Head Teacher’s Blog 17th July 2020
Here we are at the end of an extraordinary school year. Clearly, things will continue to change for some time yet, but at least, as we stand, we are able to look forward to all the students returning in September.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all parents on behalf of the school staff and on behalf of your children. In many conversations I have had, I have heard the ways in which people have tried to juggle all the demands of life in lockdown while helping their children to engage with home learning. As a Dad myself, I know that we do these things because we love our children, but there are also countless examples of the ways in which you have acted to support the work of the school and we really appreciate that.
We also really appreciate the time that so many of you have taken to send messages of support, thanks and positive feedback to different colleagues in school. That encouragement has made a world of difference, particularly when times have been most trying and people have been most tired.
Goodbye to some members of staff
At this time of year, we always say goodbye to some colleagues and this year is no different. This year we have a few long standing members of staff who are retiring, having given tremendous service to our school over the years:
Mr Wilkinson who served for many years as Head of Music and who has continued to teach KS3 students, offer piano teaching and provided incredible support to the extra-curricular and liturgical life of our school since stepping down from that role.
Mr Johnson who served for many years as an outstanding Head of Year and in the last couple of years, has focused on his other role as a Biology teacher.
Mr Sides served as Head of Maths for a number of years, leading an incredible development of the teaching of maths at Notre Dame. He has gone on to share his vision through leadership of the Maths Hub in recent years, working to improve the quality of maths education across the region.
Mrs Dalrymple has taught Spanish throughout her career at Notre Dame and was key to its introduction as part of our curriculum. She has also played a significant role in the development of extra-curricular opportunities and experiences in languages.
Mr Cain joined the school as Assistant Head of Ethos and as part of that role he led the RE department through an incredible time of development. He leaves an RE department and an approach to Catholic life in school that was recognised in glowing terms as outstanding during last year’s section 48 inspection.
If I were to try to talk about all that each of them has done in school, I would still be writing this message in September. However I would like to offer heartfelt thanks personally and on behalf of all parents and students.
As well as those colleagues retiring, we have a number of other colleagues who are moving on to new opportunities, having made a unique mark on our school.
Mr Maydom is moving on to another school in the diocese, having served our school as an outstanding teacher of Chemistry and Head of Year.
Mr Loftus is joining All Saints as curriculum leader in RE, having made a huge contribution as a teacher of RE and also in his leadership of the Lourdes pilgrimage and support of our liturgical programme.
Mr Mitchell is moving on to new ventures after many years of service as a teacher of Drama, leaving a vibrant and healthy performing arts scene at Notre Dame, which is as strong as I have ever seen it at a time when the arts are so under pressure elsewhere.
Mr Bruce is moving on to another school, having joined us as a trainee teacher and quickly moved to his role as Head of Physics. He is an outstanding teacher who has made a great mark within and beyond the classroom at Notre Dame.
Ms Taylor has been a member of the Art department for the last two years, bringing great creativity and joy to her work in the classroom and the extra-curricular life of the school.
We wish all of them the very best in their next steps and again, on behalf of everyone who they have served and worked with, I thank them.
To finish all the thanks, I would like to put on record my appreciation of the work of all my colleagues this year and particularly during lockdown. Everyone has had to deal with the challenges in personal life while reinventing how we support students academically and pastorally. This has involved every member of staff, not only the teachers and has required resilience, creativity and dedication. While people have ultimately been doing their jobs, I do want to thank colleagues for the great generosity of spirit with which they have carried out their roles.
I have attached with this Blog a letter from Andrew Jones, Director of Education for Sheffield and a letter from Greg Fell, director of public Health for Sheffield. I have also included below a summary of the plans for September and also the plans for A Level and GCSE results days, for ease of reference. There will be information sent to students via their Head of Year to support them in their return to school at the end of the holidays. Students should check the website and SMHW for messages in the last week of the holiday.
Also attached are links to initiatives from Sheffield City Council to promote Healthy Holiday Activities.
For now, though, I hope all our students and their families are able to have some kind of holiday and break from the lockdown experience over the coming weeks. I am very much looking forward to seeing all the students again in September. I will leave you with a link to the beautiful end of term service that Suzanne put together.
Summary of plans for results days
How will students receive results?
Before the end of term students will be sent an email to their school account that will contain login details for eportal (a school online system). They will also be provided a link to access eportal.
The email will contain information about how to access eportal. Students should ensure that they follow this link as soon as they receive the email to check that it is working. If it is not working they should follow the details on the email.
If students have not received an email you should contact the main school reception 01142302536.
At 8am on Thursday 13th August (for A Level) and Thursday 20th August (for GCSE), students will be sent another email telling them that their results are now available on eportal. They should login, using their details and password. They will be able to access a report that will show their results. If students have any technical issues and are unable to access their results they should contact school (01142302536) and we will be able to assist you.
What support will be provided by the school?
While continued public health guidance means we can’t run results days in the normal way, it is still really important to us to be able to provide students with any support that they require. This may be support with their next steps, pastoral support or to answer any questions that they have about the appeals process or autumn exams…. or they may just wish to chat to someone!
Our phone lines will be open from 8am so that students can book an appointment to either come into school and have face to face support or arrange a telephone call. We will have extra phone lines set up on results days.
What are the arrangements for summer 2020 appeals?
Ofqual and the exam boards are working to ensure that candidates are awarded a fair grade that recognises the work they have put in. If an A level, AS level or GCSE student does not believe the correct process has been followed in their case, they will have access to a right of appeal on that basis.
Ofqual has consulted on the arrangements for these appeals and announced its decisions on 22 May. Schools and colleges can only appeal, on students’ behalf, against the process or the use of data, not against teachers’ use of their professional judgement.
In addition, if a student does not feel their grade reflects their ability, they will have the opportunity to take an exam in the autumn.
Support with university application (Y13) or signing up to 6th form
Y13 progression to university
Mr Dransfield and other members of the 6th form team will be available in school on A Level results day to offer support and guidance about University application for any students who need it. To help with this, we understand that UCAS will be sharing with school staff a list of any students from school who have not been offered a confirmed place at the University that they applied to. We will get this on the morning of A Level results day to help us prioritise help and support. As outlined above, students can book an appointment to come in for face to face support or help over the phone.
Y11 progression to 6th form
Students who have applied for a place at Notre Dame 6th form should email members of the 6th form team as per the list below, once they have got their results.
If your surname begins A-F, then email Mr Birch, firstname.lastname@example.org
If your surname begins G-M, then email Mrs Hockney, email@example.com
If your surname begins N-Z, then email Mr Dransfield, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the email, students should just let us know if they wish to confirm their place with us and the subjects they wish to take.
We can make swaps between subjects where possible, but they can’t be guaranteed. If students wish to speak with us please leave a best contact number and we will get back to you as soon as we possibly can.
How were the grades calculated?
In school, individual teachers provided a ‘centre assessed grade’ based on all the assessment information they had about each student and their overall experience of working with that student. These grades were then moderated by teachers, heads of department and senior members of staff, using the school assessment results of previous students and the grades they achieved in their exams as a guide. This produced a final, agreed set of centre assessed grades and a ‘rank order’ that we provided to the exam boards.
The exam boards have then moderated the information sent by all schools, to make sure that the overall grades are in line with those awarded in the past for students at each school. The links below give information about this process.
Video about the calculation of grades; https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=fRTyGmUJIrw&feature=youtu.be
Info graphic about the calculation of grades; https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/887041/6614-4_Infographic_-_Process_for_awarding_GCSEs__AS_and_A_levels_summer_2020.pdf
Summary of plans for September
- All students will be back full time from September (see notes below about the first week back)
- We will be able to run a full timetable, taught in normal teaching groups, with a few changes
- Staff will be supervising regular handwashing, when students arrive, before and after each break time and before students leave, just as we have been with the Y10 students who have been back in to school this term.
- We will continue with the extra cleaning in school through the day and at the end of every day as we have been this term.
- There will be changes to the timings of the school day (see information below). We will have a shorter lunch break, with each year group having lunch at a different time, to keep separation between year groups and reduce crowding.
- There will be no food available at break time. Break times will again be split, so that there are no more than two year groups on break at the same time and each year group will have their own areas where they can have their break.
- Lessons will, as far as possible, be timetabled so that each year group is in a different part of the school. This will help to stop mixing of year groups and will reduce movement and gathering of large groups of students between lessons. All students will have practical lessons in specialist classrooms, however, as this is needed to be able to deliver the full curriculum. There will be extra cleaning and handwashing around the use of these rooms.
- Y7 students will be taught in their form groups for all lessons to start with and, apart from practical lessons, will stay in the same room. Y8 students will be in taught in their form group for more of the time than would normally be the case, though they will be grouped differently for some lessons including Science. This helps to reduce mixing of students and will help with induction of Y7 students, when they have had such a different end to primary and start to secondary school.
- Where possible, classrooms will be set out facing forwards and teachers and other staff will need to maintain distancing from students as they will need to mix across year groups
- Form time will move to the start of the day, to help you get resettled into school and to check in.
Plan for the first week back
Tuesday 1st September
Training Day (no students in school) – this is an important time for staff to go back through plans for welcoming students back and to look at any updates that have come over the summer.
Wednesday 2nd September
All Y7 and Y12 students who are joining us from other schools only. This allows us to do some of the induction work with these students that we haven’t been able to do in the normal way.
Thursday 3rd September
All students return. On Thursday and Friday, students will spend time in form groups, where we will be working on activities to help us to catch-up with one another, get settled back into school and make sure that students know how things will be running in school. Lessons will begin again from Monday 7th September.
Timing of the school day
The start and finish times will not change, as a large number of our students will rely on public transport, making it impossible for some to start or finish at different times. However, we have changed the timings within the school day, as set out below:
|Pre school||Students met on the drive and directed to their ‘zone’ in school to wash hands and go to their form room.
We ask that students do not arrive before 8.45am
|9am-9.20am||Form time – Form time at the start of the day will help to give time to check in with students. In the first couple of weeks, it will help to get students settled back into school and to remind them about the things they need to do which are different to normal.|
|10-20-11.40|| Period 2; 10.20-11.20 for some year groups 10.40 to 11.40 for the others
Some students will have break from 10-20-10.40 & others would have break from 11.20 to 11.40.
Year groups will have designated areas across the site. As well as reducing the number of children out at any one time
|11.40 – 1.40|| Period 3 running for 1 hr 20 mins, at the following times, depending on when the given year group has lunch:
Year group A; Lunch 11.40-12.20, P3 12.20-1.40
Year group B; P3 11.40-12.00, Lunch 12.00-12.40, P3 12.40 – 1.40
Year group C; P3 11.40-12.20, Lunch 12.20-1.00, P3 1.00 – 1.40
Year group D; P3 11.40-12.40, Lunch 12.40-1.20, P3 1.20 – 1.40
Year group E; P3 11.40-1.00, Lunch 1.00-1.40
Y13 students in school for P3 will have their lunch break 11.40-12.20
Y12 students will have their lunch break 1pm to 1.40
|1.40 – 2.30||Period 4|
|3.20 – 3.35|| Staggered dismissal from P5 rooms so that students are not all leaving at the same time.
Students waiting for school busses after 3.35 will be supervised in their P5 classrooms until the bus arrives, allowing them to get on with independent study.
Students will be directed to supervised hand washing areas at the start of school, before and after break time, before and after lunch time and before leaving school.
Travel to and from school
The guidance remains that students should walk, cycle or use private transport where possible. Local public health doctors have confirmed that this can include students from different families sharing lifts as this involves less mixing than use of public transport.
We understand that for many of our families, students will rely on public transport and this has been confirmed by your responses to our survey. Sheffield City Council are looking at how they can support safe public transport for students from September. First Bus Company have been in touch with us to say that they are working hard to be able to publish plans for public transport and school bus services from September.
I remind you that students who are using public transport will need to wear face coverings while on the bus. Students need to remove those coverings safely when they arrive at school. The link below takes you to a video, showing how to properly wear and remove face coverings.
As students have to wear face coverings on public transport and others may feel reassured by wearing them, we are not banning face coverings in school. We also expect students and parents to respect the decisions of individuals whether to wear face coverings or not as wearing them is not advised under the current public health guidance for schools.
Summary of the key measures to keep everyone safe:
The biggest measure that will keep everyone safe is not having people in school who have Covid. You can’t catch it from people who don’t have it. With lower numbers of cases in the community and the track and trace programme, this is much more likely to be the case in September.
The public health guidance that we are following are designed to keep those numbers low and reduce the chance that anyone in school has Covid. The steps are:
- Staff and students not coming in to school if they have Covid like symptoms. They should get tested as soon as possible and notify us if there has been a positive test, so that we can work with the track and trace teams.
- Students and staff must follow the advice of track and trace teams if they are advised to quarantine because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, (in or out of school).
- As you see from our plans, we will be building a routine of regular handwashing in school.
- We will maintain increased cleaning in school, during and after the day.
- Students traveling on public transport must wear face coverings, putting them on, wearing them and taking them off properly.
Many of the changes we are making to the running of the school day are to help us to engage with track and trace, by limiting the numbers of people that students and staff have close contact with so we can track them more easily if we need to.
We are able to make these changes, while keeping many other key parts of the curriculum the same and allowing all students to be in school every day.
Key messages to pass on to your children:
- We understand that they have all had different experiences of lockdown. Teachers are planning for that in the way we’ll help you to get settled back in to school life and the way
we’re planning lessons. There will be lots of opportunities to check in with how students are getting on and lots of opportunities to recap learning covered during lockdown.
- We are making sure that we’re following the public health guidance to keep our community safe.
- We understand that somethings will be different and they may wish that it wasn’t the case. Arrangements at break and lunch times will be different and it won’t be so easy to run some extra-curricular activities. We will keep reviewing what we’re doing as a school, to try to strike the best balance between keeping everyone safe and school as normal.
- We will also be looking all the time for ways we can use the experience of lockdown to find new and better ways of doing things. Rather than returning to normal, it would be great if we can eventually do better than the ‘old normal’.
We need students to take responsibility for their part in all of this. We can make changes to the way we run school and teachers can remind and guide students, but no one can do their part for them. We need them to sensibly follow the guidance above and the guidance that they are given by teachers. I have every confidence that they will.