Coronavirus Update 22nd May

Friday 19th June 2020
Coronavirus (Covid-19) - Update for Parents/Carers

Dear Parents/Carers,

It seems appropriate to provide you with an update at this point as we have begun to open up the school to a greater number of students this week.  We have tried to keep you informed throughout this pandemic and your support has been essential to us in keeping the school moving.  This week has marked another significant step for us.

Our extended provision this week has been for Year 10 and Year 12 students.  The government guidance only allows us to bring in 25% of each year group on any day and the response from the students this week has been tremendous.  We have seen 209 students from Year 10 and the vast majority of Year 12 students, spread out over the five days.

It has certainly not been our 'normal' school.  There are lines on the floor to show where to stand, the desks are all spaced apart, the students have designated toilets and hand sanitiser is readily available.  For most students, this has clearly been quite daunting, an odd combination of emotions similar to the first day of term but with many new rules.  As each day has progressed, we have tried to help the students break down those fears and focus on gaining the benefits of face-to-face learning.  

The most obvious feature though, has been to illustrate the value that teachers place on seeing and being with their students.  Our staff have been fantastic - more new rules for them, too - and have genuinely enjoyed seeing their students again.

I appreciate that this is still only a small proportion of the school population and that, in some ways, I am describing the things that many of your children are missing.  However, I hope that it is helpful to understand the steps that we are taking to move us back towards a situation where we can see all students again.

I still have no news on what the government is thinking about for September.  You know by now that any news is likely to come in a press announcement first and then details will follow to us later, but I will set out below some updates for you and further actions we are undertaking in preparation.

INSET day/end of term

Our school calendar previously had an INSET day designated for 26th June to coincide with the Glastonbury Festival.  Having just brought some students back in, we felt it would not be sensible to continue with that day and disrupt the organisation that has been put in place.  We are therefore moving this INSET to the last day of term, 17th July, as the least disruptive position for it.  The summer term will therefore finish on Thursday 16th July.

Online learning

Thank you for your continued support with the online learning provision.  We have received positive feedback on the more interactive sessions and intend to expand these as much as we are able to.  We will obtain specific consent from you where we are able to offer this provision.

A few questions have arisen about individual aspects, such as where to access feedback.  Please keep these questions coming in using the 'stream' function to teachers and they will be answered. 

We are continuing to use epraise points to reward students and can confirm that our current students will be able to roll their totals over to the next academic year.  We know that many have not been able to spend the points that they have earnt and we do want them to value the achievement of these rewards.

Year 13 university applications

There have been a number of news stories about university applications for September, some positive and some negative.  It would seem that this has been caused by the fact that each university is managing the situation slightly differently as they look toward the new academic year.  We appreciate that this has the potential to cause some unease among our Year 13 students and I want to emphasise that they should still get in contact with the school if they want to discuss the situation and talk through their options.  We remain available to help, advise and reassure.

Year 11

We have reached the point where Year 11 would have finished their exams had the summer run in a normal way.  We are therefore bringing to an end the online preparation work for sixth form in most subject areas.  Year 11 students should check with their individual google classrooms. 

The end of the exams would usually mean the ROA and prom, both of which are not happening this summer.  However, Miss Castle has plans for you.  The students should stay tuned to their tutor google classroom for more information next week.

Summer holiday - Critical Worker School

We have had confirmation that the school will not be open for critical workers over the summer holidays.

Planning for September and exams next year

As I mentioned earlier, we do not know the details of the government thinking about schooling in September.  Most days seem to bring a different story in the press, but nothing has been officially confirmed.  We know that, using current social distancing rules, it would be impossible to have all students in school at the same time.

Our planning for September has worked on the assumption that, where we can, we will try to keep students in a consistent social 'bubble'.  That way, should an individual become ill, then the fewest number of students will be affected.  For next year, we are able to achieve that more with the younger students than the older students as follows:

Years 7, 8 and 9: These students will be taught in one class group for all of their subjects.  For students in Years 8 and 9, that group will be firstly determined by the language that they have opted for and then by our knowledge of them and how they work.

Year 10: For English, maths, science and World Studies, these students will be taught in the same class group.  We will ensure that students are in the appropriate groups depending on whether they are taking single or combined sciences, and whether they are likely to take higher or foundation maths. For their option subjects, we cannot follow this pattern as each student has an individual set of choices and so these groups will be mixed.

Year 11: We will aim to retain the groups and staff that the students are currently with where we are able.  Whilst this will mean a greater mix in every class, we are also aware that it is important that we retain the knowledge about the progress they have made as they enter the examination year.

Years 12 and 13: Given the individual mix of choices that students in the sixth form make, we cannot socially 'bubble' these students.  However, because they have far fewer subjects, their social mix in school lessons is much more limited.

I should emphasise that this will be our starting point for planning the timetable for next year.  I am sure that more information will become available, but as we are only 4 weeks from the end of term, it is necessary to move the planning forwards.  At any point, we will be able to amend those groups, particularly in key stage 3, if it becomes clear that we have not created the best academic or social mix.

We are pressing strongly for more government guidance on the exam season next year and what that will look like.  No information is available at present and we know that this is a concern in subjects like DT or drama, where practical skills have needed development, or geography, where fieldwork is required to take place.  We are working through a variety of delivery models that will help with this and will use the time we have individually with Year 10 and 12 students in the last two weeks of term to fully assess the stage that they have reached in their learning. 

Black Lives Matter

On a very different note, I wanted to make you aware of the school's response to the Black Lives Matter movement, in particular given the local impact in Bristol.  We know that our students are committed to overcoming the racial injustices that exist and we have received a letter signed by a number of current and former students asking for our views on the school curriculum.  Our detailed response to that can be found here.  I hope that fully conveys our commitment to challenging racial inequality and injustice, and provisioning the education that allows our community to retain the highest set of values.  Students will also see the issue raised in forthcoming assemblies.

Thank you for your continuing support for the students and the school.  I have been out to a few primary schools this week meeting the students who will be joining us in September, answering their questions about what life is like in The Blue School community.  Of course, we do not have all the answers at present and I have no doubt there will be additional challenges as we move forwards.  Facing those challenges collectively gives us an additional strength.  It is by working together that we keep our children safe; together, we will work out the best way forwards and that is why, together, we'll succeed.

Please continue to take care of yourselves, your families and those around you.

Yours faithfully

Mark Woodlock