Thursday 19th March
Dear Parents and Carers,
Firstly, thank you for your patience and forbearance as we have tried this week to cope with unprecedented staff absence and still keep your children safe as best we can. Secondly, I apologise for another very long message. There is a lot to cover.
We will continue this week as we have said we will, open to Y11 and to students whose parents need us to have their children here. From 2.50pm on Friday 20th March we will be closed to the majority of students until further notice.
I will try to lay out for you what the immediate future holds for us. I appreciate that you will have a lot of questions. I am going to find it difficult to provide you with much detail at the moment but I will as soon as I can. By all means email me with questions, but please don’t expect immediate answers.
We’re still here
The first thing I want to make clear is that although the buildings will largely be empty for the foreseeable future and most of your children will be at home, the school will continue to operate. Teachers will set work from home for your children to do. On many online platforms, teachers can see the work that has been completed. Where that isn’t the case, we are setting up a mechanism for students to send work to teachers for them to assess and feedback on. We will have a functioning safeguarding team able to help with urgent issues. All staff will look at emails frequently. We might not be in the buildings, but wherever we are, we are working and we are listening.
Provision for the children of key workers
We don’t yet have a list of who actually counts as a key worker. In the absence of an official list, we will use the one below, which is our best guess. If you feel that you belong to any of the following categories, do not have a partner who is able to work from home to provide childcare, and would like to take up the offer of childcare at SWA please contact email@example.com as soon as possible. We need to plan that provision tomorrow and we can’t do that until we know how many students we are catering for. No child is obliged to attend school after tomorrow – it is a choice for those few who are entitled to.
- Clinical NHS staff
- Teachers and school support staff
- Police and community support officers
- Frontline civilian police staff
- Prison officers and staff
- Probation officers and trainee probation officers
- LA officers and LA/NHS social workers
- Uniformed staff in fire and rescue services
- Armed forces personnel and some civilian MOD personnel (ie clinical staff, MOD police, uniformed fire and defence)
- Highway agency traffic staff
- LA environmental health officers/practitioners
- Care workers
- Food/supermarket drivers and other workers
Exams in Year 11 and Year 13
The exams for both year groups have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. We have never been in this situation before, but it does happen from time to time that a student misses all their exams, due to illness or accident, and is still awarded grades. Systems already exist to do that and the very likely scenario is that we will do something similar on a much bigger scale; schools will provide professional predictions based on various pieces of data we hold which will guide the exam boards in awarding grades. That will include mock exams but it would be very unusual for a prediction not to be higher than a mock result – students tend to make substantial progress over the last few weeks as they increase their revision and exam preparation. Students who were disappointed with their mock results shouldn’t worry that their final qualifications will be the same.
Students who would like some Post 16 advice can still access that via our IAG practitioner. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is very keen to continue providing support to our young people.
I know that both Year 11 and Year 13 will be very sad to be denied their last term at SWA and all that brings with it. I feel the same way. We hope to do the yearbook as usual. We hope to have a “last day” when we can. We hope to have a prom. I’m not going to make promises now that I might not be able to keep, but I assure you that I will do what I can to make sure that those students don’t miss out.
Work for all students
We have been setting work for all year groups which you will be able to see on Go 4 Schools. We will provide whole class feedback periodically. In addition to the day to day tasks, there will a substantial piece of work in each subject each half term which will be formally assessed. We are setting up areas within Microsoft Teams where students can leave completed work. This is a time-consuming process not helped by the fact that so many organisations are doing exactly what we are doing at the moment which slows things down even further, but it will be completed at some point next week when we will send out instructions on how to join and use that facility. There are new exercise books available at reception for children who need them.
Free School Meals
We have Tesco vouchers for the parents of all pupils entitled to free school meals in reception now. We also have various grocery items donated by Aldi and a lot of sanitary products all of which we can offer for free to parents who need them. Please come and get them.
From next week we will email Tesco vouchers to parents whose children are entitle to free school, meals once a week. Please let email@example.com know if you think you should receive one but don’t.
It would have been Year 8 parents’ evening this week and Year 7 next week. We said we would send email comments rather than meet face to face but that is taking longer than we thought to do. Some of you will have received some of your Year 8 feedback already. I have asked staff to get all of those done by the end of the day next Tuesday. The window for sending home feedback on year 7 will open then and last for a week.
Contacting the school
Emails will work as normal. The format of all of our emails is the same; Initialsurname@samuelward.co.uk. Mine is the only one which is different. It is firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we are open for those few students that need us, the main switchboard will remain the default number for the school: 01440 761511.
If you have a very urgent safeguarding problem you can also call Customer First (social care) on 0808 800 4005. Opening hours are Monday to Thursday 8am to 5:20pm, Fridays 8am to 4:20pm (excluding bank holidays). Outside these hours this number will divert to the Emergency Duty Service who can deal with any matters that cannot wait until the next working day
That’s everything for the time being. There are a lot of jokes circulating on social media about how holidays have come early for teachers. They could not be further from the truth. I can tell you that I have not spoken to a single teacher who is not deeply moved by these events. Members of staff have offered to come in to clean, to work on days off, to do anything they can to help in a crisis. None of us wanted this.
I’m going to miss your children enormously over the coming weeks. I hope you all stay safe and well and I look back to us all coming back together stronger than ever before as soon as we possibly can.