Believe it or not, we have reached the halfway point of the summer term. Next week would have been half term and a chance to relax and prepare for the hectic last seven weeks of the academic year. Equally, I should have been in school until around 1am tonight waiting for the Year 6s to return from France, having just welcomed back the Year 4s from Overstrand. To try and keep me smiling this week, Mr Denney decided he would provide the usual text commentary on Wednesday that I traditionally receive from him as he set off with the 60 Year 4s. He got to Duxford without a hitch and saw a spitfire practising for the air show. Several pupils got a name-check, including those we felt might have got known by the staff at Overstrand quicker than others. I’ll let you guess who they might have been!
Seriously though, it is a real shame that we have not been able to complete these two parts of the ‘Whitehill experience’ for two cohorts. The Year 4s will still be going to Overstrand, all things being equal, at the beginning of October. Actually, a lovely way to start their life in upper school and a way to get to know their teachers a little better. Of course, the Year 6s won’t get this opportunity and it is a real shame. We are currently working with all parties to recover the money we have paid for this trip and I promise the Year 6 families will be refunded as soon as possible. On the subject of Year 6 residentials, we have this week secured the destination for next year. At this stage I won’t go into details but we are excited with what we have booked and I am sure the pupils will have a wonderful experience this time next year. Something to look forward to, for sure.
Much of my week has been spent sorting the arrangements for the phased expansion of pupils attending school from June 1st. I don’t want to say re-opening, as we haven’t ever closed. We have been providing support in school for pupils of key workers since March 24th, including through the Easter holidays and the last bank holiday. We will be doing the same for pupils next week. I have been in regular contact with the Year 6 families to talk them through the arrangements and how we will implement the government’s guidelines. I am now ready to see the pupils return (with smiles on their faces) a week on Monday. That is, of course, if this next phase gets the green light on or around 29th May. The support my team and I continue to receive from you is lovely and most welcome. I have been sharing all your kind words with all staff and they always respond and tell me how much they appreciate it. Thank you. There is bound to be more communication, not just for Year 6 pupils but for all families over the course of the coming days. Please keep a look out for it, either on our Covid-19 blog or via School Comms.
Despite the extraordinary circumstances we are currently facing, there are certain aspects of school life which have to continue. Today, for example, I was in two separate Google Meets with our Year 6 teachers, Hitchin Boys’ School and Hitchin Girls’ School. Staff from these secondary schools usually visit to talk through each of the Year 6 pupils prior to transition and to meet the pupils for the first time. I know our Year 6 families have been receiving information from their allocated secondary school as a form of transition. What we do is share with the teachers our knowledge and pass on, in the absence of SATs this year, where the pupils’ strengths are and where they may need support. They were both very productive (if not long) sessions. We have another meeting in the diary for chatting with staff from The Priory for the five pupils going there in September.
I have continued to be impressed with the work the pupils are producing whilst engaging the activities being set by their class teachers. Although the time I have had this week to look through the classrooms has been limited, the class teachers are sending me notifications to check out certain pieces of work. I enjoyed reading some English work from pupils in Kahlo class and there has been some quality work from Year 5s in Voyager and Apollo in the same subject. The creativity of some pupils is incredible and there have been some more stop-motion animations from pupils in Orville Class sharing their knowledge of the Romans. I have tried to leave messages for those pupils on their respective Google classrooms.
On our Twitter feed, it was lovely to see Chef Freddie (Year 4) back in business with a range of Spanish favourites. He has also expanded and opened up for breakfast service too. Alicia (Year 4) made some amazing looking rainbow bread, whilst Holly (Year 4) has also been continuing to develop her culinary skills with a classic student favourite, tuna pasta bake!
Mr Brunton continues to provide music lessons to pupils via online platforms and Jonathan (Year 6) joined him for his saxophone lesson. A link for our Year 5 pupils can be found on our home learning blog.
It was exciting times for Helena (Year 5) who received a tweet from author, Cressida Cowell in response to her creation of ‘Abisko the Gravlax’.
As we move into next week and, as already mentioned, the half term break, teachers will not be setting work for pupils. Pupils need a break before embarking upon the rest of the term and staff need some time to recharge and also prepare for the potential phased expansion of numbers. Many will be in to help get the school and the ‘pods’ set up for the pupils as well as supporting the provision for key worker pupils. It was ‘Thank a Teacher Day’ on Wednesday and it seems appropriate for me to thank all my teachers for all the incredible work they have been doing, not just since lockdown where they have had to adapt to a completely different way of working, but all year. Thank you to those who sent in message of support, such as Mya B (Year 4). The teachers loved her video.
Finally, can I thank you for the lovely gifts we have received this week. Staff were treated to doughnuts, fish and chips, cookies, fresh eggs and flowers. You are all very generous and it is very much appreciated.
Have a great week. Look out for updates from me and I will see you in person or virtually at the beginning of June, if not before.