After the positive first term we had under the circumstances, I didn't really think I would be writing a letter to you so early in this term regarding a national lockdown. However, the increased infection rates across the country have meant that the government has needed to act. The government have told us that “the single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives”. As you are aware, for our school this means that we remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until at least February half term. I was so proud of our whole school community during the first National Lockdown. Staff, students and parents pulled together and displayed great resilience; I know we can do the same again.
This time around there will an increased rigour to the remote learning and this will be linked directly to your child’s timetable. Fortunately, at North Gosforth Academy, remote learning through Frog means that students can access learning, usually through expertly designed learning tasks, Oak National Academy lessons, or narrated PowerPoints. Please see the detailed guide to Remote Learning written by Mr Fryer which can also be found on our website here; this will solve most of the problems or issues that you may encounter. It is important that students work to a set routine, led by their timetabled lessons and in a quiet, appropriate space at home. Teachers are available for support during your timetabled lesson and you or your son/daughter can make contact with them via email. Teachers have been instructed to make contact with any students not completing work as it is compulsory for them to complete it- just as it would be in school.
Students need to upload their work, or email it to teachers, at the end of the day so that they can receive feedback to their learning.
We have had a positive start to the remote learning experience and students have started sending work back to be assessed. Students can obtain RICH certificates for the work they have completed as we want to help motivate students through this difficult time. I will endeavour to comment on the best work whenever I can. For the first few days, can I congratulate Miss Wilkinson’s class who have sent back photos of the scones made during their Food Technology Lesson. They look fantastic as you can see below! A huge well done to Chloe Weightman, Kieran Harris, Michael Curry, Gracie-Mae Bradshaw, Jayden Barnes and Connor McGregor!
This was an area that worked particularly well during last lockdown and we will make sure that it is even better this time around. There will be a weekly wellbeing call made to every household to check how well things are going and whether there is anything we can help with. Some households will receive 2 or 3 calls per week. Please be aware that if there is a ‘Withheld Number’ then it may be from the school so please answer it. We want to ensure that students are coping, not just with their work, but also with the challenges faced with lockdown and isolation. Calls will predominately be made by your child's Head of Year. Calls will also be made by our SEN department and other members of staff.
Free School Meal Provision
This is now in place and parents can collect their weekly provision from the school each week on a Monday or Tuesday. This seems to be working better than the daily collection of sandwiches. If there are any queries with this, then please email the school at email@example.com. There was discussion in Parliament today of the return of the free school meals vouchers; we have no further information on this at the current time but will share this with you as we receive it.
A reminder that Friday 8th January is a Training Day - this has been in the school calendar since the start of the year. We will be covering important Safeguarding Training as well as working on the new Covid testing regime that schools will operate from after half term. Please be aware that there will be no critical worker/vulnerable provision on that day and that no remote learning will be set.
Year 11 and Examinations
The Secretary of State has confirmed that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE examinations this summer. Ofqual will consult next week on how to fairly award all pupils with a grade to ensure they can progress to the next stage of their lives.
We will of course let you know when anything further is announced but as you are aware, the situation with this is extremely fluid and new information often arrives on a daily basis. Public exams and vocational assessments scheduled to take place in January can go ahead as planned, however we are contacting students and parents affected directly to discuss their options. The mock examinations for Year 11 timetabled for next week have been postponed until students can return to school.
This is undoubtedly a difficult and anxious time for Year 11 students. It is a shame that they will be denied their usual examination experience as they have worked extremely hard and we were expecting very good results. However, it is more important than ever that Year 11 students put the maximum effort into their studies and aim to produce work of the highest quality. They still have their GCSEs to achieve and it is crucial that they do not give up now. Whichever method the government uses to award grades, it will certainly be based on hard evidence. This means that any assessed work from now could potentially contribute to final grades. Mr Ayres will be in touch with Year 11 students shortly to explain arrangements for those students who would like to find out more information about Gosforth Academy Sixth Form and to arrange some face to face appointments after half term.
Vulnerable students and children of critical workers
The Government have said that vulnerable students and children of critical workers can attend school. If any vulnerable students and children of critical workers have no other alternative and need to attend school please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Critical Worker/Vulnerable student’ in the subject heading, stating which days you require your child to attend school.
Students who are in school will be supervised to complete their remote learning but will NOT be in normal lessons. Vulnerable children include those with education, health and care (EHC) plans and those who have a social worker (including children in need, children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by the local authority). Critical workers are those in the following critical sectors: Health and Social Care i.e., NHS staff, care workers and social workers; Education and Child Care i.e., nursery and teaching staff; Key Public Services i.e., justice system, religious staff, journalists; Local and National Government; Food and other necessary goods i.e., those involved in production, distribution, sale and delivery of food and hygiene goods; Public Safety and National Security i.e., Emergency services, prison; Transport i.e., rail, road and freight transport; Utilities, Communication and Financial services i.e., postal workers, banks, building societies, waste disposal.
Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need to do so. You only need to let us know if your child absolutely needs to attend school because they are vulnerable and/or you are a critical worker.
As you will be aware, schools across the country will be undertaking testing after February half term. Although Gosforth Group have a strategy in place for fulfilling the roles required, we would be happy to hear from any volunteers in the community, such as parents or ex-students, who would be interested in helping out. If you would like to know more about what is required please contact email@example.com.
Finally, I would like to say that better times lie ahead. As a school, we are desperate to get back to normality and to focus on what we do best. This is a testing time for all of us, but we will endure, and I am confident that come Spring the worst of this will be behind us.
With very best wishes