Dear Parent / Carer
January is often seen as a challenging month and it has definitely been that this year. However, as we enter February there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. The national vaccination programme is in full swing and the rates of infection are declining albeit stubbornly. The Prime Minister has said that if the conditions are right then schools could reopen on Monday 8th March. There is a huge amount of media noise about what this reopening will look like, which often is not helpful. What we do know is that schools will get two weeks’ notice before they do reopen to give them time to plan.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is quoted as saying ‘Plans are worthless but planning is everything.’ We are spending a lot of time planning!
Based on the above timeframe we should all be expecting an announcement on Monday 22nd February, which is also the date that Ofqual should be releasing the outcome of its consultation on the replacement for the summer exams. The Ofqual consultation closed on Friday 29th January with over 100,597 responses, nearly 47,000 of which came from young people who were due to sit exams in the summer. A ‘touch base’ letter was sent yesterday (1st February) from myself to parents and carers of those young people in Year 11 and the Upper 6th outlining what our plans are.
Our weekly newsletters and Twitter account (@TPS_Hitchin) aim to keep you informed of events in each year group and celebrate some of the excellent work going on. We are using both methods to share some of the work that is being submitted by students; selecting this can be a bit of a headache as there is such a high quantity of quality work being completed!
Each week we distribute Amazon vouchers to around 30 students who have been highlighted for the work they have done. If you feel your child is deserving of a Headteacher’s Commendation, please send an email to my PA Emma Sangster (Emma.Sangster@priory.herts.sch.uk) to nominate them and explain why. As a school we are always keen to celebrate the activities that you see as parents and that we do not. These do not have to be related to school – you may like to tell us about other notable achievements of theirs during lockdown.
Parent Governor election
We have conducted our first online parent election, with three parents having put themselves forward. I would like to thank all three parents for standing for election, which in itself shows commitment to supporting the school. Dr Helen Davies has been elected to the role of Parent Governor.
Safeguarding & Wellbeing
Throughout the periods of lockdown the school has continued to update students and parents about online safety. This week students will have watched an online safety assembly during tutor time. Prior to that parents were sent the following link to SSS Learning’s top 10 tips for supporting students’ mental health:
Please remember to encourage your child to use the 5-minute ‘respite’ at the end of each lesson to stretch, move about, grab a drink of water or give their eyes a brief rest from the screen.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the changing sleep patterns for some of our young people. This impacts on their learning and ability to focus on their lessons, whether virtual or not. Keeping to family routines has been a challenge for us all during the pandemic, but please help us by ensuring that your child is switching off their devices and going to sleep at a sensible time.
Where we are concerned that students are missing learning, our pastoral team will make calls and send emails to the relevant families to offer encouragement and support. We take registers each morning in form time and then for each and every lesson. Our pastoral team monitor these registers daily and act accordingly. We are mindful that there are sometimes good reasons for missed classes, but if you know in advance that your child will be absent for a particular class then it is very helpful for you to let us know.
Please remember that although students are not in school there are still staff here to help you with any concerns you may have about wellbeing and safeguarding. If you have any concerns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Priory is one of the Local Authority pilot testing schools where we share information on what is going well and areas for development. We have been testing staff members twice a week since we returned to school and children of key workers once a week. We have a dedicated team of 14 members of staff who have excelled themselves in making the process safe and secure. Whatever the Government decides in terms of how the testing programme will develop, The Priory will be at the forefront on any new initiative.
Reporting positive COVID cases
Please can you continue to report to the school when your child has had a positive COVID result (COVID19@priory.herts.sch.uk). This allows the pastoral team to notify teachers so that they are aware that a student might not be well enough to take part in their remote learning.
Free school meals
For those families entitled to free school meals we are currently issuing weekly vouchers via Edenred. Please can you check your email inbox and also your junk mail from Monday 1st February onwards. For the February half term the voucher will come from the school and follow the same process as those issued over Christmas. You will receive an email during the week outlining the process and will receive the voucher, again via email, from Friday 5th February onwards. If you have any questions please contact the Finance Office on 01462 622300 ext. 212.
Student engagement survey
Thank you to those students and families who took the time to complete our student engagement survey. This helps us gauge whether the lessons being delivered are well received, how our students are coping with their work and how their mental health is. We were pleased to see that almost all students reported that they were able to access their lessons and the digital provision. 85% of respondents stated that they are managing well with their work, although we are aware that some days are tougher than others and that there is a screen-fatigue element to be mindful of. We were pleased to see that 97% of students said they had been receiving feedback about their work. Where individuals have flagged up concerns they have been contacted directly.
There will be another student engagement survey next week so that we can compare results and where necessary fine-tune what we offer after half term.
Chromebooks Year 9
All Year 9 parents should have received a letter regarding the roll-out of the Chromebook scheme (this is not linked to devices loaned over lockdown). We are working on getting a brand new Chromebook in every student’s hands as soon as we safely can. When we hand out the Chromebooks we always plan an hour-long, teacher-led session that helps maintain students’ safety online and provides an understanding of the device and how best to treat it.
Should anyone still require a Chromebook or be struggling with their home internet connection, please get in touch: Neil.Parsons@priory.herts.sch.uk.
Post 14 pathways (Year 9)
For the second year in a row our Post 14 pathways programme has been hit by a lockdown. A huge amount of work has gone into this programme to ensure that students and parents have the right information to pick subjects on the allocated pathways. On Thursday 4th February the Post 14 pathways event will be made available online.
Mrs Nearney will be going through the application process in detail. Applications are made online via the SIMS Parent App, which can be found on the Parent Portal on the school website. If students or parents have any questions, please email Mrs Nearney at Faye.Nearney@priory.herts.sch.uk.
Year 11 Post 16 interviews
The next 5 months will be crucial for our Year 11 students in planning the next chapter of their educational journey. The key message for all students is that they need to engage fully with the work they have been set by their teachers. No matter where a student goes to continue their studies there will be entry requirements. As
Michael Jordan is quoted as saying, ‘If you do the work you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.’
All Year 11 students have had or will be having a 1:1 meeting with a member of staff to discuss their Post 16 choices. If any student needs support about a college place or apprenticeships, please contact Mrs Luckman at Lynne.Luckman@priory.herts.sch.uk.
This time last year a number of students were getting ready to go skiing in Northern Italy for the February half term. Little did we know how events would rapidly change to stop the spread of COVID-19. The school will be closed to all students during this half term break.
Please take care.