8 February 2021
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope this half-term is going as well as can be expected, given the numerous restrictions to normality which continue to affect us all.
It has been pleasing to hear senior politicians and clinicians, backed by some scientific evidence, talking in more positive terms in recent days. In the meantime we persevere and adjust as best we can to the shifting work and life landscapes.
The 2nd February Government Update on In-School Provision
On Tuesday 2nd we were made aware of the government’s plans for the next few weeks. Unfortunately it did not contain much detail and plans only went up to the end of February. However, impressive thinking and planning has already taken place in school:
· Work has started on how we can best fulfil the government’s expectations while keeping everyone safe. Health recommendations will be followed closely, including evidence pertaining to new variants and community transmission rates. Our Health and Safety group has asked for a review of PPE requirements, which I have been happy to request of senior officers.
· At this point our own school plans have not yet been finalised but we are likely to run whole-day skills development sessions for S4-S6 students who are taking practical SQA subjects. Our plans are dependent on ongoing SQA and government updates. Our timetable will be circulated as soon as possible, once finalised.
· A review of the blend between in-school and online learning is necessary, particularly when the delivery of practical sessions for senior phase students in school begins on 22nd February. There will inevitably be a reduction in some online teaching time for S1-S3 pupils as a result. Teachers will not be able to simultaneously oversee practical sessions for senior pupils while also providing live lessons for their other classes.
· Assessment timelines, and the linked quality assurance steps to generate Senior Phase provisional grades for SQA, are continuing to be reviewed. There are some experienced staff with very good minds in our school keeping an eye on this. We will do everything we can to optimise student outcomes and help them to fulfil their potential.
Our in-school staffing rota to support Key Worker and vulnerable young people will be amended to only include non-practical subject teachers. This will mean that non-practical subject teachers will come into school more often, which in turn will limit their availability for online lessons. As always we are planning to make best use of teachers’ time and their ability to support students, while meeting the requirements of the government announcement.
The First Minister’s announcement on Tuesday also included the signal of asymptomatic testing being made available for school staff and senior pupils. The information shared with Headteachers so far has been only verbal and has not yet included any detail, but indicates that we will have access to the lateral flow tests up to twice per week. An emphasis is being placed on these being for anyone who is asymptomatic, but they are not a substitute for the full lab-based tests available at testing centres.
We will hold an S3 parents’ evening on Thursday 25th February. Several benefits will arise from this, including:
· A check-in on progress so far.
· Assisting with suitable course choice for S4, avoiding inappropriate course choices which may need to be undone, thus reducing disruption further down the line.
· Informing the construction of the whole school timetable and help us get subject specific staffing levels right.
· An opportunity to address any issues and future solutions.
Letters will be sent to parents of S3 pupils to explain the process.
The intention is to use the online booking and meeting system (PEBS) as we did for seniors prior to Christmas. The success levels of these were mixed but improvements have been made. Some technological bugs have been ironed out and staff familiarity has improved. To help to reduce human error, we will also remind parents of the correct log-in information when the letters are issued. When booking time slots, I would ask parents to please manually select appointments for teachers whose subjects your child is most interested in taking next year This will make best use of the limited time available.
I hope you are able to step away from work, online notifications and the demands of supporting home learning. You and your children deserve a thoroughly enjoyable February break.
Mr John Wilson, Headteacher