Headteacher’s message – 12.4.21

Dear Families

I hope this finds you safe and well, having had a good Easter break. It still seems strange that we had a break so soon after everyone returned to school; the staff certainly needed it even if you would have liked your children to stay in school! It is really exciting to return to school today for what, we hope and trust, will be a full term for all our children. The Summer Term always brings a huge range of opportunities, especially as the weather improves and as we near the end of the school year. We are not exactly sure what the advice will be as to how we keep everyone as safe as possible as this term moves along. We hope that, as vaccines continue, rates reduce and key dates in the roadmap pass, we can start to relax, just a bit, and reintroduce things we are missing from school life. We’ve missed trips, singing together, welcoming parents in to school, spending time with children of different ages… all things we hope to do as this term goes along. Over the next few weeks, we hope it will become clearer which events we can hold and how we can celebrate the end of the school year together.

We are delighted to welcome Kerry Catchpole as the new teacher of 2Y! Kerry is an experienced teacher and we are very fortunate she was able to join us for this new term. Welcome, Kerry!

For the next few weeks, we will continue as we were before the holiday. The only changes are that Shining Stars reopened today. Please remember, all sessions must be booked on the School Money website or the app; there have been some limits on bookings but we have increased capacity now. Shining Stars runs from 7.30am (children must arrive by 8.15am) and until 6pm; their phone number (for use when the school office is closed) is 07596201451. Drop off and collection is through the library gates. We have made some changes to their menu to ensure our serving is Covid secure.

After school clubs will restart next week; a booking form will be emailed out to you.

As in September, we have a few members of staff who will be working in more than one Year Group. We need to do this so that teachers can meet and plan together. Mr Roberts and Mrs Lee are working across Years 5 and 6. Mrs Chambers and Mr Watts are working across Years 3 and 4.

Despite the restrictions, we have some new projects that are starting this week. Mr Roberts is leading us on a project to reduce car usage and get us walking/scooting/cycling to school as much as possible. We know this is harder for some families than others but, if we all play our part, it could have a really good impact on the number of cars near our school as well as on activity levels. James’ video to launch this is in the ‘assemblies’ section of our website.

Miss Youngman is working from home and is taking on two projects for us. The first is to ask you about your experience of lockdown learning. We know this was really difficult for some families and want to understand why that was. We hope it will never happen again but, if it did, it would be great to know what we got right and what could have been better at. It will also help us consider what ‘homework’ might look like in the future. There will be a survey to complete and she will be contacting some of you individually. Thank you with your help on this.

Her other project is going to be about ‘time’. We really want to make this term as effective as possible, focusing on key aspects of learning. One subject it is always difficult to teach in school is telling the time. This is because children have hugely different experiences of telling the time, some grasping it easily and others really struggling. It really needs to be ‘drip fed’, constant and often, which is difficult for us to do. We are asking for your help in supporting your child to tell the time. Jade will post a range of resources and videos on our website to help with this. More of this will follow!

On Friday, families will be told if their children have places for Reception in September. We are delighted that people put their trust in us to be the first school for their children, especially in such uncertain times. We will do everything we can to support them as September gets closer; if you know anyone who has a child joining us, please talk to them about the school as much as you can as they have not all had the chance to visit or to meet us this year.

Lastly, we have some very happy news to share! Mrs Mason is expecting a baby in the summer holidays! A huge congratulations to Hannah! Her class have been told today although, on seeing her this morning, some had already guessed! This does mean she will start her maternity leave before the end of term and we will confirm the arrangements for 5M once dates have been set.

We are really looking forward to a settled, happy and hardworking term. Most importantly, we want a term where everyone is safe and well and, during which, our whole community can reconnect with each other. We will continue to take things slowly but have real hope that this will be possible.

Take care everyone and keep looking after each other. Thank you for your continued support for St William’s.

Sarah Shirras #proudheadteacher

Headteacher’s message – 22.2.21

Dear Families

I hope this finds you safe and well and looking after each other. I trust you had a happy half term ‘break’ – I know for many of you the break from home learning will have been very welcome but for others it meant less structure to the day and less contact with others. I know, for some of you, there are other enormous pressures on you, some related to the pandemic and some not. Whatever is happening for you and whatever you managed to do last week, I hope the warmer weather and longer hours of daylight not only lift the mood but give us hope that the joys of Spring and Summer are fast approaching, with the prospect of being able to see friends and family again.

Today, some children returned to school and others returned to their remote learning. As we keep saying, we know this can be a real pressure for some families. Please look after yourselves; don’t let this get you down and let us know if you need any help. Of course learning really matters but you all do too; being safe and well is the most important thing. There are days when things flow smoothly and seem fine and others where it all feels like a very emotional uphill struggle. When it does, shut the laptop and do something that makes you happy! Get your pyjamas on and watch a film or get your coats on and get outside; there aren’t so many puddles to jump in but there is plenty of mud!

Today, we await the government’s announcement about what happens from 8th March onwards. We have no prior notice of what the news will be apart from the speculation in the newspapers and social media this morning, not the best way to try and plan for what comes next. It does appear as if schools will be expected to open in a much fuller way than they are now. Like many announcements over the last year, this brings a mix of emotions. We miss seeing our classrooms and school full of children; we miss catching up with you on drop off and pick up. However, our top priority is everyone’s safety. For many of you, getting your children back to school, seeing their friends and playing and learning together, is top of your list right now but for others it comes with some anxiety. When we have the news, we will talk as a staff team and let you know as soon as we can what this means for St William’s and for your children. You may remember, back in June as we headed out of the first lockdown, we did things a bit differently from most schools, opening for smaller groups of children for sessions across the week. This gave more families the confidence to return and meant we had a far higher uptake than most schools. In September, we opened fully for all children with a wider range of health and safety measures in place. In January, we did not open on the first day of term, the day this lockdown was announced in the evening. On each of these occasions, we talked through our plans as a team and did what we believed was the right thing for our whole school community. Once we know what we are being asked to do, this is what we will spend today and tomorrow doing; planning to best support all of you in as safe a way as possible. We will then let you know what this means for you and your children.

Another part of the media coverage at the moment that doesn’t help any of us is the constant talk about ‘catch up’ and children falling behind. We all know that learning at home has brought a huge range of pressures for many families and this idea that anyone is letting their children down is so unhelpful. What most people seem to want right now is human contact, to laugh and chat and be carefree with people we love and care about. Talk of extra lessons, longer school days and holiday learning can feel like a huge additional pressure. When we have everyone back at school, we will plan to support them in the best way we can but our feeling is that when newer, safer freedoms come, children should spend time with friends and family, playing and getting to know each other again. It is vital we support their learning but this will come when their ready. One headteacher described it last week as being like when a child has a badly broken leg. We don’t plan for them running in Sports Day next Summer; we do everything we can for their leg to get better and grow strong, taking it literally one step at a time. When their leg is better, they can then run as much and as far as they want or need to; it is a marathon not a sprint. This is not a ”lost generation’ of children but an incredibly special one who deserve all we can give them once we are back together as a school.

Please carry on taking care of each other; it has been lovely to see some of you as you have collected your grab bags today and we hope to see more of you tomorrow. As soon as we can, we will tell you how we will be seeing all of you very soon!

Sarah Shirras #proudheadteacher

Headteacher’s message – 27/01/2021

Dear Families

I hope this finds you safe and well and taking care of each other. It seems like a long time since I emailed you all; school (real and virtual) is a very busy place with lots going on and many things to balance. Vicky is leading the staff team in trying to balance the learning in school and at home; it is new to all of us and we continue to review and improve what we are doing. We are also trying to support families in any other way we can. Alongside all of that, there are the ongoing, routine things like setting budgets for the new financial year, keeping our building safe, introducing testing for staff, keeping our Governors informed of what we are doing and ensuring all our safeguarding responsibilities continue.

The world we live in is still a worrying and complicated one; despite the dreadful case numbers we keep hearing about, case rates in our area are beginning to drop. However, we have more families self isolating at this moment than at any other previous time; we are sending all of you in this situation our very, very best. The vaccine gives us real hope that things can move forward sometime very soon. We also know some families have some really difficult non-Covid related pressures and send you our love too.

I know some of you will be disappointed in the news today that the earliest schools will open for more children is Monday, 8th March. This is not a huge surprise as the rates remain high in much of the country but it is still a frustration and a disappointment as we all just want to get back to any type of normal as soon as possible, but this must be when it is safe to do so. We do know how hard it is for many of you to have your children at home all day (not for all, a few are really enjoying it). However, this is what is needed right now in order to get us to that safe place. I do know that this week seems to have been the hardest so far for many of you; the fourth week of this lockdown, trying to support your children and run your home and maybe working at home too; no one is underestimating the pressures all of this brings. There is so much to balance and it is not surprising people are dropping spinning plates and feeling rubbish about themselves. You are very far from rubbish; you are supporting your family through a pandemic in the best way you can. Be kind to yourself and stop thinking of what is going wrong and start thinking about what is going right. You have managed so much for so long now; we just need to stick at it for a few more weeks.

As a school, we have no intention of adding to the pressures on you; none of us know the situation anyone else is in and cannot make any judgement on how it feels to be you. We know at times we have added to this, just because we’ve been doing as we have been asked ; there is a tension at times between what we are asking your children to do and what is possible in your circumstances. There are very clear expectations on us as to how much learning we should be offering and we are aiming to meet these. For some families, this works as it helps motivate children to engage with our offer; we also know for others it can be overwhelming and feel like an enormous pressure. Some families are saying that one day can go really well only for the next to be a real strain. We are sorry if, in doing what we have been asked to do, we are adding to the pressures on you. If it all seems too much, shut the computer down, get your coats on and go and splash in a puddle or two. You can pick up where you left off, or not, once you are home.

We are really enjoying celebrating a wide range of activities that are going on at home. Nursery, Reception and Year 1 love to see what you are up to by sharing in Tapestry. Years 2-6 have a channel on Teams called No Screen Time to share what you are up to; we really do have a talented bunch of children and families! Next week, to celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week which has the theme ‘Express Yourself’, staff will be recording a range of videos celebrating things they love and share ideas with families. Next Friday, our Zooms will have the theme Express Yourself, hoping your children will dress accordingly! The following week is our whole school project celebrating Chinese New Year. So, there is lots to look forward to, there really is!

Take care everybody; look after each other and yourselves. We miss you all and want to see you as soon as it is safe to do so.

Sarah Shirras