St John Plessington Catholic College

Letter from the Head Teacher - 20 May 20

Dear Parents and Carers

I thought it timely to write to you as we approach the planned half-term break. I’ve hesitated to do so, given the fluidity of the situation in which we find ourselves and the conflicting messages that have been coming our way from a variety of sources. 

There has been much debate and many opinions expressed about when is the right time to extend schools’ opening and what measures should be in place when this happens. Indeed, earlier this week, Wirral Council issued a statement in which they stated that they “do not expect parents or carers to send their children to school from the 1st June. We therefore do not expect childcare providers or schools to adhere to government guidance in terms of timescales or the suggested year groups if they judge this not to be in the best interest of children.”

I will try to summarise our current position to give you as much clarity as possible. SJP is part of Holy Family Catholic Multi Academy Trust (HFCMAT) alongside four other schools. Since the Covid crisis began we have been working closely together to support each other and ensure that our schools are safe for the children of key workers. (Our schools will remain open for them next week including the Bank Holiday.) As well as this, we’ve been ensuring that pupils have been well supported at home with online learning and/or paper based resources. We’ve communicated regularly with all families, particularly those who are finding these times a real struggle.

In terms of extending our opening, I think we can say, with a degree of certainty, that Years 7, 8 and 9 will not be returning to school until September at the earliest. This is hugely frustrating for everyone concerned. The pupils have missed coming to school. They’ve missed their friends and their teachers and I have no doubt that when we get back to a ‘new-normal’ everyone will have more appreciation of the value and importance of education. Teachers, whilst being desperate to get back into school, will continue to go the extra mile in setting meaningful work and providing feedback on the progress of your child. I want to thank you for all the messages of support and gratitude for our staff. However, as great as that support is, there is no substitute for being in the classroom and part of the daily hustle and bustle that school life offers.

In terms of Years 10 and 12, the policy is clear. Before this academic year is completed, the Government wants us to plan for their return, initially for ‘face to face’ meetings with staff. We have taken this to mean that pupils will come in on a staggered basis where we can implement social distancing and facilitate meetings (in which pupils can reflect on how they are doing academically and pastorally). These meetings will then help to form an action plan of learning for the summer so that they are not disadvantaged in 2020-21. We are currently working on developing that model. I will write to the parents and pupils of Year 10 and 12 as soon as I have completed the necessary planning and checks to ensure the safety of all, including details of how the ‘face to face’ meetings will operate. 

As a Trust, we are taking the necessary measures to mitigate risks before extending our opening to additional year groups. Plans are currently being refined with leaders from all schools and these will be discussed with the Board of Directors on Friday. A decision will be made at this meeting about the date for students to return. Following guidance from Wirral Local Authority and Diocese, we can inform you that this will not be 1st June. More information will be shared on Friday. 

It’s unfortunate that I can’t be more precise at the moment: you’ll appreciate there is still a lot of uncertainty and many significant issues to address. I understand those of you who are anxious about sending their child back to school and offer reassurance that I will respect your decision whatever it is at this point.

In terms of Year 11 and Year 13, we have been working hard to submit accurate grades which the examination boards will consider alongside those of all the other schools in the country. In some cases, these will not necessarily be the final grades awarded to each pupil as they have to go through a number of checks and processes before being finalised. For this reason, they cannot be shared with you until results day. These are unprecedented times and I understand the natural sense of anxiety our youngsters will be feeling. I will write to them separately.  

Half-term officially begins at the weekend. As per the Easter break arrangements, staff will be setting homework but won’t be setting and monitoring work on a daily basis; please continue to encourage your child to remain engaged and focused. Home-schooling has presented rewards and challenges aplenty, but in these crucial times our children can advantage themselves by working hard and learning the best they can. Keep going!


Simon Rylance

Head Teacher