Message from the Principal
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Update & Information
Happy New Year to you all and I hope that you managed to enjoy a good break. I sincerely hope that you and your families are healthy and well, and that you have not been affected by the increasing prevalence of COVID in Somerset and the South West.
Whilst we knew that the start of term was going to look and feel a little bit different, last night’s announcement has put a different perspective on my ‘welcome to the Spring term’ message. Having not had any more information at all from the Department for Education (DfE), I only know what you know from last night’s broadcast and subsequent press releases. This is that we will be in lockdown for this half-term, as a minimum. Hopefully this amount of time with less movement of people around the country, and a successful vaccination roll-out, will be enough to ensure that we can safely open schools again. I know what a challenging time this will be for many and I’d imagine that whilst we understand the need for a lockdown, it will not make it any easier on us personally and collectively as families and a school community.
As in previous lockdowns, we are here for the students and here for you. All of the staff will be working incredibly hard to teach, support and guide your children as much, and as effectively, as we can. We would certainly prefer school to be open as it is less stressful and more enjoyable teaching face-to-face. Extra support is in place for anyone that needs it, whatever the issue may be, and we are more than happy to help with anything. Please do just ask if you need anything at all – there is no request too small, embarrassing or original for us! As always, staff email addresses and support pages are on our website: https://www.prestonschool.co.uk/ .
A couple of important messages/reminders:
We have to ensure that our young adults do not miss out on too much during this lockdown period. Work will be set in line with students’ timetables each day. All work will be on Google Classroom (GC), which is accessible via the Student and Family portals, or via the GC app. Students and staff can communicate through here as well so that any questions can be asked about the work. Staff will endeavour to do as many interactive lessons as possible. We realise that just setting work on GC is quite dry and we want to engage with the students as much as possible. These interactive lessons will come in a number of different ways:
a) pre-recorded lessons (these have the advantage of being able to be watched at any point and not just at the set lesson time)
b) live lessons when taught in real time by staff
c) staff available on Google Meet to explain the task and/or answer questions/misconceptions during the lesson
Different staff will do different things according to their tastes and preferences and those of the groups that they teach. I would ask you to be patient of teachers because as well as preparing, teaching and marking the work for your child(ren), they are also in school on a rota and often looking after their own children and family members simultaneously. Students will be made aware when there is going to be a live lesson, so that they can join through Google Classroom.
Please can we ask you to ensure that your child engages with and completes all of the work set for them. This should be ‘turned in’ on GC so that the teacher can see it, or emailed to them. The students who struggled the most coming back in to school were those who had not engaged properly with their learning, and we want to avoid this where we can. Again, if you are facing any difficulties with your child working then please do get in touch with their Academic Mentor (AM) or Learning Manager (LM).
As staff we are conscious of the amount of screen time that students and ourselves face during lockdown. Whilst work will be set online we will try and keep as much of it as possible away from a screen, to minimise the screen time.
Students do not have to do their Knowledge Organisers whilst we are in lockdown, but they are there if they would like to reference or use them to complete their work or as an extension/revision activity.
We all learned lessons during and after the last lockdown. To help support each other we have combined some of the best feedback/advice that we received from families on how to successfully negotiate lockdown:
- Keep a routine – having the same bed time and wake up time as a normal school day will hugely help regulate students’ bodies and minds.
- No phones at bed time massively promotes this!
- Try and keep to eating as healthily as possible and as regularly as if at school. This will help with energy levels for learning, as will regular exercise (within the government guidelines).
- Manage screen time sensibly as it can be an easy ‘go to’ for students during lockdown.
- Encourage students to be open about their work by discussing what work they have to complete each morning and check on their progress through the day. Celebrate successes with them and help where you can. You are not alone with this so please get in contact with the subject teacher if we can help at all.
- Acknowledge that your son/daughter may have some good days and some bad – just like in school and in life.
- Something as simple and enjoyable as reading together can be a nice way to engage with school work together.
As always, if we can help your child or yourself in any way please do get in touch.
Year 7 families
Welcome to your first (and hopefully last!) lockdown with us in secondary school. A couple of things to make you aware of:
If you haven’t already got access to the Family Portal, you can do this. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask log on details.
If you have any issues with IT access please also use the same email address. We have loaned out a lot of IT equipment to date and are happy to do so again if we can.
Lessons will be set each day, according to the normal timetable. Students should never spend more than the allocated time on each lesson. If the time is up then the lesson is up – we do not want them doing too much and taking too long to complete work.
If your child would like a new exercise book please email the relevant subject teacher and we can arrange for it to be left in reception for you.
If you would like more extension activities for your child (if they are regularly finishing within the lesson time) then please do contact the relevant class teacher.
If you would like some SEND/pastoral support for your child then please do get in touch with your son/daughter’s AM/LM.
The PSHE lesson each week will be a chance for students to catch up in their AM groups and chat on Google Meet. No work set but a chance to see each other, smile and do some fun activities.
If we can help in any way please get in touch with your child’s AM or Mr Hope, Year 7 LM.
Year 11 Families
As mentioned earlier, neither the DfE nor Ofqual have been in contact yet so I cannot tell you what “it’s not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer, as normal” actually means for your child. As soon as I am made aware then I will communicate this with you.
In the meantime, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for the Year 11 students to keep working to their full potential. I would imagine that some form of centre-assessed grades may play some part in determining the GCSE grades that the students are awarded. Given this, the teachers will require all of the work set to be handed in so that they can make an evidence-informed judgement on the grade that they believe the students to be working at. This is a time for working harder and having a good work ethic, not slacking off and seeing this time as an extension of the Christmas holidays, as tempting as that may be.
I will stay in touch each week via email and keep you up-to-date with any developments as we go. If you have any feedback or suggestions on how we can better support students and families then please do feel free to contact me or any one of us by email.
Thank you in advance for your work in helping school your child during the lockdown period. None of us are looking forward to it but each one of us benefit from giving it our all and making sure that our fantastic young people are as well schooled as possible. Thank you for the vital role that you will play in this.