Our Community - Our Future

MHS update 4-12-2020

MHS update 4-12-2020

It’s been over a week since my last message to you all and this time there’s a mixture of Covid-related information and ‘normal’ school updates. I know that these updates tend to be quite long so I have included a contents list at the top to help people find the parts that matter most to them:

  1. General school update
  2. The final weeks of term
  3. Summer exams for Year 11 and Year 9
  4. Sniffer dogs

General school update

A boring sounding title, but this is an opportunity for me to say that I remain incredibly proud of the way in which our school is handling the Coronavirus pandemic. All the measures that we might use to gauge how well we’re doing are looking positive – student attendance is high compared to the national data and very high compared to the rest of the North West, even when factoring in the isolating students. Staff attendance is fantastic and crucial in keeping education going as normally as possible. The number of cases we have had in school is low, the ratio compared to our size is even lower and the rates are dropping. Of course that decline is linked to the national lockdown and so we will need to remain vigilant now that lockdown has ended and tiers have returned.

Aside from being confident that our virus controls work, we are also happy with the educational model that we chose to run from September onwards. We made the call early on that students would move around the site and staff would stay still. This was a risk in that the perceived wisdom at the time was that our model would lead to more infections and larger ‘bubbles’ having to isolate. Whilst the latter may be true to a small extent, the infection rate has been significantly lower than some schools that opted for the ‘students stay still’ model. Our approach is undoubtedly better from a teaching and learning point of view, and also from the perspective of student wellbeing and engagement in school. Similarly, we believe it is more conducive to good teaching staff morale rather than moving around the building every hour. Ultimately we took a risk with our model but I am convinced it was the right move.

Our remote learning plan is robust and the number of hybrid lessons and form times is increasing week on week. There were around 150 hybrid sessions taking place every day last week, and even more impressively the attendance of students to these lessons was 75%. We have no data to compare with from other schools but we feel that 75% attendance is very high indeed, so thank you to all the staff, students and parents who have made this possible. We continue to work with families who may not have adequate devices or internet connections at home, so again if this affects you or someone you know please contact Deputy Headteacher Claire Gregory at Claire.gregory@marplehall.stockport.sch.uk

The final weeks of term

There has been a lot of debate in the media about whether schools should close on Friday 11th December so as to protect students and staff from potentially having to self-isolate over the festive period. There are no such plans here at MHS, but as you know from my blog here we have followed the lead of Stockport LA and decided to close the doors on Friday 18th December, giving over Monday 21st and a half day on Tuesday 22nd to remote learning. It was for this reason that we also provided work on the INSET day last week (although I would like to apologise for the late notice beforehand). The logic behind closing a day and a half early is to protect students, staff and their families from last minute Covid cases leading to prolonged periods of isolation over the Christmas period.

The Department for Education is not happy that Stockport is closing two days early and is trying to get the council to reverse the decision. It may yet be that we are ordered to remain open on the 21st and 22nd, but as it stands we are closing at 2.50pm on the 18th December. There seems to be a huge argument over a day and half of time out of school, even though by moving to the 18th we’re just falling in line with the majority of schools nationally anyway. I suspect there is more than a small amount of politics involved here whereby the situation on the ground is being ignored, but I’m best not to go into that!

Our main aim in the run up to the end of term, whether that be 18th or 22nd, is to keep on educating our students whilst making sure as few students as possible have to isolate over the break. That is why we sent a letter home suggesting that students avoid getting the bus where possible, and why we have temporarily allowed students to come to school in their PE kits to avoid time in changing rooms. Buses and changing rooms contribute the most number of students to a ‘close-contact’ list whenever there is a case, and we want to do all we can to minimise these lists should cases arise. Just one word on the PE kit situation – students MUST still wear their school blazer. On a related point we are aware that some classrooms are colder than normal due to the need to keep windows open for ventilation, and want to remind students and families that coats are very much allowed in school and in classrooms if needed.

Summer exams for Year 11 and Year 9

Yesterday the Department for Education released a much needed update on the plans for exams for next year. You can read about it here, with press summaries here and here. As a school we are very happy that exams do indeed appear to be going ahead…but disappointed to hear that yet again we will have to wait for details of quite what changes will be made to make them fairer to students who have missed classes. It appears that some of the content of some of the exams will be revealed in advance, which may well help us focus our work, but not which exams or when. Like all schools MHS plans assessments such as trial exams and internal tests weeks, if not months, ahead. It is therefore highly likely that we are currently teaching and assessing Year 9 and Year 11 students on content that will not be required come the summer, but I guess every school is in the same boat so we must just get on with it! My summary of the news this week is therefore as follows ‘We’re glad that exams do appear to be going ahead, but remain in urgent need of the details’.

Sniffer Dogs

As experienced parents will know, for the past four years we have had regular visits from a team of specially trained sniffer dogs who visit classrooms and students to check that no-one is in possession of drugs or other similar substances. We take our responsibility to protect students from drugs, substances and alcohol in school very seriously and this is one part of the strategy. As usual the students were fantastic, nothing untoward was found and the dog handlers couldn’t have been more positive about MHS.

Ok, that’s probably enough for today I think. I sincerely hope that the next time I write to you I can again communicate a further drop in cases. It’s been a long journey to get to this point and we’re not there yet…but light is at the end of the tunnel. Thank you to you all for your ongoing support, it is much needed and much appreciated by us all.

Best wishes

Joe Barker


Our Community - Our Future
Marple Hall School
Hill Top Drive
Stockport SK6 6LB Headteacher: Mr Joe Barker
Tel: 0161 427 7966
Fax: 0161 426 0931
Email: info@marplehall.stockport.sch.uk
Safeguarding: safeguarding@marplehall.stockport.sch.uk