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Letter from the Governors

As Governors, we want to thank you for your continued support of our school in what remains a very complex situation as we start to emerge from lockdown. Our thanks also go to all the staff for their continued dedication to the well-being and education of all our students.

We receive weekly updates from our Headteacher and hold regular Governors’ meetings, to ensure the school continues to function effectively in very challenging circumstances. What has become very clear to us is the complexity of managing the school at this time; providing effective education and support for nearly 1500 students while acting responsibly towards over 200 staff. As we navigate our way through these challenges, our top priorities will always be the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff alike.

The move to lockdown in March happened very quickly; staff had to set themselves up to work at home and develop very different ways to educate students, as well as making provision in school for children of keyworkers and those who are disadvantaged. All have had to do this alongside personal challenges such as organising their own childcare and managing their own health or that of relatives.

Staff have also had to take on new ‘high stakes’ responsibilities, such as predicting Centre Assessed A Level and GCSE Grades for all year 11 and 13 students; an enormous and unprecedented challenge they have risen to over the past 9 weeks with the utmost professionalism.

As well as continuing essential school business in new ways, staff have also been undertaking extensive planning and risk assessments for the partial reopening of school this term and for the next academic year, including the transition of students into Years 7 and 12. This is made all the more difficult by fast-changing Government guidance which is sometimes inconsistent between different government departments.

We are aware that a small number of parents have expressed concerns over some of the choices the school is making about how we deliver education. We welcome constructive feedback, but ask that parents recognise the complexities facing the school. We will always challenge our school leaders to continue to learn from their own experience and that of other schools; our leadership team is engaging frequently in local and national forums to do this. However, the unique constraints we face (resources, layout and location of the school, numbers of students, staff personal circumstances etc) mean that what works in another school may not work for Bishop Stopford (or vice versa). Staff have to be realistic about the choices on offer and make decisions based on their strong knowledge of the school’s unique context.

For example, some parents have requested more ‘live’ online teaching. The school is actively developing this provision and will be introducing it more widely in the coming weeks. Our IT infrastructure, safeguarding considerations and the staff training required have meant that we have had to proceed in a measured way, balancing these developments with ongoing curriculum delivery and prioritising the wellbeing of students and staff. We are equally conscious that a number of students may have their own operational challenges as they are required to share IT equipment with parents or siblings.

As Governors, we are committed to upholding the school’s core values and will continue to support the school to provide the best possible education in the safest possible environment for all students and staff. We cannot promise to be able to do everything every parent wants (not least because different parents want different things). What we can promise, is that we, the Headteacher and her team will always do what we believe is right for the wellbeing and education of all students within the unique, challenging and fast-changing context that the school is facing.

Thank you again for your support of our school at this time.

Mr Mike Gunasekara, Chair of Governors

Dr Julian Lomas, Chair of Curriculum, Standards and Progress Committee

Mr Jim Balding, Chair of Health and Safety Committee