Principal's Blog

Principal's Blog - Friday 15th May 2020:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

The past weeks have been the strangest that any of us have ever experienced, but I have tried to maintain a positive mindset throughout and have hopefully reacted to your concerns quickly and satisfactorily. 

At the forefront of everything we are doing during lockdown, we are listening to the Government’s instructions and responding as best we can. 

We have enjoyed having our key worker’s children into school each day so that their parents can continue with their vital contribution to the community.  I hope you all liked the artwork put up on the Rushmoor railings to show our support of the key workers and the NHS. 

It seems that you are all coping with the remote learning we are providing, obviously there were a few teething problems, but they have been smoothed out now.  I know the teachers are becoming better and better each week at using Teams and Seesaw, from understanding how to make sure the uploads are able to be printed off clearly, to becoming more confident with video lessons.  I also know the children are becoming more familiar with the new systems and are beginning to understand the etiquette required for video calls – not muting your classmates being the main one. I’ve even had to work out more technology, making an assembly using Powerpoint, videos, audio recordings and hyperlinks is something I’ve never done before – luckily I have grown up sons to help!

I know that our pupils are particularly fortunate to have a comprehensive timetable in place, with regular live conference lessons, as many of the local schools just aren’t doing that.  The feedback regarding our remote provision has been excellent and it appears most pupils are keeping a good check on their calendars so that they attend all the live conference lessons, whilst also having plenty of time off the computers to actually complete the assignments being set. Should you have any queries about your child’s learning provision then you can always contact Mr Evans, Mr Jones, or Mrs Djukic to discuss matters, either via email or by phoning the Rushmoor site.

The regular lessons and contact with their teachers and feedback is allowing pupils to continue to make progress throughout these trying times.  The senior leadership team and the governors are all kept up-to-date on what’s happening and we have been impressed by the marking, feedback and pastoral support still being provided.  The governors and I have sat in on online lessons to monitor what they are like. 

Microsoft Teams and Seesaw do not allow live conference calls to the entire school, but we’ve even managed to do remote assemblies and I would like to thank Mr Jones who put together a great presentation to celebrate VE Day.  I hope that the pupils found it informative and understand what costs our grandparents’ generation had to pay in order to secure our freedoms.  The stories of World War veterans have been very much at the forefront of the news recently and after the assembly presentation, in my household we discussed just what our own relations did with our young daughter.  Everything from making parachutes for the war effort, making food for the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, to her beloved Grandad’s older brother walking in to help liberate the Belsen Concentration Camp. We want her to remember and be proud.  I hope you had the same discussions with your children.  VE Day, supported by Mr Jones’ assembly, helped bring history to life for our pupils.  It also led to the discussion that we are all living through a remarkable time in history now – I wonder what our pupils will be telling their grandchildren about this pandemic lockdown?  

As you are all aware, the Government has stated that Nursery, Reception class, year 1 and year 6 should be the first pupils to return to the school site.  Since lockdown began, myself and the leadership team have been thinking about how we will manage the physical return to site.  Despite what the press would have us believe, it’s not just a concept we started thinking about on Sunday.  We completely understand any reservations and that is why we have already contacted the year groups concerned and stated clearly that it is the choice of the parents whether or not they want to send their child in.  We have put in place a risk assessment and full instructions for those particular year groups for our plans, which include hygiene, cleaning and distancing rules.  Obviously, we are now waiting for the Government to confirm the date as the 1st June.  There has also been discussion about inviting years 10 and 12 back for some face-to-face contact, so we will keep you updated about that as and when we know more. 

Our stance is that the amount of teachers interacting with pupils needs to be the minimum amount possible; therefore, lessons using Microsoft Teams will still be used in the classroom for specific subject teachers of the year 6 group, using the overhead Smartboard, and supervised by just one teacher throughout the day.  This will allow those not wishing to return immediately to the school site to participate in the subject lessons with their classmates remotely from home.  Those in school will have their timetable enhanced with regular outdoor exercise, PSHE, well-being and creative lessons. 

It seems that none of us will be heading off on our holidays anytime soon, which will mean that the summer holiday period will be a bit different this year and your children might want things to occupy their minds.  We are currently working on ideas of how we can support you throughout the holiday period by providing learning opportunities your child can do at home in order to help them continue to make good progress.  This idea will unfold as we move towards the holiday period and when we know more about the restrictions likely to be in place then.  Obviously, any provision provided will not be compulsory.

Our younger children, who attend the St Andrew’s Nursery, have not been forgotten throughout lockdown.  I would like to thank Mrs Niro, the Nursery Manager, for setting up a private FaceBook community where our Nursery families are sharing what they have been doing during the past weeks.  There have been lots of ideas shared, which is especially helpful when you have to occupy little ones at home all the time. 

The nursery and the school has been open to key workers children throughout the whole lockdown, so I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the staff who have been working on each site during this time.  Indeed, I would like to thank all the staff who are continuing to work and adapt throughout this period for their amazing efforts and overall positive attitudes to help the school and its pupils adjust.  It isn’t easy relying on online resources to set classwork for our pupils and it isn’t easy balancing their own family’s needs with those of their pupils.

The governors and I have still been in contact with our architects for the new build, which obviously has been another issue during this pandemic.  We’ve had weekly online meetings and I’ve seen the detailed plans, which look amazing.  We have also been in contact regularly with the Local Authority planners and our builders, which means we are making progress with the new site and Covid-19 hasn’t stopped that. 

I have given out many electronic versions of the Principal’s Award over the past weeks and I have received many emails in return stating how delighted our pupils have been to receive them.  Again, Covid-19 hasn’t stopped us from being able to celebrate good work and personal achievements.

The theme to the song that we chose to use for our video production was ‘Standing in the Halls of Fame’.  The idea around that was to celebrate everything that we all can achieve personally.  “You can be the best”, “You could beat the war”, “Don’t wait for luck, dedicate yourself and you can find yourself”.  Wise words! Let us hope that very soon we shall all be beating the war on Covid-19.  I hope you enjoyed the video production and my great thanks to my good friend Mick Child from Forge Photography who edited it for us, together with Mr Day who co-ordinated it and did a very good job of acting in it too.

Above all, during lockdown I feel that we are maintaining our friendly, caring and supportive ethos. 

I am sorry that our older pupils in years 11 and 13 missed out on their final weeks of school and the opportunity to sit their exams.  We hope to arrange the year 11 Prom at a later date so that they can come together to still have this rite of passage in their young lives.  We also hope to arrange a time when the year 13 pupils will come together to celebrate their achievements.  In the meantime, we wish all our pupils the very best for results day in August and we do hope we will be able to meet up with you in person at that stage.  Please watch out for news about how results day will happen this year in line with Government advice on distancing measures at that time. 

We look forward to the future with optimism and in the meantime, hope that all our families stay safe.

Kind regards,

I M Daniel, BA (QTS), NPQH


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