Lockdown 3 – Update for Parents and Carers

Dear Parents and Carers

I do hope you and your loved ones are all well. In Sir Ken’s absence, as he recovers from his operation, I wanted to share an update with you as we complete our second week of Lockdown 3. Please take a few minutes to go through this, as it may also address any concerns or questions you have. Thank you.

Attendance

The school remains open to Key Worker and Vulnerable Children, but we urge you to only send your child into school if you are unable to keep them at home. Of course, the children absolutely belong in school, but we must address the reality of how infectious the new variant of COVID-19 has become. We are constantly advised by the scientists and medical experts that everyone is a lot safer in their own homes. Therefore, regretfully, please do understand that the fewer students and staff we have in school, the better.

The numbers of students in school this week have been:

Monday: 81
Tuesday: 79
Wednesday: 76
Thursday: 71
Today (Friday): 67

The highest number of students in school in Lockdown 1, from March 2020, was 18 in one day – a huge difference, I think you will all agree.

Free School Meals

I am delighted that the Government has finally confirmed that students who are entitled to free school meals will indeed benefit from the national voucher scheme. We were about to provide the vouchers ourselves regardless, as final confirmation had been slow to come. Our families affected by this decision have all been contacted about the vouchers, which are back-dated to 4 January 2021.

COVID-19 Mass testing

You may be aware that secondary schools have been asked to offer mass testing of staff and students for COVID-19, and Harton has now rolled this out. Numerous staff have volunteered to support this mass testing, and, without them, we simply could not have put the Government’s plans into action. They have attended various online training sessions and we have also taken online assessments to ensure the testing of staff and children is conducted safely and reliably. I will not name all the staff involved, as there is always the risk that I miss one or two people out. However, we are extremely grateful to everyone who has enabled mass testing to take place, and I am certain you will also appreciate our efforts to reduce the spread of the virus within our local community. Parents and carers of children who are accessing our Key Worker and Vulnerable Children provision have now been contacted for their consent to their child being tested, and the testing of children starts next week. If you have yet to reply to our request for consent to this, I urge you to let us know ASAP whether you wish for your child to be tested. Thank you. This is two-fold process: children will be tested on either Monday 18 or Tuesday 19 January, followed by a second test later that same week. After this, because they are younger, they will only be tested if they are deemed to be a close contact of a positive case of COVID-19. In this instance, children in school would be tested every day for seven days. We have tested 39 staff today, and they all came back in the clear! Staff will have a weekly test.

Remote learning

  • Many thanks to all of you who are supporting your children with their remote learning. We have received some extremely positive and encouraging feedback regarding this provision, and are also grateful for any constructive comments, which we welcome. We are keen to improve this provision to further support your children’s progress. Our systems of monitoring student engagement are being constantly developed and these will form part of our forthcoming welfare calls home. We value the fact that parents (and older siblings!) are taking the time to check the quality of completed work before the students submit this to their teachers, as we know how busy many of you already are. Please do check with your children if they seem to have completed online work rather too quickly, as the standard of their work may not be as high as they are capable of!
  • Our website has a plethora of guidance material to support your children in accessing remote learning, and if they have subject-specific enquiries, we urge them to contact their teachers, whose email addresses are available on our website. The students ought to be checking their emails during the course of a school day.
  • If you are still experiencing technical issues, or do not feel you have suitable devices or connectivity, please email us at: ICTSupport@hartonacademy.co.uk, stating Technical Support in the email subject box. We have managed to get a very large number of additional laptops out to our students, and are keen to ensure that everyone is in a position to access remote learning opportunities. All parents have been issued with a log-in to our parental VLE account. This is useful for you, as we have added a Help and Support tab to the home page, which contains guidance on home learning at Harton, including some video tutorials. Please use the same email address (ICTSupport@hartonacademy.co.uk), stating Log-in details in the email subject box, if you have not received your log-in details.
  • This link may also prove useful, should you not have a fixed broadband connection: https://harton-tc.co.uk/harton-academy-news/urgent-mobile-data-offer

Examinations

  • Of the 22 candidates who re-sat their GCSE mathematics and/or English language examinations in November 2020, including those current Year 12 students, 50% have received an improved grade. Many congratulations to those students! I am sure they and their families are delighted with their achievements. No student was down-graded in the November examinations.
  • We have just completed the January 2021 vocational examination series, which the government made optional for students to sit. We are extremely proud that many of our students felt sufficiently prepared to sit these. We must emphasise to you that Government guidance states there will be no disadvantage or advantage to any students who have or have not taken the exam; their attendance can only count in their favour.
  • As for the Summer 2021 exams, I am sure you will be following the news on these, especially if your child is in Year 11 and Year 13. The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, has now announced that examinations will not be taking place, but will be replaced by centre-assessed grades, with “the possibility of providing externally set tasks or papers, in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students.” We will be asked to undertake quality assurance of our teachers’ assessments and provide reassurance to the exam boards. In Summer 2020, we did exactly this, and are confident in the robust nature of our quality assurance processes and teacher assessments of students’ work. We were extremely proud of how accurate our centre-assessed grades were last summer, so please be reassured that we will do all we can to support our students in their next steps, once they have completed Years 11 and 13.This is one of the many reasons why we need your children to engage in the remote learning opportunities as much as they can; their teachers need to be able to confidently assess their progress during this extremely unusual time in their lives. Unlike last year, when the exams were cancelled in May, we believe we have enough time to support our examination students between now and the summer in order to give those, who engage in the provision we offer, the support they need to make further progress.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy communication, and for your continued support.

In closing, I would also like to thank all my colleagues and our Governors and Directors for their assistance since the pandemic began. These times are challenging for us all and, whilst we will all get things wrong at times, we must emphasise how eager we are to continue to do all we can to support our families in the weeks and months ahead. Sir Ken has asked me to pass on his best regards to you all as well. He will be back in touch once he has recuperated a little, and probably sooner than the doctors would like!

My very best wishes to you and your loved ones. Stay safe.
Mr D. R. Amos

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