School community unites – but from afar

Monday 30th March

British Summer Time is here. Its arrival was heralded with hail and sleet yesterday. Ice on the winsdscreen.

10 Pupils today. The children gave Joe Wicks a day off and began the morning with a workout to Cosmic Yoga.

She has daily themes and today was FROZEN, which went down very well with the younger girls.

On arrival in school it was good to open emails sent in over the weekend. Lots of busy families.

Another email was received from Susan Sydenham from Eld Lane Church. Year 6s would have been visiting there this week for their Easter Cracked event.

The Church also very generously give every Year 6 pupil in their final term a book called, It’s Your Move.

She said she will make sure they still receive a copy although it is increasingly unlikely that she will be able to give it to them in person in school.

Just one other element of their rite of passage to secondary school they will miss.

Today was the day the government had promised to announce their e-voucher scheme for all children eligible for free school meals (FSM).

Frustratingly schools have been waiting all day for the news.

In this evening’s daily email to Essex schools, Clare Kershaw, Director for Education, wrote to inform schools that no information had been received. Very frustrating.

Tuesday 31st March 2020

Overnight the DfE announced its FSM e-voucher scheme. It was worth the wait.

It appears to be a very impressive and generous scheme.

The scheme will make available to the adult with caring responsibility for that child a weekly e-voucher to the value of £15 per child redeemable in most supermarkets.

Any family without email will be posted an eGift card.

Administering this scheme will create a lot of work for school office staff but it will be worth it.

We need to wait for the software company who will co-ordinate the system to get in touch, we need to check our FSM records, make contact with all families directly who do not have access to the internet.

Then we can set it up ready for the start of the summer term when it goes live. (The scheme does not cover school holidays)

This will also give families more time to register for FSM.

Sadly, many more families are now being sucked into the benefit system and this scheme will be extremely helpful whilst lockdown continues.

I do have one concern. We currently have universal free school meals for all children up to the age of 7.

This scheme does not include this.

There was talk at the time of the budget last month that the government wanted to end universal free school meals.

That did not happen but let us hope this is not a sneaky way of achieving that aim.

More sad news. Two members of staff have family members (not in their households though) who have tested positive for Covid-19.

The good news is they are not very ill but it is a sign of things to come -not many families are going to escape this pandemic without having someone close to them contract this disease.

Wednesday 1st April 2020

Email with instructions for the free school meal scheme arrived at lunchtime.

Office staff can now get on with setting the system up ready for its introduction on April 20th.

Phone calls start to be made to make sure all the eligible families are on board.

Still waiting to find out if schools will remain open on Good Friday and Easter Monday. Staff are prepared; they and the parents just need to be told.

Thursday 2nd April 2020

The day started well.

We received an email from a parent.

Her children left the school about 6 years ago.

They now live in Canada “I hope you remember us as you all have always been in our thoughts throughout the years. We wanted to send out an email and wish you all well and are keeping safe during these difficult times. Our time at North was filled with many fond times and memories made by your amazing staff. Please keep safe and know we’re thinking of you all at North.”

Proof that you never forget a teacher.

The day ended well.

This afternoon I sent a letter and slide show to all the children (via their parents) and messages are coming back already.

In the first the mum wrote of how the art work her daughters had done has brightened up their home and that the girls had made a cake for their poorly brother to cheer him up.

She finished by writing, “sending lots of love to everyone at North, you are all doing an amazing job and quite frankly I’m not sure we would be getting through this as easily if it wasn’t for the wonderful staff sending daily tapestry (an interactive app) and emails so thank you.”

I taught her husband in the late 90s.

He has never forgiven me for making him play centre half in the school team.

He fancied himself as a centre forward. As I say, you never forget a teacher.

Friday 3rd April 2020

Today would normally be the last day of term.

It always begins with a special Easter Parade assembly.

The children come to school in their home-made Easter bonnets, caps, hats, fascinators, whatever. It is amazing. They all parade in the hall.

It is quite a spectacle.

The NSA (our parent teacher association) gives every child a little egg and a special guest has the impossible job of choosing winners for every age group.

Also in the assembly Governors present awards to children who have been commended for their outstanding achievement through the term.

And we stand and applaud our Colchester Half Marathon Team who proudly show off their medals.

Not this year, of course.

North is a community school and assemblies like these make that community spirit visible and real for the children.

The children are still making their bonnets and sending in photos which I will share via the newsletter. But it won’t be the same.

By Alan Garnett, headteacher