Headteacher Update

January 2021

Thank you to those parents who completed the survey that was shared in the update last week. There were some absolutely lovely comments which have been great to share with the staff. There were one or two questions raised regarding student wellbeing and in particular responses did show that approximately one third of the respondents felt that their child is more anxious and worried as a result of the lockdown. We recognise that as the weeks progress things may become more challenging for some so we have put together a package of activity and support that is in addition to the welfare calls and learning mentor appointments that are currently in place.

Firstly, next week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.  To raise awareness and help provide simple strategies to help students address their mental health, Miss Howard has put together a series of activities that will be uploaded onto the Mental Health and Wellbeing Classroom (all students have access to this on Google Classroom). Please encourage your child to have a look at these activities as we can all do with a period of reflection during such difficult times.

Secondly, Mr Pilkington will be launching a ‘Clubs’ offer next week that will provide students with an opportunity to get involved in a number of online activities from film to chess to performing arts. In addition to this there are a good number of other clubs, such as the academy or the community leaders that are up and running so if your child usually engages in these whilst in school they can continue to have contact when at home. All information will be shared with students on Monday.

Finally, there is also the opportunity to get involved in some free fitness sessions that are being delivered exclusively for residents who live in NE29 or NE28. Details of the offer can be found here. Physical activity is so important for mental health and wellbeing so please do have a look and also encourage your child to get involved in the activities that are set during their PE lessons.

We have now also established weekly year group assemblies and are looking at ways that we can get form groups together online.  If you do need any further support or advice around mental health or wellbeing, then please do contact your child’s Head of Year who will be able to listen, offer suggestions and signpost you to different organisations if necessary.

Just a couple more updates…

The Prime Minister’s announcement that schools will not fully reopen straight after half term has come as a great disappointment, but obviously the way things are at the moment means that the risk is just too great. As I mentioned last week we are already planning for the return of students and will be in a position to publish details very quickly after the announcement that we are expecting on 22nd February. To confirm, the earliest date that schools will start to reopen to students will be 8th March; we have no indication at this time whether that will be for all year groups or the start of a phased return. In the meantime, school remains open for those students currently in school, but we will be closed at half term (w/c 15th February).

I am delighted that we have been able to loan over 250 students Chromebooks for remote learning and we can see that it has had a really positive impact on engagement levels in lessons. In order to fulfil our safeguarding responsibilities we have now purchased an add-on to ensure that the school’s acceptable usage policy is being followed. This ‘add on’ alerts the school to any material or search requests that are made on the school device that do not sit within our acceptable use policy by the use of key stroke technology.  If the device sets off a high level alert or safeguarding concern, we will be automatically notified and the parent/carer of the child will be contacted directly by the school. The acceptable use policy can be found on our website and has been updated to include the new add on – please contact the school business manager if you have any further questions.

It is also important that students use the online chat and messaging functions in Google Classroom appropriately as there have been a very small number of cases where the system has been abused. Please do remind your child of the importance of behaving safely and respectfully online.

Communication with parents throughout the pandemic has been more than ever and we have been looking at ways to improve this even further. To do this we are looking to launch a School Comms app that will be used to replace the text messaging service we currently use. To ensure nobody misses out we are in the process of contacting parents to check that we have correct and up to date email addresses for everyone. Once we have done this we will be able to launch the app where you will receive notifications and emails rather than text messages; more details to follow in the next few weeks. Please do let us know of any changes so that you do not miss out on any communication from school in the future.

Best wishes and stay safe

Jonathan