope this has made sense to you and matches the approach you would expect us to take: that your daughter's or son's safety and feeling of security is vital if they are to be an effective learner.
I would really appreciate your feedback on whether you would be happy to send you child in based on this plan and if you have any other questions or comments that you would like to make about it. Please use this survey to give us much needed feedback as ultimately you will be the ones making the decision as to whether to take up the offer we are making.
Thanks again for your continued support of the school. I really appreciate it.
St Anne's Catholic School