Headteacher's Blog 15/01/2021

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Head Teacher’s Blog 15th January 2021

Yesterday evening we had our Remote Prize Night for last year’s Y11 students. I certainly found it to be a really powerful evening. First, it was great to see such a high proportion of the year group represented, with 150 families logging in to the event. We were particularly delighted to welcome parents of Louis, the student who sadly died during Y11.

We were joined once again by Faye Smith, mother of Gabi who sadly died 7 years ago when she was a student in Y7 at Notre Dame. Since Gabi’s death and in her memory, Faye presents a friendship prize each year. She spoke again last night, as she has in the past, so powerfully about her daughter and about the power of friendship. It was incredibly moving and particularly good to be able to award this year’s prize to Louis’s friends to recognize their friendship and also in memory of Louis and the friendship that binds them all still.

Mr Lacey, who moved on to be an Assistant Head at High Storrs school three years ago also joined the evening as he had been Head of Year to last year’s Y11 students before he moved on. He spoke very powerfully about the way in which those students had continually shown the ability to grow and be formed not only by the joys, but also by the challenges. He talked about the way in which diamonds in their character were being formed under the pressure and stresses that they experienced and rightly encouraged them not to believe the lie that they are somehow a ‘lost generation’.

This certainly resonated with me, based on my experience talking to students, staff and parents. Amidst undoubted challenges and some really tough times through lockdown, I am also struck time and time again by the ability to continually learn and adapt to life. There are so many ways in which it is clear that people are finding to say that while things are not the same, that different doesn’t have to mean worse.

If you had told me a year ago, for example, that schools would be shut in January at short notice and that 90% of students would be logged on for remote form time on the first day of school, I’m not sure I would have believed you. The level of engagement and, not just engagement, but evidence of learning that we continue to see from students over this time is remarkable, though perhaps on reflection could have been expected.

Of course, there are students who are not coping so well and those who are not engaging. We will continue to do all we can to do our bit to help change that. Your feedback, both where things are working well and where they’re not, is really helpful to us in the way that we learn and adapt. We are also carrying out a weekly survey with students to help us understand what their experience of lockdown is like, including how they’re getting on with home learning. This again helps guide what we do.

Looking ahead, we plan to run our normal programme remotely as far as possible. Teachers are following the normal curriculum and we will be running parents’ evenings and the option’s information evenings on the dates planned, albeit online rather than in person.

We will also be trying to maintain the spiritual and prayer life of the school. One particular event in our liturgical calendar this term is our remembrance of the holocaust, or Shoah as it is known by many. Normally, we would have a service which follows the format used across the world on Holocaust Memorial Day where we remember the events of the 2nd World War and reflect too on wherever else there has been and continues to be hate and persecution of any group of people by another. It is always very powerful and very respectfully observed by students. We can’t do it in the normal way this year, but Mr Scriven and Mr Neal are working on a way we can join together to remember, pray and learn from these themes this year. One potential benefit of the lockdown is that some parents who are working from home may also be able to join with us. I know that many families appreciated being able to join our Advent services together in a way that they could not normally do.

Before I move onto notices from other members of our community, I just want to touch on the news that GCSE and A Level exams will not go ahead this year. This is something I know that Y11, Y13 and Y10 students will be getting to grips with, each in their own way. We are awaiting the guidance and rules that will inform the teacher assessment which will be used to award grades. I understand that for many, this period of uncertainty is particularly hard.

We have now heard about Gavin Williamson’s letter to Ofqual about the steps he wants them to take. We know that there will be a consultation that we will be able to take part in and that consultation will itself give us all some guidance about the approach Ofqual will likely take. We also know that Gavin Williamson talked in his letter about the possibility of some assessment material provided by exam boards in the future to help teachers gather more evidence in a consistent way to reach a decision about final exam grades.

All of this begins to make the way forward a little clearer, though there will still be many questions that are not yet answered. I and my colleagues would therefore say that the right thing for students to do is what they are doing – continue with their courses, following guidance from teachers to get better in each subject. This will not be wasted.

There is a note below from Mr Coats about the upcoming monitoring grades. There will be more information about those grades that comes out with the monitoring, especially for Y11 and Y13 students and those Y10’s who would have had exams this summer.

Y13 grades will continue to reflect what teachers think students are on track for if exams had gone ahead, based on the evidence we have seen in your work to date. There may be changes in the future to reflect any change in the way in which students will be assessed, but if this is the case, we will do all we can to ensure that students understand those changes and, most importantly, what to do about them.

Students in Y11 and Y10 who sat assessments before the Christmas break will receive the grades achieved in those assessments. Again, we want to emphasize that these grades are not the important thing, particularly because they are not comparable to previous assessments for previous year groups given how much is different this year. In short, the grades on their own tell us very little about the likely final teacher assessed grade for the course. The assessments simply give some new information to teachers and students about where there are obvious strengths and areas to work on, revealed by assessing in a different way. It is that information and the way it guides students and teachers in the next steps for them to take to improve their knowledge, skill and understanding.

Onto the other notices. It is particularly lovely to have a notice from Mr O’Connor, who many of you will remember well as our former longstanding head of History. I hope that you will be able to help with his appeal.


Free School Meal Vouchers

The government have today announced the resumption of the Edenred voucher scheme with effect from next week. Edenred will allow us to order vouchers during next week, that will then be delivered as ecodes to eligible families.

Staff at school are contacting all those families who we believe are eligible for Free School Meals provision to check that we have the right contact details and email addresses. Without these we cannot get the ecodes to you.

We will be issuing one voucher per family that will be calculated as a single voucher to cover all eligible secondary age children for the four week period 18th January to 12th February inclusive.

We will also be arranging a separate voucher to retrospectively cover the 8 school days from 6th Jan to 15th Jan inclusive. This will be sent separately as a supermarket voucher to you – staff at school will again be contacting families we believe are eligible to arrange this.

Free School Meals will continue to be available for students who are coming into school during the lockdown period.

If we have not contacted you about Free School Meal vouchers and you believe that your children are eligible please contact sgiles@notredame-high.co.uk


Message regarding teacher assessed grades from Mr Coats:

At the time of writing we are still waiting for direction from the Department for Education as to how we should arrive at teacher assessed grades in the summer for those students taking GCSEs and A Levels.

We know this uncertainty is unsettling for everyone. While we wait to receive direction here, our priority is supporting each of our students to focus on getting better in each subject. By getting better in each subject it means that, no matter how schools are asked to generate teacher assessed grades, our students will be putting themselves in the best possible position to do well in the summer.

Monitoring reports will be available on eportal on Wednesday 20th. These are reporting back on last half term. We want to be clear what these are reporting so that there is no confusion around significance of what is being reported in the context of teacher assessed grades that we will be asked to submit in the summer.

Monitoring reports will be available from Wednesday 20th January. These will be accessible via eportal. We will not be able to provide paper copies on Wednesday as we normally do.

So that your child is able to access their monitoring report on Wednesday, please ensure that you know your eportal login and password details. If you have lost these please contact sgiles@notredame-high.co.uk before Wednesday.


Update on Covid testing in school

We have now began routine Covid testing for staff who are regularly in school during lockdown. We will also be able to begin offering the option of daily testing as an alternative to isolation for staff or students identified as contacts in school of anyone who has a positive test for Covid.


Reminders for students coming into school

Don’t come in with Covid symptoms. Stay at home if have sickness or dioreah

Follow normal expectations in school; Wash hands or sanitise on arrival, when entering or leaving a room and before and after break and lunch time. Wipe down desk and keyboard before and after use. Sit in your place on seating plan. Maintain distance where you can. Wear face coverings on corridors.

Please do let us know if your child was expected to be in and then is not coming in, particularly in the case of poor weather.


Message from Mr O’Connor ( Retired History Teacher)

I have decided to attempt to write up some thoughts and memories of all of the trips that I went on with the students, especially the Battlefield Trips.

A request to past pupils who would be willing to share some memories of the battlefields trip. Also for parents of students who may have made the journey. What did your children make of it? Did you ever return as a family?

I would be delighted to hear your memories.

If you could please send these to pparkergiblin@notredame-high.co.uk they will be forwarded on to me.

Many thanks
Shaun O’Connor


Healthier together website:

Sheffield City Council have asked schools to highlight the ‘Healthier Together’ websitehttps://sybhealthiertogether.nhs.uk/. The resources on the website have been developed in partnership between parents and healthcare professionals from across Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and Bassetlaw. The healthier together website provides clear information on common childhood illnesses including advice for parents and carers on
- what 'red-flag' signs to look out for
- where to seek help if required
- what you should do to keep your child comfortable and how long your child's symptoms are likely to last.

A group, led by Nicola Jay, Consultant Paediatric Allergist at Sheffield Children’s, has developed the website and it is hoped that it will be useful for members of the public and also professionals to access information on pathways, and also signpost for self-care advice.


Sleep support

The Sheffield Parent Carer Forum have been working with colleagues in the Local Authority and NHS to pull together some information about support with children’s sleep problems – to access this please click on the following link: http://www.sheffielddirectory.org.uk/kb5/sheffield/directory/advice.page?id=5uj4c05oMyY


Family Centres
Please see attached with this Blog Family Centre opening times and contact numbers.

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