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Parent Letter 24.03.20

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Please see the latest Parent Letter below.

Dear Parents and Carers,

I’m delighted to provide you with a whole host of resources that you can access online for your son or daughter during this long term enforced absence from school.

Many of our teaching staff have been working long hours, within their own challenging home and health circumstances and worries to put together some great resources! We hope they are useful for you.

I’d like to place on record my extreme thanks to all the staff involved, but especially Claire Hamilton our Maths Lead teacher, who has taken a personal lead on researching and assembling this resource (despite suffering some symptoms herself) and Henry Reid our IT manager who has faithfully and diligently downloaded them on to the website on a daily basis.

They are now ready for you to access.

First of all though, I wanted to make a few personal observations myself.

Many people are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and under pressure with everything that's happening and the fast passed changes that take place on a daily basis. This includes the preparations needed to get meaningful ideas and activities downloaded onto our website for your child.

I wanted to give my perspective on it all both as a Headteacher, but also as a parent who recently suffered a significant challenge involving the health of their youngest son. It might help to give us all some perspective! I hope so.

For me the 2 examples of Coronavirus and extensive Brain Surgery are intertwined. However catastrophic Jake’s brain surgery was to us as a family back in 2016 and however significant Coronavirus will prove to be now and into the future, the huge educational impact I feared for Jake pre and post op never really happened.

I believe you may yet be surprised (and relieved) to find that in future years you will look back and see just how well, your own child has done despite this long term health crisis we are in the midst of.

4 years on from lifesaving surgery Jake is thriving and succeeding academically despite the overwhelming crisis that he navigated then.

I think if you remain calm, measured and proportionate in what you do with your child and how you do it, you will one day look back and think ‘Blimey didn’t we do well!’

So my first message and request is for you to be kind to yourselves and kind to your children in what you expect of yourselves and them in the Spring of 2020!

This is not a normal time!

A few additional points to note:

1) This is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented international emergency, impacting on the whole world. Let's keep perspective.

Homeschooling is a choice, where you consider and you plan for it and as you are your child's new school teacher for a while, you can decide to deliver it in whatever form you choose.

This Coronavirus emergency means your offer is at best, ‘distance learning’. In reality, it sees everyone trying to Work it out, because none of us know what we are doing and what's right and wrong here.that includes me with so many decisions I am trying to decide upon.

2) You are, and always have been, your child's primary educator. If you decide that your child isn't going to engage with anything sent home and is going to spend the entire period playing in the dirt, or baking, or watching TV, then that is your choice. That is your right. There is nothing to stress or feel guilty about. I actually love dirt and cooking anyway, and I haven’t done so bad in life!

3) Schools don't know what they're doing either. They had no notice, no preparation time and we were NOT told to 'continue to plan lessons as normal and just send them home' – that’s NOT possible. If it were, we'd all be out of a job!

4) It is absolutely not possible to facilitate easy distance learning with a child with special and complicated additional needs, and for you to work from home at the same time. The very idea is a nonsense. If you're trying to do both really well, please stop now. You can certainly have activities where your child learns, but if your focus is your job, and survival then jusT make that your focus. Again, this is unprecedented. Stop trying to be superheroes and cut yourselves and your children some slack. You will melt if you don’t!

So, a few FAQs:

- My school has sent home lots of physical work. Pages and pages, hours and hours. How am I supposed to get through it all?

You're not, so don't try.

Your child's teacher spent a couple of hours in utter panic gathering things to send home so they could say they did their best and there wasn't a lot of complaints that enough didn't go home. It's not a competition, or a race, it’s unlikely the teacher will even manage to look at it all.

- My school keeps sending home links and emails with more work. How do I make it stop? Ahhhhhh!

See above. These are suggestions and ideas because the school is worried they're not offering you enough. Use them if they suit you, don't if they don't suit. If you're getting stressed, stop opening the emails. No one will know! We won’t be asking you to justify your time allocations!

- Someone in my child's class has done loads and I’m still struggling to download an activity from the website. Will my child fall further behind?

Even if everything were equal in terms of support, time and number of children (which it’s not) all children learn at different rates. In the class there's a wide range of levels in all subjects, there's different paces and there are many children working on differentiated levels of work. It's almost impossible for teachers to differentiate at the moment, so you don’t have to try to do it either.

Your child will not fall behind. This is all consolidation work. It is also a time to have some fun and enjoy them as children. If children could all learn new concepts without specific teaching, we wouldn't need teachers. They will cover all of this again, multiple times. They do have a future!

- I'm not doing any work with my kids. All they're doing is building Lego, reading sensory stories, cooking and playing outside.

All of this is learning -very valuable learning. Give yourself and them a break. Enjoy it and do it!

- How can I get three different lots of work done with 3 different kids of different ages and ability?

You can't, so stop trying. If they're old enough, try to get them to do little bits independently. Otherwise try to do something they can all engage with, reading a story together, some free writing, baking etc.

- So what's the bare minimum you'd expect?

For me, we are resorting to survival mode. I won't pretend that may be true of all teachers, but you know what?, if they can't have perspective in a time like this then I wouldn't overly worry about their opinion anyway.

My ideal for the students from Ravenscliffe:

- Some quality adult time every day.

-Some fun every day.

- A bit of reading if appropriate every day (independent or to them or via audiobook etc)

- Some free writing now and then if appropriate.

- Practical hands on maths. Be that via cooking, cleaning, outside or some maths games, physical or digital.

- Something in the garden, watering, digging, planting, bug hunting.

- Some fine motor work. Lego, cutting, playdough, tidying up small toys.

- Physical exercise everyday. Boris says you can go for a walk in pairs. Take them out. The weather is great at the moment and you can thrive in the outdoors whether a wheelchair user or someone able bodied, but just remember social distancing is VITAL and COULD SAVE LIVES!

- Some art/music where possible through the week. Doesn't always need you to direct it.

- Lots of imaginative free play, the more independent the better.

You are doing enough. Please take that as an assurance. You are keeping them safe!

You are loving your kids and supporting them through a really difficult time. Look after yourself. Minimising stress is absolutely vital in a time like this for the mental health of us all. Don't let this be something that stresses you. Only you can control that by accepting it is in your circle of control, you are the primary educator and this is all your call.

I hope that is a help. I don’t mean to lecture or patronise. I just want us all to remain realistic in this scary time. The short term goal is survival and surviving well. The long term goal is that we know we will enjoy a more certain life in the future where this whole thing, eventually for most of us, will just become a bad dream.

Hang in there and please share your fun experiences: disasters are always welcome as well as the successes. Most of my best experiences have been forged on the back of a perceived disaster!

Love to all of your families

Martin (Headteacher)

Our Online Resource Bank

Please visit www.ravenscliffe.calderdale.sch.uk to access. There is a menu of options. Please don’t forget we are publishing a Daily Challenge for you to try every day as well.

Our home education offer is intended to provide you with ideas, resources and access to systems that will allow you to create an educational experience within the home. At Ravenscliffe, we pride ourselves on offering our young people as many experiential learning opportunities as possible. We do not expect (nor do we want) our students to be slaves to academia. Much of our learning comes from our senses, movement and interactions with each other!

As such, we have suggested a number of activities that we hope are easy to use, easy to resource and above all FUN!!! We have many online suggestions for you to find inspiration, activity ideas and educational games. We have also some specific sites that we believe will be useful for maintaining our skills in core subject areas. These are:

Maths

MyMaths. Each student who is able to access the resource has been set up an account with their own individual log in details. Each students has been set a range of tasks suitable for their level. Some will be easy – but that’s ok. It builds confidence. Some will be more challenging – a great opportunity for learning to take place. We would recommend no more than a 30 minute session once a day.

Phonics

Phonicsplay. For our early readers this has some great games which take learners gently through all of the stages of phonics. Some sounds will be familiar to students…so let them have some fun with them. They will become progressively harder. When a student is making mistakes they are LEARNING. Please allow them time to stay at this level and make as many mistakes as they need to. We would recommend no more than a 30 minute session once a day.

Reading

See our list of free online books. Reading for pleasure is important so let them choose something that interests them.

Twinkl. For reading and comprehension there are many worksheets available which will give a short text and then provide questions to check their understanding. They are intended to be printed off, but once the resource is downloaded it can accessed on screen by simply scrolling up or down.

We would recommend no more than a 30 minute session once a day.

Furthermore, this site is intended for teachers and has resources, ideas and worksheets to support every child at every level in every subject. Predominantly worksheet based it often requires a printer. It has lots of templates for crafting for which you would only need scissors and tape or glue.  However, for families without a printer there are lots of other activities which have step by step instructions

Exercise

We have recommended the Jo Wicks daily workout which can be accessed on YouTube for those who are able. It is quite challenging, but the movements are simple and each one lasts 30 seconds with a 30 second break. Parents  - you should give this a go too!!! It is just really good fun!

We are in the process of recording some Dough Gym videos for a great work out with the squidgy stuff. It will get those arms, hands and fingers moving!!

Play dough

We have provided a recipe for play dough on the website – there are millions of them out there! It is surprisingly easy to make – super fun and can be customised in a million different ways. You can add smells, colours, glitter…. Whatever you like!! It can be used to support students in so many ways

  • Dough Gym
  • Stress relief
  • Multi sensory experiences
  • Maths – shape it, cut it and count it
  • Phonics – shape it into letters, can you say the sound?
  • Modelling – just get creative!!

 

As well as the current resource pack, we are working on providing some bespoke Ravenscliffe experiences so that students can feel connected to us!! We hope to have some dance videos by ‘Dancing’ Janet, Dough Gym by Jonny and BSL by Janine. Watch this space….. BUT PLEASE ALLOW US SOME TIME! These resources take hours to research and download in an appropriate way for some or all of the students at Ravenscliffe!

This is a culture shock for all of us – especially parents and students. Please don’t over face yourselves or your students. Our advice is to provide a mini routine of fun and engaging tasks which have an educational element to them. You are not teachers and we don’t expect you to become one!! Little and often is the best approach. Wherever possible task your child with helping you to devise a timetable. This way they have some ownership of it and will be able to select some tasks that they enjoy, hopefully helping them to engage with your plans.

 

YOU ARE NOW ‘HOME EXPERIENCERS’ not ‘HOME EDUCATORS’

 

A possible suggested timetable is below for you to adapt. It is based on Claire’s own son, Alfie aged 8. 

Be flexible with the timings. 

Alfie made this himself in their ‘computing’ lesson.  

 

9am – Jo wicks exercise, available online

9.30 – shower & breakfast

10.00 – MyMaths

10.30 – reading for pleasure

11.00 – break time. Snack and get outdoors if possible. OR Note from Martin: David Walliams is reading a daily story on,one every morning at 11.00 I believe.

11.30 – touch typing (BBC dancemat)

12.00 – lunchtime. Help to prepare where possible. Note from Martin ‘AND WASH UP!’

13.00 – choosing (sewing, baking, experiments, housework, arts and crafts, colouring, board games, card games, gardening, cooking etc…)

14.00 – TV. Educational programme to watch together. Important to talk about it. (Horrible Histories, Nat Geo, Nasa, Museum virtual tour etc)

15.00 – Afternoon walk. (Use 5 senses, treasure hunt, eye spy)

Then chill out until tea time. You will all have had a good day!

Claire Hamilton, Maths Coordinator, Ravenscliffe High School