News

Welcome Back and Updates from the Trust

It has been wonderful to have all our children, students and staff back and all the feedback has been very positive moving back to more normal ways. All our schools fully reopened in September following national guidelines and new ways of operating. Each school has different arrangements to suit its particular circumstances. Students have arrived from around the world into Barton Hill Boarding House at Shaftesbury School, following a quarantine period. We have retained the breadth and balance of our curriculum offer in all our schools with students with their normal teachers – unfortunately some of our many extra-curricular activities, trips, performances and other community experiences are on hold.

Attendance was very high in the first week; it decreased slightly in the second week with children starting to mix together again, we have seen the effect of seasonal colds, coughs and flu like symptoms which are common when schools reopen and following the national guidance on testing. In most of our schools and year groups attendance has been very high again this week.

We have been blessed that the number of Covid-19 cases has been very low and the effect on people’s lives less than other parts of the country. This remains the case. There have been no confirmed cases so far in Dorset schools where the school is the source; there have been a number of staff, parents and pupils who have been tested but they have virtually all come back negative. You are aware that that COVID-19 symptoms are a high temperature (hot to touch on the back or chest), a new continuous cough (continuous cough is coughing consistently for a while and not just every now and again), a loss of or change to your taste or smell. NHS guidance states that a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual). There is some clear guidance and an excellent video to help understand the possible differences between Covid-19 symptoms and other colds at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54145299.

During the summer our secondary school students received their GCSE, BTEC and A Level results. Sense eventually prevailed nationally with students being awarded the higher of the Centre Assessed Grade and that produced by the national algorithm. This meant students could progress to their next stage of their education, training or employment.

We are now a trust of 5000 children in 17 schools (13 primary and 4 secondary) with 850 staff following the four former SAT schools joining on 1 July 2020. This makes up 10% of Dorset schools. There are no plans for any other schools to join us at this stage but the door remains open for others in our area. Every school in the trust is an equal partner and we celebrate each school’s unique and individual character. We have welcomed 42 new staff across our schools including two new headteachers. During the summer we have sought to continue planned development works. For example at Shaftesbury School a new all weather pitch has been installed, major toilet replacements and roofing repairs taken place, a new high tech virtual learning classroom built; planned works at King Arthurs School completed; major IT investment to enable all the schools to communicate and share; the Harbour Vale extension and refurbishment will hopefully now start in October half-term.

There has been a financial impact on the trust with the loss of income from catering, transport and nursery/child care provision whilst costs continued in some of our schools. Unfortunately, we have had to announce the closure of The Little Gryphon’s Nursey in Sherborne at the end of December. The proprietor of the Maypole Nursery in Shillingstone has given notice to close, also at the end of this year. In both cases we are tendering to find new providers to take these important nurseries on from January.

Our priority this year is to get back to normal as best we can. There is a focus on the curriculum, any catch up and the opportunities for remote learning which has advanced considerably and will continue to do so. The schools will have modified ways of parent meetings and open evenings. There will be new recruitment in the trust. At Shaftesbury School, he Head of Boarding will be leaving to become the head of an international school in Berlin. Tim Farrer, the Headteacher, will be leaving at the end of this term to become Headteacher at St Laurence School in Bradford-upon-Avon. They are both leaving with very mixed emotions – we thank them for all they have done for the school and community.

The Trustees and Governors are enormously appreciative of all the work by staff and leaders that has been necessary to fully reopen schools. Thank you for all your support in enabling our children and students into school. These are new and extraordinary times for all of us. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we try to support each other and follow the evolving guidance. We are trying our very best and wanting to be as confident and optimistic for the future with our young people.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Hillier, CEO

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