Head Teacher Update - Letter 32

13th December in School

13/12/2020

Dear parent/carer/colleagues

I hope this letter again finds you and your loved ones all safe and well.

As always I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for their support, ensuring that we all
continue to learn and work in our schools in a safe, yet productive and enjoyable manner. And
my thanks is not just for those who keep our lessons running smoothly or in ensuring our
pastoral care of our children; my thanks also goes to all the pupils, staff and community
partners who are continuing to support the very positive ethos in our schools through the wealth
of wider opportunities we are involved in both in and out of school hours. The partners
supporting our charity work; our Pensioners Treat and Christmas Fayre; the beautiful lights
illuminating our schools both in Oban and Tiree; the after school clubs (in bubbles); the local
businesses providing gifts for the school community. There is so much support for our schools,
we really are quite blessed. Thank you everyone.

Covid

On Friday (11th December) the First Minister announced that the current 14 day self-isolation
period for close contacts is reducing to 10 days. This will apply retroactively to those already
isolating (e.g. if you have 6 days left to isolate as of Friday, you would only have 2 after the
announcement).

I am aware that many parents are anxious about this particular issue, fearing that their children,
or indeed themselves, may be forced to self-isolate during Christmas in the event they come
into contact with a confirmed case either in their own workplace or from their child coming into
contact with another youngster at school.

Without being complacent, I am pleased to inform you that our attendance rates are higher
than normal for this time of year (likely because of all the extra sanitation keeping the cold virus
at bay) and would of course remind you of the Scottish Government’s continuing message that
schools are safe, controlled environments. Which is why we are keeping children in school.

The wealth of extra measures we have in place in addition to the increased hygiene measures
linked to cleaning and ventilation, for example, the strict adherence to bubbles, blocking,
breaks in class, front facing lunches in bubbles, masks in corridors and social areas, masks for
all adults closer than 2 meters, staggered departures… these all help ensure that in the event of a confirmed case, the number requiring to self-isolate would be very low in comparison to
those schools reported in the media losing hundreds each week. Our measures are numerous
and strict to help prevent this very concern: to keep us all safe and in school.

Additionally, in the final week, we will also be keeping a close recorded note of who is next to
who so we know who exactly would have to isolate during Christmas should the need arise.
This information will be shared with the Track and Trace teams when we break for the holiday
– only if required. This will reduce this risk of holiday isolation yet further. I hope you all find
these measures, whilst undesirable, necessary and reassuring.

You can find the full amended Scottish Government guidance to schools here:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-reducing-the-risks-inschools/

SQA exams

Let me also continue on from last week’s letter on the subject of SQA exams. The Deputy First
Minister announced on Tuesday that in addition to the removal of National 5 external
examinations, Higher and Advanced Higher external examinations will also not take place next
summer. The SQA are now working to a tight timescale to publish details to schools on the
approach to assessment for Higher & Advanced Higher which they have stated will be broadly
the same as that of National 5, but with more flexibility regarding the evidence that will be
accepted.

The National 5 model was published by the SQA on 8th December and can be found here:

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/96097.html

Whilst I know that this announcement has generated some uncertainty, I can assure you that
as a school, we were already preparing for this contingency by asking departments to generate
evidence through existing assessments tasks in class. Therefore, I am confident that all of our
pupils will be able to achieve the grade that they deserve for the work that they put in across
the year.

The management team across Oban and Tiree will now design the internal assessment system
for Higher & Advanced Higher in partnership with the Local Authority and I anticipate that I will
be able to give you more details in early January. In the meantime, I wish to thank all pupils for
your continued hard work in your SQA courses. I also wish to thank parents and carers for
supporting your children through what has been a very unusual year with regards to
coursework.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Even before the advent of Covid, we recognised the importance of mental health and wellbeing
and as well as obviously taking forward such issues through our pastoral care system, we
added a compulsory course to all senior timetables. That course continued this year but with
even greater need given the current climate. On Wednesday 9th of December we held a very
successful Mental Health and Wellbeing Day. The day was launched by Gary Innes with an
excellent talk on Mental Health issues. The pupils then participated in a variety of individual
and group activities that allowed them to explore factors that influence our Mental Health. Students also explored the impact of technology and social media and considered
different coping strategies to help with issues they may face. By completing these tasks,
students are working towards achieving Unit 2 as part of the Mental Health and Wellbeing
Award at Level 5. Developing their understanding of Mental Health and Wellbeing and the
influences and coping strategies will equip students with the tools and knowledge needed, no
matter what career path they choose. It was a great opportunity for pupils to be reflective about
themselves and to learn about one of the defining issues of our time. I would like to take this
opportunity to thank all of the staff for delivering this day.

Pensioners Treat

Our Business Apprenticeship pupils have worked very hard this year to ensure that we had an
alternative Pensioners Treat. This would have been our 16th Annual Pensioners Treat and it
is always a lovely opportunity for our school to invite our local pensioners to visit for a morning
of music and Christmas treats. Unfortunately we were not able to have our usual event so our
pupils rose to the challenge of ensuring that our local pensioners were not forgotten about.
They made up beautiful hampers comprising of shortbread made by our Food Technology
Department and lots of other little goodies. These were all hand delivered by our pupils and
staff in time for Christmas. We would like to say a big thank you to our pupils, local businesses
and our staff who have been involved in making this all possible.

Christmas at OHS

As well as the Pensioners Treat success and the efforts they have made in lighting up and
decorating areas of the school (our added thanks to Oban Electrics in Oban), our S6 pupils
have been working hard to ensure we can celebrate Christmas in school for staff and pupils.
This includes running the staff Christmas lottery and secret Santa. Organising our Christmas
door competition. Writing Santa letters for the community and organising a Christmas quiz and
fun activities for our My Time assembly. All pupils involved will achieve their Leadership award.

You can hear more about Christmas by watching this week’s assembly video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lONpjxQAH04

Bid4Oban: Support Local, Shop Local

And talking of videos, our senior pupils were also involved in supporting our local business
community this week, producing a promotional video to encourage everyone to consider
shopping locally, thus helping everyone in the community to thrive in these difficult times. You
can watch this excellent video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihF643J7Q_U

Consultation on next year’s timetable

Although still some time away, we began a second round of consultation with the pupils on
how the current timetable is running and how we could change it to reflect lessons learned
from this session into next. The consultation was run by Helen Hope, our PT Languages, who
has kindly taken over all the Pupil Voice activities we carry out each term. In summary, almost
every group preferred longer blocks because of the increased learning time, less disruption to the day, a calmer environment in the school and less need to bring 7 sets of books each day.
However, they also noted the one longer block created by the split lunches made that block
too long and the early lunch is too early (currently required to add in extra Covid cleaning).

Split lunches received more of a split result; and as for breaks? Well, they of course, with Covid
necessities removed, would prefer to socialise with the wider friendship groups rather than stay
in class; though they understand why that’s the case just now. Indeed socialisation featured
heavily as a rationale for most views given.

Other discussions. Again, socialisation noted as a reason to have a My Time class; and Bells
are not required unless to remind those out in the further reaches of the grounds that it’s time
to come in.

As we did with the pupil consultation we will use Focus Groups to discuss the pros and cons
of each aspect of what we do with staff and parents as the weeks unfold. (This will be done
online). It is of course important to note that not all ideas suggested by any group could
possibly be achieved and that just as the different year groups have different views of what
works well, so will the adult views differ.

Finally, should anyone require any support at all, please contact your child’s Guidance Teacher
directly by email in the first instance, or use the “Contact Us” section of the website:

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

I hope you all have a lovely week ahead.

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


Assembly 11.12.20

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