Headteacher Blog - 29 January

Posted on: 29th Jan

I am sure you all would have now heard Mr Johnson‘s announcement on Wednesday that they hope to start re-opening schools on Monday, 8 March, depending on factors including the rate of vaccination amongst priority groups. The Prime Minister said he could not guarantee however that this would be before the Easter holidays. I realise that this announcement will be disappointing and I know how it is dealing with the uncertainty.

As a father of three girls, two of whom are doing exams this year, I know how tough it is with you trying to juggle home schooling and your own jobs.  I know there will be days when it just feels like it is all too much and you feel like the home schooling is not going well.  When I have these moments, I try to take a step back and take a reality check; we are all dealing with extremely challenging times and the most important thing is that we all take care of each other.  I know that you are all doing an amazing job and like my staff doing the very best that you can for your children.  As I said last year, we are not expecting you to be teachers, so don’t put that pressure on yourself.  The most important thing at the moment is that you look after each other’s well-being and keep each other safe.  Through our strong partnership, I am confident that our young people are going to emerge from this pandemic strong and resilient individuals, equipped with all the values and skills necessary to face any future challenges life has to throw at them.  Remember, we are still here to help you.  If you are finding things really difficult, please get in touch with us, emailing your Heads of Year and tutors.

As we reach the end of January and the end of almost a month of remote working for the majority of our students, we have had the opportunity to review the processes involved and make any necessary changes we feel necessary to continue to support the wellbeing of both our students and staff. As a direct result of your feedback, we implemented a revised timetable this week which has reduced lesson times to 50 minutes. This allows our students’ regular rest breaks throughout the day, and time away from their screens. Your responses so far indicate that this is working well, and we will continue to monitor it. Please click here to view the changes to the timetable. Teachers have scheduled the lessons for their classes using the Teams calendar function.

My staff have been working tirelessly to ensure we are delivering the best learning possible to our students, which now includes making sure that every lesson has a ‘live’ element. For the majority of students this is working well, however it has been brought to my attention that a small number of students have been logging on and then not participating in the lesson, and some have been seen using their mobile phones whilst these lessons are being delivered. Please can you support us by ensuring that your son or daughter is engaging fully with their lessons and monitor them to make sure that they are following the rules.

Looking ahead, our Year 9 parents evening takes place on Monday, 8 February. Parents will have received communication about this, we are also trialling a new video face-to-face appointment system, which allows contact between parents and teacher with each appointment lasting five minutes. A link to the booking system will be sent to parents next week, allowing you to book your appointments directly. With the Year 9 options approaching, you may wish to prioritise subject areas that your son or daughter wishes to continue studying during KS4.

For parents of those students in Years 11 and 13, at the end of last week we sent home letters detailing the Government and OFQUAL’s proposed methods of determining the GCSE and A Level grades further to the cancellation of this summer’s exams. Please ensure that you have read the letters carefully, please click here to read the Year 13 letter and click here for Year 11.   I recognise that this is a difficult and anxious time for you all but please be reassured that there will be lots of opportunities to showcase what your son’s and daughter’s can do in all of your subjects.

There are still a large number of Year 11 that have not taken the opportunity to have a careers discussion with our external careers adviser.  If your child has not taken the chance to discuss next steps and get advice, please encourage them to do so as there are dates available in February and March and these are all showing on the student portal Grofar for them to book a slot.  If your child is unable to access Grofar, please ask them to contact Ian Butcher our Careers Leader.  All sessions will be held remotely and last 30 minutes.

Last week, I took part in some filming with Sky News about rapid testing in schools.  In the last issue of the blog, I shared with you how we have successfully implemented our rapid testing programme, and this week has marked the third successful week of testing all students and staff on school premises. From next week we will be increasing to twice a week.

Some of our core values have been clearly demonstrated over the past week. We have shown our sense of ‘responsibility’, donating unused sandwiches from Café 6 to a local hostel in Newbury. Our students have demonstrated ‘ambition’, taking part in the Berkshire Games ‘Fitness Frenzy’ competition during their live PE lessons this term. Students had to complete different exercises – scissor jumps, mountain climbers and shuttle jumps -  and record how many they of each exercise they could in a minute. Their results would then be compared across other participating schools in Berkshire.

I am delighted to announce that in the District competition our Year 7s and 8s have been announced as overall winners and our Year 9 team finished in second place. In the County competition both the Year 7 and 8 teams finished in second place overall. We were also awarded the ‘Spirit of the Games’ accolade with over 25% of students in each year group taking part. Congratulations to all those students who got involved and thank you to our PE staff for organising.

We have registered with the ‘Tech Amnesty support digital poverty’ programme, who provide computers and laptops to students who do not have access to these facilities at home. If you have a computers or laptop that you no longer use and would consider donating to the school, we would really appreciate it. Please do contact us.

I wish you and your families a good weekend, and thank you for your continued support.

Mr Prosser

Headteacher

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