Headteacher’s Blog 18th June 2021
On Wednesday of this week we had some excitement as a film crew from BBC Bitesize were in filming some of our students conducting experiments, to be used as part of their online teaching resource. I know that the students really enjoyed the experience. The Bitesize team were so impressed with our students and our school, they commented:
‘Hamlett Films came up to Notre Dame School to film 3 new episodes of BBC Bitesize and we were thoroughly impressed by the school and the brilliant pupils who were involved. It was a long but good day, requiring much focus and concentration from everyone involved. The 8 children chosen from Year 7 and 8 were excellent – quickly learning to speak and act naturally in front of the camera. We had great fun with them, measuring the bounce of balls, cars distance going down ramps and running races in boiling heat. It was a great day and we can’t wait to show you the finished result!’
We will certainly alert everyone when the content goes live. In a year when online support for learning has been such an important lifeline, it was really great to be able to contribute in this way.
We have also been rolling out Bromcom, our replacement for the E-Portal system. I know that many of you have already downloaded the App. As we get used to the system and add some of the extra features, we hope this system will make communication with school easier for you.
I have quite a few updates for you, so I will get on with them.
Public Health Update – testing + face coverings
I have had a couple of messages from parents asking if we will re-introduce the wearing off face coverings by students when inside buildings. This is something that we are keeping under constant review and consideration in discussion with the local public health team.
Face coverings do add some difficulties to teaching and learning. Practical things like the teacher knowing who is asking or answering a question are difficult and for some students those communication challenges are even greater without being able to see people’s full face. The numbers of cases in Sheffield remain low at the moment and, with a high level of engagement with home testing, that makes it more likely than not that in any given classroom no-one has Covid. This means that the need for face coverings is much lower and we are taking the opportunity to gain the benefits to teaching and learning by not having them.
If, however, the numbers of cases begin to rise, that balance will shift again the other way and we would re-introduce the wearing of face coverings. This would help to keep the chance of transmission in school low, which is not only good from a public health perspective, but it also lowers the number of students who would need to isolate which obviously has an educational benefit.
The local PHE team have kept us up to date with the Delta variant and there is an expectation that we will see numbers of cases rise as it is more infectious than the previous variant. This also means that the home testing is more important than ever as it is a real help in reducing the chance of students bringing the virus into school and it also helps us to catch it early through isolation, to prevent spread.
The engagement of our families with testing has been really great and I thank you for that. If your child has stopped testing, I would ask you to support them to start again. If you have questions or concerns that are stopping you from engaging, please do get in touch so that we can try to address them.
We have been working closely with the local PHE team and as things stand we are confident that our plans for Sports Day are sensible, as we are able to transfer the measures that are being effective in school to Sports Day.
Of course, we know that as with everything, a rapid rise in Covid cases could cause plans to change, but we are getting on with planning so that if all is well we can go ahead with a great end to a challenging year.
We will be in touch soon with details and plans and what they mean for students. The working plan is that Y7 students will have a separate sports day in school. This helps us to manage numbers in any location so that we can keep mixing and contacts at least as low as they would be in a normal school day.
We are also likely to need students in Y8 to Y10 to make their own way to and from the EIS. Where this causes a significant problem we will want to hear from you. However, regulations round public transport and changes to their schedules are making it more challenging for us to bus students to and from school.
Linking to the item above, your support with home testing will really help the chance that we can go ahead safely with sports day. If we are confident that we are catching any cases of the virus, then we know the risk of transmission in school or elsewhere is as low as possible.
It has been wonderful over this week to see many of our Y11 students back in school, beginning their transition to 6th form.
It has also been great seeing families virtually for our Y6 to Y7 transition Zoom meetings.
As I have explained before, we are unfortunately not able to run a live transition day for Y6 students, because unlike our Y11 students joining us in 6th form, they are coming from a mix of different primary schools. The risk of students mixing here, then returning to their own schools in the light of the Delta variant of COvid is presenting an unnecessary risk.
We are, however, planning an opportunity for Y6 students and their parents to meet their form tutor and see the members of their new form groups via Zoom before the end of the school year. We will be setting the form groups very soon and, once they are in place, we will be in touch with families of Y6 children to let them know when their form group Zoom meeting will happen.
We will also shortly be in touch with those parents who expressed interest in the Y6 transition summer school to confirm dates. We have had a very high level of interest, which is wonderful. The demand makes it likely that we will be offering 3 days for each student. Our working plan is that students will be with others from their new form group when they come in as this gives a great chance to start getting to know one another before September. Half of the form groups will be
offered places from Monday 9th August to Wednesday 11th August and the other half will have places from Wednesday 11th August to Friday 13th August.
This means that we will have one day when all the students who have expressed an interest in the summer school will be in together, which will go some way to covering what would have happened on a live induction day.
Results Days and appeals process
A Level Results Day will be on Tuesday 10th August and GCSE results day will be on Thursday 12th August. Students will be able to access their results remotely and there will also be support in school. We are awaiting guidance from PHE to decide whether that support will be offered remotely (as last year) or whether students can come into school.
Now that the guidance on the appeals process has been issued, we have been able to being work on planning how we will manage our part of that work in school.
We will write to families of students who have GCSE or A Level results this summer as soon as possible to confirm the arrangements for results days and also the process for you to make an appeal should you believe that is needed.
Looking ahead to next year
The first two days of next academic year (Wednesday and Thursday 1st and 2nd September) will be training days.
Y7 and Y12 students will come for their first day at school on Friday 3rd September, giving them a day to get ready for the year ahead before all the other students return.
All other students will then return on Monday 6th September.
At this time, we do not know what additional guidance for schools will be in place in relation to Covid. The guidance we have had from the local PHE team is that we should expect to have to continue with a number of measures to help reduce the risk of transmission. Part of this is likely to be track, trace and isolation where cases happen in school as the virus is likely to still be with us.
We pray that the vaccination programme continues to go well and that the vaccine does show to have a significant impact on infection spread and serious ill health. The expectation for now, however, is that there will continue to be some adaptations to school life into next academic year.
We are planning based on all that we have learned this year about what works and also what has been most challenging. I will keep you up to date with planning as it happens.
Message from the English Department: Read for Good
Every year, we ask Y7 and 8 students to take part in a sponsored reading event called Read for Good. We usually do this in February, just before half term. This year, we were working from home at this time and we decided to put the sponsored read on hold. We have found, since returning to school, that there just hasn’t been a convenient time to run this event in the way we would normally want to (including publicity such as announcements in assemblies, handing out sponsorship cards and encouraging reading across the curriculum during a designated week). We have decided to run this event next year instead (February 2022), enabling us to build it in to the school calendar and build in the right amount of publicity and excitement within school, prioritising Read for Good as a fundraising event for Y7 and 8 students in that half term.
Taking part in a Read for Good sponsored read is a brilliant way to get reading and raising to help provide much-needed books and storytellers for your nearest major children’s hospital. If you would like more information about this, please visit www.readforgood.org to see how the money raised really helps.
In the meantime, we encourage you and your child(ren) to read for pleasure regularly and to share your love of reading with each other. The school library is always updating its stock so please ask your child to visit the library and browse the books which are available for them to borrow.