15 November 2020

Good morning,

You can either watch the video version of this update or read the transcript below, whichever suits you best.

Best wishes

James Harris


Transcript of video

I have recorded a video version of this mainly so that I can wish you and your families well in person at this difficult time.  I know that many in our community - students, families and staff - are facing significant challenges and we are doing our very best to provide a safe, calm, school environment which is a place of stability at an uncertain time.  Safety is our prime concern, of course, and then our priorities are the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff and the learning and academic progress of our students. A calm, purposeful and settled environment, built on the strong relationships between staff and students, is very important for the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in school - staff and students.  Three quarters of all Classcharts points are positive, which is an excellent indication of the positive atmosphere around school - this system gives you unprecedented information about the way in which your son or daughter is approaching their life at Walton-le-Dale.

We are now more than a week into the national lockdown and I need to talk to you about a couple of ways in which the lockdown is having an impact on us as a school.  All schools have behaviour policies - carefully graduated responses to the poor choices that young people sometimes make  Many students will have an occasional detention, a small number might spend a day working away from the classroom and a very small number are excluded from school for a day or more.  Since we opened in September we have been unable to run lunch and break detentions because of the need to ensure safe movement of students and appropriate cleaning alongside a staggered lunch.  The new national lockdown regulations make it very difficult to run after-school detentions and so, until the lockdown eases, we will not be holding detentions after school.  The rules around mixing year groups and social distancing make our capacity to remove students from lessons to work elsewhere very limited and those places should be used for support for students whose additional needs make it important for them to have some time working away from others.  The effect of this is that, under these pandemic lockdown conditions, we have to move to fixed-term exclusion from school much more swiftly than would usually be the case.  Simply put, if students cannot obey reasonable instructions they cannot be in school.  As the students know, and as a small number of you will see from Classcharts, we have an On-Call system where a senior member of staff such as myself will be called to a lesson to remove a student because they have not been able to correct their behaviour despite warnings.  Our capacity in this lockdown to deal with this is very very limited, but it cannot be tolerated for the sake of the wellbeing of staff and other students and therefore students who are removed from lessons run a serious risk of being excluded for a fixed period.  We are a school known for inclusion, support and pastoral care and we are fully aware of those students who have additional needs so this is not an automatic process - the pastoral and SEN teams, under the direction of Mr Howarth (Deputy Headteacher), will act as "gatekeepers", but, if you have seen on Classcharts that the young person that you care for attracts "On-Calls" then please have a very serious discussion with them about responding appropriately to instructions from staff.         

The second way in which the national lockdown has an additional impact on us is homework.  Never has homework and independent study been more important and never has it been more difficult to make sure that it is done!  We have no sanctions that we can use for failure to complete homework other than making sure that parents & carers are aware of it through Classcharts or through email and phonecalls home.  We would normally, as you would expect, set detentions for incomplete or poor homework, but, as I explained earlier, detentions are not possible at the moment.  There are far more positive points on Classcharts for excellent homework than there are negative points for homework not being completed, but please encourage your son or daughter to complete homework - at this time where we are trying to ensure that everyone makes the best possible academic progress homework is a vital part of every young person's learning.  Please get in touch with your son or daughter's mentor with any issues around learning at home.

In closing please can I thank you for your support at this challenging time.  As I have said all along, this pandemic requires our students to be self-motivated, responsible and independent.  All our efforts are devoted to safety, pastoral support and learning - this just gives us less capacity at the moment to deal with the very small number of students who choose not to follow reasonable instructions.

A couple of administrative things - several students are running out of stationery items - please make sure that they have what they need.  Also please remember that we have 2 staff training days coming up on Thursday 26th and Friday 27th November, planned for more than a year - the school will be closed to students on those days.   

Best wishes to you and all who you care for.


Posted by James Harris

Category: WLD Updates