Letter from headteacher to parents

This is a copy of a letter sent to all parents and carers today.

27th April 2020

Dear Parent/Carer,

On behalf of the Leadership Team and all staff at the school, we hope that your family is safe and well and we would like to thank you for your support of the school during this time.

We are all working hard together to adapt to working in different contexts and the challenges that brings, whilst wanting to communicate ever changing information from the Government coherently to our community; thank you for your patience as we navigate this unchartered territory. We really appreciate how you are all embracing ‘home learning’ with your own children and thank you for the positive way in which you are asking questions and seeking further support from the school.

Fifteen schools days have passed since the government officially closed schools for the majority of our children. Social distancing has had a direct impact on all of us and adjustments are constant.

There have been some unhelpful speculations released by the press about schools and colleges and so I thought I would use this time to outline where we are as a school community. I am in twice weekly conference calls with other Head teachers across Devon and the Head of Education for the local authority Dawn Stabb, and we are helping to shape our responses to the governments’ priorities within a local context.

Schools/colleges re-opening
There is lots of discussion at both national and local government levels about the prospect of schools re-opening. However, the government are clear that in order to begin to lift some of the social distancing and lock down restrictions there are 5 clear tests that need to be passed before this is considered and therefore before we can begin to see school gates unlocked;

1) Making sure the NHS can cope
2) A ‘sustained and consistent’ fall in the daily death rate
3) Rate of infection decreasing to ‘manageable levels’
4) Ensuring supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand
5) Being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak

Sadly, there is currently no immediate plan to re-open schools. However, as you can imagine discussions are taking place about what that might look like when we are notified. It is important that as a community we are all clear about how the school will function post lock down, whilst we still may need to adhere to some, or all, existing social distancing rules.

Home learning
Thank you for all your efforts in supporting your son/daughter through the last 3 school weeks. Families having to adjust, suddenly finding themselves all working from home is a challenge and it is important at this time that we aren’t too hard on ourselves and our children.

Feedback from parents and students has resulted in me asking staff to set slightly less work for our students than we had previously been doing. We all know that in a normal 50 minute lesson students do not work independently for the entire time. There is often class discussion/group work/board work etc., so from Monday 27th April we are asking teachers to set a 30min learning episode for a 50min lesson and 60 minutes if your son/daughter has a double lesson.

Learning at home is very different than being in school and we are recommending that children study between 3 to 3.5 hours a day.

In addition to this and to support our students further we are going to be using Microsoft teams as our learning platform. Mr Wright-Stainton has produced comprehensive tutorial videos for students about how to use Microsoft teams. Hopefully you and your children should have received a letter last week by email or post about using the system. The letter includes links to the videos and we hope you find them useful. If you have not received this letter please let our admin team know (email admin@tiverton.devon.sch.uk or phone the main school number) and they will get it out to you.

Please be reassured that we know all families are working within different contexts and facing lots of challenges and additional pressures; we are ensuring that the learning provision is accessible for all so includes some traditional booklet/worksheet resources as well as a move to offer some online ‘virtual’ learning.

If you have any further questions about specific work, please do not hesitate to email the subject teachers directly for advice and support. If you have a more general query, then please email your son/daughter’s tutor in the first instance.

Below are some reminder ‘Top Tips’ on how to continue to create a positive learning environment at home for your child.

Top Tips

Be realistic about what you can do
• You are not expected to become teachers and your children are not expected to learn as they do in school. Simply providing your children with some structure at home will help them to adapt.
• Check in with your children and try to keep to the timetable, but be flexible. If a task/activity is going well or they want more time, let it extend where possible.
• If you have more than one child at home, consider combining their timetables. For example, they might exercise and do mathematics together – see what works for your household.
• Designate a working space if possible, and at the end of the day have a clear cut-off to signal school time is over.
• Distinguish between weekdays and weekends, to separate school life and home life.
• Read the Weekly Bulletin as this will contain school updates but also ideas on enrichment activities to support physical and mental health.
• Let the school know if your son/daughter is unable to access work or has limited computer access. We can provide paper-based resources.

Activities week and work experience
Sadly, both of these events have been cancelled due to the uncertainty of the length of the lock down and expectations around social distancing, should schools re-open before the end of the summer term.
Families who have paid deposits and instalments for activities week please bear with us as we will have to recoup these from the tour operators/attractions. Refunds will be provided but there will be a delay. The finance department at school will provide updates as appropriate.
Ambassador/Head Boy/Head Girl appointments process
Normally the summer term is when year 10 students put themselves through the gruelling process of applying for a position as an Ambassador. Then from this field we appoint the Head boy/Head girl and their deputies.
Clearly we cannot pursue formal interviews at the moment but we will be in touch with year 10 shortly to ask for those who are interested in the role of Ambassador to submit their letter of application, as this can be done whilst home learning is taking place.
Please do contact us at the school if you feel we can do any more to support you during this time. Ultimately, the most important thing to us is the wellbeing of the children, their family, our staff and our wider community.
Please continue to stay safe.
Yours sincerely

Sammy Crook
Head