Letter from Mr Jackson – 6th June

I hope this message finds you and your family well. I am writing to provide you with the detail relating to a number of decisions we have made in school and updates on the current guidance and information from Lancashire County Council and the Department for Education. The world of education continues to be a fast changing and confusing environment and in school, we are trying our best to offer some clarity during an uncertain time. The amount of guidance and information that schools are expected to keep abreast of is growing rapidly, and given that a significant amount of this is not always clear and definitive, many schools are finding this increasingly challenging.

I wanted to update you as to the arrangements for the wider reopening of school, the amended arrangements for the setting of work and finally, outline how we might provide some feedback to parents through an ‘end of year report’, accepting its limitations.  These decisions have carefully considered the information you provided in the parental questionnaire and from the wider feedback through telephone conversations we have had with parents in recent weeks.

I am aware there are mixed opinions amongst parents about the desire for their children to return to school to support both their academic and social development, balanced against worries about the safety and well-being of their children and families.  In my last letter I shared with you the specific guidance on the wider reopening of secondary schools, which indicated that from 15 June schools are expected to provide some face-to-face- learning for Year 10 and Year 12 students to supplement their remote learning. This guidance made it clear that no more than 25% of the year 10 and 12 populations should be in school at any one time, and these should be taught in small, ‘consistent’ groups, wherever possible.

You may be aware that Lancashire County Council announced on Wednesday 27 May that they did not recommend that primary schools reopened to more pupils on 1 June, as outlined in the primary guidance; I am not aware of any Lancashire primary school that has extended its opening. On Wednesday this week I ‘attended’ a remote meeting with secondary headteachers across Lancashire along with Lancashire’s Director of Children’s Services, Director of Education and Director of Public Health and Wellbeing. They were present to provide an update from a county perspective, offer advice and answer questions.  The advice from Lancashire County Council to schools on wider opening will be updated on 8 June and this will clearly have an impact on when we are able to extend our opening. Whilst we are awaiting this update, we are continuing to work on creating detailed plans for welcoming Year 10 and Year 12 students back in some form, establishing processes and protocols, and conducting detailed risk assessments. We are looking at how we will manage issues such as arrival times, breaks, lunches, departure, travel to and from school, movement around the school site, class layout and the size of groups, social distancing, cleaning routines, hand sanitisers and many more areas of school life that can be adapted in the best interests of the health and safety of our school community. I am sure you can appreciate the difficulties associated with these plans but I do want to reassure you that we want our students back in school as soon as it is safe to do so.  I will provide a further update for Year 10 and Year 12 parents early next week.

We have worked closely with leaders in school to review both the volume and manner in which work is set. Given that students all learn and work at different rates in different subjects it is very difficult to set tasks that take all students the same amount of time to complete.  I am aware that an increasing number of students, across all ability ranges, are feeling overwhelmed by our current arrangements.  After considering a range of options and through extensive discussions at the virtual Lancashire Association of Secondary School Headteachers meeting, it is clear that the majority of secondary schools have reduced the quantity of work set to approximately three hours a day. From 15 June we will be changing the amount of work we set each week to a similar model. We hope that in making this amendment, it will remove some of the pressure students and parents have felt and whilst reducing the quantity, we hope it will improve the quality of the work for many.

Tasks will be set for each year group using the following approximate timings:

Year 7

English, maths and science – 2 hours per subject

Art, computing, DT, German, geography, history, RS – 1 hour per subject

Dance, drama and music wish to make work available of a more practical nature and we appreciate the difficulties this presents.  This work is therefore optional.

Year 8

English, maths and science – 2 hours per subject

Option choices – 2 hours per subject (This may be shorter for some practical subjects)

RS, computing – 1 hour per subject

Year 9 & 10 (This will be reviewed for year 10 when a wider reopening decision is made)

English, maths and science – 3 hours per subject

Option choices – 2 hours per subject

RS, computing – 1 hour per subject

For those who find the structure of a school day helpful, this could still be drawn up at home to suit the needs/routine of the household.  As previously stated, some students will complete the work set quicker than others and/or may want to extend their learning further in subjects they are particularly interested in. Members of staff will set extension tasks, which are optional, and there are also a wide range of resources for students to explore independently on the homepage of our school website.

For our Year 12 students, work will continue in the same manner.

Given that the period of remote learning has the potential to be extended for some time, we are reviewing the provision in place to facilitate students’ learning to ensure that this is of high quality.  Members of staff are increasingly utilising the technology available to us and we are supporting and encouraging colleagues to provide some form of verbal contact with their classes, for example, through annotated PowerPoints or voice over feedback.  We are exploring how we might extend this further to include some remote interactive learning although this does present significant challenges.  Your patience is appreciated as we seek to expand the range of learning experiences your child can expect to encounter.

We have discussed the prospect of an ‘end of year report’ and remain committed to providing information that offers feedback to parents as to the progress your child has made during this period of remote learning. We don’t have the information to provide detailed feedback or to reflect on a block assessment, however, we do feel we can provide some meaningful feedback as to how successfully your child has completed/submitted the tasks set and more significantly, the quality of that work in each subject area.  We hope to supplement this feedback with up to two written targets from each subject teacher that highlights how your son/daughter could improve in the future. We hope that this will also support parents to have discussions and offer guidance at home. We have yet to finalise these plans within school and will provide a timeline once this has been agreed.

Finally, we are also keen to contact the parent of every student in school before we break up for the summer.  We have currently made well over 500 calls to parents in order to support the progress and/or well-being of their children and understand this has had a positive impact on the vast majority of occasions. Over the next four weeks, a member of staff will be trying to contact you to discuss briefly how your child has coped during the enforced closure. We know that this has been a very challenging time for many and we are determined to do all we can to support our fantastic students and their families.

We greatly value your support and understanding at this difficult time.

If you have any questions relating to this letter or have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the school.