Dear Parents and Carers,

We’ve almost made it to the end of what will have felt for many of us the longest half term we can remember. I am proud of the way that our community has responded to the disappointing but necessary closure of school to most students. I’ve had a lot of emails from parents thanking us for the efforts we’ve put in and I want to recognise the effort that you have all had to make as well. Home working and home schooling is tough. I’m sure we all look forward to schools reopening at some point in the near future. When that time comes, we will be at pains to balance safety with the need to get back to educational normality as soon as we can.

As you know, we introduced compulsory attendance at lessons for Year 11 and Year 13 earlier this term. We have now had time to review the engagement data and it is very clear that there has been a substantial increase in the number of students attending lessons and completing their work.

I planned our remote learning system to give students and families flexibility in the way they approach school work, and those of you who have responded to surveys have been very positive about it.  However, the evidence of the impact of compulsory attendance on the levels of participation is very strong. I feel that we need to act to ensure that every child is as engaged in their lessons as they can be.

For that reason, we are changing our approach to remote learning after half term. From Monday 22nd February, attendance at remote lessons will be compulsory for all students in all year groups. Starting from that day, we will be taking registers in all lessons and contacting non-attenders.

For a number of you, this will feel like a negative step because your child is managing their learning well and appreciates the flexibility we currently offer. We now know that there are a large number of children for whom that is not the case. I am sure you will all appreciate that we need to do the right thing for the majority while making sure that we take good care of the minority who would rather have a different arrangement.

Five consecutive lessons of screen-time would be a lot to ask of anyone, so there will be a significant proportion of each lesson which is set aside for students to complete work independently, asking for help if they need it. Where possible, that will be on paper not on screen, so students can turn off the screen or at least look away for much of the day.

We have a small number of vacancies on the staff which it has not been possible to fill during the lockdown. The classes affected have been having work set by other teachers this half term. From next half term we will ensure that they get some face to face teaching time. That will mean that a small number of classes will have a blend of face to face lessons and independent working. We will contact the students affected by that separately.

While students are working remotely, we will put in place Wellbeing Wednesday for students at SWA. On Wednesday afternoons, we will set no work and hold no lessons. Instead, we will encourage students to do something that will help ensure their mental and physical wellbeing. Students at HC6 already have non-contact time in their timetables, so they will continue with lessons as normal at those times.

If there is any reason that this arrangement definitely cannot work for you, such as a lack of access to a smart phone or other device, please let your child’s year team know as soon as possible.

I’m sending this bulletin earlier in the week than usual, so if you need to talk to us about this change you can do so before the end of the half term. As always, please feel free to contact me.

I hope you have a restful half term break,

Andy Hunter