27 March 2020

27 March 2020


Dear Parents and Carers,

I hope that you and your families are well. It has been the second strangest week in my teaching career. The strangest was last week, but there isn’t much to separate them. I would like to thank parents and carers for being so supportive during this difficult period. Everyone has had to make significant adjustments to their daily lives and we have had to create systems and plans from scratch. Your support and patience has helped to make that possible. I have also realised this week that I miss lunch duty, marking and low level disruption; or, at least they are all preferable to our current situation. Like many of you I’m sure, I long for the structure that usually sustains us, but that we rarely give much thought to.  

There are a number of updates that I think you will find useful relating to Home Learning, support for the children of critical/key workers, FSM and GCSE and A Level grades. I would also recommend that you download the school App, as we provide alerts when updating the website. We have published guidance today about how to do so. 

Home Learning Resources – We have tried very hard to upload a significant number of resources for students to use at home. The resources can be found on the rapidly expanding Home Learning section of the website and we will continue to add new resources and guidance on a weekly basis. There is new advice on working from home that should be useful for both parents and students. We have also started to plan and develop work for May and June so that students can build upon and consolidate the work that they are currently doing. This material will be linked to the national curriculum for KS3 students and will offer specific advice about transition work for KS3 and KS4 students. The work on the website is intended to be completed and used up to Easter and new work will be made available after that (notional) holiday. Some parents have asked if work should be returned to school and others have asked if they can collect work from the school site. Any work produced by students should be kept at home until students return and, unfortunately, parents cannot visit the school as a consequence of national social distancing advice. When restrictions are lifted we will update the website with new guidance. 

The Children of Key/Critical Workers – I would like to thank all parents and carers for making our system work so effectively. The Government’s advice has been reiterated a number of times this week and we have had none of the issues that other schools have faced. 

“The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of Covid-19 is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit, the chance of the virus spreading. This is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home wherever possible and asked schools to only remain open for those children who absolutely need to attend. It is important to underline that schools remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.”
We are very grateful for this, as we aim to support key workers, but to also minimise the risk of infection. The Government’s position is very clear and parents and carers should always consider the following questions:  

Question: Are you a key worker? 
If the answer is yes, your child might need to come to school. 

Question: Is there someone available to look after your child at home? 
If the answer is yes, your child should stay at home in accordance with Government instruction. 

Question: For secondary age children, is your child old enough to be at home on their own? 
If the answer is yes, your child should stay at home in accordance with Government instruction as they will be safer at home then at school. This usually applies to children who are 14 or older. 

Temporary School Closure – We are closed between Monday 30th March and Wednesday 1st April as we intend to complete a deep clean of the school site. This has been arranged after consultation with Public Health England, the Local Authority and after consulting the parents and carers of our key worker children. The school intends to open again on Thursday 2nd April 2020 for the small number of students that need to access childcare. 

Free School Meals – We have been in touch with a large number of parents this week and have delivered vouchers to home addresses to make sure that families receive the provision that they are entitled to. The Government have announced that a National Voucher Scheme will be in place soon, allowing people to use vouchers in all major supermarkets. Please let us know if you require any additional support or help and thank you again for being so patient. 

Ofqual GCSE & A Level Results – We have been informed by Ofqual that they will issue guidance next week on how GCSE and A Level grades will be calculated in the light of the national cancellation of exams. As soon as they release their plans we will update parents and offer an overview of how any decisions will affect students at Durham Johnston. 

Thank you again for your support and I wish all members of our school community the best of health in the coming weeks.

Yours faithfully,

A J O’Sullivan