Please watch the special video update from Mrs Strong thanking everyone for their support during this term in relation to expectations, disruption-free learning, assessments and Covid testing. We’ve come a long way! #aimhigh #expectthebest
Happy Easter everyone! Back to school on Monday 19 April
Gosh, this has been a long term. January seems a lifetime ago and a lot has happened since then:
On the whole, it has been a really positive three weeks. The students understand what we are after and tell us they are learning a lot more. We had a Year 8 parents’ evening on Thursday and, again, we had many supportive comments. We are addressing any concerns.
We want students to have high aspirations, to look smart and, as a result, be good ambassadors for the Academy in our community. A visitor from the local authority and interview candidates who came into school all remarked about the positive work ethic they experienced.
We are determined to reach a gold standard for attendance to ensure all our children benefit from a high-quality education. More work will continue on this after the Easter holiday.
School breaks up on Thursday 1 April (returning Monday19 April) and the Government has asked students and staff to continue to self-test at home twice a week over the break, with the kits provided by school. More details can be found here: bulwellacademy.org.uk/covid-testing-at-home
If you are looking for a treat over Easter, chef Alex Bond of the Michelin-starred Nottingham restaurant Alchemilla has written four simple, cost effective, family recipes for Creative Education Trust.
Download your copy by going here: http://knowledgeconnected.org.uk/FourforFour
My final but most important message in this, my last blog until we return, is to say a huge thank you to the parents who continue to support the Academy and their children. It is much appreciated.
As always, keep well and have a safe and happy Easter.
Student Voice is an important barometer on how we are doing, as are results. On both counts, we have had the most encouraging feedback this week.
Our students have been reacting to the changes made around raising expectations. The vast majority are really positive, saying they are learning so much more in lessons because low level disruption has been ironed out. They feel more confident to ask questions, which is so important.
We will be doing more Student Voice next week. We listen to what our students are saying and react appropriately.
Year 11 were in lessons and learning within three minutes of the bell going last Friday. That makes me so proud of them.
On the results front, we have had some really positive results for the BTECs taken in January. There was some debate as to whether they should go ahead given lockdown but I am so pleased they did.
I am proud of what the students have achieved. They have all done really well and showed what they are capable of achieving. The results will go to their final grades and should act as a huge confidence boost. Well done to all our BTEC students – keep it up.
On the grades front, our Year 11s will undertake their first piece of teacher assessment this week. As you know, end-of-year exams have been scrapped and grades will be decided by teachers.
We have put in place a vigorous and fair system and next week’s work will produce some of the evidence teachers will use to assess grades.
Good luck to Year 11s but, be reassured, nobody will miss out because they are not taking exams this year.
Our final set of lateral flow testing will be undertaken today.
A huge thank you to the team responsible for coordinating our testing programme and ensuring it has run so smoothly.
Having been tested three times at school since returning, the Government is now expecting students to self-test at home twice a week
We have given the testing kits to all our students and the responsibility to keep everybody as safe as possible is on them.
If a child tests positive, they must inform the school, stay at home and self-isolate.
Infection rates need to fall further and we must all do our bit. Only then will we return as a society to something like normal.
It is sobering to think tomorrow marks one year since the first lockdown and the Academy was closed. It has been the most extra-ordinary year of my professional life. But I firmly believe our Academy community is stronger than it was 12 months ago across a range of measures.
We need to continue to work together to raise expectations and ensure all our students receive the best possible education. That is what they deserve.
As always, keep well, and stay safe.
Thank you to those students and parents who have given such a positive response to the changes we have made this week around raising expectations.
We have received emails, messages of support at the school gates, and even a beautiful bouquet of flowers. They are much appreciated by staff.
Year 7 will be experiencing the changes for the first time today and, finally, Year 9 tomorrow. We will then have a full Academy for the first time since before Christmas, which we are looking forward to.
I anticipate it will be full too. Attendance last week among Years 8, 10, 11 and post 16 was excellent, well above our average.
I can sense how much students have enjoyed returning to school and staff are ensuring the focus is on learning as we catch up on lost time.
We have been communicating about the raised expectations since before Christmas across various media, including this blog, and students who attended during lockdown responded accordingly.
The children have been looking exceptionally smart and arrive at a classroom ready to learn straight away.
Change is always difficult but staff have received encouraging feedback from students and have been delighted by the quality and quantity of work produced this past week.
The vast majority of parents have been positive about the changes and most supportive. However, when comments on social media turn to being personal about individual members of staff, I have a duty of care to respond.
Our Facebook page is an effective tool for communicating positive messages about the work of students and the school, and I know has been well received throughout lockdown. That is what it will be in the future.
We always listen to feedback when it is fair and reasonable. For instance, students’ concerns about breaks and lunchtimes have been addressed this week, with students now having 15 minutes for break rather than the 10 minutes previously.
At lunch time students are now able to decide what they wish to do; they can spend the full 30 minutes in their dining area or they can choose to spend the time outside.
But everybody needs to understand low level disruptive behaviour by a small minority will no longer be tolerated.
We understand the issues some parents have with uniform. Children have outgrown items and shops are closed. That is why we have bought shoes, blazers, trousers and shirts to support those families who need it. Anybody with issues around uniform or anything else should contact the school.
We are determined to support children to fulfil their potential and create a school the wider community can be proud of.
As always, keep well, and stay safe.
We have made this landmark day together – helping and supporting each other.
Students, parents, and staff have had to dig deep since the turn of the year.
January and February are always long months but these past few weeks, at times, have felt like this period was never going to end.
While lockdown continues, here we are, the first day of welcoming students back in our phased return. It was the turn of Year 11 and post-16 students today while tomorrow it will be Year 10.
By a week tomorrow (16 March) everybody will be back, with COVID-19 lateral flow testing being offered to each year group before returning.
The testing is going well. We can only do it where we have parental consent and, for those who have not done so yet, it is not too late to give it.
Our focus, as always, is the safety of staff and students and, for this reason, we would like to test as many students as we possibly can.
Those with consent will have three tests in school as we do what we can to help keep the infection rate as low as possible. Students will then be expected to regularly test themselves at home.
Remote learning will continue until everybody is back in the Academy.
When students do return, they need to be in full uniform. For those who have been learning from home, they will notice our raised expectations from the moment they step through the Academy’s gates.
There is no time to lose as teachers make assessments of students’ progress during lockdown.
Students have a responsibility to themselves and each other to get back into the pace of learning as quickly as possible. There is nothing to worry about. Staff will be doing all we can to support and make up for lost classroom time.
Staff are finalising our plans for awarding grades to Year 11s and I will be communicating with parents shortly.
To help with the transition back to full-time learning, those individuals and families who need the extra reassurance have been invited to in to school. Please contact us if you would like to take up this offer.
Staff have appreciated parents’ positive feedback of home learning because a huge effort has gone into the live lessons.
The Government strongly recommends the wearing of face coverings in classrooms, in addition to communal areas.
We will be asking students to do so and those with a valid medical exemption should wear their lanyards. We will reassess our mask policy at Easter and thank you for your ongoing support with this.
We hope students enjoyed World Book Day and we will be sharing efforts all week.
If you have not seen the staff video yet, you can find it below.
My book was my all-time favourite, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the story of how a young woman overcomes obstacles through her determination, sharp wit, and courage.
It resonates today. Our obstacle has been coronavirus and we need to help each other to move on and, hopefully, leave it behind.
As always, keep well, and stay safe.
Lockdown has not been easy for any of us, but we can see the end in sight. From next Monday, we start welcoming back all our students, though COVID-19 restrictions out-of- school will continue. We are really looking forward to being fully reopen again.
We need to safely undertake COVID-19 tests before students return meaning, following the Government guidance, year groups will come back on different days.
Letters are being sent to parents and carers imminently with details about Covid-Testing dates and return to school dates for all years. Only those students where we have permission will be given a lateral flow test.
Could I encourage parents who have not filled out the quick NHS consent form for the lateral flow test to do so, by clicking on the red button below.
We are aware students have not accessed the same number of live lessons this lockdown and gaps in knowledge have arisen. New teaching groups will take this into account and enable staff to tailor lessons and quickly fill those gaps.
All students will be expected to work hard from lesson one. New timetables are being sent out with the return-to-school letter.
Those attending school during lockdown have responded well to our raised expectations, including on uniform. If parents have any issues with uniform, please contact school.
The same strict rules that applied in the Autumn term will be in place to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 and to keep students and staff safe.
While it has been difficult since the turn of the year, the positives have continued. Congratulations to Nikkaya in Year 10 whose special poem has been entered into a national young writers’ awards competition.
The last live cook-along will take place on Thursday, with cookies being baked. Thank you to Miss Marriott and Miss Easom and all those who have enjoyed participating.
So, it is one last push with the home learning and, by two weeks tomorrow, all students should be back in school. We know for some this will not be easy, but we are here to support students and their families.
If you have any concerns, please contact us.
As always, keep well, and stay safe.
My attention was drawn to a Nottingham Post headline: ‘The Nottingham neighbourhoods where COVID-19 rates are highest and rising’. Based on Public Health England figures, in the seven days to 29 January, Bulwell recorded the highest rates in the city region at 730.8 per 100,000. There were 55 new cases here in that week.
They are sobering figures among all the talk of schools reopening. We will know more on 22 February – the first day back after half term – when the Prime Minister sets out details to reopen schools from the 8 March.
Given the figures, it is difficult to envisage our Academy being fully open any time soon. It is widely reported that primary-age children may have a phased return from the 8 March. We shall see.
The Government’s priority is to reopen schools and I can assure parents we want our classrooms full of students learning as soon as possible. We can only follow the guidance which will ensure we only return fully when it is safe for students and staff.
We currently have more than 100 attending the Academy during lockdown, though a reminder that we will be closed to all for half term.
We have raised our expectations around uniform over recent days and I am really proud of the way students have responded. It makes such a difference when they take pride in their appearance and themselves.
For those learning remotely, you continue to do well. We have been recording our highest ever check ins, with Key Stage 3 doing particularly well. A huge thanks to the pastoral team and parents for their support.
We are also receiving positive comments from students, which are much appreciated by staff.
Students not accessing online learning are being invited into school for a day. The aim is to ensure they can work remotely by the end of that day. We hope this will help support parents.
Thursday’s live cook-a-long was a great success, with 44 students logging in and making pizza swirls.
Well done to Miss Marriott and Miss Easom who set this up.
If you want to join in the fun this Thursday to make muffins click here for ingredients and equipment list and don’t forget to email Miss Marriott – email@example.com – to be added to the live channel on Teams.
Lockdown is not stopping Bulwell’s Got Talent 2021. You have until Sunday 21 February, to submit your entry. Click on the link below for all the details, including rules and consent form:
Finally, we were all sorry to hear national inspiration Captain Sir Tom Moore had died.
By taking part in Mrs Brettell’s and Miss Smalley’s Art & Design Challenge you can help commemorate his remarkable life and earn house points.
As always, keep well, stay safe and enjoy the half term break.
The Prime Minister has announced an ambition to start reopening schools from 8 March. While this gives everybody something to work towards, it is important to note the date is not set-in stone.
It might be primary schools return ahead of secondary. We just do not know but will, of course, follow Government guidelines. What I would say is that when we reopen, it will be phased, just like it is every September.
The Prime Minister said a decision on the reopening of schools would be announced on 22 February. Before the Government agrees a return, the R (infection) rate will need to fall, pressure on the NHS reduce, and the vaccine programme continue to roll out successfully.
We all need to continue doing our bit for these to happen.
For students and parents struggling with home learning, March seems a long way off. It does for staff too. We cannot wait to see all our students return to learning in the classroom.
There are nearly 100 attending the academy during lockdown because they are vulnerable or have provided evidence to show their parent is a key worker. They have all adapted well to our new focus on high expectations, launched at the beginning of the year. As a result, we are seeing disruption-free lessons, enabling all students to learn more.
Initial feedback from students and staff has been positive and it is important those learning at home know they will come back to these high expectations.
I have similar expectations of the live cook-a-longs, beginning on Thursday with the fabulous duo Miss Marriott and Miss Easom. I know students from all year groups have been emailing Miss Marriott to be added to the live channel on Teams. It is not too late to join – all you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first cook-along is on Thursday, 2.30 to 3.30pm. Week 1 is Pizza Swirls, with the ingredients published on the Friday before to give you time to pop the items on your shopping list. I love this idea and thank Miss Marriott and Miss Easom for setting this up.
Finally, thank you to everybody who has mentioned Burnley to me recently. Smiles are much needed during lockdown and the team from Turf Moor has provided me with plenty over the last couple of weeks – though not yesterday!
We should all have a ‘happy place’.
As always, keep well and stay safe.
Staff can only do so much and, while the academy remains closed to the majority of students, it’s the children who are in control of their futures.
This was the key message of a live online assembly we held with Year 10 last week. The technology – students could see us but had their cameras off – worked well and our hope is they took on board what we were saying.
A large majority of the year group attended but there was a significant minority who did not. We will be following up with phone calls home because it is so important all our students engage because we do not know how long we will remain closed.
The Secretary of State for Education said this week schools would be given two weeks’ notice of a return. We will communicate to parents as soon as we know but, in the meantime, it is important we remain as positive as we can.
Everything students do now will count towards their learning.
At the very least, all should be picking up a book and reading. They could also watch the BBC’s educational offering for secondary students in an afternoon.
It is particularly important for our older students to continue to engage, but we want all students engaging every day. It really will make a difference to their futures.
Time is running out and, for those in Year 11, further education looms in a little over eight months. Application forms are circulating, and it is important to think of your future and keep going.
Take a look at the Nottinghamshire Decisionz Magazine to help you plot your next steps.
If you are still not sure, please email our Careers Manager, Mr Turner, who can offer you support: email@example.com
I receive daily reminders that this period is not easy for parents. We do understand the difficulties faced and appreciate everything parents / carers do in support of their children. If parents need our assistance with anything – it could be to do with IT, it might be emotional – please do not hesitate to contact us. We will do what we can to support.
The Year 10 assembly was held on Microsoft Teams, the same platform on which we deliver live lessons for them and Year 11. The lessons are working well. As a result, we will be gradually transferring our online platform for Years 7 to 9 to Teams.
This is nothing to worry about, just further progression as we continue to deliver the best possible education during lockdown. The switch will be done slowly, working with students and their families. More details will follow.
We had more changes from the Department of Education with regards testing this week. As a result, daily testing – which we were ready to implement – is on pause but staff on site will continue to be tested up to twice a week. If anybody is deemed a close contact, they will once again have to self-isolate.
Finally, please do not forget to catch up with the year groups shout outs on Facebook. Well done to those nominated this week. I am proud of all that is being achieved in these difficult times.
As always, keep well and stay safe.
We are in the middle of a pandemic and the Academy has two priorities:
We cannot fulfil the second priority if we have large numbers in the Academy.
Schools were closed from the beginning of term to reduce infections and the subsequent pressure on the NHS, yet we are approaching 10% of our cohort attending daily.
This means bringing in additional teaching and non-teaching staff and is, clearly, self-defeating in terms of fighting the virus.
We will of course remain open to those who are vulnerable and, where we have evidence, children of key workers. Those currently in school and any asking for places in the future will be asked to provide relevant evidence of key worker status.
We will always do our best to support our families, but we must keep numbers in school down to ensure the safety of those here and support the national effort.
Our COVID-19 testing centre is up and running for those attending. Those children should have received a consent form and none will be tested without it. Staff in school are being tested weekly and this is working well.
The new behaviour system has been introduced for those children attending school and students have risen to our increased expectations, with many openly saying how much more they can achieve when classrooms are calm and purposeful.
Can I please remind parents that all students in school must be in full uniform. If there are any issues with this, please let us know.
I am pleased that increasing numbers are accessing the online learning and we will be following up where students are not logging in. Staff are working hard to ensure students working remotely have access to high quality learning and lessons and don’t fall behind.
Well done to those who attended their vocational exams in the last two weeks. We had another change in Government guidance this week, firstly cancelling those scheduled for February and March and, on Friday, cancelling the ones due to be sat in summer. As soon as we know more, we will let you know.
I can assure you it is difficult for staff as well as students.
Our social media posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were key to successful communication during the first lockdown and a way in which we can all celebrate the students’ achievements:
As always, keep well and stay safe.
Hours after last week’s blog went live, everything changed.
Up to the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday, we had been planning for a phased return and were setting up a coronavirus testing centre.
What a first week back but I would like to thank staff, students, and parents for their positive reaction.
We could have been downbeat about another lockdown and the Academy being closed to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers. But the Bulwell spirit kicked in again, as it did last year, and we have quickly adapted. It made me feel proud to be Principal.
We will get through this, but we know school will be closed for some weeks.
The Academy is, however, in a different place to last March with its online alternative to classroom teaching.
Students will be receiving a link every Tuesday to check-in with school to let us know how they are getting on. Please encourage them to complete it as it flags up any concerns. The link will be sent out on ClassCharts for Years 7 to 9 and via Teams for Years 10 and above.
We have handed out 200 Chrome books this week, in addition to the 300 distributed last year.
Please contact your child’s Year Manager if students are struggling with either devices or internet access, and we will do our best to support.
We will be contacting families daily and all should have at least one call a week, but please ring or email school if you have any issues.
I would like to see our social media pages once again full of positive stories about our students and their achievements, inside and outside of school. Look out for the ‘shout outs’!
Ethan was given an award as a Nottingham Clean Champion for his litter picking efforts while Iris was named one of Nottingham Building Society’s Innovative Young People of 2020 winners for her voluntary work with the Bulwell Forest Garden and the town’s foodbank.
Well done too to the Year 8 student who had been having technical problems so wrote her work out and sent it to prove she had been doing it!
All in all then, a difficult week made better by those who matter the most, our young people.
As always, keep well and stay safe.
Wow . . . it has been quite a start to 2021. I hope you had a good Christmas and wish you all a happy New Year.
For those in education, it has been difficult to switch off over the past two weeks. Schools are at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 and, as such, are having to adjust to meet constantly changing demands.
It has been frustrating to be given one set of guidelines the day before we broke up for Christmas – which was far too late – and then something different last week, days before returning.
It is the first time I have sent a letter to parents over the festive break but I wanted to explain the impact of the changes on students and their families as soon as possible.
We have all seen the dramatic rise in infections in recent weeks and need to do what we can to reduce the numbers. But we also want to give our young people the best possible education while keeping them and staff safe.
It has made it clear that, while the priority is to have schools open, the virus could change those plans.
Importantly, BTEC and other vocational exams are to take place as planned.
The Department for Education has also announced schools will be testing students daily for coronavirus to further reduce the spread of the virus and minimise the disruption caused by staff and students needing to self-isolate.
The testing centre at the Academy will be set up as soon as I know I can do so safely and effectively. If anyone would like to volunteer to support it, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to the day when I prioritise and talk about nothing but teaching and learning and getting the best outcomes and experiences for our students.
2021 is going to be a better year for all of us.
Click on the red buttons below to read earlier blogs.