Executive Headteacher's Blog - Summer Term 2020
Final Blog Post
I cannot believe that we have finally reached the end of the school year after such an unsettled few months. In my 32 years of teaching, I have never known one to feel quite like this; so unreal and without true closure. Our school staff have been working very hard to prepare for the autumn term and have held transition meetings with their new classes in readiness for the full re-opening of our schools. We are all hoping that we can return to some sort of normal and are excited about seeing all our children again. However, before we can look forward to the new school year, it is important now is to say a loving ‘Goodbye’ to all the children who are leaving us this summer. You will be missed by us all, staff and children. Year 6, we wish you the very best of luck as you begin the next exciting phase of your educational journey. I feel so sorry that we have not been able to say this in person, all together, in school. To the parents, thank you so much for the support you have given to the school during your child’s time with us. We are sad to see the children go, but also to see you leave our school community too!
Finally, wishing you all a restful and happy summer and the best of luck for the coming new school year.
“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”
22 June 2020
It has been wonderful over the past two weeks, to welcome back many of our pre-school (at Pinhoe), reception, year 1 and year 6 children. The children have been so excited coming in, pleased to see their teachers again and loving meeting up with their friends. I have been attending both schools within the federation, but with days working from home inbetween to mitigate against the risk of carrying infection. The atmosphere has been incredibly positive and calm, with staff patiently supporting the children in understanding the new routines and procedures. Our critical worker groups have continued to grow so that both schools are now almost at capacity. All staff have been deployed to work within ‘bubbles’ but also have allocated time working remotely to support the children learning from home.
We have been considering the transition of our children to their new teachers ready for September. A letter will be sent out soon detailing how we are going to organise virtual meetings and some simple tasks that we would like the children to complete to introduce themselves. Our new intake of reception children will begin their full induction programme from September when we are hopeful that all children will be returning to school.
Can I say a huge thank you to you all for the support you have given our schools during the lockdown. I appreciate it has been a really challenging time for families but despite this, most of you have invested hugely in your child’s home learning and have kept in regular contact with class teachers. Thank you also for the kind wishes many of you have sent to the staff. I am very fortunate to lead a federation of dedicated and caring professionals who continue to their very best for the children and their families. I am proud to be Executive Headteacher of these two fantastic schools!
10 May 2020
Listening to the announcement tonight, I am excited to hear the news that from 1st June we are able to begin phasing years reception, 1 and 6 back into school. We have already been thinking deeply about how we can begin to open our schools further whilst protecting the health of staff and children. A great challenge! We are very fortunate in that we are working closely with schools within the Local Learning Hub, supporting one another and planning a co-ordinated approach across the city.
Currently, we are waiting for further detailed guidance from the DFE that we have been assured will be with us later this week. It is then that we will be in a position to carry out the necessary risk assessments and arrange for extending our federation opening. We are drafting a recovery curriculum and reviewing our Health and Well-being Strategy to ensure that the children receive the support they need to reintegrate into school positively after a pro-longed period at home under these unusual circumstances.
Over the past couple of weeks, the children have continued to access their home learning whilst a small number of pupils have been attending school. It has been great to see how creatively families have engaged in the activities set and the close partnership that has developed between parents, children and teachers. For most of our children, this will continue, possibly until the end of the academic year, whilst others may be attending school on a part-time basis.
We have decided to send out a simple parent survey later this week, which we would really appreciate you completing. With 5 key questions, it will only take a few minutes, but will help us to evaluate our response to the pandemic so far and to inform how we take things forward. I wish to thank you in advance for taking the time to do this.
I have been incredibly busy over the last couple of weeks, employing new staff and working in partnership with the school leaders to plan our next steps as a federation. Next week, we have an extraordinary governors meeting where a transition plan will be agreed and then shared with staff and our wider school community. All plans will be drafted with the understanding that they will need to be responsive as the situation progresses. There are no certainties at this time!
As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, says
“Let’s remember that we are in this together. Let’s look after ourselves and our communities, gain courage from each other, and walk together in hope and faith.”
As it says in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
I hope that you are well and send you my best wishes,
Blog - Friday 17th April 2020
Friday 3rd April
This week I have decided to start writing a blog so that I can share what is happening across the federation as well as my personal reflections during what is the most unusual of times.
Following last week where I was at Pinhoe every day, I have spent this week liaising with headteacher colleagues, our key staff on duty in school and reviewing policy and practice in response to the developing government and local authority guidance. I have agreed to support Jo Evans, CEO of the St Christopher’s MAT, in co-ordinating a Learning Hub of 14 Exeter schools. This involves ensuring that all school leaders are kept up to date with relevant changes and share approaches as things evolve. It may also involve co-ordinating deployment of staff across the city if schools find themselves struggling to open.
One big challenge for me has been learning how to use Zoom (Houseparty is much simpler!) so that I can attend virtual meetings with staff, governors and leaders within our Learning Hub.
It is a strange time with an odd mix of being contained at home with my husband and 23-year-old daughter, whilst still remaining focused upon Woodbury and Pinhoe and what is happening there. Gardening, cooking new recipes, running and walking the dogs has kept me busy. My daughter has insisted that I complete a daily abs workout with her, which is seriously testing our relationship and leaves me unable to move for some significant time afterwards. I even cleaned out my kitchen cupboards and found a tin of condensed milk from 2011, just shows how often that happens!
On Tuesdays and Fridays, I go shopping for my parents and their elderly neighbour. Isn’t it odd how quiet it is everywhere? However, the positive atmosphere in the shops has really struck me. People have been very respectful and there have been many “Good Mornings”, “you go first” and lots of smiles. I was really moved when on Tuesday a cashier refused to charge me for a plant I was buying because I was shopping for others and deserved a treat! Kindness seems to be flourishing it seems.
The numbers of children attending both schools this week has been significantly reduced with Woodbury averaging 2/3 a day and Pinhoe 6/7. We expect these to rise after Easter as parents and key workers commitments increase.
Both schools are developing a flexible approach to wrap around care as our usual providers have temporarily ceased working. This is something that we are eager to offer if there is sufficient demand and will involve our rotas being adapted so that staff are scheduled for either early or late shifts when they are in school.
Home learning has been well received with most of our children participating in the daily learning activities. This will resume after Easter. We appreciate the support you are providing your children and recommend that if you haven’t already, you create a daily routine on school days that includes some physical activity, some home learning and some creative time as well as valuable relaxation and play-time of course!
Finally, I would like to thank the staff who are unfailing in their commitment to the children and in their desire particularly to support our critical worker families. Please remember that we are here and available to contact via the school office. Many of you will be receiving regular catch-up phone calls too.
Anyway, I will sign off now as I need to join others in our village to clap our wonderful NHS workers. Without them, where would we be?