Friday 26th November 2021
Mr Eardley, the Headteacher, writes...
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope that you are all well and keeping safe.
I’m sitting in my office on Wednesday, the 24th of November and I’ve just been outside to see the children taking part in our Great Britain challenge. It’s cold, it’s a bit grey, it’s muddy underfoot but the children were running around with smiles on their faces, determined to do their best to raise the most sponsor money for their chosen charity and their year group. I’ve also just watched our eco-warriors and Ms Porter receive the Bronze Healthy Schools award. As I speak, in the background I can hear children rehearsing the songs for performances later this term.
All in all, the autumn term in school is continuing the way it always does and we pride ourselves on the rich, interesting and challenging curriculum we offer all children. Although you hear about these things in newsletters and tweets, and hopefully your children tell you some of the things they have done when they come home from school, I am aware that some of you have had a very arm’s length relationship with the school. Covid measures have meant that we haven’t been able to have you in school as much as we would have hoped and for the parents in Year 1 and the FS, you have only ever known us in COVID times.
Earlier this week I told staff that I thought we were entering the part of the academic year when cracks can start to appear. We all get a little bit tired at this point in the term and the dark mornings and evenings and colder weather do not help. As magical as this festive period is in primary schools, it’s also one of the hardest parts of the year because there’s just so much to do. Christmas decorations, nativities, productions, sponsor days and Christmas lunches don’t just happen – they take a lot of planning and hard work. Having picked up on some other things happening out of school, I wonder whether it is also the time of year when cracks start to appear for some parents.
I know I date myself as being slightly older than the dinosaurs when I say that I miss what used to happen when I started teaching. Back then, there would be discussions on the playground and that was where it would end, with one or two parents voicing their thoughts. You would not have had twenty or thirty people having a collective chat. Now, with the advent of WhatsApp and other messaging services, parents can engage in a discussion with a large number of other parents from their child’s class or year group. I’m sure this is great when it comes to little reminders about PE day and organising events after school.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written to parents about the dangers of discussing the school on social media. Past events have taught us that this is an area with potential risks and I asked parents at the FS Parents’ event in June to be responsible and sensible when engaging with discussions online.
This week I heard that there has been discussion among some Foundation Stage parents who are disappointed that, although the nativity is still happening, it won’t be performed in front of them. Instead, parents will be sent a film of the nativity which they can watch as often as they like. I understand this frustration but hope that parents know we have to act on the advice of the Local Authority and Public Health England. It would have been easier to cancel the nativity rather than to film it, but we have decided to carry on so that the children have this experience.
I am conscious that the reputation we are building with our newest parents is not what they would have experienced in a normal year and that these parents do not have the benefit of knowing all the things that we usually do. New parents to the school are learning what we are like and we are learning what they are like too. This is harder to do when you can’t meet face to face. We are grateful that the FS Curriculum evening in September was still able to go ahead face to face.
You only need to look at the school calendar for the year ahead to see just how much we do as a school. Every single event only happens because staff are willing to go that bit extra. You couldn’t begin to imagine the additional workload that is created by organising a Curriculum Evening, a residential trip or an assembly.
Whilst it may be some time before the Local Authority and Public Health England say that we can have parents back in school, what I do know is that staff are working hard to make the school better and better.
We will endeavour to do as many events as we can this year and, where possible, we will invite you in to school to join us. However, I have a duty of care to the 420 children in school and the 70 staff and I will always follow the advice I am given from outside agencies when it comes to COVID measures. In the last five weeks alone, we have had five positive cases among staff and sixteen among children. Thankfully, we have been able to cover classes because staff have been willing to give up their release time so that other classes can be taught by a Wistow member of staff. I also heard today of a school that has not been able to find a supply teacher after ringing three agencies and another that had to send a class home as they had no one who could teach them. You can see why I want to keep everyone safe and COVID out of the building!
Along with all staff, I genuinely hope that we can see some restrictions being lifted at the start of next term and we look forward to seeing you in school. It has felt too long!