Update from Principal James O’Connell | 27 April 2020

Dear Parents/Carers,

I hope you are keeping well and are in reasonable spirits. I think that as we move into the next phase, to borrow Winston Churchill’s words, “This is not the end … but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.” One of the aspects of the present situation which is beginning to become quite tricky is not knowing when this is going to end, or really having any control over the future. Similar I’m sure to many of you, I’m slightly concerned about my dad, who is 79. He likes his own company and was quite enjoying lockdown, but he is now beginning to worry about when he is next going to see his children and grandchildren. I know many of you have far greater worries and real concerns – be they over health or finances. We are concerned particularly as educators about our students – their well-being as well as their learning. However, we’ve had contact with quite a few and I’ve been really impressed by many of our students’ resilience, positivity and independence! Some are already significantly helping out in their local communities too. Having said this, we understand that others are facing significant obstacles and challenges. We have created a very short questionnaire and would be enormously grateful if you would complete this in order to give us some feedback on how things are going so far for your child/children: TCS Parent Lockdown Feedback

I’m afraid that I really don’t know any more than you about what is coming and what will happen next as we draw near to the deadline of 7 May. We are already thinking about when we return to school and we will, of course, make any adaptations that are recommended to keep all our students and staff as safe as can be. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again! I may be wrong but at the moment it seems unlikely that we will be back before this May half term. If we continue to still largely work remotely after the next deadline, we continue to need to know which eligible children will be coming into school. The updated booking sheet for school support for the children of key workers and vulnerable students for three weeks from the week beginning Mon 4 May can be found here.  Please use this link if you need to request a place or ring us on the school number.

Reminder: We have sent out quite a lot of information and advice about online learning and our provision. This can all be found on our website under Curriculum – Home Learning:

At the end of my letter you will find a page detailing our considerable support and opportunities for students to access reading. Not just because I am an English teacher at heart, I can’t emphasise enough how this lockdown is an opportunity for your sons and daughters to get reading, if they’re not already. I’m very aware of how reluctant many teens are, especially with the prevalence of the digital world, and I know you’ve heard this before, but reading really can be a salvation. Not only does it stimulate thinking and the imagination but masses of evidence testifies to how it supports mental health. With my own two sons, one reads regularly and the other is reluctant – dare I say it even quite lazy about reading. I still read to him some evenings, and he actually quite enjoys it. Anything you can do to promote and encourage reading in this time will be of great value. The information at the bottom of this page lists a number of platforms and details about support for reading and click here to read all about our new Wheelers e-platform in detail.

All of the Heads of Year have now published a newsletter using ‘SWAY’ and delivered an online ‘assembly’ message (some have done two). Having bullied them all to do this, some less keen than others (!), I have also just sent out an online message. It makes me cringe and it’s safe to say that it won’t be going viral but hopefully, if nothing else, these messages reinforce our key points that we miss our students, and that it is important to stay positive, to be resilient and optimistic, to keep working and learning as much as you reasonably can, to be kind and helpful to others, and to take the opportunity to do what you enjoy and try something new. Year Group Newsletter & Assemblies

We have been collating information to systematically contact all students on a routine basis. This will mean you should receive a call from your child’s tutor or another member of staff at some point if you haven’t already. These calls are aimed at making and establishing that simple, personal contact that we all need, to check on well-being primarily and then to see how the online learning is going and how we can support.

We have finally been able to send out the first batch of £15 food vouchers to eligible families (those eligible for free school meals). Thank you for your patience and we will continue this. Our canteen cannot open at the moment due to the current situation; therefore those coming into school need to bring a packed lunch. We are just in the process of issuing as many school laptops as we can to families who have requested one and we are about to receive nine more from the new government scheme designed to support disadvantaged Year 10 students in particular. Please get in touch if you are struggling and would like to request IT support.

I hope you have a good week and that we will be a bit clearer about the next stage this time next week, when I’ll be in touch again.

Best wishes

James O’Connell