Heads Blog 6/11/2020

Hello everyone. I hope that you are well and coping as we move back into lockdown. I know that the struggles associated with Covid, physical and mental health, economic impact and so many other challenges are affecting members of our community just as they are seen around the whole country. In that context, I thank you once again for your continued support of the work of colleagues in school and I say once again how incredibly well your children are mastering the circumstances.

This month is a time of remembrance, starting as it did with All Saints and All Souls days. We are of course also approaching remembrance Sunday. While we have not been able to run our mass of remembrance in the normal way, we have adapted. Mrs Otieno led a beautiful service of remembrance with staff this week, in which we prayed for all those people connected with our community, known or unknown to us, who have died. Mr Neal and the chaplaincy team have also prepared an online service which will be shared with all students during extended form time next week, so that even if we can’t be physically together, we can be in community remembering those who have gone before us in prayer and fellowship.

Form time will be extended throughout the whole of next week to allow some extra room for all students to spend on some of the themes that are part of our personal development curriculum. For students in Y8 and Y11 who have decisions about what to study next year, this will be a particular focus. This curriculum runs through the year and is picked up in a range of different lessons, tied together through form time and virtual assemblies. Please do talk to you children about what they have been focusing on.

Thank you to all parents who attended the online information evenings that took place this week. We are really grateful for the opportunity to share with you some of the key things that we know from experience are important to life in school and your engagement and support is as always so appreciated. We hope that those who have attended the evenings so far have found them helpful and that they have answered any questions you may have.

Online information evenings are still to come for Y8, Y10 and Y11 at the times noted below. If you have a child in one of these year groups, you will receive an email with a link to join the webinar. They will also be recorded, so that you can catch up later if you miss it on the evening. There is an opportunity if you join live to ask questions via the chat function.

Y8 – Tue 10th Nov (5pm)
Y10 – Tue 10th Nov (6pm)
Y11 – Wed 11th Nov (5:30pm)



Virtual Sixth Form Open Morning
On Saturday 14th November, we will be running our virtual 6th form open morning. If you have a child in Y11 who is thinking about their next steps, or if you know of friends or family members who are considering 6th form options, then please accept our invitation to join this event.

While we can’t have people coming to look around the site and speak to staff and students in person, the 6th form team have been working hard to offer the same experience via our website.

There will be presentations from Mr Birch, Head of 6th form as well as presentations from students and from subject teachers. You will also find out how you can ask questions and get more information to help you to make your choice about 6th form study.

To access the virtual open morning, please visit our website on Saturday 14th November. Things will go live from 10am, but you can of course get onto the website before that time if you wish.



Parents’ Evenings
This half term we have the first parents’ evenings of the year on the calendar. We intend to go ahead on those dates, though we will not be able to have parents coming to school in person. Instead we will be using some online software that will enable you to book appointments for video meetings with your child’s teachers. You will receive more information about what you need to do by email in the coming weeks and we will also add a guide on our website.

For reference, parents’ evenings this half term are:
Y12 Parents’ Evening – Thus 26th November
Y7 Parents’ Evening – Tue 8th December


Email contact information
Important information is often sent via email from school so please could all parents and carers check the e-portal details held for their child/ren. In particular please check that there is an up to date and valid email address which is checked regularly and that this email address is entered on our system as the point of contact 1 email. This is more important than ever with current disruption to other ways of working and an increased reliance on online communication.


Home Learning Site
As promised in the Blog before the half term, the Home Learning Section of our website has been updated and is now live. I have included a link below for convenience.

Through this site, students can find a simplified plan of the curriculum in each subject for each week this half term. It explains what all students will be revising from previous work and what new learning they will do. It also explains the activities that will support this learning and where students can access activities and support if they find that they have to work from home at any time. Of course, the site is available for students to use to support their study even when coming in to school as normal and is, for example, a helpful revision resource for students who have exams this year.

The home learning section of the website can be found here; https://homelearning.notredame-high.co.uk/


Letter from the Bishop
I have included with this Blog a copy of a letter from Bishop Ralph, to parents of all children in Catholic schools in our Diocese.


Summary of guidance from the government for schools during lockdown period
With the move back into lockdown, I thought it would be helpful to share with you a brief summary of the government guidance that all schools received late on Wednesday of this week. This explains what differences there will be to schooling during this period of increased restrictions. As you will see, there are no big changes. I have added my own notes in places highlighting what we are doing in response to the guidance.

Please do be assured that we continue to respond to all national and local guidance and that I, with other Head Teachers in the city, have regular opportunities to catch up with the director of Public Health for Sheffield and the public health team.


Face coverings and the possibility of school closures or rotas
Face coverings will be mandatory in communal areas of secondary schools and colleges. They will still not be recommended in classrooms. This guidance has been at Notre Dame since September in line with local public health guidance, so no change for us. We will continue to build reminders into our routines with students. Thank you for continuing to support this at home.

Face coverings will be mandatory for pupils in Year 7 and over on dedicated school transport. Again, this is no change for us as this has already been in place and we have duty staff to supervise students onto busses and greet them coming off busses. Duty staff are reminding students about coverings and we liaise with the bus companies to follow up with any individuals who are not wearing them during the journey.

This is not mentioned in the guidance itself, but we understand from discussions with the DfE that no school will be asked to implement a rota system for students during the lockdown. Instead, the expectation is that schools remain fully open, with the obvious expectation of isolation for anyone who has Covid symptoms, has tested positive or is a contact of someone who has tested positive.


Clinically extremely vulnerable staff and pupils
Both staff and pupils who have been identified by their doctor as still considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), will be advised not to come into school. The government guidance on shielding and CEV people has been updated to reflect this position. We will provide remote learning for any pupils in this category. Pupils and adults should know if they are in this category as they will have received a letter or been told directly by their doctor. Anyone who was expecting to be in this category can check the guidance in the link above and, if they feel that they should be in the category, they should speak to their GP.

Pupils and staff who live with people who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, but are not Clinically Extremely Vulnerable themselves, can and should still come into school.


Curricular and extra-curricular activities
PE, sport, music, dance and drama lessons can continue in line with the current guidance – during school time. Our PE department are looking at the updated guidance with colleagues from the senior management team to identify if and where changes are needed to our current curriculum.

Schools must only provide team sports listed on the return to recreational team sport framework. Competition between different schools or colleges should not take place.

Schools are able to work with external coaches, clubs and organisations for curricular activities where they are satisfied that it is safe to do so. We have a risk assessment process in place for this.

The current series of exam resits should continue.