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Mr Waszek: Easter holiday message from the Executive Principal
March 31, 2020

Dear Parents and Pupils

I should like to begin by thanking you all for your support over the past week.  I am aware that parents are providing a great deal of help for our pupils and we are very grateful.

The world is in a difficult place and it is by working together and supporting one another that we will complete this difficult journey.

Over the course of the past week, I know that many pupils have been working very hard on the tasks set by our teachers.  Irrespective of when we can come together again it is important that we continue working so that there is no “learning loss”.  At some point in the future, all pupils will face assessments at GCSE and A level, and those will have a significant impact on the opportunities available to our pupils after their schooldays.  It is very easy to lose learning which has itself taken a lot of hard work: that cannot be allowed to happen.

Since it now seems that we will not be able to reopen the school buildings on 21 April as hoped, we shall be moving into the next stage of our provision for pupils.  I am extremely grateful for the feedback we have received from pupils and parents about their experiences to date.

Teachers, and especially the Heads of Faculties have been monitoring the progress of pupils.  Clearly, our assessments of the progress they are making is a major factor in determining the style and content of the academic work teachers are/will be setting.

So, I am writing to inform you about some of the changes to the way learning will be taking place after the Easter break.  This has been led by Assistant Head, Mr Andy Thomas and any queries regarding this aspect of school life should be directed to him by email: ajthomas@rydalpenrhos.com .

E-Safety

I know that it is of paramount importance to us all that our children are safe, happy, making good progress in their learning and flourishing as much as possible during this time.

As pupils use more and more digital technology this is accompanied by the greater risks to e-safety.  So, we encourage our pupils and parents to be vigilant over the use of digital technology and social media.  Mrs Hind (Head of Pastoral Care) will be re-issuing guidance regarding general e-safety.  It should act as a useful refresher during this time of increased usage.

Online Learning Programme

Over the past week pupils, parents and teachers have given very useful feedback and pointers regarding how online learning can evolve.  The following describes some of the changes that will be in place at the start of the Summer term.

New Timetable

Pupils, especially in Year 7 to 10 have reported that the 6 teaching periods each day, that we follow in school, has been difficult to follow online and that 6 separate lessons or tasks, with a variety of deadlines, has proved overwhelming.

So, we are rewriting the school timetable for the start of next term.  The ‘virtual’ school days will be divided into 3 or 4 slots of double lessons.  This change will enable pupils to spend time focused on learning.  We will continue to ensure that there is plenty of meaningful work to do and plenty of opportunities for pupils to interact with their teachers.

The new timetables will be emailed to parents and pupils during the Easter break.

Interactions with Teaching Staff

There will be opportunities throughout each day to interact with teaching staff, and in addition to ‘Show My Homework’ we will use the software package ‘Microsoft (MS) Teams’.

This will give pupils opportunities to ask questions and interact with the member of staff.  During this time, pupils will also be able to interact with each other via the chat feature on MS Teams.

Interactions with Form Tutors

There will be dedicated time slots to meet online with form tutors and the form group each week.  This will be a time for staff to deliver key information, for staff and pupils to engage with each other, chat and ask any questions they may have.

MS Teams Protocols and guidelines

Pupil and parent instructions, along with an updated remote learning policy, will be emailed to pupils and parents over the Easter break.  Pupils will be delivered clear instructions via email, Show My Homework (SMHW) and during form time.

Online Resources

One of the positive results we are already seeing, in response to the current situation, is the range of free online resources and activities being made available.  At the end of this letter are links to a number of these excellent resources that your child may wish to take advantage of.  These resources have all been checked as suitable for young people to use.

If you are aware of any others and want to share those, not least so that we can first confirm that they are safe for young people to use, please contact Mr Andy Thomas, Assistant Head, who is responsible for online learning.

Reports for Years 11, 12 and 13

Within the next few days we will be issuing, as normal, reports for pupils in Years 11, 12 and 13 via iSams.  Full details of these reports, and how pupils and parents will be able to consult with teachers will be provided.

Appointment of Head Boy, Head Girl and Senior Prefects

We must continue to plan for the future and one very important set of appointments to make are those of Head Boy, Head Girl, their deputies and the prefect team.

As last year it is our intention that Year 12 pupils play a major role in these appointments.  In the next few days, they and the staff of the school will be asked to vote and I anticipate that we shall be in a position to announce the successful pupils at the start of next term.

The Easter Break

There is a need for all of our pupils to experience an Easter break that feels different from the day to day remote learning environment they will be experiencing during term time.  Prep work will be set as usual over the Easter break for Years 10 to 13.

I appreciate that typically during the school holidays, pupils will spend time with their friends, visit family or take a break elsewhere in the U.K. or overseas.  Most, if not all, of those will not be possible this year.  Consequently, we have decided that all pupils in Years 7 to 9 will be invited to take part in 6 Easter challenges.

There will be a variety of fun and exciting challenges.  Each of our six faculties will shortly be sharing the challenges via SMHW. There will be prizes from each faculty for those that best meet the challenge in each year group.

I should be very happy to receive suggestions for suitable prizes.  I have suggested that a free trip to Alton Towers, once it reopens, will be one of them!!  The challenges are non-compulsory, but we do hope that everyone gets stuck in and enjoys taking part.

The School is committed to continuing to provide academic and pastoral support to our pupils.  We are working to mitigate the issues resulting from the disruption to GCSE and ‘A’ level examinations, for Years 10 to 13, and parents and pupils will be informed as the various examining authorities clarify the process that will be used.

As part of the school’s wider responsibilities, we are continuing to offer free care for the children of key workers, and I am very grateful to the staff who have volunteered to enable this to continue over the school holidays.

As we approach the Eastertide, the most significant period in the Christian calendar, I wish you a Holy and Safe Easter.

Kind regards,

Mr J E Waszek

Executive Principal