Headteacher Weekly Bulletin 27th March 2020

Good morning all

I think it’s Saturday morning but quite frankly who knows in these strange times when days seem to merge and the calendar appears irrelevant.  Actually, from a personal perspective it’s been good to have some routine this past week as I’ve been going into School with a handful of colleagues to supervise children of our hero critical workers (pray to God the NHS gets the levels of funding needed when all this is over).  Numbers have been small (between 6 and 9) when we expected 20+ but they’ve been working ever so hard in the morning and having some chill-out time in the afternoon by way of sport, art work or a bit of Harry Potter viewing.  It’s been lovely to see young people from across several year groups mucking in together (at a safe distance) and getting on so well.  Thank you to all the Wellington staff who have been doing their bit this week, whether it be being physically present on site to supervise, setting work from home, keeping in touch with students through email, Instagram or other means, dropping work off for those without internet access, making welfare calls, having sing-a-longs via the Music department insta account and more besides. 

Thanks to all you parents too for your continued support and kind words.  A number of you, now with more time on your hands to reflect and put pen to paper, have very graciously been in touch this week to express your gratitude. I cannot tell you how well-received these messages are; it has become something of a daily ritual for me to forward parent emails onto staff and they provide a real boost to morale in these difficult days.  Everyone, I think, is a little more emotional than usual and you’ve certainly provoked a few tears. 

I hope the work we have set is going down well?  Of course, we will review this on a regular basis and amend where necessary.  Your feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and it sounds like the parents are learning quite a lot too. You will have received an email from me earlier this week just clarifying the nature and purpose of the work we have set.  This is not home-schooling, we are not teaching and we are not marking the work completed.  It could be at best described as self-directed distance learning, I suppose.  And quite frankly, school work is not the number 1 priority for most young people or their parents at this time.  We hope students do gain a good chunk of the knowledge they would have had access to in School and sustain some momentum, but the work is primarily there to provide some routine, a distraction, to alleviate the boredom.  We have to accept that on their return students will have completed different amounts and be at different stages of their learning.  We will diagnose that as and when and respond appropriately.  Just trust us!

I’m sorry to be blunt and don’t mean to cause offence but when I receive an email which, in short says, you’re setting too much work and my child is working from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., I’m not exactly sure what we as a school can do.  I stated from the outset a recommended 2-3 hours of study per day; when they’ve done that, as a parent, you say, ‘Stop now, go and do something else. Be creative. Have some fun!’ Just another reminder, the work set is to last until the week ending Friday 17th April (that will be two school weeks since closure). During that week, we will set another block of work for w.c. Monday 20th through to Friday 1st May.

Teachers are now beginning to share email addresses with Year 10 and 12 students so we can provide more direct and specific support and feedback, as we keep a distant eye on public exams in 2021.  Inevitably, these exams will be impacted quite significantly too with a whole third of Year 10/12 affected.  There is no way course content will be completed and as schools teach material in the order of their choosing, I suspect there will have to be much flexibility in question setting.  Anyway, that’s for another time.  We will find out next week more detail on how schools are expected to arrive at grades for the current GCSE and A level students and subsequently how Ofqual and the exam boards will moderate our submissions.  Just to reiterate, I have absolute confidence that the system will be a very fair one.

I enjoyed the 86,400 second video produced by the PiXL network of schools, which I sent out on Wednesday (can also be found on the website).  Time is such a precious commodity and we seemed to have so little of it when life was ‘normal’.  We now have the gift of time to a far greater extent and I wonder how we are spending it?  I say I wonder but, actually, I know what many of you are up to as we’ve received lots of pics, videos and messages.  People are, inevitably, being very creative.  I see Mr Morgan hasn’t lost any of his old magic with a fine attempt at the loo roll keepie uppie challenge, Mrs Moorhouse’s tap dancing skills are something to behold, Mrs Shelley’s den building wouldn’t pass building regs and Dr Chard’s vegetable patch is a thing of wonder!  I’ve also enjoyed reading the daily reflection powerpoints, also provided by our friends at PiXL; the last two about Community and Connectivity particularly resonate.  I know I bang on about this but we do have something special here at Welly; many of you have used the words community and family in your correspondence over the last few weeks, and nothing gives me more joy as Headteacher than knowing that our young people and their families have that sense of belonging, a sense of being part of something that is bigger than just you and your immediate sphere of experience. I really do think there is a huge opportunity to build on this when we do return to school and normality.  As clichéd as this may sound, this experience will indeed make us stronger. 

I probably don’t give enough credit to my Senior Leadership Team privately or publicly but I have to say they’ve been outstanding again recently in the face of many challenges.  We had our usual Friday morning meeting yesterday (granted a little later than usual and minus the bacon butties) but we covered a lot of ground and had a good laugh in the process (we will never lose that sense of fun!).  It’s been an absolute delight too to share in the domestic experiences of the team with pics of them playing in the back garden with their own children, baking, studying and generally just making the very best of this time.  Great that Mrs Stephens, currently on mat leave, has also been chipping in with images of Isabella and baby Sebby.

I did have to chuckle to myself yesterday during our SLT meeting, conducted remotely via Zoom; despite the change in environment, the isolation, colleagues still reverted to type:  Mrs Copeland couldn’t get the technology to work so joined me in my office (at a distance); Mr Fenwick looked sceptical and his comments were laced with the customary, dry Cumbrian wit / sarcasm; Mr Holt intermittently raised his eyebrow (for which he is renowned), Roger Moore like, in acquiescence / disdain / shock (it has myriad functions); Mrs Cooper, with her boundless energy, was a  ‘giddy kipper’ as my Gran used to say; Mrs Shelley was very well-behaved and compliant but raised her hand to speak more than anyone else; Dr Chard chuckled at everyone else’s witticisms, chipped in with well-considered remarks and was dressed like Barbara Good from the Good Life (you have to be of a certain age) in readiness to go and tend the aforementioned vegetable patch; Miss Hitchens, being younger and cooler and living in Wilmslow had obviously dressed for the occasion and had the best interior design judging by the background!  I managed to maintain some semblance of order for the 45 minute ‘gathering’ and it was great to actually SEE colleagues again.

One person I haven’t yet thanked (there are lots of others I know I haven’t either by name, so apologies), I don’t think, is the peerless Mrs Roberts, my PA. She basically runs the School and makes me look far more capable than I am anyway, but over the last few weeks she has been an absolute God-send and I’m sure my SLT colleagues will testify that we couldn’t have got through it without her; unflappable, unruffled, pragmatic, stoical and a bit mad like the rest of us, she’s a perfect fit for the role.  In an email yesterday, one parent called her a ‘diamond’.  I couldn’t disagree but … sshhh … don’t tell her – she might ask for a pay rise.

I left School for a few hours yesterday to attend my cousin’s funeral.  I won’t go into detail, suffice to say her passing (not virus related) was tragic and we lost a beautiful soul far too soon.  Of course, it was strange to attend a funeral (with only 15 people allowed) and be unable to shake hands, to hug, kiss and comfort loved ones.  The service was a perfect yet heart-breaking tribute and I was struck by the relevance to our current collective predicament of the words of the poem The Dash by Linda Ellis, which many of you will be familiar with no doubt.  For those who aren’t, the ‘dash’ refers to the hyphen between the date of birth and the date of one’s passing as printed on a headstone or casket, and metaphorically the life, the wealth of experiences and emotions that lies therein.  There are nine verses all worth a read, but I thought the following two were particularly worth pondering given, of course, we have plenty of time to do so:

If we could just slow down enough

To consider what’s true and real

And always try to understand

The way other people feel


And be less quick to anger

And show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives

Like we’ve never loved before.

Anyway, bloomin’ typical – in School all week and weather’s been glorious, come the weekend and it’s cold and windy.  Serves me right for using School as a domestic-chore-avoidance strategy.  Not sure how much longer I can play that particular Joker.

Plans for today? I guess reading, telly, exercise, cooking will all feature. I need to work on my darts as I’ve now lost twice to my strutting peacock of a son! We had a game of Coronavirus bingo the other night, using oft’ articulated words in the news; draw up a list of terms – could be names of key players (Johnson, Cummings, the CMO etc), common words like loo roll, stockpiling, shortage, testing, tracking, hospital etc and words that have entered our lexicon of late; panic-buying, Covid-19, self-isolation, social-distancing, flattening the curve, pandemic – then each player pick a certain number (6-10 words / terms) and see who can tick of their list of words first. Prizes can vary from the last chocolate éclair in the fridge to choice of TV programme and forfeits like washing up can be issued.  Please don’t think this is belittling the current crisis, merely a means of passing the time. 

A ‘friend’ wondered if we fancied a virtual take-away curry night and a few drinks.  The person in question has a rather irritating sense of humour (you know the sort; it’s incessant and they find themselves more entertaining than anyone else does).  I initially declined but not wanting to be seen as Mr Grumpy, we’ll give it a go.  However, our broadband connection is notoriously poor so we could lose signal at any time (wink wink).

Take care and stay safe

S Beeley