You will be aware that yesterday evening the Minister of Education, Mr Peter Weir, wrote to schools to advise them that they will close to pupils from the end of the school day on Friday 20th March 2020. It is unlikely that school will open again this academic year.
As you know, we are in an evolving situation and Mr Weir’s letter outlined some of the arrangements that schools should endeavour to put in place, to ensure that all of our young people are catered for over the coming weeks, both academically and pastorally.
During recent days, the staff here at LJHS have been working collegially to provide an online programme of study for all pupils to follow. As previously indicated, the ‘Show my home work’ (SMHW) app will be the main vehicle through which work will be communicated to your child. This app will signpost the work that needs to be completed, but will also indicate other work to be covered through access to Google Classroom. Our children are familiar with both of these platforms and we encourage you as parents, to continue to use the SMHW app to gain an overview of what work your child is completing daily.
A separate ‘Guidance Handbook’ has been compiled and will be available later today. It will be located on the website and signposted on the school’s Facebook page. This handbook contains important information in relation to how work can be accessed, how work can be returned to teachers, along with important information in connection to contacting school should you need to. The handbook also contains details in relation to the pastoral wellbeing of our pupils as they embark on a period of study at home. In addition, the handbook features useful information about Safeguarding and provides numbers for external agencies/bodies. Please take time to read through the handbook with your child as it outlines a clear framework through which your child can engage in their learning without face to face contact, as well as providing answers to common concerns and ways to maintain contact with subject specific staff.
It is our expectation that all pupils will regularly engage with the online learning provided and will complete work and return it according to teacher requests.
We would highlight at this stage that not all of the work set by teachers will involve online activity. This is important because we feel that a good range of tasks for your child will ensure that they have a variety of learning experiences. Therefore, some tasks will involve reading, some will involve quizzing, some will involve learning etc.
Sometimes, teachers will request that pupils complete work in their notebooks or booklets. In order to facilitate this, school will open next Tuesday from 12noon – 3pm and on Wednesday from 9am – 12noon for the collection of materials that you will need. Please note that, where this is the case, parents and pupils will be informed by subject teachers to let them know if any hard copy resources need to be collected.
Where pupils have completed assessments in Year 8, staff are marking these and are recording marks accordingly. Reports for these assessments will be made available. These will include marks where assessments have been completed.
Years 9 and 10 Annual Written Reports will be forwarded to parents at a future date. (Year 8 pupils already received their Annual Written Report at Christmas).
I am not unmindful of the revision that Year 10 pupils had been carrying out in preparation for the transfer examinations and I am sorry that, due to current circumstances, the Year 10 pupils were unable to sit the assessments. However, the revision carried out will stand them in good stead as they progress in their educational pathway and further details in relation to the Year 10 Transfer process, will be conveyed to you in due course.
Children’s welfare & in-school provision
Mr Weir’s letter last night indicated that the Department of Education were committed to continuing to provide for children who may be vulnerable or who currently avail of Free School Meals. Work is going on to put measures in place in this regard by Mr Weir’s department and when more details are known, I will convey these to you. Similarly, the Education Authority and Mr Weir’s department are working on ensuring that children can continue to avail of counselling services. At LJHS, we use a number of counselling and mentoring services and our Senior Pastoral Team is working hard to ensure that these services are still in place, albeit in a different guise, for the period of school closure. Details of how this will work are contained in the handbook mentioned earlier.
Mr Weir’s letter also stipulated that school should provide supervision for children of ‘key workers’. Parents should consult the key worker list and should inform school immediately if they need their child to be supervised in school. I would stress that government guidance emphasises that, to prevent the spread of the virus, minimum numbers of pupils should be in school.
The nature of this provision will be about care, not education. We will be working with feeder primary schools and other organisations such as Translink to provide you with a full picture. This arrangement will commence once numbers of pupils are known and when the details of the provision have been finalised here in LJHS. We will let the parents of pupils who are deemed eligible for this provision, know the starting date as soon as possible.
It is very important that I pass on my sincerest gratitude to all parents in our school family for the support which has been displayed in recent days, in very challenging circumstances. We have appreciated the e-mails and phone calls of support. Above all, your sons and daughters are an absolute credit to school, to their families and – most importantly – to themselves. I have been totally astounded by the resilience and positivity that they have displayed, and it is a sheer privilege to work with such an outstanding community of very fine young people – whether in a face to face context on in an online arena. Without exception, I am extremely proud of them all.
I also wish to pay tribute to the truly expert staff of this great school, who continue to go above and beyond in endeavouring to support our pupils, and who continue to work so assiduously and tirelessly to ensure that the appropriate mechanisms are in place to support our pupils remotely from Monday.
With every good wish,
J. McCoy Principal