Headteacher's Blog 16/09/2020

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Head Teacher’s Blog 16th September 2020

I would like to begin this blog as I did my last one, thanking parents and students for following the measures in place to limit the risk of transmission of Covid. The overwhelming majority of the time, students are doing a really good job of the regular handwashing, following the rules in the canteen and observing things like the one way system. Out and about in school I often wish that we could have parents and other people in to see how well they’re responding as we can be so proud of them. Of course, students need to be reminded about face coverings in corridors and sometimes they find it hard to keep their distance from each other at social times, but it has consistently been my experience that our young people respond well to those reminders.

We understand that it is hard, as all of us find at times, to limit the way we would naturally act with one another, so thank you for continuing to remind and encourage your children to do their bit.

Of course, the biggest thing anyone can do to keep safe and be able to keep school running is stay at home if they have symptoms, get a test as quickly as possible and, if positive, notify school so that we can work with health protection teams to identify contacts. This is exactly what happened with our first confirmed case in school and again I thank those involved and all parents who are following this guidance.

I know that testing is often taking a longer time to organise and I share the frustration of those who are doing the right thing and finding it hard. Thank you for your perseverance.

I understand that some students and parents were under the impression that a confirmed case would always lead to a whole year group being sent home, but this will not normally be the case because of the measures we’ve put in place and the records we’re keeping. This allows the health protection teams to work with school so that we can minimise the chance that anyone with Covid is in school, while allowing the majority to get on with their education in school.

Attached with his blog is some detailed guidance for you about when your child should or should not come to school and what it means for you and other members of your household. Thanks for your continued support with this.

Finally on things directly related to Covid, I just want to say a brief word about how we will support learning for those who are having to self-isolate.

If we ever find ourselves in the position that a whole year group must isolate, or we have to move to a rota system, then when students are not in school, we will be able to support their learning in a way that is similar to what happened during lockdown. As well as sharing activities for students to do and resources to support them in their independent learning, teachers will be able to schedule in times to check in remotely through things like Microsoft Teams. Teachers will be able to do this because they will not have all of their classes in front of them in school during the day.

However, while ever most students are in school in every year group and teachers are teaching their classes throughout the day, then their time is obviously much more limited and we have to take that into account in the way that we can support learning for those who are self-isolating. Teachers will send home links to resources with activities to do at home, usually by ShowMyHomework, covering what their classmates are doing in school. They will also set homework tasks as normal. If students are finding difficulty with something, then they can of course email the teacher. I would ask, however, that it is better for the student to note down things and send one email rather than several and please do remember that teachers are spending the majority of their time in the school day class, on duty and working with their form groups. They also have meetings and need time to prepare and assess work, so they will not be able to respond immediately to emails.

Teachers have got an even heavier workload than normal at the moment, as there are many additional things to do to sustain the routines that keep us safe and help students settle back into their learning. At the same time, teachers are working together to find ways to use lessons learned during lockdown to make the normal teaching that goes on in school easier to access when students are at home. Each teaching department already has plans in place to support students who are isolating at the moment and I know that we will only get better at balancing the work for students in school and support for those in home in a way that is manageable and sustainable.

Now onto some things that are more about ‘normal’ school life, albeit adapted for the times we are living through. I hope to spend more time in future blogs sharing what is happening in and out of the classrooms with our students.

Virtual Mass
This Friday, two of our classes will be able to join students from across the Sheffield Catholic schools in a virtual celebration of mass. Fr Chris is saying mass at the Cathedral, with some students from St Marie’s school in attendance. The mass is being streamed so that some of our students and others from across the city can join it safely in their own schools. My thanks to Fr Chris, Mr Fernandes and his colleagues for organising this.

Y6 ‘virtual open school’
Next Tuesday (22nd September) will also see the launch of our virtual open school, for those families who have children who will move up to secondary school next September and who want to get to know a bit more about Notre Dame. In different times we would have been running our open evening on Tuesday. Instead, I will be presenting via Zoom to any who want to join. There will be some opportunity on the evening to ask questions. From Tuesday onwards, we will be sharing content recorded by staff and students which can be accessed at any time and will help children and their parents to get a feel for our school. Families will also be able to contact the school to ask questions and to arrange contact by email or phone so that we can respond to more specific queries that they may have.
If you or anyone you know has a child due to move to secondary school in September and they are thinking of applying to Notre Dame, please do tell them to come to visit our website on Tuesday 22nd September from 6pm for our virtual open evening, or at any time after that to access the recorded content and make contact with us.

Booking meetings in school
If you want to meet with a member of staff in school, this is still possible, but this can only be pre-arranged appointment. Unfortunately, we do have to ask parents to leave if they arrive at school without having booked in advance. Please make contact with the member of staff that you would like to meet with by phoning reception or emailing and you can arrange it from there. Of course, if a face to face meeting can be avoided, then this is still most sensible and where a meeting is arranged, we will expect social distancing to be maintained to keep everyone safe.

News from a former Notre Dame student
I will finish today with some news from a former student of Notre Dame who got in touch with me this week to tell us about what she is doing and to ask me to share her new venture with you.

Louisa attended Notre Dame from 2009-2016 and after sixth form went to the University of Sheffield to study English and History (Louisa says her choice of subject was largely thanks to Mrs Bruno and Mr O'Connor). Since graduating last year, she has been exploring ways to enter the world of writing and journalism. Having found there to be a lack of local opportunities for young journalists to write freely, she started her own publication, 'The Steel City Standard', whose website can be found here: https://steelcitystandard.com/

I was pleased to hear from Louisa as it is always great to hear from former students and I am pleased to share her venture more widely as she tries to establish it. She has offered to take pitches from our talented A-level English students who might one day be interested in a career in journalism and we shall certainly share that with them.

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