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Head Teacher Update - Letter 36

16th March in School

10th January 2021

Dear Parent/Carer and pupils (please share this information with your children).

Happy New Year, and welcome back, sort of, for a new term.

This is a long letter, feel free to scroll down the headlines for the sections of interest to you
and/or watch the video version that will follow in due course. Please find the Scottish
Government advice to schools and Local Authorities that forms the basis of online learning and
teaching this term which you can read here:

https://www.gov.scot/news/schools-guidance/ 

Essential Reading

Please read the attached Local Authority document entitled “Home Learning Protocols: Advice
for Pupils and Parents/Carers During Home Learning".

Thanks

Let me begin by thanking all the staff in our schools for all their efforts during the whole of last
week. Although we have already established a timetable that is designed to cater for both full
online learning and blended learning; and we have already transferred everything we need
onto the Google Drives to allow our teachers to support learning from home, it has been a while
since most of our staff have engaged in online provision. This last week has seen staff planning
for online learning and engaging in re-fresh training to ensure we can best meet the
challenging, but not insurmountable, times ahead.

What to expect?

As noted before, with a reminder below, we will provide daily learning opportunities for all our
children. Learning from our previous Lockdown experiences and having listened to the
observations of staff, parents and pupils we have changed the format of these “learning
opportunities” to match the current timetables. Having a structure to the day; a clear outline of
what to expect; spreading the work across the week; having a teacher online to direct and
support the learning, period by period, were all suggested as being better than just front-loading
everything on a Monday and checking in throughout the week.

We do expect children to get up for (online) school in the morning and engage in lessons
through the course of the day and week; and as much as a teacher will be leading learning and
supporting pupils on a period by period basis; and as much as we hope for the same level of
engagement and positive behaviour whilst in virtual lessons, online learning is not the same as
being in school - for anyone - teachers, support staff, pupils or parents.

Google Classroom (GC) uses very little data and the live chat facility will allow teachers to
direct and support the learning easily. It can be accessed from a smartphone, smart tv, tablet,
laptop, hard drive; even an X-Box or Playstation. The pupils are very used to using GC and are
used to (and sometimes prefer) using just a phone to do online work. If anyone cannot access
GC at all, you should tell us asap, so we can offer assistance.

Many Oban and Tiree pupils are also used to lessons being delivered through Google Meet.
We also use it for meetings all across the country, daily. It works well for most people in school
and at home. As much as we wish to make more use of this from home to home, it may not
work for some teachers and pupils at home. The teacher or pupil may have to switch their
camera off and use audio only for it to work. In some other cases, it may be that Google Meet
won’t work at all. In that case, the lessons will continue using Google Classroom only. This will
not be known until we actually use it.

Another difficulty that won’t be known until we get going with our online lessons is the stresses
that many people working at home together will face. Remember, our youngsters will not
require to be online every minute of the day. Much of the day will be taken up by pupils
undertaking the tasks set independently. Google Meet will only be used in short bursts
periodically throughout the day when appropriate to enhance the learning. Please work
together to share devices and broadband if need be. If you don’t have a device at all, we will
provide one; if you can’t get broadband at all, we will provide you with a 4G Dongle; and if you
can’t afford connectivity, we will provide you with free data during Lockdown. Please let us
know how we can help you.

Other stresses arising from Lockdown and from all being cooped up together will result in the
need for some calm, perhaps going for a walk outside, to get away from each other; or
alternatively to come together and spend some time with family. Whenever there is a need to
break from the learning routine and to either seek some “me time” or family time, you should
take it. Mental well-being is essential to learning, so take a break when you need to. Then let
your pastoral care staff know when they call offering support.

Finally, on this subject of reality and flexibility, please remember that teachers and pupils are
working from home. This means that when online, someone may shout out in the background
that they want tea; a screaming toddler may be causing mayhem in the background; a delivery
driver may turn up at the door and force the teacher or pupil to go and answer the door midlesson; a dog may start barking, a cat may walk across the screen or keyboard… when any of
these things inevitably happen, just laugh. That’s life!

So in short. Get up and log into your lessons (parents, please help). If you have problems, let
us know and we’ll try and help; if you need family time, take it; and if your cat embarrasses you
online, get over it. It’ll all be fine.

Learning opportunities

S1-3

Pupils will have their lessons uploaded to GC on a period-by-period basis, linked to their current
timetable. At the start of a period they should log on, read and begin the tasks set. Throughout
the period, teachers will be on GC, available to answer questions and give guidance as
required. Just like in a class environment, pupils asking questions may have to wait their turn
for the teachers to answer so please be patient.

Some S1-3 classes will use Meet, at times, as deemed appropriate by the teacher and
highlighted via GC instructions to the class.

S4-6

Pupils will follow their current timetables and log onto their Google Meet class at the start of
each period. Teachers will spend 10-20 minutes explaining the topic of the day, setting the
tasks and answering questions. Google Meet will then cease and pupils will work on their tasks
and communicate with their teachers over Google Classroom by texting. Mid-way through the
lesson, the teacher will gather the pupils back into a live session on Google Meet to check
progress and offer support, before resuming with the tasks and supporting individuals through
GC. The class will end with the teacher summing up and providing next steps, again by using
Google Meet.

Pastoral Care

Our pastoral teams will be available for any support our young people might need. This includes
any aspects of their learning, health and wellness. We will sensitively and confidentially carry
out weekly welfare checks with families and build upon the excellent successes this achieved
during the last lockdown. Our families in the Support Department will be supported by their
team of staff, led by Mrs Binnie, as before. Mrs Cooney will co-ordinate the Tiree support. Any
further information we are alerted to or find ourselves that we feel could help families we will
disseminate through the Oban Parent App or Tiree Messenger 5 over the coming weeks.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch with a member of the pastoral teams; if we can't help you
directly we will be able to signpost you to someone who can.

SQA

For our senior pupils who are entered for SQA Qualifications this year, we understand that the
next few weeks may be a source of stress and worry. However, I wish to reassure all of our
pupils that teachers have prepared for this and will be continuing to deliver lessons and tasks
that meet the requirements to generate evidence for your qualifications during lockdown. We
are proud of all of our pupils who continue to display resilience throughout this difficult time.
Our teachers and support staff will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our pupils
achieve the best possible results for the work that they have demonstrated this year. This
means that there will be times when teachers will require senior pupils to sit controlled
assessments remotely via Google Classroom and Google Meet. In order to support this,
parents should ensure that pupils have a suitable quiet space that is free from distractions at
home to complete these assessments.

We are working on adapting the senior assessment calendar as a result of the school closures.
Pupils will be made aware of any upcoming assessments by their class teachers on Google Classroom.
We are awaiting further specific details from the SQA about how they wish us to
collate and submit this evidence for Higher & Advanced Higher (National 5 Guidance was given
to centres before Christmas). As soon as we have been provided with an update from SQA,
we will communicate this to parents and pupils. In the meantime, I would strongly encourage
parents and pupils to access the SQA information available:

https://www.mysqa.org.uk/cs8/content/secure/my_homepage.jsp

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/95157.html 

Reporting, Parents Evenings and Options

S1

S1 full reports will be issued on Friday 26th March.

S2 and S3

S2 and S3 full reports will be completed by staff over the next few days and will be posted out
to parents from the 15th of January. A virtual Parents Evening will follow on Thursday 4th
February from 4.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. This will run just like the virtual Senior Parents Evening
we held in November via Google Meet. Full details will be sent with your child’s report.
Our Options process for S2 and S3 will begin at the end of January. Your child will receive lots
of information from their Guidance teacher, subject information will be shared via short videos
and options booklets and you will have the opportunity to attend your child’s options interview
with their Guidance teacher via Google Meet. Guidance staff will also be setting up specific
Google Classrooms for Options and codes will be sent out in due course. This will ensure all
pupils receive the information and guidance they need at this crucial time. Staff from Skills
Development Scotland will also be available to advise pupils and parents to ensure the best
decisions are made about future learning pathways.

S4, S5 and S6

The next report for S4, 5 and 6 pupils will be issued on the 5th March. The options process for
S4 and S5 pupils will also begin in March. Again all pupils will receive a one to one interview
with their Guidance teacher and parents will be invited to join the meeting virtually. There will
be lots of advice and information available from departments and we are already working on a
virtual Options Information Evening. More details to follow!

Parental Consultation on Timetable Structure

Following on from the pupil and staff consultation on proposals for next year’s timetable a
parental focus group met at the end of last term to discuss the current timetable and how we
could make changes which would enable the best learning environment for our pupils. The
parents felt that the longer learning blocks were working well for most children with more in-depth
learning taking place. In particular, it was noted that the longer learning blocks were
most beneficial for practical subjects but that all learning was better when more time is given
to learning and consolidation of knowledge and skills. However, parents of S4 pupils did feel
that the triple morning blocks were just too long and led to a drop – off in learning by the end
of this block.

On the subject of breaks, all parents were in agreement that they would like to see a return to
a normal break in the atrium or outside. Parents felt it was important for pupils to be able to
move from the classroom into a different setting, whether this is an inside or outside social area
and spend break time with their friends.

Our split lunches were also discussed and parents could see the pros and cons. Split lunches
have helped to create a very calm learning environment and local businesses have commented
that they can serve pupils more easily if we have two lunches. However, parents were also
aware that it would be beneficial for younger pupils to be around older, positive role models at
lunchtimes and that their children would like to be able to socialise with other year groups.

Another consideration that parents felt was important was My Time classes. The parents were
keen for this to continue in some way and felt that it was very valuable.

We would like to thank the parents who took part in this focus group for giving up their time.
We will now be looking at the feedback from pupils, parents and staff to help us create our
structure for next year. This is obviously dependent on whether we are still subject to the
current health and safety restrictions in place.

Just Ask

Should you require any support at all please use the “Contact Us” page on the school website:

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

Yours faithfully

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

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