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Tues 5 Jan 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

I am writing to provide further details about the coming weeks, following my letter last night in the wake of the Prime Minister's public address.  

Like you, we are all hugely disappointed about this latest disruption to learning and academy life.  We all believe that the best place for students to learn is in school, but we fully understand why this latest lockdown is necessary.  Our task now is to ensure that we are able to provide the best possible learning experience, coupled with excellent pastoral care - and this is exactly what we will do.  

Despite the lack of notice, we are in a stronger position than last year and there are reasons to be optimistic.  Firstly, our contingency plans mean that we already have remote learning tools set up and ready to go and are therefore running the school timetable as normally as possible.  This helps to bring structure to the school day for our young people and encourages good learning habits.  

Secondly, we are now more experienced in using live teaching software.  Whilst this will not be in use all day every day, it does bring a degree of interactivity to lessons which allows students the contact time with their teachers that they need and appreciate.  

Thirdly, the development of two different vaccines gives us hope that the end is in sight and that we will be able to return to some semblance of normality later in the year.  

Some initial feedback from parents and colleagues has been very encouraging already: our young people are clearly very enthusiastic about their education and are keen to keep learning.  This is excellent news and I would like to commend TLA students for being so positive and adaptable.  We are proud of them.  

The rest of this letter gives you some guidance about what to expect and how to find help when things get tricky.  We are here to help and want to make sure that we all get through the coming weeks as smoothly as possible.  As a community, we will again pull together to make sure that our young people get the education and care that they deserve.

Yours faithfully

M P Thomas, Principal


Virtual academy

In order to bring together all information regarding the lockdown period, we will be re-opening our ‘virtual academy’ page.  All new letters and announcements will be placed here.  

Online Learning

Online learning has started really well this week and I am so proud of the way in which students have been engaging in their lessons each day. For more information on remote learning, please see the parent guide on our website which can be found here

Class teachers will be working hard awarding LEEP points for engagement in online lessons and parents will be able to monitor this each day using the Go4Schools APP or website. We have also made the decision to report overall ‘Remote Learning Behaviours’ to parents during this lockdown period. These reports will come out fortnightly and will enable you to see how well your child is engaging in each subject. Further details will be provided about this later in the week.  

Accessing help with logging in

Please direct any requests for technical assistance to networkhelpdesk@tla.woodard.co.uk  When contacting Network Services, please be sure to include your child's name, registration group and a short message and the team will be able to help you.  

If you need help with a specific subject, please email the subject teacher in the first instance.  If you have a broader question about teaching and learning, please contact the appropriate member of the Senior Leadership Team:

Y7,8, 9: Director of Learning, Key Stage 3: Dr Taylor ntaylor@tla.woodard.co.uk 

Y10,11:  Director of Learning, Key Stage 4: Ms Portman kportman@tla.woodard.co.uk 

Sixth Form: Director of Learning, Key Stage 5: Mr Sealby msealby@tla.woodard.co.uk 

Exams - summer term

As I said in yesterday’s letter, we are still waiting to hear about the arrangements for examinations and the awarding of qualifications this summer.  It is being widely reported in the press that exams have been cancelled but there is very little details from official bodies about this at present.  It is fair to assume that there will be a process whereby students will be examined or assessed in some way and that this may once again be based on teacher assessments of students’ work.  At the moment, we simply do not know although I understand that Gavin Williamson will be addressing MPs in parliament tomorrow with more details.  

For this reason, it is extremely important that students in Years 11 and 13 continue to prepare for assessment later this year.  I do understand how frustrating it must be for students and parents to not know what the plan is.  However, I know that TLA students are well motivated and are keen to demonstrate their skills and abilities:  we will be supporting them in making sure that they get the very best opportunity to do just that. 

TLA Care

Students accessing TLA Care have made a positive start to the Spring term. TLA Care will continue to follow the staggered academy day, with lessons following your child’s normal timetable. It is important that we limit the number of students onsite and we therefore ask that students only attend TLA Care if no other alternative is available. Please contact Mr Rogers if you require a place. 

Tutoring

This week teaching colleagues have been ensuring that the very best remote learning is available to students. From the 11th January, tutors will again populate their tutor group Google Classroom and contact tutees that are not engaging in remote learning in more than one subject.

Mass testing in schools

Just before Christmas, schools were asked to implement a mass testing programme beginning in January, although it was not clear exactly how this would be achieved.  Since then, we have been working on the logistics around how we can implement this programme.  The decision to go into national lockdown has obviously changed the nature of this plan, although we are still expected to test staff and students who remain on site.  More information about this will follow next week.  Once again, I would reassure parents and students that this is a consent-based programme and is an offer not a mandatory requirement.  

Mobile data

Schools and families can request free mobile data increases for students without broadband and/or who are unable to purchase extra data for devices. 

Three, Smarty, Virgin Mobile, EE, Tesco Mobile & Sky Mobile are all taking part in the scheme.

For more info please see: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/about-increasing-mobile-data


Mon 4 Jan 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will have seen that we are once again entering a national lockdown from tomorrow.  This is different from Tier 4 restrictions which means our working practices at TLA will need to change overnight.  

Although almost all students were at home today, a large number of teachers and support staff colleagues were in the building to ensure that we were able to deliver online learning and provide technical and pastoral support.  

Under lockdown regulations, this cannot happen in the same way.  I have written to colleagues tonight to ask almost all of them to remain at home whilst we again re-plan our provision.  Most teachers will therefore now be teaching from home tomorrow where conditions are not always as conducive as being in the academy.  They will not have known about this until just now so your patience and support is appreciated as always.   

That said, the plans for tomorrow and the rest of the week are:

  • Online lessons will continue for all students as planned, following their timetables.  
  • TLA Care (for vulnerable children and children of critical workers) will continue as planned.  Students should only attend if they have been offered a place by Mr Rogers, Vice Principal.  He can be reached on drogers@tla.woodard.co.uk 

Next week, Year 11 and Year 13 were due back for face-to-face teaching.  This will not now happen.  I anticipate that there will no further face-to-face teaching at the academy until after the February half term at the earliest.  

Tonight’s announcement by the Prime Minister raises many questions and I would like to assure you we are seeking urgent clarification on some key matters.  This will be understandably unsettling for some of our students, especially those in exam years.  Some key points to note are:

  • This week’s vocational exams will still go ahead. 
  • Exams in the summer will not go ahead in the way that was originally planned.  The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, will be meeting Ofqual later this week to discuss plans and I will keep you informed as soon as I know more.  

What we can be completely certain about is that there will be important assessments of some form or another and so it is critically important that we all work together to ensure that our young people remain focussed and engaged in their learning - especially Year 11 and Year 13.  

I have met with my senior team this evening and we are meeting again tomorrow evening once we have navigated tomorrow’s immediate challenges.  I will then write to you again as soon as I have more information to share.  

Thank you, in advance, for your fortitude and forbearance as always. 

 

Yours faithfully, 

 

M.P.Thomas

Principal

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