Friday 27th March 2020
COVID-19 Update

As we reach the end of our first week of school closure, I have provided some key updates and advice below.

Home Learning

We have been hugely impressed by the volume of work being completed by our students at this time. However, we are also hearing about some students becoming anxious/stressed about keeping up to date, missing deadlines, etc. This can be a particular issue for our SEND students as they do not have access to their TA. Please reassure your son/daughter that they are only expected to do the best that they can in the circumstances. When everyone returns to school, we will review what has been achieved and plan future lessons accordingly. There will be no sanctions applied to students for not being able to complete work during the school closure period.

The best way for parents to monitor the tasks being set and completed by their children is to sit with them with their Google Classroom account open. The parent version of Google Classroom is not particularly helpful so it is much better to use the student screen.

Please note that we do not intend to set work for our students during the Easter period. However, our skeleton provision in school will remain open at this time for key workers and vulnerable students. If students are in school over Easter, they will need to bring appropriate materials with them to read etc. However, parents of these students are asked to bear in mind that we will not be able to allow group activities, board games, etc.

Social Distancing

All of the Macclesfield Head Teachers are getting reports about teenage children gathering in groups on the local parks and skate parks. This is clearly putting their own lives and that of others at risk. We would consequently urge all parents to ensure that their sons/daughters behave in a socially responsible manner during this period of national crisis. These gatherings should simply not be taking place.

GCSE and A-Level Grades

We understand that announcements about the systems to be used to decide GCSE and A-Level grade will be announced by Ofqual next week. We will update you about this as soon as we have clear guidance in this respect.

With best wishes to everyone in our community at this time.


Tuesday 24th March 2020
COVID-19 Update

As national measures relating to the management of Covid-19 are clearly escalating, I wanted to update you with respect to several issues, as outlined below.

Skeleton Provision

We are continuing to offer a skeleton provision for parents who desperately need this support. In managing this facility, it is very important for us to limit this service to the smallest possible number of students as doing so helps to minimise the risk to our staff and the students themselves. Thank you to all those parents who have worked very positively with us in this respect.

GCSE and A-level Grades

As yet, we have had no clarity regarding the national systems that will be used to determine A-Level and GCSE grades. At the moment, it seems likely that teachers will be asked to provide a professional estimate for each student, but it is already clear that other important factors beyond the school’s control will also be used for this purpose. Also, external moderation systems will be required to maintain a sense of fairness across the country and we do not how these will be designed and implemented. In this climate, it is important that parents do not email staff asking for estimated grades or other indicators of likely performance. We will respond to any national requirements that are introduced and will keep parents informed about these processes as much as possible.

Under current proposals, it seems that students who are disappointed with the GCSE or A-Level grades this year will be given the opportunity to sit these examinations in September 2020 or May/June 2021 if they choose to do so. While such an outcome would clearly be less than ideal, it does seem that such a fallback provision is being planned currently. In this light, it remains important for our Y11 and A-Level students to continue studying in case they decide to follow such a route in future. At the moment, we are not in a position to provide advice as to how applications to our Sixth Form will be managed. Once we know how the GCSE grading systems will be applied, we will then consider how these outcomes will need to be interpreted for this purpose.

Y11 and Y13 Leavers

We had excellent final assemblies with our Y11 and Y13 Leavers last Friday. The quality of the performances was remarkable in light of the fact that we only had 24 hours to prepare. While there was a lot of sadness that the year had come to an abrupt and premature end, it was great to have this opportunity to recognise the huge contribution that these students have made to our school in their time here. We wish them all every success in the future and we look forward to hearing from them in the years ahead too.

Online Learning

Staff and students are working very hard to keep on top of our online learning systems. We have been impressed by the way in which our students have responded to this new environment and this gives us hope that we can recover any lost ground very quickly once service returns to normal.

While current developments are very concerning, we remain optimistic that our community will manage these circumstances successfully and we look forward to bringing everyone back to school in the near future.


Thursday 19th March 2020
School Closure and More Information

As has been reported in the national media, we have been instructed to close the school at the end of the school day on Friday 20th March until further notice. At the same time, we are being asked to continue to provide support for vulnerable students and the families of ‘key workers’. Our pastoral team are currently working hard to identify and work with such families so that we can put this provision in place in time for Monday morning. I have tried to summarise other key information and advice for our community below.

Year 11 and Year 13

The cancellation of this year’s GCSE and A-Level examinations has come as a shock to everyone. After so much hard work has been done by our students and staff, this is a deeply disappointing outcome, not least when we know that both cohorts were on track to do exceptionally well this year.

At this point, we do not know what the government’s plans are with respect to recognising the achievements of our Y11 and Y13 students. In this uncertain situation, it remains important for our students to continue studying their examination courses at home. While this work will inevitably be less focussed and intense than would have otherwise been the case, our students need to note that we may be asked to provide ‘estimated grades’ for them in the future and we do not know what evidence may be required from us for this purpose.

We are also very conscious of the need for our students to be fully prepared for the next stage of their education, even if they do not have to sit formal examinations. With all this in mind, our teaching staff will continue to set work for Y11 and Y13 students up to their official leaving dates (Thursday 7th May for Y11 and Friday 15th May for Y13). We also looking at trying to provide ‘transition work’ for Y11 students who are hoping to join us in the Sixth Form and we hope to provide more information about this later in the year.

Last night’s announcements mean that tomorrow will be the last day in school for our Y11 and Y13 students. We are determined not to let this moment pass without taking the opportunity to celebrate their time at Fallibroome with them and to recognise the enormous contribution that they have all made to our school during their time here. We are consequently planning ‘Leavers’ Assemblies’ for tomorrow afternoon and we will treat this as a non-uniform day for both cohorts. Y11 students will also be allowed to bring their school uniform shirts in to be signed, as has become customary at this time of year.

Provision of Work

We will do everything we can to continue to provide work for all our students in this period. With this in mind, we intend to use Google Classroom as the key resource for setting work and communicating with our students. We recommend that you review your son’s /daughter’s Google Classroom account with them every evening so that you can support them in structuring their studies at home as much as possible. We suggest that students do their best to follow their normal timetable routine by completing tasks relevant to the subject that they would normally be studying at that point in the school day. This might help to maintain some sense of normality through this difficult period. When setting assignments, our teachers may choose not to set new work for every individual lesson. Instead, they might set work on the Monday that needs to be completed throughout the week. Where possible / appropriate, we have asked our teachers to provide a time indication for each assignment so that students can structure their work accordingly.

Year 10 and Year 12

The length of the school closure has heightened our concerns for these cohorts in particular. We have consequently asked our staff to pay special attention to supporting these students over the months ahead. In particular, we have asked teachers to do their best to provide enhanced materials (e.g. PowerPoints with audio explanations and/or online live group sessions using Google Meet) for these students. While the ability of our teachers to provide this support will be very dependent on their own health and caring responsibilities, I know that our staff are very determined to do all they can to support their examination classes in this way.

Provision of Feedback

It will clearly not be possible for us to mark work and provide ongoing feedback during the closure period. However, we have asked our teachers to prioritise responding to any email queries they receive from their Y10 and Y12 students so that additional support can be provided as necessary. Teachers will also do their best to answer queries from Y11 and Y13, although we anticipate that these will be quite few in number. To make this manageable, we ask that students and parents in KS3 year groups avoid emailing their teachers at this time. Also, please bear in mind that our teachers may be unwell themselves so may not be able to respond to such queries quickly.

Continuity and Quality of Work Set

In a normal school environment, teachers design tasks based on the progress students have made in the previous lesson. As this school closure period is going to be very lengthy, this continuity will be lost and it will become increasingly difficult for our staff to set really meaningful work for their students. This is especially true of non-examination cohorts. While we will do our best in these circumstances, we ask for your understanding with respect to these issues.

While this closure is far from ideal, we will do all we can to minimise the impact on our students. Even though our Y12 and Y10 cohort are a very high priority for us during this period, we know that a lot of extra work will also need to be done with all our students to help them to catch up on their return to school.

Communication

Please bear in mind that, once the school is closed, it becomes much more difficult for us to send bulk emails out to our parents. We will do our best to keep these systems operational, but we may need to resort to posting updates only through our website. We consequently advise everyone to check our website regularly for any additional information or advice during the closure period.

Summary

Our students have been remarkable throughout this period. They have shown great resilience and have continued to take their studies very seriously. Nevertheless, maintaining this focus and energy at home for months ahead with much reduced support from school is clearly a daunting challenge and will require much oversight and guidance from parents. Having witnessed the way in which our students have responded thus far, I am sure that they will rise to this challenge and that we will be able to recover any lost ground very quickly once everything returns to normal in a few months’ time.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise the extraordinary efforts that have been made by our staff in recent weeks. School staff have been very much in the front line in this crisis and I am immensely proud of the way in which our community has responded to these exceptional circumstances with positivity and commitment. I have no doubt that this will continue throughout the closure period too.

While the current circumstances seem especially unfair on our Y11 and Y13 cohorts, the nation’s health clearly has to remain everyone’s most important priority. At this point, we must all trust in our political leaders, senior medical professionals and the examination system to make the right decisions and to treat all our students fairly when final grades are decided upon. I remain very optimistic that all necessary actions will be taken to allow our young people to progress on to their chosen destinations.

We have received many supportive and positive comments from our parents over the last few weeks, for which we are very grateful. As we are facing very uncertain times in the months ahead, I would like to send our best wishes to every member of our community. We are very much looking forward to having everyone back in school fit and well in the near future.


Wednesday March 18th 2020
Management of Covid-19

I am writing to update you with respect to our ongoing approach to the management of the coronavirus pandemic. To my knowledge, we have not yet had a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19 in our student/staff community, although this may be because very few people are being formally tested for the condition. We are certainly seeing an increasing number of students and staff self-isolating.

School Closure for Year 10

The increasing number of staff self-isolating is making it impossible to support all year groups in school safely. For this reason, we need to ask Year 10 to stay at home from tomorrow, Thursday 19th March until at least the end of school on Tuesday 24th March. We have asked our Year 10 teachers to provide work for their students using Google Classroom.

While it was our original intention to send Year 8 home if we reached this stage, we have chosen Year 10 as we are hoping that this will reduce the need for parents to put caring arrangements in place for their children. If our staffing situation continues to worsen, our next course of action will involve the suspension of Y12 lessons. If these circumstances arise, we will still allow our Y12 students to study independently in our Sixth Form Centre if they wish to do so.

We will review this position over the next week and consider the following future options:

  1. If our staffing levels improve, we will try to bring Year 9 and 10 back into school.
  2. If our staffing issues remain at approximately the same level, we will bring some of Y9 and Y10 back to school on Wednesday 25th March and we will then ask other years groups to remain at home for the following week.
  3. If our staffing issues worsen, we will suspend Y12 lessons and we may also ask other year groups to remain at home. We are particularly anxious to avoid sending Y11 and Y13 home if at all possible.

Emailing Staff

We have asked our staff to provide work for Y9 and Y10 using Google Classroom. However, I need to ask parents to refrain from sending emails to their teachers requesting additional advice and guidance. The volume of this communication is already becoming very difficult for our staff to manage. Instead, we request that your son/daughter does their best with the tasks that have been set. We will then deal with any issues or uncertainties on their return to school.

Food Bank

Alongside the other Macclesfield schools, we are supporting a campaign to collect non-perishable items for local food banks. We anticipate that some families are likely to really struggle in the weeks and months ahead so would like to do what we can to help. If you have any such items that you can donate, please ask your son/daughter to bring them into school. We will have collection points outside my office in A-Block and in the main school Reception area.

As events continue to move quickly, we will monitor these circumstances very carefully and will provide further updates as necessary.

With thanks for your understanding and ongoing support for the school.


17th March 2020
Management of Covid-19

Following last night’s announcements by the government, I am writing to update you with respect to our ongoing approach to these issues.

School Closure for Year 9

The national decision to increase self-isolation periods to 14 days has added to the staffing difficulties that we are experiencing at the moment. For this reason, we need to ask Year 9 to stay at home from tomorrow, Wednesday 18th March until at least the end of school on Tuesday 24th March. We have asked our Year 9 teachers to provide work for their students using Google Classroom. We will review this position over the next week and consider the following future options:

  1. If our staffing levels have improved, we will ask Year 9 to return to school on Wednesday 25th March.
  2. If our staffing issues have remained at approximately the same level, we will ask Year 9 to return to school on Wednesday 25th March and we will then ask Year 8 to remain at home for the following week.
  3. If our staffing issues have worsened, we may need to ask Year 9 to remain at home and ask other year groups to do likewise.

We will update parents regarding these options at a later date.

School Events

In light of the national guidance to avoid all non-essential travel, we are going to cancel all off-site school trips and scheduled activities until at least Easter in the first instance. Further information regarding individual events will be sent to parents from the leaders of these activities in due course.

We are also reviewing any on-site events that will involve large numbers of visitors coming onto our site. With this in mind, we have decided to cancel the Y7 Parents’ Evening (Wednesday 18th March) and the Y13 Review Evening (Monday 23rd March). We have also decided to cancel the Spring Concert (Wednesday 1st April). All other school events are currently subject to review. In the near future, the leaders of such events will let the relevant parents know whether or not they are going to be cancelled.

Once we have returned to normal, we will do our best to reschedule as many of these events as possible. We recognise, however, that this may not always be feasible. As events continue to move very quickly, we will continue to monitor these circumstances very carefully and will provide further updates as necessary.

With thanks for your understanding and ongoing support for the school.


March 16th 2020
Management of Covid-19

As the Covid-19 outbreak continues, I am writing to update you with respect to our ongoing plans to manage these issues.

School Closure

At the moment, the intention seems to be to keep schools open for as long as possible. We are conscious, however, that this may change quickly. In the event of school closure, we will do our best to provide work for our students using Google Classroom. We will also prioritise supporting Y11 and Y13 during this critical period.

Partial School Closure

It seems inevitable that staff absence levels will increase in the weeks ahead as colleagues are instructed to self-isolate, either because they are ill themselves or because someone in their household has become poorly. While wehave processes in place to cover such scenarios, it is likely that our resources in this respect will become overstretched quite quickly. In these circumstances, we may choose to instruct one of our year groups to stay at home for a period of time. This will then free up a number of our teaching staff to be redeployed to cover other staff absences. If these actions become necessary, we will probably choose to ask Year 9 to stay at home first as they are the oldest non-examination cohort. Further escalation of these issues may cause us to ask Year 8 or Year 7 to stay at home.

In the event that such actions become necessary, we may need to act very quickly. We may only be able to communicate such decisions to parents on the day itself and will use email and our website for this purpose.If at all possible, we will try to provide such information the day before any school closures decisions are applied.

Student Illness/Absences

The current guidance states that self-isolation is appropriate if someone has a new persistent cough and/or a high temperature. If you need further advice in this respect, please contact medical professionals as school staff are not able to offer guidance in this area.

If you decide to isolate your child at home, please let us know by contacting the absence line on 627229.

If we notice students in school with a persistent cough and/or a high temperature, we have set aside a separate room for them to wait while their parents are contacted and asked to take them home.It is our intention to authorise absences for students who need to self-isolate. Please provide a note to this effect on their return to school.

Provision of Work

If we need to partially or fully close the school, every effort will be made to provide work and ongoing support for our students, with particular priority being given to our examination cohorts.

If students need to self-isolate while the school remains open,they will need to monitor the assignments and lesson materials being posted on Google Classroom and do their best to keep up in this way.Regrettably, it will not be possible for our staff to set work for individual students who are absent from school for these reasons.

School Hygiene

We have been working with our school cleaners to prioritise the regular cleaning of ‘touch surfaces’. We are also monitoring the toilets on a daily basis to ensure that soap, hot water and hand dryers are all provided and working properly. Unfortunately, this is being made more difficult by a small minority of our students who wilfully overuse or even abuse these facilities. While this can be very frustrating in normal times, it is particularly so in the current climate. We would consequently ask all our parents to speak to their children about these matters and to let us know if they see or hear of any students who behave in such a socially irresponsible manner. We would also encourage parents to provide their son/daughter with tissues that they can use during the school day.

Dining Hall

In the event that our catering staff are unable to come into school, we may be unable to provide hot meals during the school day. We may consequently need to switch to a cold service and/or packed lunches for all students. Again, this might be necessary at very short notice.

We will continue to monitor these circumstances very carefully, particularly with respect to government advice regarding expected school actions.