Headteacher Weekly Bulletin 15th May 2020
I hope you’re all keeping well and possibly some of you have returned to work this week. How’s that been?
Well, what a week – I’ve never known 5 days quite like it. Since the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday evening, his appearance in Parliament on Monday and the subsequent release of guidelines covering so many areas of life and particularly those pertaining to the education sector, it has been an absolute whirlwind with endless discussion, speculation, hysteria, hyperbole and raw emotion. The situation, however, requires calmness, clarity, a solution-focused approach and, most importantly, time. The next phase must not be rushed. In schools, this is the week where our preparation for a partial re-opening has become very real, whilst at the same time we endeavour to evolve our approach to home-learning. On the latter point, we move into our fourth two-week block of learning next week. Students in Year 10 and 12 have been submitting work and receiving feedback for several weeks now but those in Year 7-9 will also be required henceforth to share work with their teachers (I know many of you have already). On a personal level, it was lovely to receive French work from members of 7H this week and provide some feedback. We will also be moving into a phase of introducing new learning over the coming weeks (having spent the previous weeks consolidating the first two terms’ learning) so you may see some familiar faces popping up on your screens in pre-recorded videos explaining new concepts to students. If students are having difficulties with the work set, currently they can email their teachers (directly or indirectly) for help. It is our intention to host live drop-ins for those who seek clarification from their teachers and Mr Holt will provide more information in due course.
I can feel a mini-rant coming on …
There seems to have been a bit of teacher-bashing from some elements of the media and certain ‘commentators’ over the last week or so, particularly from some of those keyboard warriors on social media. I won’t hear of it and it absolutely infuriates me. I can’t speak for colleagues in other schools but I know my staff here at Wellington and, what’s more, you know them too; you know how much they care about your children, you know how dedicated they are, you know they go ‘above and beyond’ in so many ways. So why would they, and teachers nationally, suddenly become work-shy, feckless lay-abouts who care not a jot about young people?! ARGHHHHH! And I would also add that schools are not and have at no point ever been closed (even during the Easter holidays). I don’t feel any obligation to explain to anyone (again) what my colleagues are doing each day; I know how hard they’re working in challenging circumstances and I also know they haven’t stopped caring. Anyway, sorry to rant, as I know I’m ‘preaching to the converted’ but it just makes me mad and one has to let off steam occasionally, doesn’t one?!
So, what about a return to School for a greater number of students? I sent out the DfE document for parents earlier this week, which accompanied a number of other releases, and so you will be aware that it is a return for Year 10 and 12 that is being mooted i.e. those with public exams next year. We have had provisional plans in place for some time and those plans have been ‘ramped up’ over the last few days, so the ‘how’ is pretty clear in my mind but the ‘when’ is far less certain. Being ‘guided by the science’ has become something of a cliché in recent times and perhaps not always something to fill us with absolute confidence but I am generally reassured by what I’m hearing of late and there has been a phenomenal amount of sharing of best practice amongst schools. Of course, all this could change in the blink of an eye and any hint of a second peak. Representatives from the education sector are today meeting with CMO Chris Whitty and other members of SAGE to better understand the science that underpins recent decision-making. We will obviously be monitoring the situation in primary schools, who have today received more detailed guidance form the DfE. I will repeat what I said earlier in the week that 1 June was always more an ambition than an expectation and I can state categorically that Wellington students (except those already being accomodated) will not be back in School that week.
I have today sent out a quick survey to ascertain the current feeling amongst Year 10 and 12 parents; will they send their child(ren) back whenever that date may be (probably later in June all things permitting), would they in all likelihood but would like more information first or is it a definite ‘no’? I would ask that if you are a parent of a student in Year 10 or 12 to please respond asap. Schools are NEVER 100% safe, even in ‘ordinary times’, we just have to minimise and mitigate any risks. That’s what we do as a matter of course. With hand and respiratory hygiene measures, significantly reduced numbers on site and in each classroom, strict social distancing, restricted movement and access, guidance on travel to and from School, enhanced cleaning procedures etc, we are confident that at some point in the near future we can facilitate a safe return to School for students and staff.
In the mountain of reading material I managed to wade through yesterday, I quite liked these principles I found which should underpin any return:
- The safety of pupils and staff is paramount: this includes their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
- We are living through a national crisis that is affecting people’s daily lives in countless ways. We have to be supportive and compassionate towards our communities and colleagues in our response.
- Only by gaining the confidence of parents will schools be successful in attracting pupils to return.
- Education is precious. We must continue to provide pupils with high-quality learning.
I would like to think this is consistent with the messages coming from Wellington School over the past 8 weeks and I suppose these principles reflect our Values at all times anyway. It was never more important for us to remain a community and we will need to move forward together if we are to make a success of the ‘recovery’ phase.
Of course, there has been no mention of Years 7-9 as yet but I would dearly love to welcome them back, even for a short period in some capacity, before the summer holidays but we will just have to wait and see what guidance follows. I can say that Mr Fenwick should be in a position to announce Year 9 KS4 options choices towards the end of next week and will subsequently be advising on Year 9 to 10 transition work.
On a lighter note, thank you for those who got in touch following last Friday’s Bank holiday / VE Day video blog. To answer a burning question from several parents, no I haven’t been professionally trained you’ll be amazed to hear; my application to various ‘conservatoires’ when I was younger was inexplicably and unjustly rejected! Furthermore, the new bbq wasn’t called into action on the Friday as we had no gas (!), but a feast was had on Saturday. As always it was left to me and my eldest daughter to see the night out outdoors as the other 3 ‘neshed out’ and sought warmth and comfort inside. It was a decent first attempt, soon to be enhanced by an Amazon order of bbq mats to save on the mess / post-bbq cleaning. I received all sorts of tips from the Wellington School Governors but, my goodness, I couldn’t believe what I was reading; a range of sea food, exotic fruits and side dishes – they’re proper posh. I had to remind them, I’m just a Burnage lad and burgers and sausages are all I stretch to (not much fun for my veggie daughter!).
Year 11s and some Year 13s would, by now, have begun their exams. I hope they’ve got over the disappointment of losing the chance to shine and are spending their time wisely. Teachers have this week been reminiscing about the usual customs, particularly those last–minute pep talks in the line-up and the tidal wave of students who rush to find their teacher after each exam for a de-brief. It’s still awfully sad but I just hope August brings much joy and provides that leg-up to the next stage of one’s education. I hope you guys are all well? As always, do keep in touch.
I’m looking forward to this weekend as it’s been 8 til 8 in School every night this week but a quick gym session now and then off to crack open a cold one. I might go ‘retro’ this weekend and watch the (non-competitive) Eurovision. Apparently, there’s going to be a Jonny Logan sing-a-long!
Any other plans this weekend? Driving any distance (within England) to do your unlimited exercise? Visiting a garden centre? Driving through a ‘drive-thru’ McDonalds (the police had to attend several incidents at the Burger King in Warrington yesterday!)? Playing golf (I witnessed three old chaps shaking hands on the 18th green on Warrington golf course opposite my house this week – God help us!)? Nah, I think I’ll just ‘stay home, stay safe and save lives’ personally!
Keep your messages, stories, songs, drawings coming in (lovely video from Beth Dunham’s mum today, so thank you for that); they really do cheers us up.
We’ve had so many gorgeous comments from Form Tutors and teaching staff, usually following the phone calls home, that Mrs Cooper has asked if she can make them visible on Classcharts, so look out for those.
Anyway, must dash. Take care and have a great weekend.