Parent Update Letter 3 July

Released On 3rd Jul 2020

Parent Update Letter 3 July

3 July 2020

Dear Parent

Parent Update

It has certainly been an interesting week as we waited with baited breath to hear this week’s announcements with regards to the return of all pupils to school in September.

Within school we have had an exciting week with Year 10 increasing to two days a week each and the start of our tutor meetings. Around 80% of Year 8 have come in to school this week to meet with their tutors to review the last few months and start to think together about returning to school in September. It has been absolutely lovely to see the children and their families and hear about everything they have been up to and see how much they have grown! It has certainly highlighted how much we have missed you all.

Full time return to school in September

I am sure most of you have heard or read about the measures being put in place to enable all pupils to return to school in September. This afternoon our senior team have met to start to pull together a set of principles which will enable us to build our plans over the coming weeks.

Our key overriding principle is to ensure you, your children and our staff have confidence in and are reassured by the plans we put in place leading to an absolute desire to return to school. If we can achieve this, we will not need to talk about or address the burning question of attendance. We are very aware that for some of you there is an anxiety about how September will look and how safe our children and therefore families will be, as a parent I share that anxiety with you. I therefore see it as our job and responsibility to ensure we do everything we can to put as many safety measures in place whilst also ensuring your child’s education is not disrupted for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

Outlined below are the set of principles beyond that explained above which we aim to build upon in order to meet the key principle already mentioned. We will use these principles to establish the full details of children’s return to school and share this detail with you as we work through it, culminating in a final plan and risk assessment:

  • Staging - We will work through a series of stages building to a full return to a ‘normal’ curriculum. These stages will be aligned with the phased reduction in lockdown measures that we assume will continue post September. Throughout each stage we will review implementation and progress, prior to making assumptions about movement to the next stage. The final stage will be a full return to a timetable and structure that looks and feels the same as the one in place prior to lockdown – movement between classes, mixed year group breaks and lunch, more freedom of movement around corridors etc. We believe we are sometime away from being able to move back to ‘normality’ in schools.
  • Re-integration - We will be sending a survey to our students to ascertain their feelings about the first few days in September. Our discussions this week with Year 10 have suggested the first week should include increased time in tutor groups to enable us to focus on bringing the community back together and sharing/explaining and demonstrating all the measures and routines that will need to be followed. Many children will have been out of school for 6 months and the notion of a full return to subjects on day 1 may cause some anxiety. We may look at increased time in groups to start to build relationships again and have an opportunity for some much needed interaction before settling back to the formal routine and expectations of ‘lessons’.
  • ‘Bubbles’ - Government guidelines clearly state that schools should, where possible, introduce children back to school in ‘bubbles’. These bubbles can be of varying size but the aim is to support the ability to trace any infection and to minimize opportunities for transmission. Whilst there is the opportunity for schools to decide ‘bubbles’ are not possible, the very strong feeling of the senior team at Stanchester Academy is that we should be aiming to establish appropriate bubbles in order to achieve our overriding principle of instilling confidence and giving reassurance that we are taking every possible step to ensure the communities safety. As we work through our plans, we will share the detail of this with you – with guidance only being released 24 hours ago, it is impossible to know yet how these will look, but our aim is to share further detail with you by the end of term and to continue to send you updates throughout the summer in the build up to Septembers return.
  • Uniform - Several weeks ago I suggested parents wait until we have clarity over September guidelines before purchasing uniform. In the guidance produced yesterday it clearly states uniform can be worn as it was prior to lockdown with the same washing routines in place. As we have advised parents to wait prior to purchasing uniform and acknowledging the challenge of taking children to get measured etc, let alone the short turnaround and cost implications for some families, we will be phasing uniform back. We will aim to return to full uniform but this will not be for the start of term in September. Further details will be shared next week.
  • Transport - Within the guidelines there are some expectations related to transport and ‘bubbles’.  For rural schools such as Stanchester Academy where large proportions of the school community travel by bus, the guidelines are almost impossible. As you are aware transport is largely managed by Somerset County Council. I will be attending a meeting next week where I expect to receive information about how this may look in September – we will update you as soon as we understand the structure for transport moving forward.
  • Technology - Over the last few months the ability to learn has largely been dependent on access to technology. Whilst there are clearly some disadvantages to this and the potential for ‘gaps’ to increase between those with and those without technology, it has also shown us the possibilities and opportunities technology can present in order to enhance children’s learning experiences. Over the coming weeks we aim to think about the positives that have arisen from the use of technology in school and look at the possibility of increasing our use of technology in the classroom for learning and at the finances to support and enable this for ALL students.
  • Equipment - The new guidelines state that students will need to bring their own equipment to school and that schools will need to produce equipment lists for families. We aim to examine this point and ensure our expectations are realistic for all. The vast majority of our families supply a full set of equipment for children but, as I am sure you are aware, children constantly forget equipment – this will not be possible in the future and so we need to ensure we support every student in a) having the right equipment and b) in not finding themselves in a situation where they cannot access work as they do not have the necessary equipment every day
  • Attendance - As stated at the start of this section, we aim to put measures in place that will reassure our school community and ensure they have confidence in our plans to enable every child to return. We want our students to ‘want’ to return because they know we have done everything within our abilities to ensure this return is right for everyone. If we achieve this and our plans are approved, we will not need to discuss your child’s attendance with you. 
  • 7 September 2020 – Day 1 - Last week we communicated our plans for Day 1 in September which is always a Year 7 day. Our new Year 7 will come to school on the Monday 7 September along with current Year 10 who will then be Year 11. Our current Year 9 will come to school with parents for appointments for academic mentoring and will not have a full day in school. Current Year 7 and 8 will remain home as with our previous ‘pre-lockdown’ plan and will return on Tuesday 8 September.

And in other news…

Tutor meetings

Year 8 tutor meetings have been well attended this week and we look forward to welcoming Year 9 next week. A reminder please to park in the Sports Centre car park and enter through the main Sports Centre entrance. These meetings are a great opportunity to start to prepare your child for a return to school in September, as well as catching up with tutors and having much needed interaction. Year 9, who are preparing for the formal start of GCSE’s will be receiving information about their progress to date as well as some materials to maintain their focus over the summer, whilst also crucially looking after their mental and physical wellbeing.

Student Interviews

This week Mr Newbury and I have had the pleasure of interviewing 20 students who have applied to be our Head Students. This is the highest number of applicants the school has ever received. We also welcomed back current Head Boy Luke Spencer who joined us ‘virtually’ for the interviews. The task of deciding on this most senior team of students is going to be incredibly difficult with such an exceptional round of interviews over the last two days. I thought I would close this week’s update by sharing some quotes from these interviews with you. We asked our students what they thought our vision for our school was, these are some of their responses:

“To be a community, to accept everyone and ensure everyone can be the best person they can be by preparing them for life.”

“To have the best future, to excel in learning and as a person.”

“Students are at the centre of everything. Students progress onto become great adults.”

“Stanchester Academy is about progression, about building character and building skills.”

“The school places value on community and relationships. It wants to make us comfortable and confident and to guide us to our next steps”

“The 6Cs. They make us unique, bring us together, give us opportunities and life skills.”

“Ensure every student achieves what they can by looking at individual unique qualities and helping to pull these out of us so we can be the best that we can be.”

Have a great weekend, stay safe and well.

Yours sincerely

Mrs A Joynes