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Letter from the Headteacher

Dear Parents and Carers

Firstly, I hope that at the time of reading this update, you and your families are keeping well during what has been an incredibly challenging period. We have all had to adapt and change the way we live our lives, and this looks set to continue for some time to come. One of the biggest impacts of this pandemic has undoubtedly been the changes to our working and schooling practices and I would like to start by thanking you most sincerely for the way you and your children have overwhelmingly cooperated with and positively supported these enforced changes to educational provision. I would also like to thank our teachers who have had to change their working routines amidst looking after their own families whilst often coming into school for those pupils who have continued to attend St Mary’s since the end of March.

Through working at home, our pupils have been responding with incredible diligence and commitment by completing high quality work for their various subjects and maintaining dialogue with many of their teachers using school email accounts. At the beginning of this process, and indeed today, our priority remains that the children of St Mary’s can access their work and communicate with their teachers in the safest way possible. Our online provision and ease of accessibility has ensured this and enabled us to set bespoke tasks for the children. We are also mindful, however, that the announcements given by the Prime Minister on the 10th May suggest that home learning and schooling will continue for the foreseeable future and this could mean that certainly Years 7-9 may not return until the Autumn Term. You will have also seen that the Government would like pupils in Y10 to have some increased contact with their teachers in school before the end of the Summer term and we are currently working on plans to enable this. I will be in touch with parents of Y10 pupils at the earliest opportunity when further guidance from central government has been received. Our plan is broadly based on manageable proportions of Year 10 attending on specific days on a carousel basis to ensure maximum safety and achieve greatest educational impact – more details to follow in due course. I attach a letter from the Local Authority highlighting Herefordshire Council’s position on the phased return to school and would ask that you all take the time to familiarise yourselves with its content.

With all of the above in mind, we have also been planning and exploring ways that we can complement and supplement the current online provision, in order that we can make the remaining period of home schooling as interactive as possible for all pupils. Shortly after half-term some teachers and subjects will begin using Microsoft Teams as a way of supporting learning from home. We have carried out due diligence with platforms such as this and conducted pilot tests with small cohorts to ensure all aspects of e-safety but ultimately, we want the pupils to have opportunities to engage with their teachers via video, presentation and explanation where possible. Learning from home can be quite an isolating experience and hopefully the introduction of the methods described above may help to alleviate this and provide further variety. Any such initiatives will not replace the need for your children to locate their tasks and assignments in the usual way but should hopefully provide additional support. We cannot replicate the experience they would ordinarily have in school but recognise that working independently can be very challenging. All subjects are different and some more suited to using Microsoft Teams than others, Heads of Department will make decisions about the frequency of use and its appropriateness but from early June you can expect it to be a feature of your child’s home learning. As ever, if you experience any difficulties or have any queries, please contact the relevant Head of Year in the first instance.

Alongside planning for the possibility of partial re-opening and maintaining our online provision, we have been working with our Heads of Department and teachers on the unprecedented Centre Assessed Grades which will take the place of this year’s GCSEs. This process has been carried out with meticulous rigour and we are taking every opportunity for it to be checked and quality assured so that our Y11 pupils receive the grades they had worked so hard for.

With the half-term break approaching, I hope you all get the chance for some relaxation and I look forward to better times ahead when we can safely have all of the pupils of St Mary’s back together again.

Thanks for your ongoing support.

Stuart Wetson

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