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Head Teacher Update - Letter 28

25th October in School

Sunday 25th October 2020

Dear Parent/Carer

I hope this letter finds you all safe and well.

Let me begin by thanking everyone involved in keeping our children safe and learning. As we can clearly
see from the on-going national and indeed international developments that affect the whole of society,
this is quite a challenge. I am aware there is, quite naturally, a lot of concern and debate about children
in schools; an anxiety intensified by the news of so many youngsters across the country having to
remain at home self-isolating as a precautionary measure, following prolonged contact with, usually, a
family member that has contracted Covid-19.

I thought I would add the link to all the recent changes that have recently come into force and the
guidance from the Scottish Government for those who wish to read about how we are trying to keep
society safe.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-19-scotlands-strategic-framework/

Whilst there is a small section in this document that mentions schools, schools are covered in far more
detail in this document, which I have sent you previously.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-preparing-start-new-school-termaugust-2020-version-3/ 

Version 4 of this document will be with us next week and retitled “Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance
on reducing the risks from COVID-19 in schools”. It will be substantially the same as Version 3 but will
contain specific changes which are related to current medical and scientific evidence, changes made
as a result of the weekly feedback to ERG, changes made in the National position in respect of the virus
and changes flowing from the move into winter. The Guidance will come with a clear indication of where
the changes from Version 3 are, to enable schools to more easily amend risk assessments if that be
necessary.

The various layers of protection we have added in Oban and Tiree, as noted in my letter to you dated
14th September, are viewed as good practice and I have been asked to share our strategy with schools
nationally on a number of occasions. Along with the head of e-Sgoil (online education provision
promoted by the Government), I have also been invited to discuss how Oban and Tiree schools have
safely and innovatively taken forward learning under Covid along with an international panel next week
involving educationalists and government officials from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I’m
sharing this not to show off the success of our schools but to add re-assurance that what we are doing
is working well – though we should never be complacent. With this in mind I would ask the parents
concerned about aspects of our planning bear in mind the need to keep our children and adults safe at
all costs and that our measures are viewed as exemplary practice.

Like ourselves, most schools across the country have moved to blocking and those who haven’t have
been advised to do so. Other factors, like the creation of bubbles, split lunches, staggered breaks,
frontfacing lessons and lunches, one-way systems, constant use of PPE and using VC wherever possible,
are all normal (new normal). Please note that all these precautions are likely to be required throughout
the winter and indeed until the next change of timetable in May/June: and possibly beyond.

Given every decision is driven by medical concerns it seems apt to add a reminder of the NHS link to
what you need to know about Covid-19:

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19 

Digital learning
I mentioned that I had been asked to give a number of presentations on taking forward learning during
this Covid crisis. One of the key strategies involved regards using IT to deliver lessons to all those
currently out of school for whatever reason, not just Covid related. I refer to our use of Google
Classroom. All teachers are uploading their day to day lessons to ensure that some degree of continuity
can be assured for those not in school. Please remember, we are not trying to replicate a lesson that is
being delivered live in school. We are however ensuring a youngster who is absent can keep pace with
the lessons and ask questions from afar. This makes it easier to step back into the class when they
return.

There may come a time (I pray not) that we have too many teachers or pupils absent because of
confirmed cases / self-isolation or that the Government instructs a full lockdown again. I wish to
reassure you that we have already planned for this event. The current blocked timetable is a core
component of this plan, making it easier for us to switch to a partial or full closure blended timetable
model. This was outlined to you in the Covid blended learning pack I sent you in June. The model can
be seamlessly switched to because we kept our timetable model deliberately so we could manage this.
The alternative was writing a completely a new timetable in the coming months (which would be a very
disruptive strategy) in the run up to the exams… which of course have now, in part, been cancelled.

SQA Exams
The Deputy First Minister has announced a number of measures for the awarding of National Courses
at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher in 2020-21. There will be no external assessment of National
5 courses this year – either by an exam or by coursework. Higher and Advanced Higher externally
assessed exams, including the completion of coursework where appropriate, will remain as planned.

National 5 courses will now be assessed using an alternative certification approach. This will be based
on teacher judgement supported by assessment resources and quality assurance.

The SQA has published broad guidance on evidence gathering and estimation with a very clear focus
on the quality, not quantity, of evidence. This will be followed after the October break by subject specific
guidance, published on a rolling basis, on the work that pupils need to complete. Where possible, they
will specify between two and four pieces of work per subject that will form the basis of arriving at a final
award. They will also provide some additional resources that teachers can draw on for assessment
purposes.

They also confirmed that the Higher and Advanced Higher exams are planned to start on Thursday 13
May 2021 and finish on Friday 4 June 2021, with Results Day on Tuesday 10 August 2021. A full exam
timetable will be published at the end of October.

The Deputy First Minister also said this would all be kept under review and that could mean all exams
being removed at some time in the future if it is not safe to hold them in schools.

All the information you need regarding the changes to the SQA exams next year can be found here.

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/70972.html 

After school study and clubs
To help our youngsters prepare for their assessments, Study Support is back on along with the Schools
of programmes and a number of other clubs, all after school activities are limited by the need to maintain
year group bubbles. Here is the most recent Study Support timetable:

After school study and clubs

SCHOLAR
SCHOLAR is an online resource tool that offers study materials and some online tutor support that
helps aid understanding in a particular topic within certain subjects. Every subject has different choices
of topics and can teach them in any order. SCHOLAR is not an online course; it is a service which
provides some support for those wishing to do extra study or look at enhancing what they learned in
school using complementary materials. Many students prefer to use their own teachers’ additional
materials given during school Study Support but every pupil has access to a SCHOLAR login and
password and are if forgotten, their teacher will help them retrieve it.

https://scholar.hw.ac.uk/why.html#availableCourses 

e-Sgoil
e-Sgoil is another valuable online resource that offers study support materials and on-line tutorials
linked to specific subjects. Like SCHOLAR, this is not a course programme that schools follow. It serves
as an amazing bank of resources, materials and tutor support that adds to the schools’ programmes.

http://www.e-sgoil.com/studysupport2020/ 

West Coast weather
Another piece of information I thought you would appreciate. The new 20-metre-long bus shelter will be
installed on the 18th November. I’m sure many of our youngsters will appreciate this. Planning for
additional coverings is still with the architects as it requires to be custom made.

It is worth noting for all parents that you should continue to drop your children off away from the school,
even if raining, to avoid pupils gathering. Please do not drop off your children at school too early. Please
make sure they have appropriate clothing for our west coast weather. They still need to walk to the
school from a distant drop off point, from the ferry or from the train, they will still go down the street as
teenagers will still go out in the rain even if they don’t need to at lunch. And, even with a bus shelter the
rain still sometimes comes in horizontally when we all wait for buses, no matter where we are. I am
aware kids aren’t keen on jackets but they’re pretty essential items for everyone in Argyll, regardless of
Covid. Please make sure they leave the house with one if you can.

Support
I’d like to end with some congratulations and an offer of support. Firstly, my congratulations to Sam
Martin who will replace Jemma Playfair as DHT of Ossian on an acting basis until after Christmas. Sam
will lead the Clan working with his Pastoral Team colleagues to ensure that we are able to support the
children and families of those in the clan. Our Deputes, Guidance Teachers, Family Liaison Officers,
Youth Workers, Clan Assistants and Clan IT Support are here ready to help, wherever we can.

Please email your child’s Guidance Teacher in the first instance, or use the Contact Us page of the
website. You can also use this contact page to get in touch with our excellent Parent Council. They are
always looking for volunteers and are keen to get back up and running.

http://www.obanhigh.argyll-bute.sch.uk/contact 

I keep adding this final comment because I know families are facing difficult times and that things are
not easy for many. Please take the opportunity and let us lend a hand where we can. No matter if you
need help with learning, IT, dealing with teenagers or with things like free school meals. We will help
you, if you wish.

Yours faithfully
P A Bain
Executive Head Teacher
Oban High School, Tiree High School & Tiree Primary School

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