Dear Parent / Guardian,
I hope that you and your families are well. These are certainly strange times that we are living in and I express my thanks to you all for your continued words of kindness towards us - they have helped to encourage all staff in the current situation.
Thank you to those parents who responded to the second survey that we have conducted in relation to the outworking of our e-learning programme; your feedback is undoubtedly helping to shape our approach as we move forward. The survey results demonstrate parents’ happiness with the online programmes from subjects and the fact that technical difficulties have largely tailed off. We will continue to monitor the situation, however, to ensure that your child continues to get the best possible education that we can afford them in the circumstances. I pay tribute to the excellent LJHS ICT department who have responded to your emails and who have made numerous videos, including those found on the YouTube channel, ‘LJHS Tech Support’, to help your child with their studies.
Assessment and Reporting
For all parents of children in Year 9, please note the letter that was previously posted this week on Facebook and our website in relation to assessment arrangements. Parents of children in Year 9 will be aware that normally the Summer examinations in Year 9 contributes to 30% of your child’s position in the Transfer Rank Order in Year 10, with the remaining 70% normally being determined by the Spring examinations in Year 10. Due to the fact that the Year 9 Summer examinations will not happen this year, a revision of the Assessment procedures will take place as soon as possible, in consultation with the Board of Governors. This is likely to take place in the next academic year and decisions relating to that will be communicated to you as soon as they are known.
All pupils in all year groups have now received their annual written reports. These will certainly have given you a good overview of your child’s progress. I thank my staff for their efforts in completing the reports remotely, with no access to the normal reporting computer programme, and in particular, I thank Miss Osborne, our Assessment manager who undertook the arduous task of importing, collating and generating all reports for our pupils. I thank Mrs. Johnston, in our school office, for her assistance with this.
As you know, we have thoroughly enjoyed the weekly podcast that Mr. Lunn put together over the last number of weeks. Mr. Lunn’s efforts definitely kept us entertained and I thank him, and all of the staff who helped out with this venture. It is something that we wish to develop, and the number of downloads has led us to believe that there is great value to this form of communication with our pupils. Look out for further podcasts in the next academic year.
I am really pleased to report that we are in the final stages of creating our new website. The website will be launched in two weeks’ time and will feature many fantastic news and reports about our school. Notably, there will be important details about behaviour and what life will be like in LJHS as we begin to prepare for a new ‘normal’ in September, so it will be worthwhile checking the new website regularly for updates. More details will follow on our Facebook page in due course.
I am delighted to report that in the next academic year, LJHS will welcome 255 pupils into Year 8! This year, we were significantly over-subscribed, but we are very much looking forward to welcoming our new pupils into the LJHS family. A section of the new website will be devoted to providing information, presentations and videos for our new pupils. These should give a real flavour as to what life is like in LJHS. Importantly, there will be useful information on uniform, behaviour, moving around school and the high expectations and aspirations that we hold for each and every pupil.
Though we are all in ‘lockdown’ at present, our expert teachers have continued to engage in staff development. Ever determined to refine and improve our approach, we have specifically looked at our use of Assessment. We are keen to take the best of what has been thought and said about assessment and to incorporate it into our approach, and to this end, we have delivered training based on the work by Assessment expert, Daisy Christodoulou. Mr. Thompson delivered online training for all teachers to allow them to engage in this important work.
In addition, Miss McCann and Mrs. Ferry have researched the area of Retrieval Practice and based on an excellent book by author Kate Jones, have delivered online training for staff on the use of retrieval methods. These retrieval methods have helped to shape our teachers’ design of many of the quizzes and recall questions that your children have been engaging with through Google classroom and SMHW. The author, Kate Jones, has even contacted me to offer to do a Q&A session with staff so impressed she was with our approach. As you can imagine, this has led to some excitement amongst the Senior Leadership Team and with Miss McCann and Mrs. Ferry. We have provided some questions to Ms. Jones and we look forward to hearing from her in due course.
Return to school
Whilst we are all working very hard in the current climate, I am sure that we are all looking forward to a time when schools will begin the process of returning. Even though the details of what this will look like are not finalised, as yet, important guidance has been released to schools from the Department of Education. LJHS will shape its approach to a return based on the guidance given. This means that a return to school will be based on medical and scientific evidence and will be conducted in a timescale which is safe for our pupils, our staff and wider society. The return to school is likely to feature phasing and prioritisation, so that stringent
social distancing can be adhered to and so that the health and well-being of learners and staff can be kept as a primary concern. The members of our Senior Leadership and Senior Pastoral Teams have been discussing our possible approaches for a number of weeks and when definitive dates for return and the nature of this return are known, I will communicate these to you to allow for you and your families to plan ahead.
Our children are working very hard with the online learning programme and again, I pay tribute to all of the children who are the epitome of what we stand for here in LJHS - Respect, Responsibility and Resilience. I am continually impressed with the level of work and commitment that they are demonstrating: just in the last two weeks, I have been astounded by the level of talent displayed on our Facebook page with English work, Geography work (featuring an excellent, LJHS bespoke, competition organised through a link forged by the Geography department with Queen’s University), History work and some fabulous Art work in the recent NHS mural competition………...and all this, on top of the many subject Instagram pages, profiling fantastic work across a range of subjects - Music, Drama, Home Economics, to name but a few!
I know that parents are doing their best to help their children at home, and I pay tribute to you again - it is not easy to balance home life and the struggle of running a home, alongside schooling. So again, take time to ensure that the right balance between work and play is struck.
Our Scripture Union continues to provide spiritual sustenance for pupils in these uncertain times. Again, I thank all of the staff who have organised guest speakers for our pupils, so that pupils’ spiritual welfare continues to be upheld. Our SU members have been praying for our entire school family throughout this situation and for our NHS front-line workers, as well as key workers in all avenues of life. We continue also to pray for those on beds of sickness, that they might be restored to a good measure of health and strength, and we content to leave all these things in His hand, knowing that He is the great physician.
Some of our SU pupils have been sharing, on short videos with the group, their ideas about how the lockdown has affected them, and what they have learned from their experiences. So perhaps as I close this short update, I should finish with the advice communicated in one such video by Zoe, a pupil in Year 10. She says: “Don't tell God how big your giants are, tell your giants how big your God is.”
The road ahead, over the next few months for pupils, parents and staff may be uncertain, but with His help we can navigate our pathway through them. We have no need to fear. As Zoe reminded us, “Fear can keep you up all night, but faith makes a fine pillow”. Wise words, indeed.
I assure you all of our commitment to helping your child through the months ahead and convey to you and your families my renewed best wishes and regards.