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What a team effort!

KES staff and students have had quite the start to 2021!

With the first week of 2021 being one of the most testing and demanding on schools, students and families, we felt it important to acknowledge and celebrate the fantastic work going on at King Ecgbert School at the moment.

The lockdown announcement at the start of the month meant the vast majority of students did not return to school as planned after the Christmas break. A skeleton school was quickly established to enable the children of key workers and vulnerable students to attend school and access learning on site. For KES, the number of students attending our in-school offer around the 50 mark. Being older students most of our key worker children are able to look after themselves and work from home so it’s made up of vulnerable students and younger key workers’ children. We have a staff rota in place to run the skeleton school, so everyone is taking a turn to physically be in school; on average 1 day in 6 and then able to focus on working from home. We’ve kept separate bubbles in each year group so it’s quite staff intensive with about a dozen working with students plus extra SEN, admin and leadership staff in to support.

In a matter of days, staff have achieved the mammoth task of setting up an on-site testing centre. In the first week we set up our rapid COVID-19 testing centre, recruited and trained a staff team of 6 to run it and tested all our staff and skeleton school students; a huge undertaking delivered in 5 days.  This test centre will allow vast numbers of staff and students to receive ‘lateral flow tests’ in-school, without pre-booking, and to get the results of the test within 30 minutes.

In the first week of lock down we sent home 100 extra Chromebooks on top of everything we’d already done. We’ve seen the graphs of our data shoot up in terms of closing the gap for online engagement between advantaged and disadvantaged students as we’ve handed out devices and supported families struggling to access the work. Our school website has been updated with videos for parents showing how they can use the technology at home to support their child, and a new member of staff has joined us a COVID Catchup Coordinator who is busy working to ensure disadvantaged students get more help.

All of this at the same time as setting up a virtual school, rolling out remote learning and establishing a broad curriculum offer. Lessons are a mixture of live lessons led by teachers, recorded lessons with teacher voice, interactive activities that give feedback, and ‘semi live’ (students getting on with work but the teacher on duty in the text chat room on Teams and doing 1:1 calls when students are stuck). All lessons have interactivity, and in live lessons there’s a lot of immediate feedback and with recorded lessons students have to submit their work for acknowledgement and work appropriate more structured feedback.

Paul Haigh said:

“the way all staff have gone back into lockdown, this time after months of gruelling restrictions and actually raised their game and taken the level of their work up a big step is truly impressive- they are key workers and acting as such!”

What has made this whole transition to virtual schooling so successful has been not only the unwavering dedication of our school staff, but the incredible support the school has received from families at home. The patience and encouragement from our school community has been so positive. Our inboxes are busy with praise from parents, and at least one of whom has formally reported us to Ofsted for being brilliant:

“To whom it may concern 

As Gavin Williamson has encouraged parents to share feedback of how schools are responding to the latest lockdown, particularly focusing on sharing any concern and disappointment, I felt It would be pertinent and encouraging to share legitimate good news, and cause for relief. I hope this letter is received as intended.

We have three children who attend King Ecgbert School, part of the Mercia Learning Trust in Sheffield. I have twin sons in year 11 and a daughter in year 7. I can truthfully share, that as we enter lockdown three, the care, communication and confidence the school have conveyed, from Headteacher down, has been excellent.

Tasked with the enormity of the objective, home learning is fluid and accessible, teachers are engaged, reassuring and motivated and the children "held" as we all navigate this new normal. Again.

Our children in Year 11 have EHC plans due to their complex needs. I find it heartbreaking to read of other children with SEN slipping through the net, and being further compromised, both by the pandemic and, more worryingly, this Government's apparent disregard and apathy. This is not a reality for our family as we have incredible support through our SENCO team, Heidi Sellars and Emma Smyth.

Despite the frankly criminal timings, and sudden u turn in the decision for teachers to assess at school for GCSE grades, it appears the challenging weeks and months ahead are to be met with courage and optimism by King Ecgbert School, with the child being at the very centre.”