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Headteacher’s End of Term Letter

Dear Parents/Carers,

As the end of this term draws closer, I just wanted to write to express my thanks for your ongoing support which is hugely appreciated, particularly in such challenging times.

In a recent report to Governors, I wrote about how we have been altering and amending the way we work since the end of March, and such changes look set to continue for the foreseeable future.

The pupils of St Mary’s have adapted so well to everything we have asked of them since September.  For those in KS2 they have had to get used to largely being in the same room(s) for each day with the exception of practical subjects and our KS4 pupils have had use of further rooms to support their preparations of mocks and GCSE exams.  Extensive cleaning at the start, throughout, and at the end of each day is just a feature of what we do including ongoing deep cleans of communal areas etc.  The pupils have been really good with hand sanitising routines, keeping to their ‘bubbles’ and wearing their face masks.

All of the above has meant that we’ve been able to minimise disruption to teaching and learning.

At the time of writing Year 11 mock exams are in full swing and we’ve also had to give careful consideration to how we put them on this year whilst maintaining as close to the ‘real exam experience’ as possible.  I’ve been very impressed by how maturely the Y11s have approached their exams.  There has been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding next year’s GCSEs which can no doubt be very unsettling, but recent announcements suggest that they will go ahead with adjustments relating to grade boundaries, some indication about topic content and the provision of additional support materials.  Rest assured, we will continue to prepare Y11 for their GCSEs in line with any additional government guidance and updates – we will also continue with as many revision and study skills sessions as we can safely achieve.

Our pupil attendance figures throughout this most challenging time have been incredibly reassuring.  We have consistently been at 96% for whole school attendance and I cannot thank you enough for your support with this.  Such a figure puts us significantly above local and national averages.

As with any school or organisation, we are susceptible to losing colleagues to absence as a result of the need to isolate, etc. due to Coronavirus.  Such absence is unforeseen and therefore difficult to plan for.  To date, we have been very fortunate at St Mary’s but I wanted to highlight this as there will invariably be times when your child has a cover supervisor or different teacher but we will always try to minimise this.

On the subject of staffing, we sadly say goodbye to Mr Paul Shannon who retires at the end of this term.  Paul joined St Marys in September 1997 and has played a huge part in the life and leadership of the school ever since.  It will be a huge wrench for him to leave the school that he has served so well for so many years but I know he is also looking forward to his retirement.  In addition to his role of Deputy Head, Mr Shannon has had periods of Acting Headship and also played a major part in the sporting enrichment and Catholic ethos at the school.  I have enjoyed working with him for the last 2½ years and would like to thank him for everything he has given to St Mary’s.

In 2021, we will endeavour to get as many of the ‘extra’ aspects of school life up and running again, as soon as it is safe to do so.  We don’t want any of our children or year groups to miss out but by the same token, we will always put safety first.

I would also like to formally acknowledge the efforts of our teaching and support staff who have been working tirelessly to teach and look after all of our pupils.  We are very lucky at St Mary’s to have such a dedicated and committed team.

Finally, I would just like to wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas and to thank you again for your ongoing support.

I look forward to working with you and your children in 2021 and hope that the outlook for all will be bright and positive.

Yours faithfully

Stuart Wetson