Principal's Letter, 8 January 2021

As we reach the end of our first week of remote learning, I am writing to thank you for your continued patience and support. For many of us it will be very challenging, but we are now in a much better place to deliver our remote learning. I am not complacent and know there will be times when technology or other IT issues may interrupt your child’s learning. If this does occur we will endeavour to rectify the situation as soon as possible and all that I ask is that you contact our IT team ([email protected]) and are patient with us.

Year 11
The government announcement regarding the cancellation of this summer’s examinations may have been both disappointing and unsettling for your child, and for you. In spite of the disruption to the education of all children and young people over the last 10 months, our students have continued to work hard in preparation for exams this summer, with the promise of good grades that follow that commitment and diligence. Therefore, I understand that cancelling exams can be dispiriting.

The Government has said that grades will be awarded to exam-year students by a method of teacher or school assessment. The full details of exactly how that system will work have not yet been decided by the Government but it has confirmed that grades will not be adjusted or moderated by an algorithm, which caused such difficulties last summer; and training and support will be provided to teachers to ensure grades are awarded fairly and accurately. As soon as the final details have been decided, I will write again to you so that you are fully informed.

To summarise, grades will still be awarded – so I would urge your child to continue to remain as committed to their studies as they have always been. Your child should complete every piece of work set with the mindset and knowledge that this piece of work could be used to evidence their ability and define their ultimate grade. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of Year 11 students engaging with all work set.

Your support in ensuring that your child continues to work hard and engage fully with their studies from home is therefore more important than ever, and I would like to thank you for continuing to help us make this as successful as possible.

Year 9 Options
We have had a number of queries this week about year 9 options. We will be adhering to our timeline for options. A virtual meeting with parents and carers will be set up for the afternoon of 11th February and further information will be provided in due course. Mrs McHale, Year 9 Director of Learning, and tutors will be available to support fully with queries during the options process.

Covid 19 Lateral Flow Tests
On Monday we will begin testing staff and keyworker and vulnerable students who are on site. We recognise that such testing is not something most students will be familiar with and will thoroughly outline the process and answer any questions before taking them to the ‘Test Centre’ that we now have in place. Staff have undertaken the NHS training and will be sympathetic to the needs of test subjects.

Although the majority of students are not currently in school, the testing will expand to the wider community once the government allows us to reopen the academy. Therefore, if you have not yet completed the consent form issued on 4th January, I would urge you to do so. There is a significant amount of administration required to set up the testing and it would be helpful to be able to plan in advance. For ease of access, the e-consent form can be accessed here. Tests are voluntary and your consent is required. If you would like to read my full letter which contained a lot of information about the testing, it can be found here. Can I ask that only one parent completes the e-consent form for each child.

IT Survey
We are aware that some students are struggling to access remote learning, perhaps due to a lack of broadband at home, or insufficient mobile data or a lack of available device. The following survey aims to identify families who may be eligible for support from the government with mobile data, or if not who the academy may be able to seek support for from the Trust. If you believe you fit the above criteria, please complete this form https://forms.gle/1Stw4qWfrkLJbcx47 and we will do our best to support you.

Free School Meals
Unlike the first lockdown, the Government is not issuing free school meal vouchers to eligible families this time. However, as an academy we always strive to support our families and therefore are choosing to issue vouchers from school funds to families who are registered to receive FSM. Can I ask families who are in receipt of these to ensure that they spend them as they cannot be refunded back to us if not used.

Tutor Day Appointments
We will be holding an academy wide Tutor Day on Thursday 21st January. One of the activities planned for the day is an appointment between tutor, tutee and parent. Next week, we will issue our usual appointment booking system for you to book a session with your child’s tutor that is convenient to you. Please make a note of the date in the first instance; it is my hope that you will be able to join a brief appointment at some point between 8.30am and 3.30pm on that day.

National Lockdown Guidance
If you have not already discussed the guidance and advice from the government that we must all adhere to during lockdown to protect each other, especially concerning being outside of our home environments and who we can meet, please visit the following website for further guidance and discuss it with your child: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home.

Letter from the Director of Education and Skills for West Sussex
I have received and am attaching a letter to parents and carers from Paul Wagstaff, Director of Education and Skills for West Sussex.

Thank you
Finally, I would like to end my letter by repeating my thanks to you for your ongoing support. We are all, whether students, parents or teachers, dealing with this exceptionally difficult period so well and I have found this sense of solidarity and community inspiring. Please do continue to help your child engage with their education as much as possible – the efforts that they, and you, put into these studies will bear fruit in the future. It will be worth it.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do let me know and we will support as best we can.

Mr P Slaughter, Principal