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    Message from the Principal

    Mr J Taylor, Headteacher
    Mr J Taylor
    Principal

    9 July 2020

    Dear Parent/Carer

    As the formal end of the school year is almost upon us, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the past school year and, in particular, the challenge that has been presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. The school has had to respond in a unique way. I am delighted that we have been able to remain open throughout the pandemic, including holidays, in order to offer a provision for our most vulnerable students and for the children of keyworkers. This has been supervised by staff volunteers, who have been attending the Academy throughout this time. In addition, we have continued to set work remotely for all students via the Show My Homework (Satchel: One) app.

    More recently, we have been delivering live lessons through Microsoft Teams, initially to Years 10 and 12; however, I am pleased that we have now been able to extend that provision to all year groups. At the same time, we have endeavoured to provide a regular contact with the Form Tutor, including a continuation of our involvement in Votes for Schools.

    In the last few weeks, we have seen the return of Year 10 and Year 12 students to the school site: initially to provide the opportunity for a progress and welfare check for each student, before then inviting these students back into classrooms, where there has been further support for remote learning, careers information and advice on study skills. Of course, throughout, we have had to follow closely the advice from government and Public Health England in terms of what we have been able to offer to students to ensure safety remains our first priority.

    But let us also not forget the achievements of our students earlier in this year – the concerts, Movement Evening, dance shows, drama productions, sports successes and DoE expeditions that, amongst others, have given the Academy the opportunity to celebrate the wealth of talent of its students.

    Show My Homework (Satchel: One)

    I am very pleased to report the very high level of interaction that our students have been having with work set though Satchel: One. Last week, for example, 89.2% of all Year 10 students used Satchel: One and 91.2% of Year 12 students. Of course, both Year 12 and Year 10 students continue to prepare for external exams in the summer of 2021. The average use across all year groups was 85.2%, with the 89.7% in Year 9 being particularly pleasing. Academic and Pastoral Year Leaders have been contacting home for students in all year groups where work has not being accessed on a regular basis. Alternative arrangements have been made for Year 13 and Year 11 students, where taught courses have been previously completed. In Year 13, we have made available packs of material for students to pursue their chosen course / subject beyond the sixth form and for Year 11, materials in subjects they might wish to pursue in Year 12. I am pleased to report that all these continue to prove popular with students in their respective year groups.

    Hegarty Maths

    ‘Hegarty Maths’ is a vehicle that the Mathematics Faculty uses to provide practice for students in answering Maths questions. Last week saw students making further advances in their use of this opportunity. We have sailed past the 700,000 questions mark for this academic year, answering a total of 19,619 questions last week. This placed us in the top 10% of all the 1,664 Hegarty schools for questions answered last week and for the total for the year.

    Staff Changes

    As always, the end of year brings some sadness as we say goodbye to staff who are leaving to take up new posts elsewhere, for promotion or relocation, and also to pursue other avenues. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for the positive contribution they have made to Wath Academy and wish them every success in their future careers. Two colleagues are retiring from our teaching staff. Julie Shaw has supported students for many years in her roles as Deputy Head of Sixth Form and Higher Education Coordinator, as well as a Psychology specialist. Many students over the years have benefited from her guidance in the university application process. Steve Harper is also retiring. A former 2nd in the Maths Faculty, with a responsibility for A-level Maths, Steve has also guided many students over the years into successful GCSE outcomes. We very much appreciate all they have done for the school and wish them well for the future - we wish both colleagues a long and happy retirement.

    The school has made a number of new appointments for September and I am delighted to report that the school is fully staffed in preparation for the new year, with subject specialists in every area: an advantageous position to be in, in comparison to many schools across the country.

    Current Year 11 and Year 13 students

    Results Day for Year 13 students is Thursday 13 August.

    Results Day for Year 11 students is Thursday 20 August.

    For both Results Days we are currently hopeful that students will be able to attend, in person, to collect their results. Details of how we can do this safely, for both students and staff, is still being considered and will, of course, embrace government guidance regarding social distancing and other safety precautions. Heads of Year will provide further details of exact timings and the details for the safe movement of students around the site.

    The Department for Education (DfE) has previously outlined how students will be awarded a ‘calculated’ grade. The exam boards are combining information from schools with other relevant data, including prior attainment, to produce a calculated grade for each student in each subject. The DfE will also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students do not face a systematic disadvantage as a consequence of these extraordinary circumstances. In terms of a permanent record, the grades will be indistinguishablfrom those provided in previous years.

    Year 11 Prom & Year 13 Summer Ball

    Although the initial bookings for these events had to be cancelled because of the continued uncertainty over when social distancing measures might be relaxed, please be aware that we have every intention of creating the opportunity to celebrate with our two respective ‘leaving’ year groups, who will be finishing their latest key stage with us, as soon as we possibly can. Respective Heads of Year will be contacting students with a proposed date, in order to confirm that the demand remains, given these continuing unprecedented times.

    New School Year

    We are hopeful that all students will return to the school building in September. This is the current government intention and we are working hard with other colleagues across the Trust and the Local Authority to ensure we can allow students to return in as safe a manner as possible. More details will be shared with parents during the summer holiday. The current thinking is that there will be minimal change to the start and end times to the school day but that we will be working to create separate ‘bubbles’ of students around their entry/exit points, the classrooms they use and where they might spend break and lunch time, in order to minimise the mixing of students, especially across year groups.

    It will be more important than ever before that students are punctual in the morning to give time for a smooth movement to tutor bases over such a large site. The expectation will therefore be that every student is in the school building by 8.25am every morning.

    I would like to mention some slight changes to the school day from September. Next year, there will be six fifty- minute lessons per day, with two lessons between tutor time and mid-morning break, two lessons between break and lunchtime, and two further lessons in the afternoon. Break and lunch will remain the same length as before.

    Parents have previously indicated to us how important it is that we are consistent in our application of the Academy uniform policy. To that end, please do take the opportunity of checking the Uniform Policy on the website, in good time before September, so as to ensure students are fully compliant with the detail of the policy. This will then avoid students having to go home to change or having to change into an item of uniform provided by the school.

    Thank you to all who have already visited the school to collect the new school skirt, which will be the only skirt that may be worn from September.

    School Gateway

    I have previously written about the launch of a new smartphone school–parent communication app called School Gateway, which will become a central hub for our school-home communication. Once you have access to the app, you will be able to:

    • receive messages in a similar manner to WhatsApp
    • see your child’s timetable
    • see the contact information we hold about you and
    • notify us if that information is incorrect
    • access key links and online services such as Show My Homework, ParentPay and the School Calendar
    • access your child’s reports.

    The School Gateway app will work on Apple and Android devices, and is also accessible through a web browser on tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

    However, initially, we need to check that the data we hold regarding students and contacts is up-to-date. This is important under General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) but will also ensure that the roll- out of School Gateway goes smoothly. It is important please that the form that was enclosed with the earlier letter is completed accurately and returned to school in the stamped addressed envelope previously provided. Thank you for the very large number of returns already received. If you feel you have misplaced the original form, or feel you did not receive one, please do let us know via Reception at school and we will send out another copy of the form for completion.

    Once our records are up-to-date, we can send out further instructions on how to register for School Gateway.

    Supporting Mental Health & Wellbeing

    This remains an unsettling time for all members of our community, but you may be additionally worried about your child's mental health and emotional wellbeing at this time. If you are concerned about your child, you can receive an initial telephone call to discuss your concerns further; please email the Academy, stating ‘Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Support’ in the subject line. If you have any other concerns about your child, please contact the Academy directly using one of the following e-mail addresses:

    Conclusion

    In an academic year that that has ended with its own particular challenges, I conclude my final contribution for The Torch. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to serve the school over these last 17 years, with the last 4 as Principal. After 38 years in the teaching profession, I have been delighted to finish my career at such a great school. I have been very fortunate to have worked with such excellent staff and governors, who remain committed to our students having the very best educational experience. I am very pleased that I am able to pass on the leadership of the school to the new Principal, Mr Ransome and, of course, to Mr Jackson, who continues as Executive Principal.

    Thank you for your continuing support – we really have appreciated your efforts in supporting the continued learning of students at home whilst the current arrangements have remained in place.

    Finally, despite the remaining uncertainties during the wider reopening of society, I do hope that you are able to enjoy a happy and relaxing summer holiday, even if it is spent closer to home than you might have originally intended.

    First Day Arrangements (Wednesday 2 September 2020)

    Details will follow regarding the arrangements for the return of students at the start of the new school year. We continue to work on these plans in line with current government guidance.

    Yours sincerely

    Mr J Taylor
    Principal