Friday 18th March 2022
Mr Eardley, the Headteacher, writes...
Dear Parents and Carers
Thank-You to EVERYONE involved in the recent residentials
Next week marks the two-year anniversary of the first lockdown when we closed our doors to most children apart from those of key workers. Having taken a two-year break from residential trips, it has felt like a breath of fresh air to resume them again. In hindsight, I am not sure that we would have booked the first two to be back-to-back as the office team, especially Mrs Russell and Mrs McLaughlin, have been rushed off their feet. I want to take this opportunity to say the biggest thank you to the two of them. It is a massive undertaking for a school to run even one residential trip a year, and we do four. The administration tasks needed to ensure that everyone is safe and that we have dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't'' are significant and yet my Office Staff does it all with a smile on their face. I also need to thank the staff who went on the trips. It is a privilege to take children away on a residential trip, and you see a completely different side of them, but it is also a massive responsibility. It's like being mum or dad to forty children! I should also thank the staff in school who worked with the children who did not attend the trip as I know that they created other magical experiences for the children. Finally, I would like to say thank you to the parents who signed their children up for the trip. We have had our biggest sign-up ever, which is probably a reflection of the fact that the children haven't been able to attend a trip for some time. For some parents, this brought worries of their own, but I know from the comments and thanks that we have received that the children had a fantastic time.
Parents' Evening Questionnaire Results
I was also amazed that we had 211 responses to our recent parent questionnaire about whether we should return to face-to-face parent consultations next academic year. The final results were that 56% of parents would like us to continue with virtual appointments, with 46% in favour of returning to face-to-face appointments. The comments in favour of staying as we are mentioned the convenience of online appointments and how both parents could join the call from wherever they were. When teachers were asked the same question, 100% voted for keeping the virtual sessions.
I was grateful that many parents wrote comments. For those in favour of face-to-face appointments, the comments mentioned being able to see the children's work and the benefit of meeting in person. There were also several comments about not having been in school for two years and not meeting teachers face-to-face. We are conscious that our children have not had a 'normal' academic year since 2018/19. We should also remember that for many of you, particularly those of you with children in the younger year groups, some of you have never been in the building. No wonder you feel as though you haven't had the chance to build relationships with us! The final trend in the comments was around feeling pressured when the clock is counting down to the end of your ten-minute slot and that this is not a long enough appointment.
Responses to Parent's Comments
Given there was quite a bit to get my teeth into, I wanted to respond with some explanations and reassurances:
- 10-Minute Slots
We have always had ten-minute appointment slots. I think in a non-Covid year, most parents feel this is enough because they will have had lots of incidental conversations with teachers at other times and been into school. A ten-minute slot when you have never been able to see your child's teacher for a chat probably seems too short. We did once consider increasing the time slots to 15 minutes, but it would add an extra two and a half hours of appointments for teachers, and they would have seven and a half hours of appointments after school. This is too much to expect of staff. We once offered appointments during the day, but there wasn't much demand, and it was very complicated to do.
- Appointments All Year Round
Although like most schools I know, we only offer two formal parent consultations a year, we also make sure to tell you that you can make appointments to see teachers whenever you want to speak to us. Although we have commitments after school, we will always try to see you as soon as we can at a mutually convenient time. We have never told a parent that we would not see them, so please make an appointment if there is something you would like to discuss.
- Face-to-Face Appointments
Before we moved online, our parent consultations were in the hall, and they were slick! Mr Marks and I ensured that they ran to time as one person's appointment running over means that the next person's is cut short. Although we didn't have a timer counting down, I did use a percussion instrument to let parents and staff know when there were two minutes left and then again when the appointment was over. I think some of you must be missing me and my percussion instrument! Unfortunately, we are stuck with the clock for now. I am sorry if this makes some of you feel a little under pressure. That is not the intention, but we do need parents and staff to know how much longer they have.
- The Covid Situation
Although the questionnaire was about parent consultations, I think the message that came through was also about what it feels like for you to not have been able to come into school and how you have missed it. I understand how that must feel. I think the novelty of lockdowns and Covid restrictions passed a long time ago. I know some of you have felt frustrated that school(s) seem to have kept restrictions for longer than other venues. Sadly, case rates in schools this term alone have been higher than in the previous twenty months, and we have had to follow Local Authority and Public Health England's advice. Between Christmas and half-term, we had 119 children test positive and 21 staff. Today we have 22 children off with Covid, three awaiting results, and 5 staff who are poorly.
Welcoming Parents into School Again
- Promise #1 - An opportunity for the parents in every year group come during the Summer Term
Despite the Covid situation, it is time to start reclaiming what we have missed. I have spoken to teachers and told them that I want parents to be invited into school in the summer term. This means that our first guests will be the parents invited into the Honours Award assembly on Wednesday 20th April. Our intention is that we will go ahead with the face-to-face sessions that were already on the calendar. I know that for some of you, your child's class events, such as 2 Can Learn, may have fallen earlier in the year and were cancelled. Our promise to you is that we will provide an opportunity for the parents in every year group to come into school in the summer term. We have already started discussing how this will work and will reissue a new school calendar for the summer detailing what is on offer.
- Promise #2 - An Open Day to see your child's work and the school environment
We know that some of you have missed looking at your child's work. I have seen what the children have been producing this year, and it is amazing. I also know that the corridor displays and the building in general are looking fab! We have started to work on the idea of having an open day/exhibition at the end of the year when you can come in to see your child's work and the school environment.
- Promise #3 - An invitation for parents to attend Sports Day, the Summer Fair, and Transition Evening
On top of this, there will also be opportunities to come in for sports day, the summer fair, and transition evenings.
I know that I have said before that we have also missed seeing you. You might doubt this when 100% of teachers are in favour of remote parent consultations, but please believe me when I say that it is true. We are a great school and the work we do is of a very high quality. We like being able to showcase this with you and have missed these opportunities. There is so much that we have improved and introduced in the last year alone, and although we have written to you about it, it's not the same as seeing it in action.
- Promise #4 - An offer for parents to have a school dinner with their child in the Summer Term
We want you to see the art challenges, the gallery, the new and improved timeline display, our fantastic subject displays, Bookwork Woods, the Knowledge Organisers, the library, our Outdoor Learning projects, our work on mental health and well-being...the list could go on and on. My last promise (I am starting to feel like a politician on the run-up to election day) is that after Easter you will be able to come into school to have a school dinner with your child!
There is a lot to look forward to and I hope that you will be able to join us in the summer term. For those of you with a bit of spare time on your hands, including those of you who sit in your cars outside school each afternoon....why not volunteer to help in school? We are crying out for people to listen to children read and if this isn't your 'thing' there is always photocopying, work to be trimmed, and other admin tasks. Get in touch with the office if you can spare some time. 🙂