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Headmasters Letter 5th June

Posted on 5th June 2020

Dear Parent,

Welcome back to the final half-term of this unprecedented school year. I sent ‘Virtual Briefing #10’ to colleagues this morning, commenting that I did not think we’d reach double figures!

Term dates for 2021/22

We had a consultation earlier this academic year about adopting a two-week half-term in the Autumn term, and making small adjustments to the other terms to ensure we are open to students for 190 days per year. We looked at adopting this model in September 2020 and there was overwhelming support for this idea. However, a small but significant number of parents were concerned that this was happening too quickly. We were also asked to consider linking our proposed term dates with other schools beyond Caistor. Despite attempts, this has not been possible. Since then, some parents have asked to know the dates for 21/22 so I, along with the Caistor Yarborough and Grasby and Caistor primary schools, are publishing these today.

They are:

Autumn term ’21: Wednesday 1 September to Friday 17 December

(half-term: Monday October 25 to Friday 5 November)

Spring Term ’22: Tuesday 4 January – Friday 1 April

(half-term: Monday 14 February to Friday 18 February)

Summer term ‘22: Tuesday 19 April – Friday 22 July

(half-term: Monday 30 May – Friday 3 June)

Placing the second week of the October half-term after the current first week divides the Autumn term into two reasonably equal lengths. I hope this means we can all reach December 17 in 2021 in better shape than we did in 2019. The dates will now be submitted to the local authority for formal approval.

Sixth Form induction

Owing to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, I am sorry to say that the Sixth Form Induction Day scheduled for June 21 has been cancelled. However, in our online Sixth Form Prospectus you can find a great deal of useful information concerning entry requirements, syllabus details, transport, subject contact details, leadership and volunteering opportunities as well as our Wednesday afternoon activities programme. You can also find details of our House system and competitions as well as recent student destinations post CGS.

In addition, the pre-A level work has been published on our website. Although this work is intended for students who are returning to or joining us in Year 12, I’d encourage younger students to take a look if they want to explore their subject interests beyond their current lessons – once they’ve completed their work, of course. [link]

Year 10 work experience

A small number of students have been in touch to say that their work experience placement is happy to accommodate them at the end of the summer term. We cancelled work experience due to COVID-19 and so we have therefore not risk assessed these placements. Work experience is a key experience of Year 10. I am therefore happy for students to take part in this but parents need to be satisfied that appropriate safeguards (e.g. social distancing, washing facilities, etc.) have been put in place to ensure that workplaces conform to government guidelines. School cannot manage this process at such short notice.

To replace work experience, the Oak Academy, one of the national schools supported by the Department for Education, is running a week of work experience activities starting on Monday. There are a couple of live chats that might be worth accessing – these are on the penultimate page. With the flexible approach to remote learning, students could attend these. The booklet can be accessed here. [link]

Remote learning

I said that this week would be a practice with the scheme starting formally next week. One of the challenges that younger students face is differentiating between social media platforms and school-based electronic communication. I wrote an email to students in Years 7-9 on Wednesday about the need to ensure that all interactions – messaging, audio and video – are professional in tone and conduct. Please can you support this message at home as I don’t want to bar any student from this medium as it’s going to be a part of their working and (possibly) educational lives for some time to come.

Year 10 and Year 12 face to face contact

The Government’s guidelines were reviewed again this week about the June 15 return opening for Year 10 and 12. I can now put together an offer that enables students on a limited basis to gain some support from subject specialists before we break for summer. Due to data protection, the timetable will be accessed via student accounts. I will also contact those parents that signed up via ParentMail to confirm that the details are with students. Please remember that the remote sessions and work that is being sent home is covering the curriculum.

Senior Prefect Team

I meet remotely with the Senior Prefect Team every Monday morning. At their interview, they were all asked how they could help us to ensure we remained a community at this time. One of their ideas is to produce a special one off of the Caistor Focus, our school newspaper to record this unusual year. Over the next few weeks, they will be contacting students who have been using their time to develop skills and interests, which might have gone unacknowledged. We hope to publish this in the last week of term. 

Health reminder update

Even though lockdown is being relaxed little by little every week, I wish to remind everyone about the importance of hand washing. Here’s a link to some new resources if you’re looking at ways to re-enforce this message at home.

When we return, hand washing will become a feature of our school day.

Anxiety and Loss – support

I’m enclosing a link to a free workbook for students of all ages helping them deal with anxiety and loss. Both emotions will have been experienced at some point. It has been published by the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Partnership. [link]

And finally… a troubling tree tale

I’ve been exploring the viability of removing the large redwood tree that stands by the middle court. Its height and root system concerns me, as does its movement in high winds. There’s been some speculation on social media about why I’m considering this – it’s not to widen the path to encourage social distancing or because I think it’s inconvenient. I am a dendrophile – [definition] just not of the type that might take out the English, Maths, Music & Art classrooms and the dining hall. The social media storm (no pun!) prompted the TPO officer from West Lindsey District Council to visit last week. I’m waiting for their response. What has disappointed me is that no-one from the concerned groups has tried to engage with the School to understand why we’re doing it, particularly as we actively support one of the environment groups concerned by releasing about 30 students from their lessons regularly to add their voice to the cross schools partnership in the town.

Enjoy your weekend,

Alistair Hopkins