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Friday 29th January 2021

Mr Eardley, the Head Teacher, writes...

Dear Parents

I hope that you are all well. One of the downsides of the current lockdown is that I miss seeing so many families at the school gate at the start and end of the school day. It is a bit of a lonely affair at the moment!

Despite the lack of children in the building, this lockdown feels very different from the one last spring. Not only do we have more children in school, and therefore more bubbles, we are also providing remote learning for the children at home. I can imagine how challenging it must be for those of you trying to juggle your own work and commitments whilst also trying to keep your children on task with the work that we are setting. I am sure that your frustrations and exasperations are shared by other Wistow parents and probably, other parents across the country.

When we introduce a new policy in school, we give ourselves plenty of time to research best practice, to discuss ideas with staff and to write and revise before the policy is published. Unfortunately, we had less than a day's notice that we were only opening for some children and needed to have a Remote Learning plan in place. You can't imagine how hard staff are working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly. I am very grateful to Mr Marks for taking the lead on our Remote Learning policy and for building the Digital Village on our website, helped by Mrs Schneider. I have no doubt that had you written the policy for your own family, it might have looked a bit different. That is the challenge of trying to do right by over three hundred families. You all have such unique and individual circumstances that one policy can not get it right for everyone. I know that there have been a few teething problems, but these are to be expected given that we didn't get the chance to do a dummy run before going live.

I think I have said before that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with social media. I love how quickly good ideas can be shared and how instantaneous it can feel to engage with others. I hate that people will turn to social media to vent their frustrations when a friendly chat with someone is more likely to resolve an issue. I think being behind a keyboard can give people a sense of power that can be misused. Anyway, the reason I am mentioning this is that I follow quite a few teachers and school leaders on Twitter. (My staff know this because I regularly send them retweets of good ideas I have seen!). Since the start of this term, I have seen many tweets from teachers and leaders who have been upset about the harsh criticism parents have levelled at them if they don't agree with the remote learning they are providing, or worse still, make a simple mistake in a live or recorded lesson. I have also seen comments from teachers and heads who are thinking about resigning because they are under so much pressure.

When I read these comments, it made me realise how grateful I am to work at OWPS. It has never crossed my mind that a parent would make an attack on a teacher for the quality of our recorded lessons. I am in awe that staff have been happy to record themselves and then to let you all see it. I cringe at my own assemblies and know that I sometimes fluff up my lines, or make a mistake, but none of us have the time to record multiple 'takes' in an attempt to get it perfect. I pride myself on telling the children that we all make mistakes and that we just want them to try their best. If we hold up a perfect version of what we do, polished to perfection, how will children ever be comfortable with their own first attempts or mistakes? 

I hope that you view our recorded lessons for what they are; staff working really hard under challenging circumstances. I'm sure none of you would jump at the chance to record yourself doing your job and then to share the film with everyone. The true art of teaching happens when staff and children are together in the same room, when the teacher can 'read the room', spot who needs a bit more challenge and who needs more support and then make micro-adjustments to their plans to address this. It really is a privilege to see our teachers in action when we do our learning walks. No amount of technology is going to replicate this. If it did, we wouldn't need schools at all.

You may have seen my tweet last week about the introduction of lateral flow tests in primary schools. All staff now have the opportunity to take two LFT a week. The reason that these tests have been introduced is because 1-in-3 people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and do not know that they have it. Mr Marks and I have spent hours doing the training and writing the documentation for staff; a task that I never imagined we would have to do. Staff completed their first test on Tuesday and we had one confirmed case which has led us to close the school kitchen. Although this is a shame, I am also pleased that we were able to limit the contact with someone who did not know that they were poorly. We (you and us) are all doing so much at the moment to avoid the spread of COVID-19. The daily COVID-19 updates and milestones are horrifying and remind me why we are all willing to put our lives on hold, face new challenges and work in a different way.

I am pleased that Boris Johnson has given us advanced notice that schools will not open to all pupils straight away after half term. I hope that we can see the light at the end of this particular tunnel and that we will see all children again in March. I am not comfortable when this is called 'schools reopening' as we never closed. To say we are closed implies that the doors are locked and the building empty! We are open, but working in a different way.

I know that when all children do return, their return will go as smoothly as it did last September and that by the end of the first day, it will be like they were never gone.

Simon Eardley

Head Teacher