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Letter from the Headteacher 21 Jul 2020 (Bartholomew School) Headteacher Mr Craig Thomas, and Chair of Governors, Mrs Jane Osborne, reflect on the most unusual academic year to date.

Dear Members of the Eynsham Community

The school year has just finished and there is no doubt that that this has been the most unusual one that any of us have experienced. Schools are complex organisations that run on systems and routines, and the unprecedented events of this year have inevitably led to a disruption to these structures.

We have reacted and responded to an ever-changing picture in an effort to continue to deliver as good an experience for our students as possible, supplementing online provision with phone calls home and personal contact with any students at risk of becoming disengaged. As government advice allowed, we have invited groups of students back into school for some valuable face-to-face contact with their teachers and peers, first bringing back Years 10 and 12 for lessons, then inviting Key Stage 3 students in for socially-distanced tutor group sessions.

We have come up with new ways of communicating to ensure that students still feel very much part of the school community.  For example, the primary school pupils who will be joining Year 7 in September would usually have had transition days to get to know the school. This has of course been impossible, so we were looking into how we might find an alternative, and were delighted when a parent offered to help, producing a virtual tour of the school, which has been shared with primary schools whose students will be coming to Bartholomew in September. You can view it on our website here.

Our end of year assembly, usually a wonderfully joyous celebratory get together for the whole school, was also threatened with being a casualty of the pandemic. We wanted to ensure we still ended the year on a high note, celebrating the year’s successes and including a message from the Heads of Year, so filmed this in advance and sent a link to students on the last day of term, so that they could attend virtually.

School leaders and governors have been working on a recovery plan as we look forward to welcoming all students back to school in September.  An enormous amount of work has gone into planning so that the school can be fully and safely open to all students in all year groups from the start of the academic year.

The school day will start and end at the usual time: 8.30am - 3.05pm. The OCC transport system will also be running as usual. Students will be expected to be in full uniform and the usual behaviour, conduct and academic expectations will be in place. Students will follow their normal curriculum, with no reduction in the breadth of subjects and will continue to have five lessons every day.

There will of course be a number of structural changes in place to help us to minimise the risk of viral transmission through the school. The most important of these is the use of a system of year group ‘bubbles’ that will minimise contact between students in different year groups. Each year group will have allocated teaching rooms where only that year group’s lessons will take place. This will significantly reduce the need for student movement around the site. Break and lunchtime will be spaced out between year groups and no students will be allowed off-site during the school day. You will not see queues of hungry teenagers at the Co-op or sandwich shop for some time yet but, as we are fortunate to have recently appointed a highly experienced and talented chef, we hope that students will not miss that freedom.

Young people, perhaps in some ways more than adults, have been seriously affected by the pandemic. The structure of their lives has been disrupted, exams have been cancelled along with the milestone events that usually take place for school leavers, future paths suddenly unclear, ways ahead once planned now uncertain. And so the risk is not just to physical but also to emotional health and wellbeing. The role schools play is crucial and at Bartholomew our longstanding focus on pastoral support means will continue to give a high level of support wherever and however needed.   

Thank you to our parents and carers for your invaluable support and to the community for your offers of help. These are greatly appreciated. We wish you all a safe and happy summer holiday.

Best wishes

Mr Craig Thomas, Headteacher

Mrs Jane Osborne, Chair of Governors

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