20th March 2020

Dear Parents/Carers,

Transition to Home Learning

As you are aware, the Government has announced that school sites will be closed for students, except for those of key workers, from the end of today.

From Monday 23 March, we will therefore transition to online home learning. This letter aims to clarify our current thinking and offer some practical details about what you and your child can expect in the coming weeks. In sending this, I am also mindful of our students and their family members, as well as our staff members who are unwell or are in self-isolation already and I wanted to offer our thoughts and best wishes to them.

Settling into our new way of working

These are unique circumstances and there is likely to be some anxiety about what we as a country are facing. It is challenging for each of us on so many levels. I hope that you, your child/ren and our staff can use the weekend to settle into this ‘new normal’ and take time to develop your thoughts around what your new family routine will look like.

From a learning perspective, our suggestion is that alongside the above, you then think about the practicalities of checking that your child is able to log in to Show My Homework and that there is an area at home where your child can study. We also recommend downloading the material as needed to your own computers if possible, to avoid any potential issues with having to be online given the strains that will be placed across the country on IT systems.

Our school homepage is being updated to acknowledge our change in working, you will find all the necessary links, such as Show My Homework and curriculum resources through this page.

Helping us to help you

Like yourselves, our teaching and support staff are doing their best to adjust to their own family situations, and several new dimensions to the scope of their responsibilities. We know that by working collaboratively and communicating openly and with understanding during this time, we can all smoothly settle into this way of working. In the next two weeks up to the end of term, let’s aim to develop a good rhythm of work, and learn what works well. Where something has not functioned so well, we will be open about this and put it right. None of us knows how long this will last for and speculation is not helpful. Although this is going to be a different way of working and different channels of communication, the teachers and support staff are passionate and care deeply about our students and their future. To that end, a number have volunteered to help keep the school open.

Exam students

I know it is a time of mixed emotions for parents/carers as well as students who have been part of the community for the past five or seven years of their lives. At the time of writing, the exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled this summer, following our actions to slow the spread of coronavirus. University representatives have confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education. This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to. Ofqual will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students. The exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead. When there is genuine clarity about the agreed process for awarding grades at GCSE, BTEC and A Level we will communicate this to all students and parents/carers. In the meantime, please do not contact staff directly as they are busy working on ways of supporting your children while not in school.

A reminder about Show My Homework

Show My Homework will be our main communication platform for the setting of work. Work will be set for all subjects and it is advisable as much as possible to follow your child’s school timetable. Your child may have work set by another teacher; however, they should submit the work to their own class teacher. Some tasks can be self-checked; in other cases, students will be asked to send their work back to their teacher, also through Show My Homework. In some year groups it may be possible to continue with the planned scheme of work in the normal way, elsewhere different tasks, which are more appropriate for remote working, will be selected. Sixth Form teaching will also incorporate Microsoft Teams.

Departments have made different decisions about the type of work to be completed, so you and your child will notice variations in approach across different subjects. Each Head of Faculty and Head of Department has made careful and considerate decisions and will be checking and monitoring how the process works. We may make adjustments along the way. We thank you for your understanding as we work out the best approach for the students’ benefit.

Student and parent IT support

If you have any issues with IT, please contact the IT Helpdesk by emailing sysaid@sns.hackney.sch.uk during the school day, we aim to respond to you within an hour. Please include: Student name, parent contact number, issues they are facing and your device type and platform (Windows, Apple, Android).

Pastoral Support

In this period, we foresee that the main pastoral support for your child will come from your own family unit; however there is still a large role the school wants to and should play. Tutors will be in regular email contact with their tutees, to make sure students feel supported and connected with school during this period of disruption. We will be making sure we keep up the morale of our students. We ask that you do your best to check that your child is replying to the messages where there is a need to. If you have any specific questions, please email these to admin@sns.hackney.sch.uk where your email will be directed to the appropriate staff member. If your child is ill and unable to work, please continue to email attendance@sns.hackney.sch.uk and the relevant Head of School.

On our homepage you will also find some useful mental health and wellbeing links. Please do have a look – it is important we all maintain good mental health at this testing time.

Finally, it feels surreal to be writing this message as we close school. Thank you to everyone who has written to offer words of support and encouragement. We are really grateful to you. I will now move to weekly updates, unless there is a message I need to relay to you on the day, given the rapidly changing nature of our current time. Once again thank you for your understanding and I am so impressed with the resilience shown by many of our young people. Whatever is happening now, I know one thing for sure, our young people’s spirit means the future is bright.

With all good wishes – stay safe and stay connected.

Zehra Jaffer