It has been a whirlwind start to the New Year and it will take a few more days for things to settle into the new normal. I haven’t even really had time to wish you all a Happy New Year and to say I hope you enjoyed some family time at Christmas.
I wanted to take this opportunity firstly to say thank you for responding to the changes so quickly, for sending the information we need to get everything up and running and for your support in what will be another challenging time of the school year. I know you will have been inundated with texts and e-mails over the last few days due to the suddenness and immediacy of the changes announced and you are probably feeling as overwhelmed as we are but together we will get through this period.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to share further information regarding places, free school meals and remote learning.
Clearly, closing schools to large numbers of pupils is not what we wanted to happen but we do understand why we are in this position and safety has to be the key priority. It is really very sobering looking at the increasing number of cases both locally and nationally and deeply saddening the number of people losing their lives to this virus. A statistic yesterday was that more people lost their live in 24 hours in the UK (more than 1000 in just one day) than have lost their lives in the whole of Australia for the whole length of the pandemic so far. That truly evidences how serious the current situation we are in is, so whilst we know these next few weeks are going to be challenging for most people, we have to keep in sight that the reason for these school closures is, when looking at the bigger picture, to save lives.
Key worker and vulnerable places
As you know, schools are now closed to all except vulnerable pupils and those pupils with parents who are key workers in the same way that they were closed last year. This year is different though in that we have significantly more requests- the same is happening in all schools and it is extremely worrying. Clearly, we want to be able to keep everyone in the school community safe which means having fewer pupils in classes to ensure we can keep 2m apart. We also have lower numbers of staffing available to us due to some needing to shield or self-isolate so it is really important that every family, even if they are key workers, only requests their school place if they cannot arrange suitable childcare at home so we can make sure that the provision in school keeps staff, pupils and their wider families as safe as possible. Please bear this in mind if requesting a place or if you already have one.
Free school meals
Pupils who are continuing to attend school will continue to receive free school meals each day. For those at home who are eligible for free school meals for financial reasons (this does not include universal free school meals for KS1), you should have received an e-mail regarding the options and your preferences. At the moment, we can only offer a daily packed lunch which can be collected from school each day. From next week, we will be offering food hampers which will need to be collected from school every two weeks. We know the best support you can receive is the vouchers so you can buy what is right for your household. The Government has promised that this scheme will become available but has not yet said when and has insisted schools use hampers in the mean-time. We will of course continue to chase this up so we can offer these as soon as possible.
All staff at Anthony Bek want to ensure your child has the best learning experience possible whether they are in school or at home and how this is achieved will vary from school to school depending on lots of factors including resources, funding, staff numbers etc. It is extremely challenging for schools, (especially small schools with only one class per year group like ours) to find ways to teach the pupils in school and those at home at the same time. Many larger schools, which have more than one class for each year group, can have for example one Y3 teacher in school teaching the key worker y3 pupils and another Y3 teacher responsible for teaching the Y3 pupils at home. Unfortunately, we only have one teacher per year group so our teachers have to be responsible for teaching those in school and at home so it’s more challenging. However, our staff are always up for a challenge and of course want the very best for every child so will do everything they can to support you. These are a few of the ways they are trying to make the learning at home as easy as possible for you and your child:
We don’t want you to feel under pressure- we know many of you will be trying to work from home as well as supporting your child and you may have more than one child to support so we understand you may not be able to complete all tasks on the days/ times given.We hope to provide as much remote support so that your child can do lots of the tasks independently and may just need you to start them off and check on them now and again rather than expect you to sit with your child constantly. The Government suggests Primary School Pupils should engage in 3 hrs of learning per day. We know that some days may be harder than others to achieve this and you may do more on some days than others. All we ask is that you do your best and keep in regular contact with your child’s teacher so they can monitor how your child is getting on and find ways to help you further if needed.
Sharing your child’s learning
Depending on the task set, there will be different ways to share your child’s learning. If the task is on one of our online programs, e.g. TT Rockstars or Purple Mash, teachers will be able to see this without you needing to do anything. For tasks that the children have written/ drawn something, the easiest way to share this is to photograph it. You can then send this by e-mail to your child’s new class e-mail or you can upload this to the ONE DRIVE class folder- your child’s staff will send you the link for this. If your child is working on a computer, you could just save and send the file. If you are more adventurous and have videoed something to share with staff, you will probably find that this is too big to e-mail in most cases so the easiest way would be to upload it to the ONE DRIVE folder. We know not everyone knows how to do these things so if you are struggling, please let us know and we’ll show you how to do this.
If you simply have no way of taking photographs or videos (e.g. you don’t have a phone, laptop, tablet etc) and therefore are relying solely on paper copies, you can return the completed activities once a week (on a Monday morning) when you collect your next pack. Please ensure you keep in contact with staff during the week though so they know you are getting on okay.
IT resources and internet access
I’m sure you will have heard that the Government aims to help disadvantaged pupils who didn’t have any access to a laptop or tablet or have no access to the internet. At the moment, they seem to be concentrating on Secondary schools but we will continue to make applications for these to support pupils at home who need it.
Please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if your child is home learning but does not have access to a laptop, tablet or phone. It may be that we can make an application to the Department for Education to support you. If your child has a PlayStation or Xbox, your child may also be able to use these to access home learning. I have not tried this myself as I do not have these resources but this has been widely shared in social media this week. I’m also aware that SMART tvs can also be used to access the internet so these may also be helpful.
This happened so quickly that I’m sure there will be many questions. On Monday we were told to open (despite many concerns) and we were assured that Primary schools wouldn’t close and by the end of the same day, the Government had completely changed their minds so I’m sure, like us, you will have lots of questions. We are waiting for the Government to answer many of these but if you have questions about the general situation, please e-mail me. If your questions are about admin issues, e.g. School Money, not receiving e-mails etc, please e-mail the office and if your questions are about your child’s learning, please e-mail your child’s teaching group (you have all been provided with class e-mail addresses).
We know the next few weeks are not going easy- we've been here before, but we do know that together we can do the best for every child in our school. Our staff will do everything they can to support you at home and we know for some of you trying to juggle work commitments and supporting your child or children is not going to be easy.
Please be safe,
Mrs. Donna-Marie Johnson