Headteacher’s Newsletter 21st May 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians

I hope you and those you love are safe and well. The last few weeks have reminded me of the importance of the school as an extended family – to the extent that we can, we want to be a source of strength and support for all of you in these very challenging times.

It has been an extraordinary half-term, quite unlike any other. We have tried to provide a brand new ‘virtual school’ – I would like to thank you for your patience while we have learned how best to do this and also to thank my colleagues for their creativity and energy. We have done our best to weigh up the varied circumstances of pupils, parents and staff alongside the constraints of technology and technical confidence. It has been hard and I will not claim that we have always got it right but I hope that we have done our best.

There has been a lot in the national media about what schools are providing and a certain amount of local discussion, too. We have been thinking and talking about how much to expect pupils to do, what sort of things they might be doing and how we communicate with them. I have been struck by the very great variety of family circumstances that we are seeking to support and by the variety of feedback we have received.

We think that the ideal remains about five hours studying each day, with a balance between ‘on-screen’ and ‘off-screen’ tasks and also with a balance between free-standing pre-set tasks and ‘live’ sessions with teachers available. As time has gone on, I like to think we have got better at setting the right amount of varied activities; we have been slower to get to the optimum level of live support. We are still learning!

We would like to know what you think about the current position. We have asked pupils to complete a short survey about their experiences and we would be really grateful if you would to the same. You can find the link here:

Home Learning Survey

Looking ahead, over half term, we think pupils in Years 7 and 8 need a complete break. We have asked the teachers not to set any new tasks and also to “wipe the slate clean” as far as tasks set before half-term go.

Pupils in Year 9 also need a break. If they have, however, fallen behind in subjects they will studying at GCSE level, they will want to spend some time catching up on these. It may also be desirable for them to catch up elsewhere too.

In Year 10, no new work will be set. We know that some pupils are feeling a little overwhelmed (some have the opposite problem, of course) so the advice really does have to be family specific – some pupils will be best taking a complete break while others should use some of the week for catching up. If your son/daughter would like more advice about this, please speak to their tutor in the first instance.

The parents of pupils in Years 9 and 10 may be contacted by teachers if school work is outstanding after half term. We are trying to strike a balance here, too, between haranguing the conscientious and allowing the disorganised to drift!

Looking ahead to June, I fear that the school will remain largely closed until we hear otherwise. As you know, we have been open for pupils with Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs), for pupils that the school or local authority believe to be vulnerable in some way and for the children of ‘key workers’, and these arrangements will continue – if your son/daughter is in one of these categories and you would like them to come into school please contact us and we can make arrangements.

Year 10 will be our priority for return to school.  We are actively considering what will best support their GCSE studies, how the school will need to be set up and how school transport can be managed.  We will be sending a letter to Year 10 parents detailing these plans as soon as we can.

We just do not yet know what will happen for other pupils. We are assuming, sadly, that we will be teaching remotely for the majority right the way through to July; I hope I am wrong about this and there will be an opportunity for us to re-convene properly before the end of term; we will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, as well as helping to support your children’s academic development, we are also keen to provide pastoral support. The Heads of Year and their deputies and the whole Welfare Team are all still available – please contact us if you need to. If we cannot help ourselves, we may know someone who can – there are links to a number of our partner organisations later in this letter. If in doubt, please call us – we have been able to help with all sorts of unlikely things, from food parcels to faulty laptops!

YouTube for Years 7 and 8

A parent has contacted us to ask us about this. The issue is that you have to be 13 to have a YouTube account (though not necessarily to look at You Tube materials ‘passively’); when a person who is younger than 13 tries to access You Tube, they may be automatically redirected to a YouTube Kids page which may or may not have the content teachers want to use.

Our dilemma is that YouTube is a brilliant source of resources for all sorts of subjects. We have taken advice about the issue and we have three ideas:

  1. We have established that parents of children in Years 7 and 8 can set up YouTube Safety Mode – instructions on how to do this are attached to this letter – this does not provide complete protection against unsuitable content but it will certainly help.
  2. We have asked teachers to use resources on “Vimeo” instead if they can.
  3. We have also asked teachers to embed videos in Powerpoints, which provides additional protection.

So, if your child is in Year 7 or 8 and you are happy for them to see occasional videos from YouTube, please do consider setting up YouTube Safety Mode as above.

Music news

I hope you may have seen the brilliant video done by our friends at Hampshire Music Service. Just in case you didn’t (or you just need cheering up) it’s here:

https://youtu.be/sTvoORpbOpo

Hampshire Music Service provide all our instrumental music lessons and they are desperate to continue to provide a service during the lockdown. They are providing lessons ‘online’ – there is more information on the attached sheet.

They are also holding County Ensemble Auditions. 

They say:

Applications are now open for our county ensembles. Within these ensembles, some of which are auditioned and some are open to all, are a range of ensembles offering different genres and instrument groups – something for everyone! More information can be found one our website:

https://www.hants.gov.uk/educationandlearning/hampshiremusic/ensembles/countyensembles

Dracula

In English this half term, Year 7 have been studying a range of iconic literary villains. Year 7 have explored numerous villainous characters including: Cruella de Vil, Hades and Dracula. As part of this, pupils had the opportunity to take part in a remote Dracula costume competition. The English Department was so impressed by what they received! Please see some of the winning entries:

Dracula comp winners

7  Habits

As you know, our poor Year 11s had their GCSE studies unceremoniously curtailed when their exams were cancelled. Their teachers are busy making fair recommendations to the exam boards about grades even as I write.

With time on their hands, I am delighted to report that lots of them have signed up for new courses. No fewer than 180 are pursuing a new chance to achieve accreditation in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Mrs Gittins, our 7 Habits guru, said:

“I am so proud of our Year 11 students for choosing to use this extra time productively and really displaying Habit 1 by being so Proactive!”

Family wellbeing pack

The local NHS have sent us a resource to support mental health – please find it attached to this message.

Meanwhile, CAMHS have advised that they have started a Hampshire and IOW Children and Young People Crisis Line for young people between the ages of 11 and17.

It is free, with access to support and signposting from 3pm – 8.30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; the telephone number is 0300 303 1590.

More guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid19guidanceonsupportingchildrenandyoungpeoplesmentalhealthandwellbeing/guidanceforparentsandcarersonsupportingchildrenandyoungpeoplesmentalhealthandwellbeingduringthecoronaviruscovid19outbreak

In addition, I have been sent this flier from the Education Psychology team:

On line safety

Please be aware that the Government has released new guidance for staying safe online:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid19stayingsafeonline

This sets out a four-point plan of action that parents and carers can implement.

Helping children and young people to stay safe while online is a perpetual challenge for parents and carers and even more so when the amount of time spent online increases. The benefits of being able to connect with each other via the internet and using the latest technology are enormous. However, with this comes a risk that exposure to cyberbullying, disinformation and grooming is greater with children and young people using the internet, unsupervised, for both education and entertainment while schools are closed and everyone is being asked to #StayAtHome to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

One of the most effective methods of keeping young people safe online is to raise awareness. This can be done by having conversations about what online activities the children and young people are engaging in and the safeguards they are taking.

The national guidance recommends reviewing security and safety settings, checking facts and guarding against disinformation, being vigilant against fraud and scams, and managing the amount of time spent online.

Online safety guidance, advice and resources are also available from the County Council for parents, carers, young people and professionals within schools (includes resources about relevant online issues):

https://www.hants.gov.uk/socialcareandhealth/childrenandfamilies/safeguardingchildren/onli nesafetyguide

Other helpful sources of advice are:

https://www.vodafone.co.uk/cs/groups/public/documents/webcontent/vfcon103583.pdf

Library update

Mrs Miles writes:

eReader – while we’re away from school our pupils can still get access to a wide range of age appropriate reading material through our excellent eReader app. Lots are already using it and the feedback has been terrific!  There is a link to it on the Launchpad, and it is possible to download the app to smartphones or other devices. Just search for ePlatform by Wheelers Books. Pupils can log in using their usual school username and the password Library3140.  Anyone experiencing difficulties logging in can email Mrs Miles directly on EMiles3@kings-winchester.hants.sch.uk

Twitter – updated daily with happy stories from across the Kings’ community, as well as useful information from time to time. Do take a look and follow us.

INSET days

It seems very strange to be telling you about school closure dates for next year, but life must go on. Provisional dates are:

3 September 2020, 16 September 2020, 27 November 2020, 29 January 2021 and 1 April 2021

Yours faithfully

 

Matthew Leeming

Headteacher