Latest information for parents
(Most recent information will appear at the top)
We are required by the Department for Education to publish our plan for remote provision on our website. We have saved our latest version under the ‘Parent Info’ tab and then ‘Statutory Information‘. For convenience, you can also open it up using the following link:
13th May 2021 – 2.30pm
- ‘Catch-up Premium’ spending review
The DfE require schools to account for the money distributed as part of the catch-up premium. Our plan, based on a model by the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) shows our spend under three headings: Teaching, Targeted Academic Support and Wider Strategies. A copy of our current spending plan can be viewed using the following link:
15th March 2021 – 3.00pm
- A few wellbeing resources from Mrs McConnell Smith
Mrs McConnell Smith has added a few more resources to our wellbeing page to support pupils and parents. If your child is struggling to cope emotionally since we have returned, then there are a few simple and useful resources to try.
5th March 2021 – 3.15pm
- Return to School
Everything is ready in school for the return of all pupils on Monday. Mrs McConnell Smith, our Inclusion Lead, has written some letters especially for pupils who may be a little apprehensive. These can be accessed through our letters page.
If you have borrowed a school Chromebook over the last eight weeks, please can these be returned as soon as possible. These will then be made ready to be used as a set in school again. Other school resources – exercise books, reading books etc. – should also be brought back to school on Monday.
If you have any last minute questions, I will keep an eye on our consult@ email address over the weekend and will attempt to answer you as soon as possible. As far as the pupils are concerned, the ‘set-up’ is very similar to that which we had throughout the Autumn Term. We will, however, be starting with a Creative Arts week which I looks like it is going to be amazing!
See you on Monday!
3rd March 2021 – 10.00am
- Screen Free Friday
- School lunches
- Consultation Evening
With all pupils returning to school from Monday 8th March, this coming Friday sees the end of the current remote provision which has been so successful. Once again, the teachers are going to be facilitating a predominantly ‘screen free’ day on Friday 5th March. It brings to an end the current way of learning and also gives time for the staff to prepare the classrooms for Monday. Support will still be available throughout the day, as it was just before half term.
With pupils returning on Monday, please can I remind you to select your child’s lunches (if they have a school dinner) over the coming days. At the time of writing, Mrs Stokes is about 100 pupils down on what she would expect for a daily average. The updated menus are on School Grid.
Finally, can I remind you that you are able to book your consultation evening appointments online now. I have been informed by the platform we use that parents and carers can now invite a second user to join the meeting. This was something that was missing last time and has since been added. If one parent books the appointment, they are then able to invite a second (should they wish to) who would then be able to log on from an additional device and therefore a separate location. I know this was something a few parents would have found helpful last time.
23rd February 2021 – 4.00pm
- Full opening of schools from 8th March
I have just sent a letter detailing our plans for the full return of pupils from Monday 8th March to all parents and carers. The ‘executive summary’ confirms that we will be open to all pupils from this date and will effectively be operating as we did during the Autumn Term. We can’t wait to see you all again in person. A copy of the full letter which details certain operational arrangements can be read via this link.
Thank you for your support over the last seven weeks and fingers crossed we are back to stay this time.
12th February 2021 – 1.30pm
- Additional wellbeing update from Mrs McConnell Smith
Here is a link to a handy child friendly reminder about the “5 Ways to Wellbeing”, an initiative we introduced last academic year at our school.
This is a self-explanatory E-booklet that you can complete at home as a family. Enjoy!
7th February 2021 – 6.00pm
- Wellbeing Update from Mrs McConnell Smith
Mrs McConnell Smith has added an additional resource to the wellbeing resources and support page on they school website. Should you need further support or information in terms of wellbeing, please do not hesitate to get in touch via the usual channels. Mrs McConnell Smith can also be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2nd February 2021 – 10.30am
- Thank you
- Critical worker provision
As we possibly pass the halfway point in this current lockdown I would like to thank you again for all the support you have shown of our remote provision and for helping your children access the learning on line.
It doesn’t seem to get any easier, the challenges just change. Right now I know a lot of you are having to manage your child’s exhaustion (as well as your own, no doubt) and maintain the momentum of learning. We know it can be difficult to juggle work commitments and school support but we hope the way we have organised and structured our teaching is helping you all with this.
School continues to be a hive of activity as it looks to support critical worker and vulnerable pupils on site whilst at the same time deliver the content to everyone.
The government guidance makes it quite clear that, where possible, pupils should be working from home at the moment even where a parent might be classified as a critical worker. In talking to colleagues around the County, it is clear that you are doing just this as our numbers have remained manageable.
We have, however, got to the point now where we have reached the safe working capacity in each of our four year group bubbles and therefore we will not be able to accept any other pupils at this time. I can’t see why we would suddenly have any more pupils added to the list but just in case, I thought I would share this information with you.
Thank you for completing the recent parent survey. We will share the outcomes with you shortly. We are also compiling a pupil survey which we will be sharing via the Google Classrooms in the coming days.
27th January 2021 – 3.45pm
- When might we return?
- Half Term
- Parent Survey
- Banded Reading Books
As we continue through the latest lockdown and engagement with the current home learning is strong, there are a couple of updates for you.
When might we return?
You may have seen the announcement earlier today from the government which states that the earliest schools will be back is 8th March. This means we will be continuing with our remote provision for at least two weeks after half term.
As and when I receive information relating to this, I will share the details with you. At present the only information I have is that which is reported in the main stream media.
Half Term – Week commencing 15th February
One thing we do know and have received confirmation of is the fact that schools will be closed to all pupils during half term. Remote learning will stop for the week and there will be no provision for critical worker pupils. We will continue with the current offer from Monday 22nd February.
As mentioned previously, we are always looking at how we can refine our remote learning provision and to this end, we are asking parents to take a few minutes to complete an online survey. The survey is similar in format to the one completed during Lockdown 1 which helped to inform the current offer.
To access the survey, please use the link below:
Ideally, we would like the survey completed by Monday 1st February if possible. Thank you in advance for your time and support.
Banded Reading Books
Thank you for collecting your child’s banded reading books today and yesterday. It was great to see so many faces and to know that our emerging readers now have books to access at home. For the next few weeks, we will continue to be on the playground on Tuesday mornings (8.30am-9.30am) for you to return books and collect more. We would also urge you to make use of the free graded e-books on the Oxford Reading Tree website.
As per our original letter, if your child is a free reader we would suggest making use of Hitchin Library’s ‘Ready Reads’. You can order up to 12 children’s books at a time – for collection – plenty of choice, even for the most avid reader.
Please note, use this page to see how your child’s book band colour fits into the Oxford Reading Tree levels.
As always, thank you so much for the support and kind words over the last three weeks and a special thank you for the cakes and sweets which have been sent in. They are all very much appreciated.
22nd January 2021 – 4.45pm
- Banded reading scheme books
- Work submission deadlines
- Parent and pupil survey
Thanks to everyone for making home learning work so well. We are using your feedback and our observations to find ways to continually improve and refine what we do. Here are the latest developments:
Reading – all banded readers to get a pack to take home
As you know, we love reading at Whitehill. It is one of the things we feel is most important during this time. Not only is it a vital skill that provides a gateway to the rest of the curriculum, it can be an escape from ‘the real world’ and the troubles of today or transport us to exotic places when we are stuck at home. In other words, it helps with our well-being as well as our work.
While Hitchin library are doing a fantastic job with their ‘Ready reads’, we recognise that it is very hard for those pupils on the banded reading scheme to get hold of books for independent reading. For that reason, we would like to offer all of our readers still using the banded books (those who are not yet a ‘free reader’) a book bag to take home. These will be available for collection from the top playground, like your exercise books were. Some of you will find that you have been given a new book band – this is because your teacher thinks that you might be ready to try the next band up. If these prove too difficult, do let us know.
Depending on the book band, you will either receive 1, 2 or 3 books. These are expected to be sufficient for two weeks. Please can we remind you that good reading practice involves both you and your child looking at the text, taking time to read and re-read it. As well as reading, it’s great to talk about what’s been read and ask questions. Please try to ask a range of questions, some of which could be literal comprehension (where did they go? when did they arrive? etc.) and others could be more to do with inference or opinion (why were they scared? how do you know? what’s your favourite part? why?).
In the first instance, books will be available for collection next Tuesday and Wednesday mornings between 8.30am and 9.30am. After the first week it will revert to Tuesday mornings only (same time), when you can return books and pick up new ones. Please let me reiterate that for the most part we do not expect this to take place more frequently than once every two weeks.
You said, we listened… New work submission deadlines
A few of you have requested a later submission time for work set. We are happy to say that we can accommodate this: so the earliest deadline for work will be 6pm on the day that it was set. Often work will be set with much longer deadlines. Where the deadlines are short, it is to ensure that the lessons the following day address misconceptions or teaching points highlighted by pupils’ work. This is how our normal practice works and is even more important when children are not in class with teachers. Please do not worry about the odd missed deadline – it’s just important that teachers see the majority of work to ensure that nothing big has been missed.
Parent and pupil survey
The survey you completed during the first lockdown has helped to shape our practice this time round. We would love to hear from you again. Please look out for a survey come your way next week.
Once again, thanks for all that you are doing to continue supporting your children at home.
19th January 2021 – 4.00pm
- Home learning provision update
- Contacting the School
The following information was also sent out to all parents and carers via SchoolComms earlier today.
Pupils need to remember that each live session is an actual school lesson. The teachers would expect all pupils in attendance to focus and engage with the learning. In particular, pupils need to remember the chat function is only to be used for relevant points to support their understanding and not for observations about the ‘weather’ or ‘what they had for dinner the night before’. By following these rules, their teachers will be able to support pupils more efficiently and key questions will not be missed.
Whilst the timetable for the day / week has now been established for each year group, there may be times when a lesson starts a fraction late, or needs to run over. Whilst we are impressed with the pupils’ ability to tell the time and comment on this in the chat; as they would if they were in school, we would ask the pupils trust the staff that they know the timings and will take the necessary action.
Handing Work In
It is important that pupils do their best to submit work by the due date and time so that their teachers can respond with feedback. It is far easier to respond to one particular lesson / task in one go than to have to keep returning to a particular activity.
Of course, we totally understand the constraints of technology and time which might mean that some work is unable to be submitted as requested but the more that can come in on time, will make the process at this end far more efficient.
Contacting the School
Following on from last week’s correspondence, I would remind you that there are three ways to get in touch with the school and/or teachers via email at the moment. Please avoid using the teachers’ Gmail addresses as these are not monitored closely and messages may be missed.
‘email@example.com’ should be used for technical and connection issues
‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ should be used for lesson related questions or support
‘email@example.com’ should be used for general school enquiries
Of course, you can always phone the office on 01462 621313 for more urgent support or questions.
I have been really pleased with the provision we have been able to offer our pupils since the latest lockdown restrictions were imposed. The mix of live teaching with some of the work still being completed in books provides the balance between screen time and regular school work. Judging by the feedback we have received the model we have established is also working well for you too and your feedback is appreciated. As I mentioned in my blog on Friday, we will be sending a parent survey home in the coming weeks to review our practice in a little more detail.
The Department for Education makes it quite clear that schools are not closed and there is an expectation that pupils (in Key Stage 2) should be engaged in at least four hours meaningful content each day. With our blended approach of live teaching and additional tasks, we are confident that we more than meet these expectations. It does mean, however, that there is an expectation that pupils are available to engage within the usual school hours.
There is no indication as to when these current arrangements are set to come to an end. The Government initially stated that we would continue with this way of working until February half term. We are all desperate for pupils to return and to teach ‘normally’ again. We must be prepared, however, for the potential extension of these arrangements and therefore it is worth reviewing regularly and investing time to tweak what we do.
13th January 2021 – 1.15pm
- Good news story
- Home learning FAQs
- Herts CC letter
- Free School Meals
- Critical worker ‘drop off’
I continue to be so proud of all members of our school community as we reach the halfway point of week two of this current lockdown. Staff, pupils and parents have risen to the challenge and embraced our home learning offer.
Some of you may have seen the lovely article in Hitchin Nub News which was written from a parent’s perspective.
As we move forward, our practice continues to evolve as we endeavour to make things as easy as possible for all concerned. To this end, we have compiled a set of FAQs with some alternative contact details so that we may resolve any issues as quickly as we possibly can.
I have also been asked to send out a letter from Herts County Council. Whilst there will be some schools experiencing many of the pressures referenced, I believe Whitehill is managing these successfully at the current time.
We are hoping that the government’s voucher scheme for pupils in receipt of free school meals will be up and running by next week. In the interim, we have begun sending supermarket e-vouchers to our families directly. Any questions, please contact the school office.
Could I ask that when parents are dropping off critical worker pupils by car in the morning, you do not park in the staff car park. You are more than welcome to drive into the school drive but we ask that you stop (temporarily) opposite the main entrance and your child jumps out and comes in. It will prevent you getting blocked in by staff members arriving to work at the same time.
10th January 2021 – 2.45pm
- Thank you
- Moving forward
- Support and difficulties
A short update at the end of a very dynamic week as we prepare to return on Monday.
Thank you so much for the way you have supported the change to our blended learning approach over the course of the last week. The teachers were ‘live’ by 10.00am on Tuesday and since then have quickly got into their stride ensuring there was no break to the provision for our pupils.
Thank you also for the emails and tweets of support for #teamwhitehill. I have shared them and will continue to do so and, as I said in my blog on Friday, they do make a difference.
We made many, many phone calls last week to check everyone is OK and has everything they need. We will continue to support you whilst you are at home and therefore don’t be surprised if you receive a call from school. It doesn’t mean we are worried; we just want ensure you are not.
Moving forward, class teachers have shared the timetables and will use Google as the platform for all aspects of our communication. The team-teaching approach means that one of the teachers will be monitoring the feed whilst the other is delivering the content. We have even been able to have different groups being taught in some subjects. The school is beginning to look like a TV studio at the moment.
Year 3 pupils will need some clay in the next week or two. This was given to most of the pupils when they collected their books but if you didn’t get a piece, we will have it in the school office if you are able to pop by on a walk and collect it. Equally, there are still a few pupils who have not collected their books to use during lessons. We will be contacting these families early this coming week to see if we can arrange collection / delivery.
Finally, if you are struggling with anything at all during this lockdown, either with the learning provision or resources, or just have a question, please feel free to contact Mrs Lanni in the school office (01462 621313) in the mornings or email us on admin@ or consult@.
5th January 2021 – 9.30pm
- Uploading work to Google Classroom
Mr Denney has put together a video guide to support pupils (and parents) with uploading their work to Google Classroom. We hope it helps over the coming weeks.
5th January 2021 – 4.10pm
- Thoughts at the end of day 1
I have been so impressed seeing all the learning taking place in school and at home today. It is truly fantastic. I will get around to responding to the many emails we have received today but if you feel I have missed something (or are ignoring you) please feel free to get in touch again.
I have emailed you all with some thoughts at the end of day 1. I hope these answer some of your questions and makes it clear what our plans are going forward. We will of course update these in a timely manner and share them with you. It is also my intention to produce a list of FAQs which will be accessible through this website.
Please note our plans to distribute some of the pupils’ exercise books over the coming days. Timings and directions were included on this first update.
4th January 2021 – 9.30pm
- National Lockdown
I will start this communication by repeating what I said in my holding tweet earlier which was that the first headteachers knew of the specific detail of the Prime Minister’s announcement was at 8.00pm. I have just finished an initial meeting with my leadership team and would like to thank you for your patience in waiting for the school’s response.
We need to act immediately and therefore from tomorrow, 5th January, Whitehill will be closed to the majority of pupils. As with the first lockdown in March, we will once again be open to ‘critical worker’ (formally key worker pupils) and ‘vulnerable’ children. If you feel you child falls into this category, please would you complete the Goole Form (link below) as soon as possible. These pupils will be able to attend school from tomorrow providing we have been informed.
In preparation for any future lockdown, we had reviewed the feedback we received last year and have made adjustments to how we will deliver our remote provision whilst at the same time working with the Department for Education’s statutory minimum amount of ‘learning time’. We are confident that the offer pupils will receive is as good as it can be without being physically present.
What can pupils expect?
It is our intention that we will deliver live curriculum content during this lockdown on a daily basis. The exact details will be shared in due course but it is likely to include three ‘lessons’ a day, suitably spaced, and two additional ‘form times’ per week.
The online day will commence at 9.30am to allow time for staff to set up. We envisage a second session starting around 11.00am and the third, after lunch at 1.00pm. We will be making use of Google Classroom and Google Meet for live contact.
If you feel access to digital devices is going to be a barrier to your child accessing this provision please do get in touch.
For tomorrow, to allow a little bit of admin time for staff, we will try and hold a ‘form time’ for each class around 10.00am. A link will appear on the Google Classroom page.
Further information will be shared during this ‘form time’ as well as being sent home via the usual communication channels.
Critical worker / vulnerable provision
Pupils who are in school under this category will experience the remote provision in a separate room to where the teachers are delivering the lessons and will be supervised by other staff – not necessarily their class teacher. We will provide the Chromebook from which they will be able to access the lessons. We will also provide all other learning resources that are needed. They are to enter the school via the main entrance and should not arrive before 8.35am but be in school by 8.55am. Lunch will be provided for pupils in school.
Because of the nature of this lockdown, our wrap-around care will be halted (initially) and therefore early morning provision and Cookie Club will stop (for now). Pupils working in school need to be collected by 3.30pm. Should this change (following discussions with Cookie Club tomorrow) I will, of course, let you know.
There is clearly much more to think about but in an attempt to get something out to you this evening and to get things set up for tomorrow, I believe you have all the key pieces of information to be getting on with.
We will establish some FAQs and post these on the website for you. If you have any questions that you think I haven’t covered or might not cover, please do get in touch via our firstname.lastname@example.org email address. This will be monitored this evening and closely tomorrow.
Whilst we will be delivering most of the content ourselves, I will make our ‘Useful Resources’ page available again on the school website.
I feel there is so much more I feel I want to add but am conscious of the time. Please do not worry. Please do keep in touch. I will write again (no doubt) tomorrow as well as posting as much information on the school website.
Thank you for your understanding and thank you for your support.
4th January 2021 – 5.00pm
- Staying Warm
- School Lunches
- Tier 4 Rules
I hesitate posting this update today with information about operational matters just in case they change in the coming hours. That being said, we need to deal with the situation we find ourselves in and therefore, as we come to the end of the first day back, there are one or two reminders for you.
One of the measures we are putting in place in each of the classes is to keep the rooms well ventilated. Of course, that means that although the heating is on full power, there still might be a slight chill in the air. Please encourage pupils to wear and extra vest or an additional t-shirt under their uniform if they have complained of being cold.
As always, please would you let the office know if your child is not attending school for any reason. If we know that they are away for shielding / isolation reasons, they will be able to access the day’s lessons via a Google Meet within the Google Classroom. Of course, if they are just ‘ill’ then we would not expect them to join but instead stay tucked up in bed with a lot of TLC.
Should we not know why a pupil is not in school, Mrs Lanni will send out a message in the usual way to ascertain the reason.
Please would you make sure that you have chosen lunches for your children via SchoolGrid. Mrs Lanni managed to catch up with most pupils this morning who we felt would usually have dinners and have made selections for this week. It would still be worth you checking, however.
In addition, should your child be absent, for whatever reason, please do log on to SchoolGrid and remove the choice for that day(s).
Finally, for now, it is imperative that we all remember we are currently in Tier 4 in North Herts and as such, we all have a responsibility to follow the guidelines set out for such an area. The key aspect of this as far as schools are concerned is to avoid the mixing of different family groups outside of school. If we all play our part with ‘staying at home’ we will hopefully be out of this situation quicker than we were during the first lockdown.
As I said at the start, I have a sneaky feeling I will be following this email up with a completely different one later this evening. As always, I will use twitter and our website to communicate any updates, as well as SchoolComms.
Thank you for your kind words throughout the day which you have emailed to me. They do make a difference and are very much appreciated. Thank you too for your ongoing support.
3rd January 2021 – 6.40pm
- Start of Term
I have left this post as late as possible to send just in case we had any further updates from the Department for Education or the Local Authority. This has not been the case and therefore we are pressing ahead with the plan to open to all pupils from tomorrow morning.
I have been in meetings today with my leadership team and the staff to make some adjustments to the arrangements we had in place for the Autumn Term in order to keep Whitehill as safe as it can be for the whole community.
I will be on the playground in the morning to welcome the pupils back to school. My colleagues and I will also be around after school on the playgrounds reminding parents to maintain appropriate social distancing. Thank you for your support with this.
Of course, should anything change in the coming hours (or overnight), I will use all our channels of communication to get the information to you.
2nd January 2021 – 3.00pm
- Start of Term – an update
Happy New Year to you all.
Please accept my apologies for further correspondence over the break but I thought I would email you in light of recent press reports and speculation regarding the return of primary school pupils from Monday 4th January.
It is important to note that at this stage, we are still expecting Whitehill to open on Monday as planned and as communicated with you on 30th December.
If this is the case, then we will do everything we can to ensure the school is as safe as it can be for all members of our community – staff and pupils – and I am working with my leadership team and staff members over the weekend to ensure it is. Parents can play their part, as mentioned last week, by following social distancing guidelines when on school grounds.
Should a pupil have to isolate then they will be given access to the classroom via Google Classroom as we did during the Autumn Term. This will be available as soon as possible after we have been informed that this is the case – usually from the first lesson of the first day of absence.
If the situation changes, I will email you all again as well as posting information on our Covid-19 blog and on twitter. Please do keep an eye open for this. Any change is likely to result in the schools switching to remote learning for all pupils.
Key worker pupils and our more vulnerable pupils will be able to attend and they will access the teaching from in school and will be supported by teachers and support staff.
As I have said, at this stage, there is no change to our plans but I thought you would want to be kept informed of the latest position. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at consult@ and I will do my best to get back to you by return.
30th December 2020 – 8.30pm
- Start of Term – further information
I listened with interest to the Secretary of State’s update on school openings this afternoon and then waited for the updated guidance which contained the list of areas in which primary schools would remain closed.
Having considered both carefully, I can confirm that we will be open to all pupils from Monday 4th January as planned. Of course, this is subject to no further updates from the department in the coming days. It is worth noting that there were four Hertfordshire districts on ‘the list’ of those schools who have been ordered to delay opening.
With the announcement that secondary schools will not be returning for up to two weeks, I am going to ask that secondary aged pupils / siblings do not come onto the school site, either to visit or to collect siblings with their parents, in order to reduce the number of people on site before and after school and also minimise the risk of transmission. Thank you in advance for supporting me with this request. Of course, should this cause any problems, please do talk with me.
As I mentioned in the earlier update, it is imperative that we all play our part in keeping the school community as safe as we possibly can. Social distancing is the main thing we can all do when we are on the playground and I would ask that you respect this and use all the space we are fortunate to have. I long for the day when I can spend time chatting with you on the playgrounds and hopefully, with the announcement of the second vaccine, that time might be sooner than we might have anticipated.
Our wrap-around provision will continue, with early morning club open from 8.00am and Cookie Club running after school until 6.15pm.
30th December 2020 – 11.45am
- Start of Term
Despite the situation we find ourselves in at present, I hope that you all managed to enjoy Christmas and spend some quality family time together. Thank you again for the cards and gifts brought in for the staff; they were very much appreciated.
It is impossible to avoid the speculation regarding schools and the return of pupils at present in the media. At the time of writing, I have received no communication from the Department for Education in terms of any change to the plans we were given on the last day of term. That being said, there is a planned statement by the Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, this afternoon.
As soon as I hear anything I will of course update you as soon as possible but for now, we have to assume that we will be returning on Monday 4th January as planned.
With the number of cases being reported at present in North Herts and with the county being in Tier 4, it is imperative we all do our bit to minimise the possible spread of coronavirus. To this end, I would ask that you follow the guidelines set out for this region. When we return to school, please ensure we are suitably distanced when on the school grounds and leave as soon as possible both in the morning after drop off and at the end of the day, when collecting your children. Please only come into school if really necessary and use email or phone for all general enquiries. The usual rules for isolating also apply should there be symptoms or a positive case within the household.
As I have stated, as soon as I receive updated guidance around schools returning, I will let you know but to speculate on possible delays, rotas, blended learning is not in anyone’s interest.
21st December 2020 – 10.30am
- Information from Mrs McConnell Smith
Go Noodle is one of my favourite websites and I highly recommend checking it out this holiday. It is full of dances and songs that keep children moving as well as delivering positive messages!
Music and movement are very important as they play a part in maintaining good physical and mental health. In school, or home, they are a great way to help give children the sensory break they need, to help improve capacity to learn and feel good. Following the funny dance routines is fantastic brain gym, sitting for too long is not good for any of us!
Positivity, especially in times like we are living through now, is so essential to our wellbeing , positive affirmations can be a useful “tool” in your toolbox for helping your children at home.
Follow this link to the Go Noodle website where they are suggesting 20 affirmations you can try with your children. Have a look at the rest of the site while you are there!
Have a safe and happy Christmas break.
Antonia McConnell Smith
17th December 2020 – 10.00am
- Contacting the school over the break
- Looking ahead
- Merry Christmas!
As we move into the Christmas break, the guidance from the Department for Education is still subject to change with schools receiving almost daily updates. I have deliberately not bombarded you with information as the practice in school remains sound and with the adjustments we make, pupils’ education has continued throughout the whole of the Autumn Term. I am, of course, extremely grateful to my staff team for their flexible and conscientious approach particularly when it comes to blended learning.
Contacting the School
Thank you to all of you for your support in ensuring the school has remained open; you have followed the guidance and isolated when needed. Should you need to contact me regarding a positive test result for a pupil in the first week of the break, I will monitor our consult@ email address daily. You do not need to inform me or a positive test result in a family member but obviously should one come back, then all members of the household should isolate for ten days.
At present, we are planning for a full return to school on Monday 4th January. That being said, there was speculation in the education press that this may be delayed for some settings. Should this date change for Whitehill, I will post updates on all our social media platforms as well as emailing you through SchoolComms.
There was also an announcement earlier in the week about regular covid testing in secondary schools with the thought that it might eventually be brought into primary schools. I have been reading the guidance and it is quite time consuming and will require a lot of planning. Again, any updates will be shared with you in due course.
This year has not been easy and there is no prospect for any immediate change to this. That being said, I am optimistic that we will see an improvement in the first few months of the year, providing we follow the guidance and ‘do our bit’. We still have our Year 4, 5 and 6 residentials in the diary and I have everything crossed these will happen. We need something to look forward to.
All that is left for me to say in this blog is, from everyone at Whitehill, have a great and safe Christmas.
9th December 2020 – 2.00pm
- End of Term Arrangements and latest DfE announcement
Latest DfE Announcement
Some of you may well have seen the announcement made yesterday by the Department for Education suggesting schools may like to make Friday the 18th December an INSET day and close the school a day early.
Without going into the minutiae of why this would not work for our community, I wanted to reassure you that we will not be making any changes to the end of term arrangements at Whitehill (at this time). Pupils will be finishing as communicated recently at 1.10pm for Lower School and 1.15pm for Upper School.
In the unlikely event of a confirmed positive Covid case within our bubbles, those affected would receive an email communication, at the earliest possible time, giving the relevant details and any advice in relation to needing to isolate. I will, as always, be manning emails throughout the holidays, particularly the Consult@ address we are currently using for urgent / important messages to the school.
17th November 2020 – 6.15pm
- Social Distancing
- Families in Isolation
- Meeting Others
I would like to start by thanking you for all your support in ensuring the school grounds remain as safe as we can make them before and after school. It is clear to see that you are maintaining appropriate distancing and not staying on the school site any longer than is absolutely necessary. I would ask that we pay particular attention at and around the school gates, giving way to pupils and adults entering the school grounds.
It is clear from the local data that there has been an increase in positive cases in recent weeks, in particular amongst secondary age students and staff in our local secondary schools. We must all do our part in following the guidelines and minimising the risk for our school community until the effects of the latest national lockdown start to materialise.
Families in Isolation
Again, thank you for following the rules with regards isolation and testing. At some point this term, all classes have had pupils joining lessons via Google Meet and our blended learning plan is working very well indeed. We recently took delivery of four new Chromebooks for use by pupils whose access to suitable technology might be limited, so that they can access the lessons when at home. Two are currently out in circulation, allowing pupils to continue to engage with their learning.
If you are asked to isolate through one of the official routes, please do not come into school. Should you need to liaise with the school office or your child’s class teacher, please do so via phone or email and we will do our best to answer your questions in a timely manner. Our live lesson access will usually be up and running on the first day of isolation, depending upon the time we receive the notification but I would ask for your patience. In the interim, pupils could access TT Rockstars, Readiwriter or a good book.
There are elements of this current lockdown which are very different form the initial period of closures and therefore it is probably worth reminding ourselves of some of the guidance which has been published with particular reference to pupils meeting others out of school.
The published guidance which was updated on 14th November, makes it quite clear what we can do outside of the school day in terms of meeting others and applies to children as well as adults. It states that, ‘you must not meet with another person socially or undertake any activities with another person. However, you can exercise or meet in a public, outdoors space with people you live with, your support bubble (or as part of a childcare bubble), or with one other person.’ It goes on to state that, ‘you should minimise time spent outside your home.’ It does state that you can exercise and engage with physical activity in public outdoor spaces but again, this must be with one other person.
I would ask that we all do our best to follow these rules to ensure we minimise the potential for infection which will in turn ensure we can continue to keep our bubbles open.
Sorry! I know it is only November but I am starting to plan carefully to ensure we offer some Christmas normality to our pupils.
I have been asked about pupils being able to bring Christmas cards into school and I can confirm we are going to be able to facilitate this. I will be speaking to pupils over the coming weeks as to how this will work but effectively we will have four different post-boxes (one for each year group) and the cards will go into quarantine for a few days before being delivered to the classes. Think of it more like second class post this year. The date when pupils can start bringing these in will be confirmed shortly.
Christmas lunch is on Wednesday 9th December. If you wish your child to have a Christmas lunch you will need to select this via School Grid. I have no doubt we will be inviting pupils to wear a festive jumper or decorate their school sweatshirts should they wish to.
9th November 2020 – 5.30pm
- General update re clubs and bubbles
As mentioned in my usual weekly blog, as we enter a new period of lockdown, we are trying to keep things as normal as possible for the pupils as possible. Normal in terms of the way we started the term back in September. We are continuing to adopt practices which will keep pupils and our school community as safe as possible whilst they are in school.
There were some questions in relation to whether or not we could continue to run extra-curricular clubs for our pupils and as I have reported directly, this is something I am happy to do as I recognise how many of you rely on these for childcare at the end of the day. The fact that these are only ever run in the year group bubbles means there is little additional risk to the school community by allowing these to continue but the benefits to the pupils are significant. If we need to cancel a club for any reason, our twitter feed will be the first and main place to look.
In relation to the lockdown in general, I would ask for your support in the evenings and at the weekends by following the guidelines and not mixing and meeting beyond the family bubbles. Equally, when coming onto the school site at the start and end of the day, please observe appropriate social distancing and leave the grounds as soon as possible. By minimising any possible chance of spreading the virus, we should be able to keep the school running with all its bubbles in tact.
Thank you all for your ongoing support and as always, please do get in touch with any questions you might have.
2nd November 2020 – 9.30am
- Year 4 Swimming
We are still waiting for the details in relation to schools to be sent through but one thing we can now confirm is that Year 4 swimming (Orville Class) has been postponed (again). We will keep our fingers crossed that pupils in Orville Class can go swimming when we return after Christmas in January.
31st October 2020 – 9.00pm
- Thoughts on the PM’s lockdown announcement – business as usual
- Year 4 Residential – some good news
I listened to the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier for anything which will directly affect the way we will operate at Whitehill over the coming four weeks. This was having also had the opportunity to read the briefing after it was leaked several hours earlier.
In short, it will be ‘business as usual’ for our pupils. The measures we have in place are sufficient at this stage. I would ask that we continue to limit the number of adults on the school grounds before and after school and leave as soon as possible at the end of the school day.
We will continue to offer remote provision for any pupil needing to isolate. This will be via the pupil’s Google Classroom. Please inform the school office in the usual ways should your child be off school for Covid related reasons.
Year 4 Residential: It is imperative we have something to look forward to and therefore we are continuing with our planning for the Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6 Residentials in May 2021. With regards to the Year 4 (and Year 5) trip in particular, the centre has sent over updated wording in terms of a Covid related guarantee which provides protection for schools and therefore families:
‘Our Book with Confidence Guarantee provides reassurance to enable you to book and secure your 2021 residential trip, safe in the knowledge that should Department for Education (DfE) & Public Health England (PHE) guidance continue to advise against residential stays, you’ll have the option to either move your booking to another date, or cancel and receive a refund.’
This is particularly pleasing to read and does allow Mr Denney and Mrs Davies to press on with arrangements for the Year 4 trip.
I trust you have all had a pleasant week off. It has been lovely to get some time to recharge as we prepare for the second half of the Autumn Term.
As always, please do get in touch with any questions you might have.
15th October 2020
- Nothing new to report
More to show you that this page is still live, I thought I would post a short update this afternoon. All our planning in school appears to have paid off and we are fast approaching half term with minimal disruption. The pupils and staff are all working really hard to ensure it is very much ‘business as usual’ with a few minor tweaks.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
21st September 2020 – 2.30pm
- A useful guide relating to pupil absence
- Parent consultation evenings
- Year 5 trip to National Space Centre
We continue to be able to manage the current situation as well as we possibly can and with the support we have been receiving from parents, the pupils are engaged in their learning and the school continues to be as safe as we can make it at this time. We continue to be asked for advice in relation to the rules for self-isolating or getting tested and will base our answers on the latest guidance issued by the DfE.
Parent/Carer Guides: I have recently read a useful guide for parents which several schools have put together with different scenarios listed and the course of action to take. I have sent this out to all our families via SchoolComms as well as posting it on the school website. There is also an additional guide which a local GP has sent over to me which may also be of use to parents and carers. Of course, if you are in any doubt, please feel free to get in touch and I will help. The best way to contact me for a quick response is via our consult@ email address or you can phone the school office on 01462 621313.
Parent Consultation Evenings: You may have noticed from the school calendar that at the end of this half term, we have our parent consultation evenings. In order to keep staff and parents as safe as possible and to minimise the need for more people to be in school than necessary, I am currently exploring how we can make these meetings ‘virtual’. As soon as we have decided upon the platform we will be using, I will let you know so that you can book the meetings. We have provisionally timetabled them to be over three evenings.
Year 5 Trip: In consultation with the Year 5 teaching team and the National Space Centre, I have made the difficult decision to postpone the Year 5 trip scheduled for November. We still hope to be able to run the space themed evening at the end of that week but feel the visit to Leicester with 60 pupils and staff is a unnecessary risk at this time. Thank you for your understanding.
13th September 2020 – 9.15pm
- An update in response to news of a local school closure
I have had several emails and messages this evening relating to the announcement that Hitchin Boys’ School is closed tomorrow following a confirmed case of Covid.
It is not appropriate for me to go into details surrounding the closure but there are a couple of reminders I shall post as we prepare for another week of this new term. Thank you for giving them your attention. These are also in advance of any possible local authority updates we may receive tomorrow.
Social Distancing: Please would you continue to practise appropriate social distancing when dropping off and collecting your children. It is well-documented that spread is more likely between adults. Equally, please make sure you vacate the school grounds as soon as possible both in the morning and at the end of the day. Staff are all working really hard in school during the day to maintain appropriate distance too, to ensure we all remain as safe as possible.
Siblings Self-Isolating: Should you be contacted by HBS to say that your son needs to self isolate, as long as they are not displaying any symptoms themselves, then their brothers and sisters at Whitehill should still come to school. The guidance states:
‘Household members of those contacts who are sent home do not need to self-isolate themselves unless the child, young person or staff member who is self-isolating subsequently develops symptoms.’
If you have any questions in relation to this guidance, please feel free to get in touch and I will help. The best way to contact me for a quick response is via our consult@ email address.
20th August 2020 – 2.45pm
- Information coming out via SchoolComms later this afternoon
Preparations in school are in full swing so that we can welcome all our pupils back for the first time since the middle of March. As I have reported in previous correspondence, there will be differences to the traditional school day but I have no doubt we will make it work and the pupils will enjoy getting back to some school-based learning.
Over recent weeks, I have sent home links to two short questionnaires which will help us with our preparations. Thank you to all of you who have submitted your responses to date; they are very helpful. If you haven’t yet responded, please would you do so? I have included the two links below for your convenience.
The first survey, initially sent out in the last week of the summer term asks for you to confirm your child’s lunch arrangements for the first three days. This will help Mrs Stokes prepare the right number of each type of meal.
The more recent survey asks for information about your child’s collection arrangements when we return to school. Whilst I appreciate these might change when we return, it is important we are aware of any child who has permission to walk home alone so that the teachers can dismiss them at the end of the day, on time, without waiting for a parent to arrive.
Thank you in advance for helping me with these arrangements. I will also post the links to the two surveys on the COvid-19 blog on the school website. Please do share this request amongst any school-based social media groups you belong to.
13th August 2020 – 2.15pm
- Term Dates 2021-2022
- September return reminder
I hope you are all continuing to enjoy the break, even if the weather is on the warm side!
I have today had a meeting with Mrs Avey at Highbury Infants and we have set the term dates for the academic year 2021 through to 2022. A long way off, I know, and have added them to the term dates page. Of course they are subject to change, as always, but they are unlikely to do so.
Also, can I remind you to respond to the ‘Home Time Arrangements’ request I sent home last Friday? (see below for the necessary links) Thank you if you have sent in your responses already. They are certainly helping to plan for the safe return of all pupils on September 2nd.
7th August 2020 – 10.30am
- September return
Following on from yesterday’s post, I can confirm that today I will be sending a letter to all families outlining some of the ongoing preparation and plans for the return of all pupils on September 2nd. A copy can also be found on the letters section of the website. The letter also contains a link to a short questionnaire which will provide the school with information we need to support the arrangements at the end of the school day. Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete this.
Here is the link for this survey should you find it doesn’t work on the letter:
As always, please do get in touch with any questions you might have in relation to September. It is also important to remember that all arrangements are subject to change in light of any updated government guidance or directive.
6th August 2020 – 2.00pm
- September return – letter coming home shortly
- Summer art challenge
I hope you are all enjoying the summer holiday and enjoying some quality family time together.
We have been particularly busy in school this week with a series of meetings putting together the necessary plans in preparation for September and the start of the new academic year. In the coming days, I will be writing to all families with some key information relating to our return. It will particularly focus on timings at the start and end of the day which have been tweaked slightly. It will require you to respond via a google form to indicate collection arrangements for your child(ren). I will post a copy of the letter on the website together with a link to the form. If you don’t receive an email from school in the coming days, please do look on here for them. Thank you in advance for this.
I have seen the proof for our commissioned piece of art to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. It looks wonderful and certainly captures Whitehill School. It is also unique! I hope pupils will join in with the challenge we set to create their own representation of the school, or their favourite part of it. Details can be found here. I would love to see any which have been done or part completed; please feel free to share on twitter of via email to our consult@ address.
27th July 2020 – 11.15am
- General update
It was a very interesting meeting last week with the Schools’ Minister, the Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, and we hope to follow this up upon our return in September.
Over the coming weeks I will be updating key areas of our website. You may already have noticed the calendar is starting to be populated for the next academic year but clearly any dates added are subject to changes due to government guidelines on post-Covid operations. For example, I have recently been in discussion with the management at Hitchin Swimming Centre over the possibility of lessons starting for our Year 4s in September. We will be updating the Curriculum section shortly with staff having worked over lockdown to update and refresh the school’s offer.
Please do keep in touch. If you have questions relating to transition, there is a form to complete under the ‘Welcome to Whitehill‘ page. Alternatively, please feel free to use the consult@ email address which is being monitored regularly.
Finally, please don’t forget our school artwork challenge for pupils to go with our specially commissioned 50th Anniversary artwork. Details can be found here. Any questions, please do get in touch.
20th July 2020 – 9.30pm
- School website update
As we start the school summer holidays, it is already time to start preparing for the start of the new academic year on Wednesday 2nd September. I have started to update the calendar on the website. At this stage it is mainly term dates and key events such as residentials and governors’ meetings. As soon as we have finalised other events, they will be added too.
We hope to be able to share details of school arrangements for the pupils’ return in week three of the holiday but as I have confirmed on a number of occasions already, unless DfE guidance changes, pupils are due back on 2nd September from 8.35am. Thank you to those of you who have enquired about our interim ‘breakfast club’ (without breakfast) whilst Highbury are unable to offer this for our pupils. You should have received confirmation from me if you have emailed in.
The Leadership Team will be meeting with Nick Gibb (Schools’ Minister) and Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden MP) on 21st July. This is a great opportunity to share the work we have been doing since March to support our families. I will let you know how it goes.
END OF TERM
14th July 2020 – 11.00am
- School website changes
With this extraordinary summer term coming to an end, it is now time to start preparing for the return of all pupils to school on Wednesday 2nd September. As I have mentioned in recent communication, this is a long and complex process and information will come out at various times over the break. One thing I have done already is to update the school website. The ‘home learning’ section has been moved from the front page to a separate tab under ‘parent info’ just in case we need to refer to it again.
The new ‘transition’ section is now looking very full with videos and information for families joining Whitehill in September. There is also an option to get in touch with specific questions relating to transition. This will be monitored more regularly than our usual ‘comments’ section on the website over the course of the summer holiday. I hope you find it of use and our plan is to update regularly and maintain it as a permanent section.
I have also changed the title of this, our Covid-19 blog which can still be found on the home page to reflect the content which will now be posted.
Thank you, as always for your ongoing support.
7th July 2020 – 12.15pm
- School Dinners for September
- Form Times in the final week of term
- Final Assembly – Friday 17th July
- Reading Books
With just under two weeks left until the end of the academic year, there are one or two arrangements to bring to your attention.
For pupils currently in Year 3 through to Year 5, Mrs Stokes has asked that we ascertain what the lunch requirements will be in those first three days of the new academic year. To this end, parents of pupils in Years 3, 4 and 5 will receive a letter with a link to a short form which asks for your child’s meal choices. We hope to have the new online system up and running as soon as possible upon our return but lockdown has delayed the changeover. Your responses are required by Thursday 16th July.
Next week, even though the class teachers will not be setting any formal home learning, they will still be setting up and running two ‘form times’ via Google Meet. All six classes will be running one on Monday 13th and a follow-up on Thursday 16th. Times and links will be sent out by the class teachers in the usual way.
In a similar way, I would like to hold a final assembly on Friday 17th July. This would have been usual practice if we had all been in school but this time, the majority of pupils will access via a Google Meet link.
The pupils in school will watch the assembly from their classrooms and will still be able to engage. I would invite pupils who are working from home to join us at 11.00am. I have set up the ‘Meet’ (starting slightly earlier) and an invitation has been sent to all pupils via their Google account.
On the day, to access this assembly, pupils must log in with their school Google account and then open up Google Meet (accessed by the ‘waffle looking’ menu – top right) where the meeting should be listed. We will not be able to offer any support on the day although we will endeavour to record and post the assembly should you not be able to access it live.
I know the class teachers have sent out reminders but on behalf of Mrs Vernon who does a fantastic job in our school library, can I please ask pupils return all library boos to school as soon as possible. Feel free to drop them off at the school office if your child is not in school again before the end of term.
Thank you for your ongoing support. Just to confirm, we will be finishing on the last day of term at 1.30pm for all pupils. We are all looking forward to September where, fingers crossed, all 240 pupils will be returning to school to engage, in person, with their new class teachers.
30th June 2020 – 1.30pm
- Transition telephone calls
- About Me booklet
- Last week of term
- Going forward
This week, we would have usually held our additional parent / teacher consultations for pupils with additional needs. Clearly, we are unable to facilitate face to face meetings at this time. Teachers have already been meeting with each other to talk through class transitions. Where your child has an additional need or history of difficulty with transition to a new year group, you may find your child’s new teacher will give you a telephone call in the coming weeks. This call is for you to briefly chat about your child’s needs with them.
On the afternoon your child meets with their new class teacher, they will be given a letter and booklet which is a small amount of holiday homework in preparation for the first week back at school in September. We have used these booklets for several years now and so they should look familiar. It is a good way to spark a conversation between pupils and their teacher when we return.
In the final week of the term, commencing Monday 13th July, there will be very little work set by the class teachers for pupils to complete online. The teachers will talk through this with pupils in upcoming ‘form times’. There will still be ‘form times’ during this last week and again, teachers will post the arrangements in the usual way.
For that reason, pupils in our key worker pod, Pod 5, might like to bring something from home to help pass the time. This could be a puzzle or colouring book, for example.
The Summer Term finishes on Friday 17th July and as planned, pupils will finish at 1.30pm. This will apply to the Year 6 pupils as well as pupils in Pod 5. Please make arrangements for your child to be collected (if appropriate) on time. Thank you for your support with this.
You will probably have seen recent announcements relating to the wider opening of schools going forward. It was good to see the announcement that schools are not expected to remain open over the summer break. This is key for us, as my staff have been working throughout lockdown, including over the Easter holiday and summer half term break.
We will still be working but without pupils so that we can prepare for all pupils to return in September. Although there will be tweaks to some of the practicalities, we are preparing for all pupils to be in school on Wednesday 2nd September. Details will be sent home via the usual channels and also posted on the website.
As always, thank you for your ongoing support of the school. It has been wonderful to see pupils return for a couple of days to spend some time with their teachers. I Hope they have enjoyed this opportunity.
25th June 2020 – 2.15pm
- Viewing teacher feedback on Google Classroom – Some support for parents
In the recent parent survey on our home learning provision, some of you reported that you didn’t find it easy to view the feedback teachers are providing for work that has been submitted. To help you with this process, Mr Denney has produced a short video. We hope you find this useful and as always we are grateful for your ongoing support.
24th June 2020 – 8.30am
- Class Visits
All classes have now received their letter inviting them to spend a couple of days in school with their current teacher and meet their new teacher. The link to confirm your attendance was on the letter but I am aware a couple of you have found the link didn’t work. I am not sure why this is but just in case here it is again for you to use:
Thank you for completing it and we look forward to seeing the pupils in school again soon!
23rd June 2020 – 8.20am
- School Reports
- Class Visits
A short update this morning to confirm that by lunchtime today, all reports will have been sent out. The Year 6s received theirs on Friday as they are currently in school each day. Yesterday, Mrs Lanni sent out Year 3 and Year 4 reports via email and will finish this process with Year 5 reports today. I would urge you to read the accompanying letter which outlines the changes, not just in the format but also because of the school closure.
Yesterday we started the half-class, two-day visits with Aztec and Lamarr classes. Over the next three weeks, all pupils not currently in school will be invited to attend for two days to see their teacher, see their friends and also meet their new class teacher. With the emailed invite, you will be asked to respond using a google form (my new best friend). If you have any problems accessing the link to this reply, please email me at email@example.com.
With the weather as lovely as it is, the extra pupils in school has been easy to manage as we have been able to make use of the outdoor space. For that reason, please make sure pupils have plenty of sun cream on.
16th June 2020 – 8.30pm
- Confirmation of class structure letter
- School reports
- Wider Opening – an update
- Home learning provision feedback – so what?
- New feature on the school website
There are a couple of updates and reminders to add to the blog this evening. We are currently thinking about and planning for the remainder of this academic year whilst keeping a close eye on what our provision might look like from September.
In the short term, I will be writing to all parents and carers on Friday informing you of the class structure for September, assuming we return to normal. In other words, I will be sending home details of which teachers will be teaching which classes next year and which classes pupils will be moving to. This is in anticipation of school reports coming home over several days this year. For pupils in Years 3, 4 and 5, they will be emailed out from Monday. Year 6s will receive a printed copy as they are currently attending school. A separate covering letter will be sent out with the reports as they have clearly been completed in extraordinary circumstances this year.
You will be aware that the government recently removed the expectation that all other primary aged pupils would be back in school by the end of June. Instead, they have given schools the opportunity to make decisions based on individual circumstances, providing key workers pupils and Year 6s remain catered for.
To this end, over the next three weeks, commencing Monday 22nd June, we are planning on inviting our Year 3, 4 and 5 classes back in for two days each. Again, details will be sent home in a timely manner. The plan is for each class to be split into two groups of 15; the maximum allowed to maintain suitable social distancing. We hope that each half will get to spend one and a half days with their current class teacher and then half a day with their new teacher.
Of course, we are planning on transition in September being similar to previous years. It could well be that this is not the case, however. The leadership team is also planning for potential differences to the traditional ‘two classes in each year group’ model but it would be inappropriate to comment on these plans at this early stage.
Thank you to all who completed the recent parent/carer survey. We have been looking at the results and I will share a summary with you all in due course. We have used your feedback to think about changes to our provision. For example, we are going to try and increase ‘live’ contact with teachers. Those with children in Aztec Class will have seen Miss McGurk run an additional form time on Monday to introduce the week’s work and to answer any initial questions. Look out for other improvements and tweaks over the coming weeks.
Those of you who regularly visit the school website might have noticed a new tab appear, entitled ‘Transition’. We are going to add content to this in the next two weeks to support pupils joining us from Highbury. Where we are not going to be able to provide traditional visits we are going to add many virtual transition tools.
Thank you for your continued support of the school. These are exceptionally strange times for all of us and communication remains the key to keeping things running as smoothly as possible.
11th June 2020 – 5.15pm
- School Reports
- Classes for September 2020
- Wider Opening
- Year 6 School Journey Refunds
It has been a very busy couple of weeks since we took in Year 6s as per the government’s guidance. There have been several school related updates since then from the DfE and we are working hard to see what this means for Whitehill. There are a couple of information items to share this evening.
I mentioned to you a few days ago that school reports will be delayed slightly this year. The diary date was going to be next Friday, 19th June. Because of the way these will now be sent out we are going to need more time and as such we plan to send them out over the week commencing 22nd June. The exact day for each year group is not fixed yet but I will alert you on or just before the day for your class so you can look out for it. Apologies again that my comments will be slightly shorter than in previous years.
In previous years, the letter which came out with the report would indicate which class your child would be moving into. In order to minimise speculation, I will send out an additional letter next Friday to Years 3, 4 and 5 confirming the class structure (as it stands) for September 2020 and which classes will be moving to which teachers. This information will be confirmed in the letter accompanying the school reports. I hope this will help with preparing for transition.
One of the government’s recent announcements was in relation to having all pupils back before the summer holidays. Although the Prime Minister suggested the Department would give further information next week, we need to be thinking about how we can provide some face to face time in school for pupils in Years 3, 4 and 5. This will include a chance to have some time with their current class teacher (closure) and also a short amount of time with their new teacher (transition). I will be discussing our options with staff over the coming days and once we have finalised our plan, I will write and invite pupils in.
Finally, I would like to confirm with our Year 6 families that Mrs Cook and Mrs Lanni are about to start refunding the school journey money to you. You will be contacted shortly by the team in the office asking you to confirm a couple of details, so this can be managed as smoothly as possible. I would like to thank you again for your patience with this process.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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, email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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, email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: email@example.com – 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.