Latest information for parents
(Most recent information will appear at the top)
3rd June 2020 – 4.15pm
- A tour of the school
- Your feedback matters
As you are all aware, we opened our doors a little wider on Monday with the addition of our Year 6 pupils to the key worker pupils who have been attending throughout lockdown. They have all really impressed me with the way they settled and adapted to the new (and strange) surroundings. I know that some of our younger pupils are keen to find out what it is like in school now and therefore we have put together a short video during session one today. It’s a very quick tour of the ‘pods’ with a chance to spot some of the changes Mr Waluk has been making over the last ten weeks. Let’s hope we can welcome some more pupils back soon.
Shortly, you will receive an email from me with a link to a questionnaire which we would really appreciate you taking a few moments to complete. We are keen to hear your views as to how the home learning is going and also how we have been doing in terms of communicating with you over the last ten weeks. Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete it. I will also post the link in my blog at the end of the week.
29th May 2020 – 5.00pm
- Opening to Year 6s on Monday
- BBC filming
- Your support needed
I have been in contact with our Year 6 families directly regarding the decision to open from Monday for more pupils. It is lovely to see that, at the time of writing this all 55 of the 55 who had responded to my request for confirmation have said that their child will be returning on Monday morning. I think this is testament to the hard work the staff have put in over the last ten weeks and the relationships our pupils have formed with each other and the staff. Either that, or our parents have all had enough and can’t wait to see the back of them! I am sure it’s the former.
Linked with Monday, the BBC have asked to come and film a piece for the national news in relation to the increase in pupil numbers etc. They will be at school quite early to get footage of some of the preparations we have put in place and to chat with staff. It is planned that they will then be on the playground for when the pupils arrive at school. Please, please remind your children of my requests to remain socially distanced when coming to school. If any parents plan to bring their child to school, then I believe they might ask some of you a couple of questions. (Please be nice!) They will then do some filming of the pupils in their pods and their new, and quite different, surroundings.
Finally, as I am sure you can gather, getting ready for Monday has not been the easiest job I have ever had as a Headteacher. That being said, your support and the hard work of the staff team (the majority who have not had a break since February half term) have meant that we will be opening as safely as we can. For those who don’t know, the Year 6s have been split into four pods each with a staff team. We also have a fifth, key worker pod. All the planning will ensure these pods never mix in school; we now even have two staff rooms. Please would you support this effort of ensuring appropriate social distancing by reminding your children not to hang around in groups after school, waiting for each other as they go home. This is for everyone’s well-being, including the staff team who are clearly more vulnerable to coronavirus than young children are. Thank you so much for your ongoing support.
If you have any questions, as always, please use the email@example.com email address.
28th May 2020 – 10.00am
- British Dyslexia Association webinar
Mrs McConnell Smith would like to draw your attention to a free webinar from the British Dyslexia Association. Although this is aimed at older children and working at home, it might be worth a listen if you have a child who may need support with this going forward in secondary, so that you are beginning to think about and understand options for the future.
26th May 2020 – 4.30pm
- Confirmation of Year 6 letter
Another short update to confirm that I have just written to parents of pupils in Year 6 to confirm details for Monday 1st June, assuming the government gives the increase in pupil numbers the ‘green light’. We are prepared for the return of the Year 6s. Mr Waluk and I are working this week on some furniture removals and moving to ensure everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can.
Any questions please get in touch in the usual way.
23rd May 2020 – 9.00pm
- School is closed on Bank Holiday Monday
A very short update this evening for our key worker families to confirm that school will be closed on Monday 25th May as there were no indications that cover was needed.
We will be open again the following day, Tuesday 26th May as usual.
19th May 2020 – 4.00pm
- Further information on phased re-opening of schools
- Year 4 and Year 6 Residentials
- School reports
My priority at the moment is the planning for the phased re-opening of schools to accommodate more pupils from 1st June. As I am sure you can imagine, given the requirement to follow government guidelines around social distancing etc., it isn’t quite as straight forward as opening up the two classrooms. I have been in touch with the Year 6 families directly to add a little more detail to this process and will be writing again very shortly. We have now compiled a list of FAQs, a copy of which can be read here.
As and when we do begin to admit more pupils, the whole staff team will be required to be in school more than they currently are. At present they are facilitating home learning; updating curriculum planning documents whilst working from home and then being in school to form part of the key worker provision. This will mean that, although home learning provision will still be facilitated in its current form, the speed at which staff will be able to respond to questions or comments will be reduced slightly. Thank you for your understanding here.
Year 6s should have been in France right now and our Year 4s would be packing ready to head to Overstrand on Wednesday. We are in discussion with Chateau Beaumont and our insurance company with regards to refunding the money paid in advance of the Year 6 trip. This is taking some time but I can promise that in the coming weeks we will be making the necessary refunds to our Year 6 families. Thank you for your patience whilst we sort this. As I have already mentioned, the Year 4 trip has been carried forward and the pupils will now go at the start of Year 5; a lovely way to begin the year.
The final piece of information for today relates to the school reports. Teachers are currently writing reports using the amended format which went to consultation earlier in the year. Assuming we will not all be back at school when they are usually sent home, we will need to adopt an alternative method. I am thinking that reports will be emailed home. This will take some time to do and so we will send them out over the course of several days. Details confirming this will be sent home nearer the time.
As always, thank you for your ongoing support, If you have any questions please do get in touch using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
14th May 2020 – 4.15pm
- Phased re-opening of schools letter
Following on from yesterday’s update, I have now sent out via School Comms the first letter in relation to our plans for the phased re-opening of the school, as per the government’s announcement. A copy can also be read from the link below:
In addition, I also make reference to a government guidance document for parents. Again, I have posted the link below:
I will be contacting Year 6 families directly in the coming days, to gauge their thoughts about the return to school. Please look out for this very short questionnaire. Thank you in advance.
13th May 2020 – 3.30pm
- Look out for a letter
Since Sunday evening, the leadership team and staff have been working on plans for the partial reopening of Whitehill, as per the government’s directive. I will be writing to all parents tomorrow afternoon outlining the plans for the phased return of pupils; initially starting with Year 6s. Please look out for this communication, which will also be posted on the school website and shared via our social media platform.
The content will give an overview of the current situation as well as outlining some of the specific detail needed for this to be done safely. As I am sure you can imagine, there will be changes to timings and routines.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
11th May 2020 – 3.00pm
- A follow-up to the Prime Minister’s announcement
Given we were expecting clarification and guidance on yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister at some point today, at the time of writing, this has not be forthcoming.
I have just sent a letter to all families with my initial thoughts and of course will write again, as soon as the position is any clearer. There are bound to be regular updates in the coming weeks. I have posted a copy of this letter on the school website.
My letter also includes some thoughts on the home-learning situation.
10th May 2020 – 8.15pm
- Initial thoughts on the Primer Minister’s announcement
I have no doubt, many of you were watching tonight’s announcement for some clarity and direction in relation to what it means for schools and sending pupils back to school.
We need to remember that tonight’s message was a ‘briefing’ and it was just that, brief. We need to wait for the detail to be released before we start to speculate as to what the next stage of the plan is.
There was some subtle vocabulary choices with words such as ‘could’ being used for a phased return of schools in relation to the 1st June date. The suggestion was that Year 6s could be the first of our year groups to return but what that would look like is yet to be decided. It will not be ‘business as usual’ in terms of what Year 6s usually do in their final half term at Whitehill.
I can promise you we will be working hard over coming days to see what all of this looks like for Whitehill and will update you regularly, each time we have more information.
10th May 2020 – 11.50am
- Thinking what today might bring
So today is the day we might receive some detail as to how schools will be moving out of lockdown. I will be watching all the news programmes today, liaising with colleagues and consulting my professional association. I believe the Prime Minister’s announcement is due to be broadcast at 7.00pm but is pre-recorded. If there is anything to report later, I will do.
I think it is worth pointing out that there has been no direct communication between central government and schools. The first we will know about plans is when you hear it this evening. As I mentioned in my blog this week, the leadership team have been discussing possibilities already and will be meeting in the coming days to consider what might be possible and what clearly isn’t.
As a colleague mention on the BBC News this morning, maintaining a 2m distance between children is challenging and as the number of pupils increase (regardless of age) it becomes bordering on impossible. It’s been challenging at times with just ten in school with our key worker pupils.
If there is anything to report later this evening, I will come back to this blog. If not, we will wait for facts and guidance which is infinitely better than (press) speculation.
5th May 2020 – 9.00am
- Class form time changes for this week
- Speculation going forward
- And something completely different!
As we move through the seventh week since the lockdown started and the fifth week of home learning, there are a couple of points to draw your attention to.
Class Form Times
For this week only, the class form times will take place on THURSDAY. The times will remain the same as previous weeks and class teachers will post the necessary information on their respective Google Classrooms. This is due to Friday being a bank holiday.
That being said, school will be open to support key worker families on Friday and I am grateful to the staff who are happy to come in and maintain this vital provision.
Speculation Going Forward
You cannot watch a news programme at the moment without comment from journalists about the need to open schools and in particular primary and early years settings. I don’t think you will find a teacher anywhere who is not desperate to get back to normality. We must remember, however, that regardless of the announcement from the Prime Minister this weekend, any return to full opening is a long way off.
We are working hard in school to come up with a number of scenarios and different plans but it would be wrong at this stage, without any formal directive, to make any announcement in relation to these at this time.
Thank you for your ongoing support and in particular the emails and messages you have been sending to me and the school team. They are greatly appreciated.
And finally, with a smile on my face, we did enjoy some of the pupil questions to staff recently asking if they had to engage with school work on Thursday as it would have been an INSET Day. Of course you are free to manage the home learning opportunities as you wish but we did wonder whether we should change the INSET Day to a non-uniform day instead. Given the current situation, perhaps that would mean that pupils would therefore wear school uniform as they are currently undertaking their work in their ‘normal’ clothes (or pyjamas in many cases)!
Please feel free to get in touch with me with any questions using email@example.com, or with the class teachers through their Google Classrooms.
Longing for a day when we can all be back together and I can have a haircut!
30th April 2020 – 4.45pm
- My thoughts as we head towards the end of another week
- Friday’s ‘form times’
Judging by the responses I am seeing on the various Google Classrooms and through direct correspondence, it appears that the work being set by the class teachers is working well and routines are being established. Pupils are engaging with activities and in many cases go that little bit further and finding other ways to be creative.
We had a Google staff meeting today to talk through questions that had arisen over the last two weeks. The teachers are getting into the swing of things and are enjoying engaging in the learning. Some of the plans they have been sharing are really exciting and inspiring. We all appreciate and understand the unique set of circumstances all families will be in. Whilst we will encourage pupils to complete the work set; submit it on the due date etc., we realise that this is not always possible. Please do not worry about this. Do what you can, when you can. We also realised that some pupils might not be submitting work digitally. Having been given an exercise book before closure, some pupils might be completing all of their work in these. When we do return to school, these will be looked at by the class teachers and celebrated as much as work being submitted via Google.
Please do keep sharing the things you are doing via any of our digital platforms. Twitter is a constant source of amazement and amusement for me and the other staff members. The teachers also draw my attention to the work being posted in specific classrooms and I often visit to post a suitable comment.
Can I remind you that should you have any specific questions, firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address being monitored regularly. Correspondence will be forwarded to the appropriate member of staff whether that be teaching or administration.
Tomorrow, the teachers will be running their class ‘form times’ again. The times will be the same as last week:
Aztec Class – 9.15am
Mayan Class – 9.45am
Orville Class – 10.15am
Lamarr Class – 10.45am
Voyager Class – 11.15am
Apollo Class – 11.45am
Kahlo Class – 1.00pm
Wilde Class – 1.30pm
Teachers will issue the meeting code and instructions to their classes. We have improved the functionality of the displays at this end and so teachers will be able to see all pupils in their class in one go. There are apps that you can download from Google to help you do the same.
I look forward to joining in with some of these, but I won’t be at the Year 6 sessions as I have had a request for a separate meeting from two Year 4 pupils to talk about the school pond! How could I refuse?
27th April 2020 – 8.30pm
- The start of Week 2 and our virtual classrooms
- Friday’s ‘form times’
Although I am sure you would agree with me that it feels much longer, we have today completed the 16th day of pupils not attending school. As I still haven’t worked out to switch off notifications from my phone, and as a member all eight Google Classrooms, I can see many pupils are successfully accessing and engaging with the activities the teachers are setting. Where there are challenges, you are getting in touch and the teachers are supporting and reassuring you. I continue to liaise with the teachers to see how else we can support our school community.
As always, can I remind you that well-being is our priority. Please do get in touch using the email@example.com email address should you require support and your email will be directed to your child’s class teacher if it is work related or to the relevant staff member if it is a more general enquiry.
After the success of the ‘form times’ last Friday, they will take place again this week. As I mentioned in my blog last Friday, as soon as the first meeting was over, we were working on finding solutions and improvements to obvious challenges. Some issues are easier to resolve than others and I would ask that if you are supporting your child with the technology, you also remind them to mute themselves when they are not talking. This is probably the single most effective strategy to make the meetings manageable and enjoyable for all. Can I also remind you of the other rules I put out in the introductory letter.
Thank you, as always, for your continued support. The word ‘unprecedented’ appears automatically now when I start to type, as it has been used so often. The rule book is being updated daily and we are having to adapt to and anticipate changes.
23rd April 2020 – 6.30pm
- Thoughts on Google Classroom and getting in touch
- Trial ‘form times’ begin on Friday
As we approach the end of the first week of the summer term, it is clear from the number of notifications I am receiving as a member of every classroom across the school, many of you are engaging with the work the teachers have been placing on Google Classroom. We made the decision to post around three maths, three English tasks per week as well as some topic or science work. It is hoped that this will be manageable and the feedback seems to suggest this is working. I have really enjoyed seeing the work being posted back to the teachers, as well as the photographs of a whole host of different activities on twitter.
It is clear there have been a few teething problems, although I am sure these will be ironed out sooner rather than later. Teachers are posting information and reminders as to where to submit work, for example. Placing it on the class stream, for example, means you have shared all your answers with your peers. In addition, some pupils have used the Gmail facility to send work back to teachers or to ask questions. These email addresses are not monitored regularly and so whilst work could still be submitted, if parents are asking a specific question of their child’s class teacher which requires a timely response, I would use firstname.lastname@example.org which I am monitoring regularly.
Tomorrow, teachers are going to be trialing the class ‘form time’ for the first time. We hope pupils will be able to join their peers at the appropriate time. Details can be found on the information letter I sent home yesterday. I am hoping to join in with some of these meetings and will report back in Friday’s blog. I am hoping these catch-ups will allow teachers to nominate their classes for Class of the Week again.
Thank you as always for your continued support.
21st April 2020 – 3.30pm
- Home learning opportunities
- Thank you for your support
It is clear from the many (many) messages going backwards and forwards between teachers and pupils today that the work is filtering through on Google Classrooms and pupils are engaging with it. Can I remind you of the overarching message that we are putting out however, which is one of well-being and understanding.
As I stated in yesterday’s letter, this is a marathon and not a sprint. Teachers will set work for their classes but understand that there may be reasons why it is not always possible to engage. Please do not worry and please do not fall out with your children over it. There is an expectation that work is handed in as instructed but these dates are given as guides and motivation for pupils to have a go. I will repeat yesterday’s message, we are not asking you to ‘home school’.
The other thing I have been asked to point out to parents is the fact that teachers within year groups are now collaborating and therefore you may find a different teacher setting work for your child’s class. Mr Denney, for example is setting maths for both Year 4 classes and Mrs Davies, the English. If the work appears in a child’s classroom, then it is for them, regardless of which member of staff set it.
Can I thank you again for your support at this time. Also, can I thank you for the emails you have sent in with messages of appreciation for the school and the staff team. They are all gratefully received, read and all do get shared with the intended recipients.
20th April 2020 – 9.15pm
- Further information about the coming weeks
Following on from the information you received from me this morning, we have been busy all day putting finishing touches to our plans which staff have been working on since we were forced to close four weeks ago. I would like to thank you for your patience and support as we all adapt to a new norm.
I have no doubt you will have seen the teachers have now been posting tasks and instructions to their pupils via Google Classroom. These will evolve slightly over time and we will, of course, look to support pupils who are struggling with access.
In consultation with other local schools (both primary and secondary), we don’t propose to ‘teach’ live lessons using an online platform. There are a whole host of reasons for this, many of which were inferred in my letter this morning. We will, however, be trialing a weekly ‘form time’ where teachers will engage in realtime with their pupils. We obviously want to find a robust and ‘safe’ platform and to this end we are going to be looking to make use of Google Meet. Details will be sent home as soon as they have been finalised, including timings. All eight classes have to happen at different times in the day to maximise the possibilities for accessing the ‘form times’: siblings in different classes with access to only one device etc.
20th April 2020 – 9.30am
- The start of the summer term – updated information
As promised yesterday, I have today sent out a letter to all parents outlining our thoughts and expectations for the Start of the Summer Term. You can also access the letter via the school website.
Please do keep in touch and ask if you are unsure. Feel free to contact me via our temporary email address: email@example.com.
I have meeting with all teachers this afternoon to discuss the arrangements and I have no doubt they will be in touch with pupils after after this, if they haven’t already.
19th April 2020 – 8.15pm
- The start of the summer term
A very short update tonight as we reach the end of the Easter Holidays. That being said, if you are anything like me, I haven’t always known what day it is, let alone whether this is a school holiday.
Tomorrow morning, I will be sending a letter home via SchoolComs as well as putting the link on here, outlining the plans we have for the coming five weeks. It will detail what we will try to achieve in terms of ‘learning’ whilst schools remain closed whilst at the same time trying to reassure you. Please do look out for this correspondence.
I am meeting (virtually) all teachers tomorrow afternoon to discuss our plans, after which teachers will engage with their classes via their digital platforms.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
16th April 2020 – 2.15pm
- A further update on the Free School Meal vouchers
Following on from Tuesday’s update relating to the free school meal vouchers, it appears from looking at my report from the suppliers, that some of you have managed to redeem them. That is good news! I will continue to try and order vouchers for the coming weeks whilst schools remain closed to all but key worker pupils.
I will be emailing some families directly to get your feedback and to try and support those of you who have reported not being able to find them or not having received them. Look out for this email.
It is worth checking junk / spam folders as the emails I have received from the supplier of the vouchers is an ‘Edenred’ email address and not a ‘DfE’ or even ‘Whitehill’ address. Fingers crossed the system speeds up and becomes considerably more efficient over the coming weeks.
14th April 2020 – 1.45pm
- An update on the Free School Meal vouchers – good news at last
I believe we now have some good news on the free school meal vouchers which have been set up to support some of our families. According to the latest information received, the first round of vouchers (for w/c 6th April) should now have been received and the platform has allowed me to authorise this week’s vouchers.
If you discussed vouchers with Mrs Beresford about two weeks ago, please fee free to get in touch with us if you are yet to receive any. I would also be interested to hear from families to confirm you have received them. Please use firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
12th April 2020 – 8.00am
- The staff would like to wish all pupils and families a happy Easter
In an attempt to lift your spirits over the Easter weekend, the staff have been busy and would like to wish you all a happy Easter. There are four short greetings for you to enjoy. And as one member of staff said during their production, they are sent, ‘with our love.’
|Happy Easter 1||Happy Easter 2||Happy Easter 3||Happy Easter 4|
9th April 2020 – 9.15am
- Vouchers for those families in receipt of free school meals – an update
- Touching base with pupils and going forward
Today is the last day in school this week for key worker pupils and so I will start by thanking ‘Team C’ for their commitment and hard work. In discussion with the families who are making use of this provision, we are able to close completely for the bank holiday weekend before opening again on Tuesday with ‘Team D’. After this, all staff will be going on a slightly different rota which will see them work shorter stints in school with slightly longer gaps. There is plenty of work to be getting on with at home too!
I am aware, and becoming increasingly frustrated, with the government’s scheme for issuing vouchers to families in receipt of free school meals. I can assure you they have been ordered but to date, I believe they are yet to be sent out. I have today contacted our MP, Bim Afolami, to ask him to push for an expeditious resolution. If any of these families need any help, please do get in touch with me. I can only apologise but confirm it is a nationwide problem.
Finally for now, can I thank you for the feedback in relation to the phone calls the teachers have been making. They have enjoyed chatting to parents and pupils and catching up on what has been happening. There are a few more to be made and there are also cases where teachers have just not been able to get through. From 20th April, the official start to the summer term, teachers will be setting tasks and activities and will be in contact through Google Classrooms. All my staff are aware of the vast range of circumstances and confidence and will set activities accordingly. We all need to remember this will not be teaching new content as if they are in school but facilitating consolidation and enrichment.
6th April 2020 – 1.30pm (updated at 4.45pm)
- Vouchers for those families in receipt of free school meals
- Week three of lockdown
Having said I wouldn’t be updating this much over the coming days, I find myself posting an update just after lunch on day one of what is supposed to be the Easter holidays.
The main information item relates to families who are in receipt of free school meals. Mrs Beresford contacted you last week to check contact details etc. and I can confirm that today, I ordered the supermarket vouchers as per the government’s scheme. This will be repeated each Monday between now and the return to school. Each voucher covers a whole week and can be redeemed at all of the major supermarkets. There are ‘frequently asked questions’ on the email you will receive but should you need any further support, please do get in touch via the usual email: email@example.com.
Despite being the Easter break, to many during this time it is just week three of lockdown. School is open for children of key workers and I am back in the and have been joined by Team C from my amazingly hardworking #teamwhitehill. Teachers are going to be touching base with some of you over the coming days to see how you are doing and to check all is well. I am grateful to the staff for this proactive approach towards their classes.
Update: It is worth pointing out that staff may be making these calls from outside of school and therefore will ‘block’ their phone number. Please be mindful of this that a class with ‘withheld number’ may not be your usual spam call but may be from your child’s class teacher.
3rd April 2020 – 9.00pm
- The end of term?
A short update to acknowledge the fact that we have actually reached the end of the Spring Term. It’s been a very interesting last two weeks (that might be an understatement) and I would like to thank all of you for your support and good wishes; all of the pupils who have stepped up to the new challenges and to my colleagues in #teamwhitehill.
Whilst the school will remain open for the pupils of key workers, the next two weeks will look slightly different. There is no expectation for pupils to engage with their class learning platforms although they are more than welcome to. Some of you will want a complete break from the routines which have become established since we were forced to close, whereas I have heard from some parents who are going to try and maintain a bit of a routine. This is to ensure Monday 20th isn’t overly stressful when the ‘virtual’ Summer Term gets underway.
When we do return, the teachers will try to introduce a little more structure to work set and will invite pupils to submit tasks for them to look through.
I don’t imagine this there will be much for me to report over the next two weeks but if there any updates, I will post them here. Wishing you all the very best and do please get in touch if you have any questions.
2nd April 2020 – 12.15pm
- Keeping you up to date with our thoughts
In an attempt to keep you all up to date and as informed as possible, I have just finished a lengthy virtual meeting with the Leadership Team and thought it would useful to let you know some of what we have been discussing.
I mentioned in yesterday’s update that we will be looking at formalising and giving a little more structure to home learning opportunities and expectations from after the Easter break. Class teachers will be thinking about this in the coming days. What we are a little unsure about in these first two weeks is who has been accessing their class online platforms. Many pupils have been logging on and responding with comments to show what they have been up to. Thank you for this. There are also a few who have probably been logging on but not necessary interacting with the class or their teacher.
- Could we ask that if you are accessing the online platform you do leave a message for you teacher so that we know the technology is working for you.
- If you are still having problems with any of the technology please try and get in touch using one of the other school access points and we will see what we can do to support.
Teachers will be in touch shortly with more.
1st April 2020 – 6.00pm
- A brief update
As we pass the halfway point of week two, I thought I would add a short post to let you know what #teamwhitehill is up to and what we are thinking.
‘Team B’ are manning the provision for key workers’ children in school and Mrs Beresford is supporting them. I am in constant contact with school and all members of the team as I take a week ‘out of the office’ as per government advice. All being well, I will be back in school to support ‘Team C’ during the first week of the break. I have had several virtual meetings including with Herts County Council leaders and the local consortium of headteachers.
We have set up online staff meetings to talk through provision for classes after the two week break, where we hope to start to formalise and structure the work and expectations for and of pupils. We will keep you informed.
In the meantime, you will have noticed a second tab at the top of our website related to the school closure and at the moment, this new link will give you links to various sites which may be of use. I am adding to it all the time, trying to keep it relevant and not too overwhelming. If you find anything which you think may benefit other pupils, please do let us know about it and I might add it to this page. Contact us via the temporary email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay in touch and share your experiences.
30th March 2020 – 8.00pm
- The coming days in school
- Thank you for your support and entertainment
As we come to the end of day one in week two of school closure I thought I would let you know the current situation in school with regards to provision for key worker pupils. ‘Team B’ has taken over from ‘Team A’ and consists of Mr Lord, Mrs Draper and Mrs Bowers with Mrs Beresford on site as my deputy. This gives ‘Team A’ a break and also gives me chance to catch up with emails and paperwork. ‘Team C’ and ‘Team D’ are waiting in the wings to take over in the coming weeks.
It goes without saying that I am extremely grateful for the support I am getting from all of #teamwhitehill as we navigate these difficult times.
Like many schools, we have made the decision to open over the Easter holidays so that we can continue to provide the support for the key workers in our community. At this stage, we will only close over the bank holiday weekend. Families who are currently using our provision will receive a letter to indicate the days they need the school to be open and we will oblige. Should you have registered as a key worker with us and to date not needed support, then please email me at email@example.com to request Easter provision.
I know I speak for all of my staff when I thank you for your kind words, your tweets and your general support. Photographs on twitter and the emails we receive keep us entertained, amused and impressed. To see pupils engaged in so many different activities and learning so many new skills, are the many positives coming from the situation we find ourselves in. Please do keep sending in your work and we will keep sharing it.
Should school closures go on beyond the planned Easter break and into the summer term (which is highly likely), then we will probably need to re-evaluate the home-learning provision. You will all probably need a little more guidance and support. At the moment however, baking, art and music are the perfect activities to be undertaking.
I have recently received several links to websites which you may find useful in terms of wellbeing and general support. I will arrange for these to appear on this page in the coming days. I will also ensure I write another blog on Friday to maintain a sense of normality. I already have one piece of music for our ‘Achievers Assembly’.
Finally for today, can I remind all of you that should you need anything in particular, please do email us at the address above and we will see what we can do.
27th March 2020 – 3.15pm
- A sense of normality
With nothing significant to report today, I have decided to return to a more upbeat and reflective blog which I have posted in the usual way. A huge thanks to staff ‘Team A’ of Mrs Bailey, Miss Creese, Mr Denney and Mrs Keeling who now go ‘off duty’ and they will be replaced in school next week by a new team. It’s been different in school to say the least but all the staff feel it is imperative to support the pupils of key workers and have all signed up to take their turn.
I will continue to post key Covid-19 updates on this page as and when I receive them. For now, why not take a few minutes to reflect with me on the end of week one and read this week’s blog.
25th March 2020 – 2.00pm
- A challenge for the end of the week
Halfway through week one. How are we all doing? The staff are all keeping touch with each other via various social media platforms and are all keep to come in and support the teams who are looking after our key worker pupils. We are hovering around 5% which is significantly lower than the 10% planned for at the start of the closures. Thank you for all your support with this. Thank you, too, for the cakes and chocolates which have been arriving (safely); they are much appreciated.
As we head towards Friday, I have a challenge for you. Now that the majority of you have become home-education facilitators, perhaps I should ask you to write or contribute towards my weekly blog. They will be much shorter which will keep my dad happy! Let me have your contributions by Friday lunchtime and I will see what I can do. You know the format etc. and so should be able to act as ghost writers quite easily. Submit them via twitter or through the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to include images of your attempts at teaching. I am sure they will keep us all amused and lift our spirits in these challenging times. I was amused by the parent who tweeted today that she had received ‘the (Ofsted) call’ and was hoping they would come in, close her down and send in a replacement team! No chance!
With best wishes,
24th March 2020 – 1.30pm
- Some good news for Year 4s – we need it
- A surprise phone call
It is certainly quieter around Hitchin and the roads around the school and so perhaps the message to socially isolate is finally getting through. We are maintaining the provision for key worker pupils and again the numbers are significantly lower than we originally thought. I would like to thank #teamwhitehill who have all come forward and offered to take a turn at providing cover.
With all the upsetting information we have been receiving, I thought I would share with you some good news for a change, particularly for the pupils who are currently in Year 4. As I am sure you had worked out, the three day, two night residential to Overstrand scheduled for the middle of May has been cancelled. Mr Denney and Mrs Cook have been working hard behind the scenes however and I can confirm that we have rebooked for October. Rather than being an end of Year 4 trip, we will use it as a start of Year 5 trip instead. The dates for the diary are 5th – 7th October.
We hope the current Year 3s will then go as Year 4s in May 2021 as planned.
The other piece of news to share at the moment is that Radio 4 have been in touch and asked if they could chat with me and find out first hand how schools are managing in these strange times. This will give me a chance to acknowledge the work of my team as well as all the schools in Hitchin and across the county, to thank the work the headteachers, staff and other key workers are doing. I will let you know how it goes.
23rd March 2020 – 9.45pm
- The Prime Minister’s Announcement – what it means for us
As I am sure many of you have just done, I listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s urgent statement at 8.30pm. I waited for mention of ‘schools’ and of ‘teachers’ and the implications for the current situation. Neither were forthcoming and therefore, in consultation with the National Association for Headteachers, I assume it means that we are expected to open tomorrow for children of key workers.
What the provision will look like will need to change due to the references of social gatherings. The activities we will be able to do with the pupils will need to change slightly. That being said, the staff in school today did a fantastic job on maintaining social distancing and high levels of hygiene and I know you will join with me in thanking them virtually and in person when all this settles.
I would urge those of you who have registered with us as requiring key worker provision to think again and ask yourself whether Boris Johnson’s announcement this evening now means you will have to stay at home and therefore will be able to look after your own children. Of course, if you still need the place, my team and I will be there for you.
23rd March 2020 – 6.30pm
- A thank you from Whitehill
- Keeping in touch
There is nothing new to report today, however I thought I would add a few personal thoughts as reflect upon day one of a different way of working in an attempt to stem the spread of Covid19.
Firstly, can I thank all of you for the way you have responded to the closure of schools and the need to minimise the number of pupils requiring provision from today. It is clear from chatting to parents as they dropped off their children, they would not be doing so if they really didn’t need to and they then went off to do a vital job in the community. Some of you have also emailed to say that you have now managed to work around the situation and can look after your children at home. This is exactly the response the government wanted and I was able to report to the DfE (as required) that we only had 6% of pupils in attendance. That is significantly less than the 10% threshold figure they were hoping for. Thank you!
I have enjoyed reading the tweets from some of you as your own ‘home learning establishments’ were set up. Many seemed to join in with PE first thing with Joe Wicks (as did Mr Denney and Miss Keeling in school), and then move on to a whole host of creative lessons. There was maths, baking, pretending to be a cat and chicken care! Please do keep sharing your days with us as it is lovely to keep in touch given the way the term came to an abrupt end. I was also happy that there were no reports of any detentions or exclusions… how long will that last?
Remember, you can ask any questions you may have through the class learning platform or by emailing the school at email@example.com.
Best of luck for day 2! And as someone posted earlier this morning, that phrase needs to be read in the voice of the Big Brother announcer.
22nd March 2020 – 5.30pm
- A typical day
This is a very short post and one which follows a request from some parents. The letter we sent home on Wednesday makes it quite clear that there is no expectation to ‘teach’ your children and the information and booklets sent home are activities which ‘could’ be done. It is highly likely we are in this for the long haul and so we need to take our time. That being said, some of you have asked for an outline of a typical day in school so that where possible, you can encourage your children and maintain some form of routine. I have put a basic one at the bottom of this latest post.
We will support you as much as possible and teachers are liaising with their respective classes via one of several platforms. If you need anything else, please do ask. I am manning several email addresses and will always respond in a timely manner.
|8.45am – 10.30am||Session 1 (plus assembly)|
|10.30am – 10.45am||Break|
|10.45am – midday||Session 2|
|midday – 1.00pm||Lunch|
|1.00pm -3.15pm||Afternoon sessions – typically split into two|
22nd March 2020 – 1.00pm
- Key worker update
- Plans for the coming weeks
- Additional information from Mr Denney
After a day to unwind and reflect upon the past week, it is now time to begin to think about the coming weeks. I have been working hard to ensure the we have covered the provision for the pupils of key workers from Monday whilst ensuring I don’t put the staff under any unnecessary pressure. #teamwhitehill continues to impress!
I will be emailing all key worker families again today to reconfirm arrangements for this coming week, particularly given the ever-changing stance being taken by the government. I am sure many of you will have seen the following which is now doing the rounds on social media platforms:
With the overwhelming majority of pupils now staying at home, there is going to be plenty of time to be creative. Class teachers have made suggestions as to the type of activities which can be done and home-learning packs were sent home on Wednesday. Over coming days, I will post links and suggestions on this page as and when I have them. There are also lots of fun ideas for staying occupied online and I will also signpost you to those I feel will be relevant.
I think it is important not to panic. It is possible to become overwhelmed, very quickly, if you try and listen to everyone’s advice and try and sign up to every online initiative or become home educators yourselves. It is OK for pupils to have some moments of ‘boredom’ and to be made to occupy themselves.
That being said, I have already been impressed with our Head Girl, Izzy’s goal of teaching herself to juggle. Perhaps this is a time for all of us to try something new. Share your endeavours on our twitter feed @whitehilljunior and let’s see how creative we can be.
Please keep in touch. If you have a specific question relating to plans during the school closure, please use: firstname.lastname@example.org – This will be manned as much as possible.
Mr Denney has asked me to share an additional document with you which should provide you with a little more support for logging into Google Classroom. I have also added it to our letters’ section of our website.
20th March 2020 – 4.45pm
- School closed
- Key worker update
That was an exceptionally surreal experience when the bell went at 3.15pm. I have lost count of the number of times I have mentioned the word ‘unprecedented’ in communications with you this week but it was a truly strange feeling on the playground at the end of the day. I would like to thank all of you for the incredible support you have shown me and my team and we are truly grateful for the kind words, cards and gifts. We will see you all soon!
I am sure, once we settle into this new period of uncertainty, we can start to share experiences via twitter and the other digital platforms the teachers have set up for you. I look forward to seeing what you get up to over the coming weeks and months.
For those of you who have asked for a key worker place from next week, you should all now have received a confirmation or clarification email from me. Please refer to this morning’s post for details as to timings and expectations. I was interested to see around 20% of the school population responded to request a place which is twice the government’s estimate (guess). I know from talking to colleagues across the county we are not the only ones. Please remember this is really an ’emergency provision’ and therefore should you not need to be at work yourselves, your children should not be in school.
These updates will change in format from next week and I will begin to add updates or links from class teachers which may prove useful.
Thinking of you all at this difficult time!
20th March 2020 – 5.00am
The much-anticipated guidance from the government in relation to key workers’ children and how schools will manage the provision for them after the school closes at the end of the day was released at midnight. I have read it carefully (several times) and, after discussion with other local headteachers, feel I am able to update the letter I sent home yesterday lunchtime. You will receive this via School Comms and it can also be downloaded here.
Whilst the guidance is suggesting that provision may be made available for families where one parent is a key worker, I would urge you to think carefully about the reason behind the school closures which is to minimise the amount of contact we are having with others on a daily basis.
It states clearly, ‘if children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.’
Even if you fall into the category of a key worker and are eligible for provision from next week, I would urge you to use it only when you are at work. I will be very flexible with they days pupils come; just because you qualify, only use us when there is no-one at home to look after your child(ren). A form will be sent home for you to indicate this in due course.
Thank you for your ongoing support. This is the earliest update on this page this week and I have no doubt there will be several more over the coming hours.
19th March 2020 – 6.00pm
- Key worker information
- Google family link issues with Edmodo and Google Classroom
Having just watched the latest government press conference I am still a little confused with regards to the definition of key workers. Until such time, we will go with the ‘best guess’ we sent out just after lunch today. It is is becoming increasingly more apparent, however, that there is an expectation that both family members must be key workers to qualify for this provision. Thank you for your support with this. I will be in touch before close of play tomorrow to those who have requested a place for Monday.
Mr Denney informs me that there have been some ‘log in issues’ with the Edmodo and Google Classroom platforms. He has spent all evening trying to come up with a ‘work around’ and is grateful to Mrs Wilson who has been in the end of a phone acting as his guinea pig! This solution can be downloaded using this information sheet. Any problems please feel free to use the consult@ email address for advice.
19th March 2020 – 1.45pm
In an attempt to provide some peace of mind in relation to the provision of places for the children of key workers, I have put together a ‘best guess‘ at this stage which of course may change given government guidance which is not expected until later this afternoon. #teamwhitehill are fully behind this initiative and have already been talking through ways to make it work. Herts Catering are also on board and will continue to provide school dinners for those in attendance.
Although I have been locked in my office for the most of the day with the leadership team, I have enjoyed a few visits to the classrooms to see it is very much ‘business as usual’ and the pupils are immersed in a whole range of activities. There is a real community feel about the school.
Thank you for your ongoing support and kind words being shared through our twitter feed and via email.
19th March 2020 – 10.00am
- Definition of ‘Key Worker’
- School’s response to last night’s announcement
As we begin these last two days before the partial closure of school tomorrow evening, I thought I would begin today’s series of posts with some reassurance and an outline of our plan.
We are waiting with interest to see who will be defined as a ‘key worker’ beyond last night’s list which included NHS staff, delivery drivers, emergency services and education staff. I would like to reassure you that we will be opening the school for pupils of these families and details of how this will work will be posted later. It is likely, when the list is confirmed, we will invite those of you who would like to send your pupils in to email to confirm. Please do not email us until invited to do so as I wouldn’t want your request to be missed. #teamwhitehill has already reaffirmed their desire to make this work for our school community.
The announcement to close schools brings some certainty to the current educational situation and I think allows schools to move on with some clarity. There were some key features which affect our pupils. Key Stage 2 SATs will not take place for Year 6 pupils, neither will the Year 4 multiplication tests. It is also now exceptionally unlikely that the two residentials for these year groups will take place. I will provide information as to the implication of this due course.
Again, thank you for your words of encouragement via email and on twitter. They really do make a difference and the staff do enjoy reading them.
18th March 2020 – 6.15pm
- Government announcement re school closure
- Consultation evenings cancelled
Three updates in one day indicate how quickly this unprecedented situation is moving. Whilst I need to fully process the full wording and implications of the Secretary of State and Prime Minister’s statement, it isn’t a surprise and the additional note re ‘key workers’ children’ is something that I have spoken to some parents about already whilst chatting on the playground.
I will produce an official statement tomorrow and we have two days to get everything sorted so we can make this work. In short, however, school will close ‘until further notice’ at 3.15pm on Friday 20th March. Details of the way we will support the children of ‘key workers’ and our ‘most vulnerable’ will be established as soon as possible and details sent home.
I am sure you can guess, our consultation evenings scheduled for the last week of term will be postponed. I will now remove the booking system for this term’s meetings. Depending upon when school reopens, additional dates will be made.
That’s it for now, so that I can read the detail and begin to formulate a plan for the coming weeks and months. As always, can I finish by thanking all of you for your kind words and ongoing support and also the amazing staff team I have who are probably already planning for how we will make this work.
18th March 2020 – 2.00pm
- Information letter re home learning
- Imminent announcement from the Government
- Water bottles
Following on from this morning’s morning update, I can confirm that all classes have the necessary resources and these will be coming home with them today. Should the covering letter ‘go missing’ you can access a digital version here. You will see that there is a different email address for you to use for specific questions relating to the situation we may find ourselves in. We have previously used this email address for parent consultation projects and so initially, you may get an automated response along the lines of ‘thank you for your feedback’. Please don’t worry about this as your message will be read.
You may have seen on the news in the last hour that the Prime Minister is due to make an announcement in relation to schools imminently. Wales and Scotland have confirmed that all schools will be closed at the end of Friday. We shall see if we receive similar instructions. Of course, I will update this page with any new information.
I have just visited each class to ask them to take their water bottles home each evening so that you are able to give them a thorough cleaning and so water is not left in there over night. If they don’t come out of school with them today, please send them back in to fetch them!
18th March 2020 – 10.15am
- Information letter and resources coming home this evening
- Football club after school is cancelled
I have no doubt there will be further updates later in the day but as this page seems to be receiving more hits than my weekly blog (I’m not taking it personally), I thought I would provide you with this morning’s headlines.
We are currently working on an information letter and sorting out resources to come home this evening. At this stage, it is not because we anticipate closing tomorrow but want to ensure as many pupils as possible have access to them. It is inevitable that more pupils will need to self-isolate as time goes on.
As I am sure you can imagine I am in daily discussions with local headteachers both primary and secondary. I would like to reiterate again my thanks to my amazing staff team who are coming into work each day calm and cheerful and prepared to adapt to the daily challenges. Thank you, too, for your ongoing support and kind offers, some of which may well be taken advantage of in days to come. It is times like this that make me realise what a supportive community we have at this school. #teamwhitehill
Completely unrelated to the current situation, the pupils who attend football club after school on Wednesdays were told last week that it would not be taking place for the remainder of the term.
17th March 2020 – 1.45pm
- Orchestra cancelled; individual lessons to continue
- Please collect lost property
In conversation with Mrs Reid earlier, we have taken the decision to cancel orchestra this week. It is extremely popular and they pack themselves tightly into the music room. Mrs Reid will still come in for any individual violin lessons as will Mr Brunton for the woodwind sessions. I have been in discussion with Mr Brunton as to the way the Year 5 woodwind lessons will run for the remainder of the term.
The amount of lost property we have at present has reached the state where we need to think of disposing it; not just because of the hygienic reasons but also because of the amount of space it is taking up. Can I urge you to think if you are missing anything in the way of uniform or equipment and if so, pop in and have a look. I will arrange for its disposal within the next day or two.
17th March 2020 – 10.00am
Thank you for your ongoing support as we continue to manage this challenging situation. I would also like to extend my thanks to the staff team for all their hard work and flexibility whilst the situation changes constantly.
- All external sporting fixtures have now been cancelled
- School continuing to follow updated Government advice on self-isolation
Local and national sporting governing bodies have all announced recently that fixtures should be postponed for the immediate future. With this advice in mind and inline with other schools, we have taken the decision to cancel all inter-school fixtures for the foreseeable future. At present, sporting activities within school will continue but should this change, I will of course keep you updated.
Many of you will have seen the changes to the self-isolation rules announced yesterday. Where a family member displays the new, persistent cough and/or a high temperature then the whole family should self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This is a significant change from earlier advice where only those with symptoms had to remain isolated. My office team are keeping a log of when a child first self-isolates so that we can monitor the impact to the school and also the earliest return date.
16th March 2020
I am aware that there is a great deal of information in the news relating to the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in at present.
It is really important that we do all we can to remain calm and in control of the situation. I have added this page to our website to provide up to date news as to the actions the school is taking to minimise the impact and risks to staff, pupils and parents. Hopefully this will also reassure parents and carers, as much as we can given the circumstances.
In short, what we are doing is:
- Clear focus on cleaning priority areas
- Ensuring soap in all areas and prompting its use
- Removing need to share certain resources
- Not having whole school assemblies
- Staggering lunchtimes / changing eating arrangements
- Planning for potential school closure
Read on for more detail.
Whilst the latest advice from the Department for Education (DfE) and Local Authority (LA) is business as usual, there are steps we have taken and will be taking to minimise the risk of contamination and spread of the virus.
I have asked our cleaning site staff to focus on high risk touch points throughout the school each evening and Mr Waluk will be overseeing this with his team on a daily basis.
We are carrying out regular checks throughout the day to ensure there is enough soap by all handwashing facilities and to this end, reminding pupils when and how to wash their hands.
Where we might have shared resources in the past with items such as pens and pencils, pupils are now being given the responsibility to look after their own. We have removed the pots of pens and pencils from each desk and given each pupil their own pen to use and keep in their drawer. When they need replacing this will be done at the earliest possible opportunity.
Social distancing in a school is not the easiest thing to manage, hence the reason we may find we are instructed to close at some point in the coming days / weeks. That being said, there are ways in which we can manage the number of bodies in any particular area, such as cancelling whole school assemblies and staggering our lunchtimes.
I held several meetings today with staff and governors to talk through possible scenarios and I am grateful for the sensible and proactive approach my team are displaying.
What if we have to close?
Whilst there is no indication at present that we will have to close, it would be wrong of me not to plan for such eventuality. The staff are already putting together plans and activities which they feel would be manageable and meaningful. Such links would appear on this page of this website, as well as through the online platforms the classes already use. We need to find a balance which works for the pupils and their families.
A closure may come as a result of a DfE directive or should the number of staff fall below what would allow me to safely open the school.