22nd January 2021
A Busy and Varied Week in School
As I am sure you can imagine, school has been very busy indeed this week, with a very wide variety of tasks being completed. Unfortunately this has meant a LOT of time spent in online meetings and on tasks that have taken me away from teaching and learning, which has been unfortunate but necessary.
Lateral Flow Testing
This week I have spent several hours watching DfE webinars on Lateral Flow Tests. Which brings with it a new title of 'Covid Coordinator' for our school. I have also been able to give Mrs Gibbons in the office a new role as 'Registration Assistant' You will be aware I am sure, that the testing of staff in primary schools has been in the news a lot recently. These tests are only for adults who work in school, and there are no plans to include primary aged pupils in the future. The tests are administered by adults, at home before they come to work, twice weekly. They are designed to reduce the risk of asymptomatic individuals transmitting the virus to others. I delivered the training to our staff this week, and they are all very eager to get going next week. We won't mention this again to you necessarily, but this may lead to additional bubble closures in the coming weeks, if we have positive results from the LFD testing routine. However, I do believe that this initiative will make school a safer place for staff and pupils in the longer term, so we welcome it fully.
You will, no doubt have seen in the news, the huge amount of attention the debate around holiday time, Free School Meal provision has had recently. The quality of some FSM hampers reached the news, and caused widespread outrage. At Thomas Harding we are driven by an absolute commitment to all of our children and our families. Therefore, we have had long conversations about how best to support our families and young people.
We asked our catering firm, St joseph's to put together a parcel for us, so that we could take a look at the quality of the offer. I have to say, we were overwhelmed with the hamper - fresh chicken breasts, high quality sausages and fresh fruit, vegetables, pasta and yoghurts - along with recipe cards to support families in cooking nutritious and well balanced meals. My office staff have been driving around Chesham, delivering these hampers to all the FSM families who have requested one for the last 2 weeks. You may have seen our photographs on Twitter of the hampers, prior to being delivered. https://twitter.com/ThomasHardingJ1/status/1351262149843296257
All parents who did not request a hamper, were provided with a voucher instead, in line with government guidelines. However, this has led to many parents contacting us to let us know that they would prefer the vouchers to the hampers. Therefore we have decided to stop the hampers from next week, and we will instead issue vouchers to all families. This is unfortunate, but running the two options side by side, just leads to an enormous burden of work for the staff.
School to School Support.
As a school, we have been invited to take part in a really exciting initiative, whereby we offer school 2 school support to another local school. This is a huge honour, usually preserved for outstanding schools and it is an indication of the esteem to which we are held in by the ODBST that we were put forward for the project.
The project tasks us with working closely with a school that is 'Requires Improvement' and to look at ways that we can collaborate to reduce the impact that Covid-19 has had on schools that are waiting for the confirmation from Ofsted that they have moved to 'Good'
We have held lots of meetings this week, looking at inclusion and SEND support, effective Governance and the role of leadership -particularly middle leadership, in school improvement. This is hugely beneficial for us as a school too, and the collaboration means that we can engage with other professionals at a time when otherwise, the world feels more insular and closed off than ever. This project will continue between the two schools until the end of the Spring Term.
So, all in all, a very intense week - next week I will report on remote learning and share some of the great work that is going on around school.
I cannot start this week's blog without mentioning the patience and understanding of our Year 4
parents and pupils today. I received a notification at 8 am this morning that we had a positive case in year 4 and so needed to close the bubble immediately. A frantic and busy time was spent contacting parents (many of who were already on their way to the school) and sending home members of staff, whilst also speaking to Public Health England! In a style which is typical of Thomas Harding, by the time Mr Turner opened up the Google Meet at 9 am, everyone was on the call and ready to start the day of remote learning provision. The year 4 teachers have been supporting you all on Google Classrooms, in what will be the new way of working for Year 4, until January 25th. An unexpected and unwelcome end to a very busy week! I must add however, that we have been very successful in containing this to one bubble, all of our risk assessment measures have really helped with this. Every single member of our community has worked hard to ensure that we protect each other from Covid-19 and this has really helped today.
Well, as we reach the end of the first full week of Remote learning, I have to say that it feels like it has been an awful lot longer. However, I continue to be so impressed by the way that our staff have adopted new ways of working, established routines and adapted the materials to ensure that our ASPIRE curriculum can be delivered as close to how it was intended as possible.
I cannot thank you enough for the many positive emails and messages which we have received this week. It is impossible to overstate how much of a positive impact each one has on the team. In the coming weeks, I intend to send out a parent survey, to see how pupils and parents are coping with the demands of this current lockdown. As always, we do welcome all feedback and suggestions from you, as we tweak our systems and procedures and try to make them as efficient and fit for purpose as possible.
The Thomas Harding spirit has really shone through since the start of this lockdown. A huge thank you to parents who have donated devices to the school as this has enabled us to provide laptops and tablets to even more families so that they are able to access the learning from home. A particular mention to the Springall family, who have donated 15 laptops and the Tomlin's who donated a brand new IPAD. It is so inspiring that the values within our school community mean that we really pull together in times of trial.
As parents you are working very hard at home to support your children during this time, and I understand the pressure you are feeling to get things right, however let me reassure you that you are all doing a great job.
We have had many conversations with parents this week, where we have needed to reassure them that it is perfectly fine if a child doesn’t fully understand the objective of a lesson they have just taken part in. This isn’t unusual in the slightest and it actually happens in school when we are teaching face to face. It is just that as parents wouldn’t necessarily see this
All learning is layered and the teachers will build up understanding and confidence over time based on the feedback they receive from pupils. We will all work together to ensure progress continues to be made. I hope those of you who have been in touch this week have been reassured by the conversations we have had. You are doing a great job and the children's engagement is increasing each day. The most important thing is to ensure that they are logging in and joining in every day as this will ensure that it gets easier over time. We ask that you reinforce our focus on resilience and independence with the children - they shouldn't be giving up until they feel proud and the
I have found time to have more of a look around Google Classrooms this week and it is a really wonderful way to spend a few hours. There is such a lot of high quality teaching and learning going on around in our Remote Learning offer.
Let's start in Year 6 for example, Mrs Smith has been teaching the children sketching skills this week, they were revisiting the skills of cross hatching to create a 3D form, and then used these skills to sketch a hand.
I have to say that much of the 'Turned In' work is of a very high standard and shows the dedication of our year 6 pupils towards their remote learning.
In year 3, the children went on a virtual tour of stonehenge in history. The level of understanding in their responses shows such depth of understanding. What really strikes me when I look at what the year group teams have achieved, is the creativity and adaptability that is being shown. Our full curriculum offer is being achieved in a real and meaningful way and I could not be more proud.
I will bring you more examples of the work that is being achieved at home and in school next week, but for now - have a lovely weekend and I will see you all on Monday!
Normally I spend my time reflecting on the fabulous learning opportunities that have happened over the previous week in class and the many interactions that I have with children in the course of each day.
This week I want to spend time reflecting upon this very demanding week and also give a little detail as to how we have ended up with the remote and in school provision that we have as I believe it reflects the core values of our school fantastically well.
As you know of course, for some time now there has been a lot of discussion in the media about school safety in general but at Thomas Harding, our track record has been very good, and the robust measures we have had in place since last year have worked very well indeed.
Many of you will recall we sought feedback from parents towards the end of the previous lockdown, looking at what was working well; what was providing more of a challenge both from a parent’s and also a pupil’s perspective. We have used that information, throughout the year when we have been planning regularly and in detail for any additional school closure. As an SLT, we have made detailed plans for all eventualities and these have been available on our website for some time. We bought Google Classrooms back at the start of the autumn term, and Mrs Hussain trained all of the teachers in September. Since then, the teachers have been training the children and setting homework on there, just in case a bubble closed or a lockdown was called. Therefore, when the announcement came on Monday night, we already had a plan in place for how we would approach the move to remote learning. However, of course once the announcement was made, there was still lots to do, and as an SLT we spent a large part of Tuesday morning and afternoon fleshing out plans and considering every possible eventuality! We held a ZOOM staff briefing on late Tuesday afternoon to share our plans and ask for feedback and suggestions from the team. I have to add here that the team have all been incredible - we got high quality feed back from them, which was all actioned and tweaked into Wednesday and beyond.
None of what we now have was devised over night; it required thought and consideration on the part of my entire team for many months and I think I can say with confidence we have done pretty well.
Parents, too, you have played your part in making this work. You were patient whilst I drafted letters and devised Google Forms. You returned information to me in a timely manner about critical worker provision and you gathered technology from the around the house to set up mini home offices for your children. This is all hugely appreciated by the whole of the Thomas Harding team. Similarly, in school our LSA's were learning about Google Classroom and other new systems that would become part of their daily working life for the forseeable future. Everyone was assigned roles and - without fail every single member of the team worked tirelessly to deliver what was asked of them. As always at THJS the needs of each individual child are at the centre of all that we do. They always come first.
At 9.00am on Thursday morning over 90% of our pupils were taking part in a live registration with their year group teachers.
Our team have worked hard to adapt to this new and dynamic way of teaching, with new technologies such as 'Kami' and new ways of using PowerPoints and video, that we had never even dreamed of in the past!
In school, we have 60 pupils, in bubbles allocated according to year group. I have been absolutely determined that all children, whether they are at home or in school, continue to follow our ASPIRE curriculum. It is very important to me that all children have their learning delivered by a teacher, and we have organised each year group into teams to enable this to happen.
On day two, the engagement increased to round about 95%, with pupils really participating actively on Google Classrooms and getting to grips fully with the way they are going to be taught for at least the next six weeks. It was just such an inspiring sight and one which made me so proud of every aspect of #teamthomasharding
Behind the scenes, Mrs Gibbons and Mrs Lenny were giving bespoke support over the phone to families as they struggled with the technology on the first day or two. It has certainly been a learning curve for us all!
I believe I can be confident that, unlike last year, where I referred to education as ‘having paused’, this time around with everything we have put in place, it will certainly be full steam ahead, with pupils accessing and engaged with our ASPIRE curriculum coverage across the majority of subjects.
Thank you so much for all the lovely tweets and emails expressing your appreciation of the work being done. It isn’t easy. It is tiring but it is amazing the impact a positive comment can have on staff morale.
Please don’t stop; they all get read and they all make a difference. Equally, if we can help in any way to make your child’s experience even smoother, please do let me know.
As we move forward and into the first full week of our remote teaching from Monday, I have plans to hold the ASPIRE assembly online next week, and hopefully I will work out how you can access it from home!
I think I can say for certainty I will sleep well this weekend. It’s been an amazing week; an inspiring week; a productive week but it’s been intense and non-stop. Bring on Monday – I can’t wait!