Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope that you have had a productive week. It has certainly been a very busy week in school with upwards of 130 pupils in school most days across the week. It has been really nice welcoming Year 8 back ‘across the threshold’ this week and that will continue over the next two weeks with Year7 and then Year 9.
Thursday was a very busy day indeed. Two significant documents were released. The long awaited OfQUAL consultation offered less than expected, though the next two weeks might see some more sensible concessions added to the proposal. In brief there is very little change to A Levels and minimal change offered to GCSEs; no changes at all to maths, English, or the sciences; some changes on coverage in History and Geography; significant stripping back on practical activities (‘watch rather than do’ is the general picture across everything from science to Design and Technology) and the removal of speaking tests from MFL subjects! The consultation ends in two weeks but there will hopefully be some additional adaptations and sensible considerations still to emerge. At Eaton Bank Academy, our stance is not about stripping away GCSEs but ensuring the best range of support is available to help our students achieve the success they need for their future careers.
Then there was also the ‘return to school in September’ document. Having had many discussions with headteachers and leaders about this document, how it has been interpreted covers a wide spectrum. Some have been quick to point out the flaws and ‘lack of awareness’. I take a different stance. It is a really good effort in a very difficult environment and is a charter to get us going again. The civil service have given it their best shot and the sub-text to the document is clearly about acceptable risks to get students back on track. We are optimistic that this will allow us to get as close as possible to where we once were. We will follow all the guidance and publish our updated risk assessments in the coming weeks. We are committed to getting back to a full curriculum for all our students.
From our point of view we have modelled a ‘re-structured day’ that includes:
- Varied entrance points at the start of the day
- One way system in school – with plenty of warning messages about social distance
- Additional handwash stations and sanitiser dispenser stations located around the school
- Separated break times and lunchtimes for three year groups at a time (separating them across different large space areas per year group too)
- A staggered release at the end of the day
We will go through a range of rigorous cleaning programmes and regular hand-washing. The guidance states that students should be cleaning hands and using sanitising products on a very regular basis throughout the day. Robust hygiene protocols are at the heart of the document and below I have a few requests of you which I think are sensible and appropriate and will help immeasurably in the returning process.
- If you are travelling on a school bus, we strongly recommend that all students wear a mask/face covering. This is an area the DfE are struggling with. The whole school bus/public bus argument is a bit of a nonsense. It is impossible to see anything other than busy buses. Wearing a face covering in such an enclosed area seems nothing less than a sensible precaution. If we get into the habit in September then come sneezy season in October/November it will feel like normal practice rather than a sudden imposition.
- Each student comes to school with a small bottle of hand gel and a small packet of cleaning wipes that they can use for themselves. We will have both available in school but demand will be high and self-administration will be infinitely quicker and more practical than creating queues for hand wash stations.
A discussion for a later date is one that we have been wrestling with in SLT meetings. Do we suggest that all students weak a mask/face covering in highly populated areas? In essence we are talking about putting on a face covering/mask in the corridors between lessons. Current DfE guidance says no (because it will impede teaching and can create transmission issues if the coverings are used badly) but the guidance also has the caveat of using the expression ‘current advice’. The first argument is irrelevant – we do not envisage face coverings in the classroom at all but the second issue is a tricky one. We have gone backwards and forwards on this issue. The corridors will be busy. To get the curriculum fully back up and running students will have to move around the school and synchronising the movement is crucial to effective school operation. We will aim to keep them in year group bubbles as much as possible but whatever we do, the corridors will be very busy. Will we have a different view for September than we will in November/December when the cold/flu season kicks in and is a graduated approach to this issue better? There are many emotive aspects to this but my concern is that we agree an approach that balances the realities of potentially asking children to wear face coverings (and all the many issues – including medical ones – that I am sure you can predict will come with it) with finding the best strategy to eliminate potential transmission I suggest we return to this issue and I canvas your opinions around mid-August. By that time we will have a clearer picture of what the national/local picture looks like and hopefully be in a position to better inform our judgements. Whichever way we go on this topic, we need to be in agreement. I want you to feel secure and confident that the approach we plan to take is the most sensible and informed one that we can get to together.
Finally thank you for your support with the short notice INSET day on Friday July 17th. It will help us to get rolling on a quick and smooth start in September and allow us to keep a range of important planning strategies in focus.
As ever, stay safe and well and thank you for your brilliant support throughout all we have been through.
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you are all well and have had a productive week.
It has been an exciting and eventful week. Firstly it has been fantastic to welcome Y12 and Y10 students back into the school. Along with an increase in Key Worker children in school and one-to-one interviews going on to support families happening throughout the week, the school suddenly felt more vibrant and energised, which was fantastic to see and experience. Students returning for the first time were probably a bit taken aback by the social distancing measures, temperature checks and hand-gelling but they quickly settled back into school ways and were happy and engaged. They were faultless in the way they conducted themselves and behaved. Thank you also to you all for securing their travel and pick up so efficiently. The return process continues next week.
What now follows is my attempt to summarise for you the key announcements from a busy week:
Nationally there has been a flurry of information, particularly toward the back end of the week. Firstly there is the welcome injection of £1 billion pounds to support students’ learning; the detail and logistics behind the project still needs to be made evident but it is never a bad thing when more finance to support learning is injected into schools. Secondly, OfQUAL have said they are not yet resolved but still giving consideration to what to do for the exam season in 2021. Thirdly the detail behind the ‘massive summer catch-up programme’ announced by the Prime Minister hasn’t yet come out despite some early press leaks about activity sessions and mental health support. It appears at present to have been lost in the shifting picture of information from Friday. This needs to be made clear, as it is the ‘summer holidays’ in four weeks’ time. Next was an announcement that public buses are not to be viewed in the same way as school buses. As of 15th June it is now in law that everyone over the age of 10 must wear a face covering/mask on any public transport. This is not that case on a school bus; no face covering is required.
Finally we had the announcement on Friday afternoon that it is the government’s intention that all children will return (full time, every day) to schools in September. The September re-start is still ten calendar weeks away so hopefully much will have changed with regard to the effectiveness of trace and isolate systems/apps, sensible protective measures and the national prevalence of the Covid19 virus, so that we will indeed be in a position to fully return. That would definitely be the ideal and a welcome relief to all of us.
Our initial planning of 2 metres distancing meant, in simple classroom terms, that we could fit 10 students plus a teacher into our average classrooms. Reducing to 1 metre changes the numbers, though not as significantly as one might think: it goes to 15 students in a standard classroom plus the teacher. Curiously, the Secretary of State’s announcement yesterday included reference to ‘bubbles’ (which refers to an integrated group of students who remain together, relatively socially isolated within their group with their teacher, but very distanced from other groups). “Don’t break the bubble” is the usual mantra, meaning don’t mix ‘bubble’ groups with other ‘bubble’ groups to avoid the potential for any cross contamination. That way for example, if there is infection in a ‘bubble’ it is limited to the ‘bubble’ and the whole school doesn’t have to be affected.
The reference to expanded ‘bubbles’ is the only way you would get all students back to school. However, the isolation needed to ‘protect’ the bubble is the complicating factor. It will be very, very hard in primary schools and pretty much impossible in secondary schools, where one class of thirty never remains the same throughout the day. Unless the announcement on Friday was a subtle precursor to announcing a complete end to social distancing, how this will all happen is a bit of a puzzle. The Secretary Of State explained that the thinking and detail which underpins this announcement will be revealed within two weeks.
That is all for now and if you managed to stay the course to the end of the email, thank you and well done 😊!
Stay safe and well,
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope that you have had a productive and effective week.
We are really looking forward to inviting back our Yr 10 and Yr 12 students from tomorrow onwards. Hopefully it is that start of developing a movement back to school for all students.
In the meantime, I hope that you are seeing the implementation of our use of Microsoft Teams in effect more fully. Mr Carvell ran a series of parental briefings throughout the week to help get you all up to speed on how the platform works. Thank you all for your support with this new phase of the online learning strategy.
On the back of some surprise educational announcements last week, we are expecting some new strategies and ideas to be presented over the next ten days. Some developments about educations are discussed and filtered down through the Local Authorities to give Headteachers and governing bodies a chance to lay foundations and plans. Other things merely appear as if from nowhere. As such, I have no real sense of what the Prime Minister has in mind for a “massive summer catch up operation”. Some suggestions filtering through imply it could mean availability of ‘online learning vouchers’ and community volunteer led activity sessions.
One of the most significant discussions of last week went quietly under the radar but it was OfQUAL in front of the Education Select Committee. They were told in stark terms of the uncertainties and anxieties facing Year 10 and Year 12 students. They were pressed to come up with viable solutions and committed to releasing their plans within a fortnight. It feels to me like a blended approach incorporating some exams for Year 10 and Year 12 coupled with some centre assessed grading (the process used this year for Y11 and Y13) would be the sensible solution.
The new educational buzz phrase is ‘recovery curriculum’ but this can only start when we are clear about the end point we are striving to reach. OfQUAL’s decisions around Yr 10 and Yr 12 are at the very core of that process as their plans will ultimately filter down in different ways throughout all year groups. Resolution on this issue has been in discussion for months but is now desperately urgent and fundamental to our strategic planning for September.
I hope you all have a really great week. As ever, please get in touch if there is anything we can do to support and help.
Stay safe and well.
Recording of Mr Carvell’s Parent and student introduction to Teams.
How to join live tutorials in Teams
Dear Parents and Carers,
Messages for all parents
I hope that you have had a productive and useful week. It has been a busy time in school. We have been training staff throughout the week on how to use the key functions on TEAMS to deliver feedback, test student understanding and deliver live tutorials. The students will begin to feel the effect of this over the coming days, as staff schedule and deliver live tutorials. Staff have worked incredibly hard to develop new skills and this represents a very different and new way of working for many. Some teachers and Learning Support staff are particularly au fait with the technology and the platform, others find it less straightforward but I would like to commend them all for their hard work, efforts and professionalism. There will no doubt be some teething issues but these will be ironed out over the coming weeks, as we all become more familiar with working in this way.
To support parents in understanding how to use TEAMS Mr Carvell has scheduled a series of sessions across next week so that you will feel more comfortable and aware of what the teachers will be doing and how the system functionality operates. If you cannot attend the meetings they will be recorded so that you will have access to them at a later point.
The week has thrown up many changing scenarios. I have been involved with the communication strategy to the Year 8 parents and students to support an understanding and awareness of the re-structured curriculum model which we will be implementing from September. A big part of those discussions has involved trying to look forward to September and we have been open and honest about what things might look like.
At present, things do not look like they are going to be back to normal in September; it is hard to say precisely what limitations and expectations may be placed upon schools but there seems to be little change from the message that has been going out to headteachers across the country for some time now, which is that schooling from September is most likely to be a ‘blended’ approach between some time spent inside the school building and sometime learning remotely from home. Quite what the proportion of both of those elements will be is not yet clear, and, if very recent events are anything to go by, liable to change according to local fluctuations in the spread of Covid19. I know that isn’t the message that any of us want to hear and I hope I am wrong. It is vital though that we fully embrace the new ways of working that we have been developing, rather than just wishing and waiting for things to return to what it used to be. Remaining positive and hopeful is also crucial, as is role-modelling this to our students.
Our preparations for the return from the 15th June of Yr 10 and Yr 12 have potentially hit a snag. The news on Friday that the ‘R’ rate in the North West may have started to go above ‘1’ could well trigger a delay in the opening of all schools. Certainly Local Authorities in areas like Tameside, Halton and Rochdale have already been quick to react and issue notices to their schools. I wrote to Jacky Forster on Friday evening to see where Cheshire East are up to in their strategy on this matter and they are meeting urgently on Monday, with a view to making a quick decision on advice and guidance to schools on the process of re-opening. As soon as I know any more, I will let you know.
The changing status of face coverings and surgical masks presents another interesting issue. This weekend the World Health Organisation’s endorsement of face masks, along with the government’s change of tack has brought the issue to the forefront of people’s minds. Guidance for schools has not been changed at present and remains that face coverings/masks are not required in schools. If this alters I will be sure to inform you.
Stay safe and well.
Messages for Yr 10 and Year 12 Parents
Ms Callister, Ms Podmore and Mrs McLaughlin have been busy making arrangements for the return to school of Year 10 and Year 12 from the week commencing 15th June. We are really looking forward to welcoming more students back into the building and of course we will be following all health, safety and scientific advice. We have detailed risk assessment plans in place and very soon you will be receiving the timetable, day structure, travel details and processes that will underpin the return to school. We are only allowed to accept onto site 25% of the year group on any one day. However, as you will have picked up from the main notice, there could well be a delay in when the re-opening begins. My best guess is that it may be that schools will be advised to put plans back by a week, until 22nd June, but we shall be guided by Cheshire East’s advice on this matter. A Local Authority decision on this issue is expected no later than Wednesday 10th June.
Please see below for the details of the Fallibroome Trust survey, which many of you kindly completed at the end of May. Alongside this we will publish a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ which should hopefully address any concerns you have about the re-opening process.
The feedback from Parent and student survey can be read here Eaton Bank survey report for parents (wider opening of schools)
The FAQ for Year 10 and 11 reopening can be read here School re-opening for Yr 10 and Yr 12 FAQ
Student Guides to using Teams
Using Teams on a smart phone
Submitting assignments on notebook
Attaching your own work on Teams
Editing and submitting assignments
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you have had a good week. At least the weather has been good! Thank you to everyone who completed the questionnaire which was sent out on Bank Holiday Monday. The Fallibroome Trust is preparing a FAQ document to answer the many questions that came from the survey; I will also answer the questions that are relevant to Eaton Bank Academy on a more precise level. Most of those questions relate to the ‘re-opening process’ of school. Over the next week I will be providing more detailed information about how that will happen.
I have divided today’s update into messages for everyone and messages for particular year groups so that it makes it easier to choose the point at which you want to stop reading! I too am bombarded with emails so I fully understand the need to fine tune and pick out what is most relevant.
Messages to all
Firstly, starting tomorrow morning we are having two faculty teams a day into school to train them on using TEAMS. We have evolved our approaches to online learning over the weeks. We have also been using a wide range of online packages that have been useful for students for variety, different feedback processes and for their audio visual resources. We are however, conscious that we need to draw things together in a more coherent and effective platform and TEAMS is going to be the way forward. Staff will be trained specifically on using ‘Forms’ and ‘Assignments’ and in managing online ‘live tutorials’. This training is ongoing throughout the week from 1st -5th June and you will begin to feel the implementation happening through the week and beyond. Each day we will be conducting ‘live tutorials’ with some classes – this is part of the training to help staff and students get used to the process. Thank you to everyone who has responded to the question of agreeing on live tutorials too; if you have not yet responded, please do so as soon as possible. Without your agreement your son/daughter cannot participate. Please note, parents of Y12 students do not need to be in the room/house when tutorials happen. I have attached a file that explains what we are aiming to do with TEAMS. Hopefully this will give you clarity. We are also going to host parental TEAMS live seminar sessions (from week commencing 8thJune 2020) so that you can see what to expect and how it all works. We are also going to begin a ‘calling programme’, whereby Learning and Progress Managers and Form Tutors are going to call home to see that students are okay and keeping up and staying healthy, etc. This is intended to be a morale boost for students and is hopefully going to be another way to ensure students are motivated and feel affiliated. It is meant to be a brief chat, with no agenda other than to say hello and catch up from a pastoral perspective. Staff will phone parents first and ask to be passed on to the student. If you do not want your son or daughter to receive a call from their Form Tutor, please can you get in touch with your child’s Learning and Progress Manager and let them know. (Mrs Andrews Yr 7; Ms Brindley Y8/9; Ms Callister Yr10; Mrs Knott Y11; Miss Podmore and Mrs McLauglin Y12/13)
The much anticipated government advice on re-opening secondary schools arrived on Bank Holiday Monday. It re-affirmed most of what we were expecting and had been seen in the primary school guidance. It tied in with Cheshire East’s decision to advise schools not to open to students until 15th June. It also made clear that the for the immediate future the ‘predominant form of education’ for all year groups is going to be via online learning. That will certainly be the case for the remainder of the summer term. At this stage I am not going to try and second guess what September schooling may look like. A cautionary approach is simply that “it won’t look like it used to” but lots can change before September and I feel the best approach is to react quickly to the changing circumstances that emerge so that we can offer the best education and experiences possible. As ever I will keep you as fully up to date as I can as things progress.
Messages for Yr10 and Yr12 Parents
As you will be aware, the government has asked schools to ensure that there is some ‘face to face’ contact with students from Year 10 and Year 12. This is to take place from 15th June onwards. The government is clear in their guidance that ‘the predominant form of education’ will remain as online learning, but that ‘face to face’ could supplement “additional pastoral support, academic support, practical support”. There are also very clear expectations on social distancing, an adherence to strict hygiene protocols and where possible varying start and finish times in order to reduce the number of students in circulation, mainly outside of school. Transmission of Covid19 remains a significant potential problem if large numbers gather closely and don’t observe social distancing. For this reason the government has insisted that no more than one quarter of students from Yr10 and Yr12 are in school on any one day. Students are being encouraged not to travel to school on public transport and it is being deemed much more preferable to cycle, walk or travel by car to school. We are going to be insisting students wear cloth/face masks if they use our minibus service or any public transport.
In an attempt to address the huge complexity of ‘how do we manage different option/setting groupings?’, the government advice refers to ‘minimal’ mixing of groups. If I am honest, any ‘mixing’ of groups seems like it might be an untenable compromise and would not give you the sense of security and confidence that we are prioritising safety and wellbeing. Under current guidelines, any sort of in-school timetable would be exceptionally hard to implement. However, this is where the enhanced online platform we are looking to develop will support students more fully.
At this early phase I am proceeding with some caution. Our plan remains to have all students in school within their tutor groups for around 90 mins to 2 hours. They will be strictly socially distanced, have temperatures checked, use antibacterial gels, queue in 2 metre distanced lines, enter the school at different points, etc. The first two week cycle will be about seeing the students, discussing key issues about their learning, about their routines, about the forthcoming year, what we know about the exam processes for 2021, using TEAMS effectively, etc. We also plan to target less engaged students for direct support in school, giving access to IT systems that they may not be able to use at home. I plan for us to gauge how well that goes over the first two weeks and then re-assess. It could be that we repeat the cycle on the next two week block or do something different. Different advice may emerge by the start of July. At this stage, what I am saying is that I would prefer to keep it flexible so that we don’t go down a route that may not prove most effective. I feel that this approach will allow me to listen to staff, listen to students and listen to parents in formulating how we go forward.
I will be writing to you later this week to give you the precise timetable and details of who, where, when, what, how, etc for the week commencing 15th June and also to see if you are happy and confident to send your son or daughter into school. It is clear from the government guidance that you will not be chased for not attending and we fully respect everyone’s choices on this matter. With the detail and the logistics that I will send to you I hope that you will feel reassured how seriously we are taking everyone’s safety and wellbeing.
Stay safe and well.
Dear Parents, carers, students, staff and governors,
The Fallibroome Trust is seeking to get a sense of how we all feel about the government’s plans to re-open schools and how well you feel the schools have kept you informed about the process.
You should have been emailed a link to a survey. The survey asks some simple questions about confidence in the process of re-opening/returning to schools.
The Fallibroome Trust would be very grateful if you could fill in the survey. It does ask for names and an email address but please rest assured that these will not be shared with any outside bodies, agencies or businesses; your privacy and security is important to us.
From a secondary perspective, as I mentioned in my last letter to parents, we will be aiming to bring in one class per day of Year 10 and Year 12 students on a rotational basis. This would fit in with last night’s pronouncement from the Prime Minister that no more than 25% of a year groups should be present on the school site at any one time. This may be subject to change or revision once the secondary guidelines are released.
This is a purely voluntary exercise and should not take too long. There is a space to make comments or to ask questions should you wish to do so.
Thank you for your support.
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope that you are all well and that you have had a productive week. The much anticipated documentation about opening secondary schools never arrived, which makes for planning a safe ‘re-opening’ of schools rather difficult. Something of a schism seems to have opened up between the DfE’s more cautious approach to this subject and No 10’s bullishness that it should happen. Cheshire East Local Authority by contrast have been really supportive and commendably clear on their guidance. I have been part of Cheshire East’s ‘Education Recovery Group’ over the last few weeks and from (socially distanced) close quarters have been impressed by how Jacky Forster and her team have focused their strategies and resources on supporting schools and communities. The Local Authority guidance, which I am sure you have by now all received, sets out that schools should not accept children until 15th June, thereby allowing enough time to give a measured assessment of the country and the county’s preparedness to move into a new phase of ‘un-locking’.
When the Prime Minister announced that Years 10 and 12 would have ‘some face to face’ contact we began planning what we felt would be appropriate and sensible. I will share the finer details with you nearer the point of it happening but in essence we are planning to have one Y10 and one Y12 tutor group in school (for around 90 minutes) each day across a two week cycle. The idea being to have a chance to discuss pastoral issues, check everyone is coping, understand learning needs and train the students on use of the TEAMS platform. This would happen every two weeks, meaning that we could safely manage each tutor group coming into school one day per fortnight. Each tutor group would be in school on up to three separate occasions before July 17th. Each tutor group would be split into half to reinforce social distancing and we have a whole raft of risk mitigation protocols in place which we will scrupulously follow to prioritise safety and social distancing. I will share those details and protocols with you closer to the point of anything actually happening. There is some doubt that any of this will happen so it seems premature to rush out a lot of detail that might not ever come to fruition. If and when things finally roll into process, I will also be asking how you feel about students returning, as it is important that you feel safe and secure with our plans.
From week commencing 1st June, in rotated and socially distanced groups, we will be training all staff in the more developed and integrated use of TEAMS. This is to move our online learning into a more secure and developed phase. After half term we will begin using ‘Forms’, ‘Assignments’ and hosting live tutorial sessions with students in order to establish a more formal feedback and engagement agenda. I am also asking all our Learning and Progress Managers to organise a fortnightly ‘calling’ programme to all students in order to make contact and check they are okay, staying happy, accessing the work, keeping healthy, doing housework, etc. We will send you details of how the ‘live tutorial‘ sessions will work, how often they happen what is required of students to ensure that you are comfortable with this process.
I would like to thank you all for the many emails and correspondences I receive from you. Whether you just want to say ‘hello’. drop me a line or want to suggest areas that could be improved in what we are doing, I always welcome your input and thoughts. We all know this is an unbelievably complex and difficult situation but we want to make it work as well as we possibly can for your sons and daughters and for you as families. Please do keep in touch.
In the meantime I hope that you have a relaxing Bank Holiday weekend and a safe and engaging half term week. If anything exciting crops up across the week, I will be in touch.
Take care and best wishes,
Remote learning instructions
Dear Parents and Carers,
As we move into week seven of the lockdown I hope that you are well and finding imaginative ways to stay active and engaged and, above all, safe from any harm.
Over the last few weeks I have been travelling around Cheshire East and Staffordshire, doing drop-offs at hospitals, medical centres, care homes and hospices and it has allowed me to be in touch with a good number of you in your own professional settings. Whether through directly meeting you or ‘conversing’ electronically it has been genuinely illuminating. Without exception, the sheer courage, determination, altruism and good humour that I have encountered has been humbling and inspirational.
It has been a frustrating week for school leaders trying to work out where things are heading. Unfortunately I have no new news to offer you; the position remains unchanged from last week: the DFE are looking at offering schools a three week lead-in to ‘re-opening’ and that it will be in ‘phased’ manner. We are all expecting a significant briefing from government sometime later this coming week, which will hopefully give more clarity and direction in all aspects of life and society. Rest assured that behind the scenes we are making lots of contingency plans and preparations so that we are ready to respond once we get some clarity.
As before, please don’t read too much into press speculation; somewhere between frustrated MPs and ministers isolated in their constituencies feeding journalists their latest ideas and scientists taking diametrically opposed views on the relative infectiousness of children, we are all being left in a state of uncertainty and confusion.
Thank you for the many emails from parents expressing their disgust about the vandalism to the goal nets on the 3G pitch. I know that we all share that feeling. The police are involved and following up on the incident.
If there are any issues relating to online learning please get in touch with the Learning and Progress Manager from your son or daughter’s year group and we will get onto any issues as quickly as possible.
Have a productive week and stay safe and healthy.
As we now enter the start of the sixth week of lockdown and the beginning of four weeks away from school, It seems so counter-intuitive, with the fantastic mid-summer weather and beautiful blue skies, that we are in such a strange and worrying situation. However, we are and I applaud you all for the way you are observing the guidance and rules across Congleton and Staffordshire. The rules are about keeping not only ourselves but also others safe and the way this is being managed across the town is impressive. If you have any advice, recommendations or tips on how you are successfully negotiating the lockdown, please get in touch and I will endeavour to share them on the school website and social media.
Following last week’s announcements from the DfE the ‘Oaks National Academy’ teaching/resource hub is up and running as is the BBC Bitesize learning zone. Both have their merits and I know that our staff are dipping in and out of their resources to supplement the learning opportunities of our students. There are no clear details yet about the laptop/4G dongle scheme available for some Year 10 students and with computer hardware in such high demand there remains the possibility that it may be some weeks before the equipment can be sourced, processed and rolled out to students and families. As soon as we know more and the equipment becomes available, I will let you know.
The subject of schools returning remains high on everybody’s agenda. Denmark and Germany have already started a partial re-opening of schools. It will be interesting to observe how they are managing the process. It is quite clear that ‘social distancing’ lies at the heart of the strategy and in schools this provides a particular conundrum. I am engaged in discussions with the other secondary headteachers across Cheshire East, with the Fallibroome Trust headteachers and with the Senior Leadership Team at Eaton Bank Academy in how we move forward on the process of re-opening. Hopefully the collective wisdom and creativity generated from those groups and from our observations of how other schools around the world are operating will provide a clear set of principles with which we can move forward. I know that the Cheshire East Secondary Heads and Cheshire East LA are keen to work very closely together so that there is consistency in approach and security of parental confidence across the entire local area.
Eaton Bank’s Y6/7 transition team has been working very closely with our partner primary schools to ensure we have a clear strategy to ensure our new cohort of students feel connected, informed and secure. We like to get out to all our partner schools and meet teachers and students face to face but in the absence of that we are looking at how we can use technology to replicate as many of our processes as possible, from Microsoft Teams meetings with Year 6 teachers, video introductions between tutors and tutees to virtual tours of Eaton Bank Academy. We have also this week been in contact with our Y11 students to keep them secure and informed about next year’s Year 12 offer of places and the courses we have programmed into the timetable. We are really excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and how we can create a dynamic and invigorating experience in the new academic year.
The work on visor PPE creation remains ongoing in school. The production line has become highly competitive and we ended last week with a daily total record of 580 visors created and a cumulative total to date of just under 4000. We distribute them around the local area to doctors, surgeries, hospices, hospitals, care homes and the local ambulance station. If you know of anyone who needs visors please don’t hesitate to let us know and we will endeavour to get them out as soon as possible.
At a time when we are demonstrating what a brilliant community we have and how we all pull together so well it is deeply disappointing to report that sometime on Thursday evening we had some mindless vandalism on the new 3G pitch. At least two people have entered the facility, moved goalposts around and then decided to cut/slash the goal nets. This is a facility for all of us and to wilfully damage something that we have not even had a chance to use yet is staggering. As you can imagine personally, and on behalf of all of us, I am furious. If you hear of anything in relation to this please do let me know. All information will be treated entirely confidentially and will support the prosecution of the cynical vandals who have done this.
Best wishes, stay safe and keep in touch.
We have now made over 3000 PPE visors for NHS staff and front line workers!! Our visors are being used by the amazing nurses, doctors, carers and medical professionals helping us at this incredibly challenging time.
Our teams of staff will continue to volunteer their time to make visors – If you work in a front line role and need PPE visors please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are now about to move into the start of the summer term and the focus will switch back onto online learning. I will write to students today to offer some support and guidelines for them. Our pre-Easter surveys of how children were working remotely seemed to suggest that, broadly speaking, most were applying themselves at an average of around 2-4 hours per day. This seems about right and I will be recommending to the students that they aim for this level of commitment, along with reading, exercising and helping around the house with daily tasks (I have three teenagers at home so I know how much fun it is asking for assistance on daily household activities!).
I am sure like me that you have been following the regular stream of anonymous ministers in the media suggesting that schools will re-open at a certain given date. Whilst we are all desperately keen to return to a level of normality, this kind of speculation is not helpful. It is clearly the quickest route to making front page news but in most cases it is not rooted in any common sense or logistical practicality. As soon as any credible information starts to come from trusted sources I will let you know. There are a number of strands to re-opening schools: paramount among them is re-building parent, pupil and staff confidence in the way forward and having appropriate control and safety measures in place to ensure everyone remains safe and well. Fixing an arbitrary date (I think the 11th May was today’s random suggestion) without the proper control measures in place is a nonsense. Until we know more, I am broadly working towards a September opening but in all honesty everyone is simply speculating at present. What we do know, and what this crisis has demonstrated, is that schools have a tremendous capacity to cope with dynamic change and managing new processes. Whatever happens we will respond with determination, adaptability and professionalism and deliver the best we can for our community. I have heard that the Secretary of State for Education is delivering this afternoon’s Government Update Briefing, which might give further insight into the schools strategy.
The work being undertaken to rank and profile Y11 and Y13 in preparation for grade awards is well underway at present; OfQUAL has asked all schools to prepare to send that information through between the end of May and mid-June so that it can be processed and analysed and carefully filtered for accuracy and consistency. The Department for Education is also conducting a consultation around whether to allow Year 10 students who had been entered for summer 2020 examinations to follow the same process. The deadline for this was not declared but we are all hoping for a fairly quick decision. The outcome of this consultation will be very important in terms of decisions going forward for how students will attain grades in the summer of 2021. Nationally there is a recognition that Year 10 and Year 12 students are going to find the current situation particularly hard. Learning complex, new material without the support of a teacher is not ideal. In this regard I have picked up some awareness of some intelligent and considered thinking about how to move forward. At present this is ranging from: significantly varying the style of any future exams (giving lots and lots of choice to enable all students to answer successfully); having a newly designed, short-term curriculum ready to teach in the time we have between returning to school and the summer exams to ensure that all students nationally come back with a equal chances; finally, there is always the potential to repeat the processes being undertaken this summer through using teacher assessments. One way or another it seems that a sensible and well-considered way forward should emerge soon, which will be most welcome. In the meantime, if you have sons and daughters in Years 10 and 12 please reassure them that a fair solution is being worked on at a national level and that they need to try to avoid getting upset or anxious about what will happen with their qualifications. The precedent has been set that a common-sense approach, designed to ensure maximum fairness to all, is going to be the way forward.
Last night the Department for Education released a wealth of information (which we are still working through) about the possibility of new online resources and potential access to hardware and broadband facilities to make sure all students have adequate ICT facilities and opportunity. As we understand more I will keep you informed. The BBC are also releasing (on BBC bitesize and iPlayer) a range of home learning lessons and resources from 20th April onwards. From within school we are looking to develop our lessons and move towards utilising the ICT platforms we have (particularly using Office 365, SharePoint and TEAMS) to create more scope for different learning experiences for the students).
Finally, two things worth mentioning:
- The 3G pitch is finished and looks absolutely brilliant! Like you I am struck by the irony of the situation, having waited for so long to get this project completed, we can currently only stand and look at it. However, when we finally do return we have a superb new additional facility in school that will provide endless scope for increased fitness, participation and skill development for the whole community.
- An enormous thank you for all of the messages of goodwill and support being offered for the work being done on creating visors for NHS staff. This really is a community working at its best to support each other in a time of real need. To date we have created and distributed more than 1350 visors to care homes and NHS frontline workers. We are currently producing around 300 visors a day and that is down to the fantastic staff who are willing to come into school and work on the production line and the many morale boosts (am thinking food and chocolate 😊), resource support and financial support that you have all offered.
Apologies for the length of this correspondence but (as ever!) there is much to discuss and I want to keep you as informed as possible. If there is anything you feel you need to know, please get in touch. I am in and around school most days and will always endeavour to find solutions and answers to any issues you may have.
Best wishes and stay safe,
From Tuesday our production of PPE face visors will continue Thank you to our brilliant Art and DT team for their hard work. We are supplying Leighton hospital and have already supplied local GP practices with visors. The priority is hospitals and local doctors, but we would also like to be able to support front line carers and care homes.
How can you help?
We want to make any many face visors as possible, but we have to buy the raw materials. If you would like to contribute, we have set up a payment option on ParentPay called “PPE Donations”. All contributions would be very much appreciated – thank you
Ofqual arrangements for summer – https://ofqual.blog.gov.uk/2020/04/09/arrangements-for-summer-2020/
Please visit our 2020 exams page for more information
Please see link below for online educational resources for schools and parents to help children to learn at home.
I hope that you have kept safe and well and are adjusting effectively at the end of this second week since schools closed. The effects of social distancing and the effective ‘lockdown’ are well under way and will hopefully begin to make a difference across the country, so that we can all return to normality as soon as possible. My consistent advice to staff is that they make sure they are utilising the opportunity to be out of the house for a walk/run/exercise for a short period every day in order to keep fit and I think that is exceptionally important for all families as well. It is too easy to remain seated during this period so anything we can do to keep active and healthy is vitally important. I am sure that you have already been bending and bouncing to the ‘Joe Wicks’ sessions on YouTube but if not, do give them a view as a means to start the day with a bit of exercise!
We have sent out an information sheet ‘Be informed, Be Safe, Be Kind’.(Congleton Town Council Key Information) This should be a really useful document with information about Congleton amenities, pharmacies, contact points, etc. as well as strong messages about the importance of looking after each other as a community and things that we can all do to help each other and neighbours, to be safe and feel protected. We have also today sent out flyers from Fiona Bruce MP aimed at supporting and advising residents during the coronavirus crisis (Fiona Bruce MP Coronavirus Factsheet)
For all students and parents this is undoubtedly a time of concern but even more so for those students (and their parents) in Y11 and Y13. The guidance from OfQUAL about exactly how to move forward with the grade allocations has been delayed but is finally expected out later today. As soon as we have a chance to analyse and interpret the fine detail of the guidelines we will explain how things will be organised. Timelines seem to be shifting quite substantially over the grades issue. Initially the DfE was talking about presenting final grades sometime in late July but it now seems that nationally we will likely revert to the traditional results release days for A Level and then a week later for GCSE from the middle of August onwards. To help keep parents and students up to date we have created a FAQ section on the website and have put in an email address specifically for any questions relating to exams and grades. Please use this as a portal if you have any specific questions not addressed on the FAQ section rather than email individual teachers.
Hopefully you have been out clapping and cheering on a Thursday evening at 8pm for the hard work, dedication and bravery being shown by NHS staff throughout the country. We are trying our best to help from within Eaton Bank Academy. Lots of our staff have signed up as NHS volunteers, we have re-purposed and sent off 270 sets of goggles to be used in care homes and within the NHS and our D+T Technician is busy producing valuable face visors, again to go straight to NHS staff to help protect them in the fight against Coronavirus.
The school calendar states that the ‘Easter Holidays’ are now upon us; please take every opportunity available to relax and enjoy the time with your families. I have asked all teaching and support staff not to set work (or respond to any work) over the Easter Holiday two week period to allow staff, students, parents and families a chance to step back and gain some much needed time to relax, reflect and support each other.
With very best wishes,
We have created a new page containing useful wellbeing and safeguarding resources, activities and websites. It can also be accessed from a link on the news section of the homepage. If you do have any concerns about a child in our care, please do not hesitate to contact our safeguarding leads.
Our designated leads for Safeguarding and Child Protection are
Mr James – Designated Lead
Telephone: 01260273000 – please use email only during school closure
Miss Griffen – Deputy Designated Lead
Telephone: 01260273000 – please use email only during school closure
If you have an IMMEDIATE concern about a child or situation, please call Cheshire East Consultation Service (ChECS) on 0300 123 5012 (0300 123 5022 – Emergency Duty Team)
Dear Parents and Carers, (Year 11 and 13)
Whilst the final details of OFQUAL’s processes for awarding grades to Y11 and Y13 students is going to be published on Wednesday, we already have a very strong sense of what the various steps are going to be towards grading.
The process is clearly going to involve looking closely at three separate and equally important areas:
(1) starting points for students (KS2 data and GCSE Outcomes)
(2) prior school performance over the last academic year or so (to get a sense of expected progress in school)
(3) teacher assessments of the students (measured over the period of time that they have been in school).
The last of the three is the one in our immediate control. All secondary schools are going to be encouraged to work as department teams to collectively rank all students in a subject and come to an agreed rank order profile. This will then mean that Teacher Assessment grades can be applied. The Teacher Assessments will be sent off to DfE who will then apply a mathematical analysis which combines the starting point and expected, school-level progress, to come out with a final overall grade.
Despite the complications of distance between teachers, rest assured we will work hard on this and get it right.
Every school in the country now needs to be fair and honest in proposing a final grade for students. For those that try to over-inflate grades there will be significant consequences. If a school falls ‘out of tolerance’ when the data profile created by DfE gets applied, it will mean that all results will be subjected to a ‘moderation process’. This would not be a good outcome.
On the basis of the above, it is important for students in Year 11 and Year 13 to understand that they no longer need to complete any more work toward their GCSE or A Level courses. Given the complexity of the situation in which we all find ourselves a number of reasons spring to mind as to why this decision has been taken: it would be impossible to genuinely authenticate a student’s work as their own; each student may have more or less valuable access to the resources they need; the health and well-being of themselves or their family might be currently being significantly affected. As I am sure you are aware, there are myriad other reasons that may impinge on a student’s ability to complete work appropriately.
We do want Y11 and Y13 student to keep learning and expanding their horizons. For that reason we are preparing lots of work for students to move onto the next stage of their learning. There are a number of external providers offering services to this end and I will ensure we post these on the website and send them out to you as email reminders, so that your sons and daughters will remain gainfully engaged and active in their learning.
Although I am sure the temptation may be overwhelming, please can I urge you in the strongest possible terms not to contact members of staff to canvass for a particular grade, nor for students to do so either. We fully understand the importance and value of what qualifications mean to students and we will be exercising full professional care and responsibility in the grades we put forward. We want to get this right for the students, for the integrity of Eaton Bank Academy and because if, as a nation, we all contribute to a fair and judicious awarding of grades, we may go some way to changing the face of how assessment is undertaken in this country in the future.
There will no doubt be forms of appeal. Some being discussed (without a great deal of detail at this stage it must be said) include an ‘institutional appeal’ (i.e. from the school as a whole for a year group cohort) or the opportunity to undertake an examination (in effect a ‘re-sit’) at the soonest possible opportunity. Please note, in the latter case, we are not yet clear if this would be upon returning to school, in January or in the following summer season.
As more details emerge I will keep you fully briefed
Dear Parents and Carers,
This has been an unprecedented time for us all and the speed with which the country (indeed the world) has been plunged into a once-in-a-century crisis has been bewildering. The suddenness with which the end of formal schooling came about was a real shock to us all and a particular wrench for those students who were within sight of public examinations in May and June.
In a time of such anxiety and fear, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the brilliant support we have received in school. Parents and students alike have been writing in and offering fantastic suggestions and ideas and showing a really profound understanding of the difficulties we are all facing together. As well as working hard at maintaining remote learning and a provision in school for the children of key workers, a large number of our staff have already volunteered to support the NHS whenever they can. In doing so they are directly supporting residents in and around Congleton. In the face of genuine national adversity, I have been very moved by the loyalty, togetherness and efforts everybody has been making. It is a perfect illustration of how strong, compassionate and thoughtful we are as a community.
I know that the last week will have been very hard for you at home; if you are trying to continue your work from home as well as supervise the learning of your children you are taking on an unenviable task! We are trying hard to ensure that the students have continuity of education and we thank you for all of your efforts in helping support this process. Over the coming days and weeks we will be developing how we manage the students’ learning. At present we are aiming to push work out on a regular basis, though it is likely as we move further on we will be working through longer, project-based tasks.
Being realistic, it is inevitable that for all students there will be a loss of learning compared to what would have been covered in the classroom but we are very confident that, once school resumes, we will be able to quickly make up on lost ground. Nationally, Years 10 and 12 will have consideration in their final year that will reflect the loss of learning incurred. It is likely they will sit modified examinations with greater flexibility and range on topics and questions to ensure that there is no detriment on their expected outcomes.
How things progress over the next few days and weeks is still not clear but I would like to encourage you to use this time as an opportunity to develop a whole range of skills in your children; the new OfSTED framework preaches the importance of a broad and wide–ranging set of learning experiences for children of all ages. This appears the perfect opportunity to put that to the test. Please don’t feel that your sons and daughters have to anchor themselves to a computer screen throughout the day. They will need variety, periods away from the school curriculum and a whole range of stimuli. We would be delighted to hear of the many and varied approaches you might take to enhancing learning, exploring new subjects and varying the range and scope of what they learn. We will happily use tweets and posts to broadcast all the novel strategies you are employing to keep your children engaged and active.
In my assemblies last week with the students I urged them away from mindless and reductive activities (continuous X-box/Playstation gaming springs immediately to mind) and instead to take the chance to explore different things – read up on subjects they might not ordinarily study, learn to cook a meal, iron clothes or become a dab hand at tending the garden. We have really high standards and high expectations of the students but I am writing now to remind everyone that the most important thing is to stay safe, healthy, happy and optimistic. We will pick up the national curriculum and GCSE/A Level specifications when we get back to the usual routine of school life. For now, variety in learning and approach could well be the magic ingredient.
We are most likely looking at a September re-opening (earlier would be fantastic but conditions may mean it is not possible). Please encourage your sons and daughters to engage with the work we set but equally don’t let them become upset or too minutely focused on it. Remote learning is not a replacement for school learning – it will hopefully keep the mind active and engaged but there are also myriad other ways to do this. Don’t be shy of encouraging as many opportunities as you can find to expand their horizons and learn new skills. We are really looking forward to finding out what new skills and abilities they have acquired when we see your children again.
I will continue to be in touch to update you as developments occur, particularly around how grades will be awarded for Year 11 and Y13 students. Stay safe, healthy and well-balanced and look after each other.
To ensure we keep our staff numbers on site to a minimum we will be closing school reception from tomorrow (24/3/2020) until further notice. If you wish to contact the school, please email email@example.com and we will respond to you as soon as possible within working hours (8am to 4pm).
Thank you for your support.
How viruses spread and why you should follow NHS advice
Dear Parent/ Carer,
As has been reported in the national media, we have been instructed to close the school on Friday 20th March until further notice. We will notify parents as soon as we have more information.
We will do all we can to continue to provide work for our students in this period. With this in mind, we intend to use Insight and the school website as the key resource for setting work and communicating with our students. We recommend that you review your son’s /daughter’s Insight account with them every evening so that you can support them in structuring their studies at home as much as possible.
It will clearly not be possible for us to mark work and provide ongoing feedback for all students during the closure period. To make this manageable, we ask that students and parents in other year groups keep such emails to their teachers to a minimum.
Following on from the announcement of Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, we can confirm that there will be no GCSE or A-Level exams this summer. However, please be assured that all students will receive their qualifications. We do not know at this stage how final grades will be established, but we are confident the national examination system will treat them fairly. When we have further information about how qualifications will be graded and how UCAS will allocate university places, we will let you know.
Free School Meals
The Government has announced that families entitled to free school meals will be put on a national voucher system, whereby they will receive free coupons with monetary value to cover the loss of school meals. We plan to purchase Tesco vouchers, which will be emailed, texted or posted to parents/carers over the next few days.
Eaton Bank Academy will remain open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. The definitive list of who is a key worker has yet to be released by the Government, but we expect the list to include medical professionals, health workers, critical infrastructure and emergency services. When this list is issued, we will email parents to establish who fits this criteria – please ensure you respond as soon as possible so we can establish numbers.
While this closure is far from ideal, we will do our best to minimise the impact on our students. Please keep an eye on the school website for further information and updates.
With thanks for your understanding in this matter and for your ongoing support of the school.
Across all year groups students will continue to learn from home.
Each day, where possible, teaching staff will update Insight app with work to be completed throughout the day.
Work set should take around an hour meaning that students can follow their normal timetabled lessons including breaks and lunch times
Where possible students will be set work which is away from computers to try to limit screen time.
Initially as staff and students learn to work in this new system and learning environment, teachers will not be providing feedback on work (except for year 11 and 13 coursework). Where possible, answers or feedback will be provided to allow students to self-mark heir work.
We have populated the school website with subject specific learning resources suitable for each year group. In a situation where a teacher does not set work students should continue with past learning or access the website to find additional work.
Any student who does not have access to the Insight app should notify main reception in order to either set up Insight or receive paper-based work. Ideally this should happen prior to Friday afternoon.
Thank you for your support,
Please find below urgent information and resources that have been developed with a range of useful websites and resources to support schools, parents, children and young people, developed from Cheshire East Educational Psychology Service.
Anna Freud Self-Care Infographic BPS Talking to children about Coronavirus Corona Educational Psychology Service support to Schools and Parents (2) Coronavirus Social Story Coronavirus Workbook for Children
Dear Parents/ Carers
In light of the latest information from the Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer, dated Monday 16.3.20, we would like to update you on our current response to the ongoing Coronavirus situation.
Students should stay at home for 7 days minimum if they have either:
- A high temperature;
- A new, continuous cough.
Please refer to https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/ if:
- you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days.
We are currently prioritising work for Y11 and Y13 students to access. This can be found by accessing the links on the school website.
As with all the schools in the Fallibroome Trust, we are cancelling:
- All trips and visits (including all domestic and foreign trips) for the remainder of the academic year
- All non-essential visitors to the school (this includes sporting fixtures, external assembly/presentation deliverers, planned photography sessions, etc)
- For staff, all non- essential and/or extra-curricular meetings and activities, including Governors’ meetings and Parents’ Evenings.
At present the DfE’s guidance to keep schools open remains the same, as of 16.3.20.
Please be aware that the situation and the government response appears to be developing rapidly. In circumstances of significant staff absence, Headteachers will consider supervision and Health and Safety requirements and may send selective year groups or classes home. In such extraordinary circumstances preparation for national examinations will be maintained, with on-line resources being extended where feasible.
In the longer term, we are awaiting confirmation of what will happen for the summer series of examinations. As things stand, there is no change to our expectations that the summer series will continue as planned. The Secretary of State is in discussions this week to deliberate on this very issue; as soon as we know any more we will let parents and students know.
As always, our overarching priority is to ensure that our students and staff stay safe.
Cheshire East website www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/home.aspx
Prevention is always better than cure, so, as with the flu virus, the most effective way for people to protect themselves from coronavirus is to adopt good respiratory and hand hygiene to prevent the risk of infection and a ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach to coughs and sneezes.