Letter from Mr Morris - CEO of SLT - 19th May 2020
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope that you and your families are doing well under the continuing stresses of this challenging period? Across the Sussex Learning Trust community there have been so many positive glimmers of hope, often derived from a great idea of a teacher coming to life in young people. For example, Warden Park Primary’s rendition of ‘Wonderful’ sung by a multitude of children across the academy, or Northlands Wood’s You Tube channel or their upcoming ‘outdoor learning event and Warden Park Secondary Academy’s great ‘Well-being Wednesday’ event that caught the imagination of people way beyond our academy community.
Thank you for your continued support for our teachers. The kind messages you (and your children) send are truly uplifting for staff as they strive to do ‘what’s best for the children’ during lock-down.
There has been much said in the media about the Government plans to welcome more children in to school (they have never been fully closed) on the 1st June. Specifically, Nursery, Reception, Year 1, Year 6 and a face to face ‘supplementary experience’ for Year 10. There are some important points to make in this regard, many of which will repeat what your academy Head has communicated to you, I know, however:
1. The Government’s ambition is that the primary aged children come back from 1 June, not necessarily on 1 June. The Friday prior to that Monday sees a release of the latest Scientific analysis regarding risk which could give the ‘green light’ or, equally, the ‘red’.
2. Therefore, our academies are undertaking detail risk-assessments including planning mitigating strategies, as if the conditions are appropriate to allow more children back on 1 June. Better that, then we get to 1 June and think ‘we could have the children back now, we better get risk assessing and planning for that’ at that point.
3. Under-pinning the above point, the Trustees and everyone of our staff agree, that we will only invite more children back in if it is ‘safe’ to do so. Of course, nothing in this world is without risk, and so everyone has to accept that when we talk about ‘safety’ in this regard we mean that on a significant balance of probabilities scale (i.e. not just 51/49) we believe we can provide an environment where the risk of catching COVID-19 is minimal for our children and staff. Parents who are unconvinced by the plans and protocols we share with them nearer the date will not be held to account for not sending their children in to school. (Of course, there are many children or families who have vulnerabilities that brings another dimension to their decision making and confidence on sending a child in and the guidance is very clear on this. Please ask your Headteacher if you are unsure on whether you are in this category).
4. As a highly supportive and cohesive Trust of three academies, our Headteachers, Trust Officers, Trustees and Governing Bodies are in close contact supporting each other in the decision-making process for each academy. It is at times like this when our collaborative approaches add so much expertise and creative thinking to making the ‘best’ decisions for the children and our teachers, i.e. 3 heads are better than 1! The decisions we make will be ‘local’ ones, that is, reflecting the staffing available and the constraints of the building at each of the academies. Therefore, there may be some differences across the Trust in terms of how we phase the return of the children. One thing you can be sure of is that we will be careful and considered in our approaches and I know from the feedback I get that you have full confidence in your Headteachers and their teams to ‘do the right’ thing.
5. The guidance on the Government’s expectations for Year 10 is not particularly clear at present. What has become clear to us, though, is that our teachers have been able to provide a very strong distance learning offer for their students. It would appear we have been able to retain a better grasp than some schools of exactly what our students have, or have not, been doing during lockdown. That is vitally important because the teaching in Year 11 will have to reflect the learning that has been engaged with during these last few months. We are being asked to ‘supplement’ the current provision and because of the excellent use of our digital learning strategy, of course, the request for a ‘face to face’ engagement with a student’s teacher may not preclude more on-line experiences. Anyway, Mr Kenrick will continue to liaise with parents and students on this.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those teachers who have been working on a rota to ensure we can provide for the children of key-workers and vulnerable children in school. All of our academies have done this even if it meant opening for just one child. In addition, thank you to our great Headteachers and their Leadership Teams for co-ordinating the extraordinary efforts to ensure our children were properly provide for academically and pastorally.
Finally, from me, I share something from a school in Australia on the ‘Continuity of Learning’. It struck a chord with me and I was reminded that if we want some good to come out of this period it is entirely within our control to make it happen. Parents, and teachers alike, we can (and must) help our children to reflect on their learning of the last few months and think, ‘coming back from lockdown what would I like to do differently from before? Be more enthusiastic about? Be kinder to? More respectful of? Of course, we can always make these decisions to start again, but this punctuation of ‘normality’ provides us with a special opportunity.
Continuity of Learning
COVID-19 Children - What If?
When people say their children are going to be ‘behind’ I say, behind what? Not each other - they’re all in the same boat. Only ‘behind’ the age expectations of a curriculum that currently has limited context due to these extraordinary circumstances. In front on so many other more important fronts, I say.
What if instead of “behind” this group of children is advanced because of this?
What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing.
What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own company and sitting near a window in the quiet?
What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower? What if this generation is the one to learn to cook, organise their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?
What if they learn to stretch a pound and to live with less?
What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home?
What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?
What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?
What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life, who has a fine sense of empathy and care and concern for fellow humans.
What if he or she truly learns what really matters in all of this…
With every best wish and intention on behalf of your children.
Mr Jonathan Morris CEO, Sussex Learning Trust Copy:
Mr Jonathan Ash Edwards (Chair of Trustees)