Lockdown 3 – Update for Parents and Carers

Dear Parents and Carers

I do hope you and your loved ones are all well.

Here is an update for you all as we move into Lockdown 3. It feels like recent history is repeating itself far too quickly at the moment!

1. Key Worker and Vulnerable Children

We are open for parents and carers to send their children into school by prior arrangement, but only if there is no other option for you. The purpose of the Lockdown is to stop the spread of the virus, new strains of which are now more prolific than last year’s.

Therefore, if you do not need to send your child in, please do not. However, we are very happy to see the students who need to be in school, and they are doing incredibly well. Staff are on-hand to support them with the remote learning that they would otherwise be doing at home. Hot lunches are provided, so please do remember to top up your child’s lunch card. For children in receipt of free school meals, they simply collect their food and scan their card in the usual way. On Tuesday 5th, we welcomed 63 children, and on Wednesday 6th, we had 70 in school. They were supervised in year group bubbles of a maximum of 15 in ICT rooms.

2. Mass Testing

We have signed up to be part of the national, rapid testing scheme, and have numerous members of staff who have very kindly volunteered to support this huge undertaking. They need to sit various assessments and pass mini exams (a couple of us have to sit all the exams!)! As we are now in Lockdown, the Government wishes us only to test staff who are in school and any in-school close contacts of a positive case of COVID-19. Staff testing will comprise one test, followed by a second three to five days later, and then followed by weekly tests. Currently, your child will only be tested if they are in school and identified as a close contact. The Government remain keen to mass-test all students, and we are awaiting further details about this. In any case, we will seek consent before testing, and students do not have to be tested.

3. Remote Learning

We know that this can be a challenging affair for students and their families, and we have responded as quickly as possible to any queries. Should children still have difficulty in accessing our VLE or any on-line lessons, which take place, then please contact the school on ICTsupport@hartonacademy.co.uk. We will ensure that all students have laptop and wireless access or alternatively will look to accommodate them in school alongside the key worker and vulnerable children temporarily. It is essential that students continue to engage with their teachers and it was disappointing to note that only 11 out of 64 attended live lessons this morning in one subject. It has been confirmed this afternoon that teachers’ predicted grades will be used once again this summer. We will continue to assess students as best we can, either remotely or once they return to school. It is therefore imperative that all students, particularly exam classes in years 11 and 13, engage with all work set, as teachers will be using all available evidence to assist with final assessment grades in June.

4. Harton-specific

Sir Ken is booked in for surgery next week, and is now at home, self-isolating and listening to the Secretary of State for Education and providing feedback for this communication. He had put this surgery off on three separate occasions, prioritising the school’s needs over his own. Now seems like the ideal time for him to, for once, put himself first. If the surgery goes ahead, he will be out of action for a short while, and has asked me to step into his metaphorical shoes. I am glad it is only metaphorical; mine are a size 7, his are not! I am sure you will all join me in wishing him the best of luck next week.

5. Free School Meals

The Government has also announced the reintroduction of a voucher scheme for those students who are not currently in school, but who are entitled to receive free school meals. We will update you the moment we have more information on this important matter.

6. Examinations

The Secretary of State for Education announced earlier this afternoon that:

  • As stated above, the Government position is that they will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A-levels. Working alongside Ofqual, the Department for Education (DfE) will consult on how to award all pupils a grade that reflects the hard work they have done and will continue to do.
  • The BTEC exams are to go ahead at the schools’ and colleges’ discretion and the following statement was issued late last night by the Examination Boards:

If your college or school decides to offer exams, you will be able to run your external assessments as planned and if your school or college decides not to offer vocational exams, we have agreed the following with Ofqual and the DfE to ensure that no learner is disadvantaged.

  • We will certificate any learner who is unable to take their exams and has enough evidence to receive a certificate that they need for progression.
  • Learners unable to take their assessment this January may be able to take their assessment at a later date. If that is not possible, we will put in place arrangements to ensure no learner is disadvantaged. 

As ever, at Harton, we have given this much careful consideration and Sir Ken spoke to all other South Tyneside heads late last night and then again this morning. We are happy to hold the exams for those who have studied hard for them over recent days and weeks, and feel they may benefit from attempting the exams. To ensure we are fully prepared for this, we ask that any students who wish to sit any of their forthcoming examinations let us know in advance by email to GMorton@hartonacademy.co.uk confirming candidate name and examination. However, it is important to realise that no student will be disadvantaged by not taking the exams and our priority is ensuring the safety of our families.

We will continue to provide regular updates to all stakeholders and would like to thank you for your continued support and understanding.

Very best wishes,
David Amos (Head of School) & Sir Ken (remotely!)