COVID-19: What we are doing now

Latest information for parents 
(Most recent information will appear at the top)

2nd April 2020 – 12.15pm


Latest updates:

    • 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.

So…

  • 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


Latest updates:

    • 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: consult@whitehill.herts.sch.uk.

Stay in touch and share your experiences. 


30th March 2020 – 8.00pm


Latest updates:

    • 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 consult@whitehill.herts.sch.uk 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


Latest updates:

    • 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.

The Chicken Whisperer!

25th March 2020 – 2.00pm


Latest updates:

    • 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, consult@whitehill.herts.sch.uk. 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,

Steve Mills
Headteacher


24th March 2020 – 1.30pm


Latest updates:

    • 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


Latest updates:

    • 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


Latest updates:

    • 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 consult@whitehill.herts.sch.uk

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


Latest updates:

    • 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.

Time Activity
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


Latest updates:

    • 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: consult@whitehill.herts.sch.uk – 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


Latest updates:

    • 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!

Steve Mills
Headteacher


20th March 2020 – 5.00am


Latest updates:


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


Latest updates:


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


Latest updates:


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


Latest updates:

    • 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


Latest updates:

    • 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


Latest updates:


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


Latest updates:

    • 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


Latest updates:

    • 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.


Latest updates:

    • 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.