Who would have thought I would be writing my last email of the term following three months of lockdown? Who would have thought at the start of 2020 that this would be the year that SQA exams were cancelled? Who would have thought that this would be the year that we would need to pull together even more as a school to support the most vulnerable in our community?
2020 has not turned out to the year that we might have thought it would be. However, amidst all of the disruption to learning there are many aspects of our practice as a school that have made me very proud as Headteacher: the way in which our pupils have engaged with their learning in the past three months of working at home; the way in which our staff have looked after the wellbeing of our pupils despite the restrictions in place; the unstinting support of our parents and carers. We have become a stronger community as a result of the adversity that we have come through.
We cannot overlook the fact that many of our families have lost loved ones and my heartfelt condolences go to those who are grieving. Compared to their loss, what we are facing in terms of disruption is little indeed. We must not forget that the virus has not gone away and our plans for the reopening of the school will focus on what we can do safely.
I would like to thank all of our families for their encouragement throughout the period – this has been very much appreciated. The reopening of Dalkeith High School in August will be a special day, one in which we may be returning to the building but never having lost our commitment to our pupils and their families throughout the time that we have been away. Further information regarding the reopening of the school will follow in due course.
I hope that everyone enjoys a happy and safe summer break.
Please find below a letter from Fiona Robertson, Executive Director Children, Young People and Partnerships.
I am sure that you will have been as surprised by yesterday’s announcement by John Swinney, DFM, as I was. I am sorry to say that I do not have any further information to share with you at this point but will keep you fully informed as events unfold.
Midlothian Council has released a statement on its website
Thank you for ongoing patience and support throughout a period of rapid change.
Allyson Dobson, Headteacher
Midlothian Council would like you to complete a survey to gather information about the following:
· Key worker status of parents and carers
· Availability of devices
· Experience of home learning
· Transport to school
The link to the survey can be found below:
I would be very grateful if you could complete the survey as it will be used for planning purposes for the start of the new term.
I would like to share with you the general arrangements for in-school learning for Weeks 1 and 2 of the new term.
Week 1 will provide an opportunity for S1 Induction Days. This is particularly important for the transition of our new pupils. The school will also be open during Week 1 to pupils in S5/6 who may need to make changes to courses following the publication of SQA results. Further information about the appointment system that will be in place for this will follow in due course.
Week 2 will allow time for Reconnection Days for all year groups. This will provide teachers an opportunity to evaluate progress made by pupils in their learning before planning next steps. There will be an initial focus on literacy, numeracy and wellbeing. Key advice for senior phase pupils will also be shared.
Education provision for children of key workers and some of the most vulnerable pupils in our school will be available throughout the two week period.
Detailed plans will be sent by post to parents/carers of pupils in different year groups next week in accordance with advice from Midlothian Council. This will ensure that pupils in all Midlothian schools receive the information at the same time. The plans are based on the current public health guidelines of 2m social distancing measures.
There has been much debate in the media recently about the percentage of time that young people will spend in school from August onwards. I thought it would be helpful to explain to you the parameters that we need to consider when making decisions about bringing young people back to school safely.
- The current social distancing measures of 2m spacing between pupils limits the number of pupils who can be accommodated in a class at any one time. A typical classroom can normally hold 30 pupils. With the necessary social distancing measures in place, this is reduced to a maximum of 10 pupils or 1/3 of the normal capacity.
- Government advice is that schools should use all available spaces in the school building and consider the use of public buildings in the local neighbourhood. Heath and safety officials have advised against the use of such areas without due consideration given to appropriate heating, lighting and ventilation.
- Some members of staff may be unable to return to school in August due to them being either clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable (shielding). Consideration will also need to be given to staff who live with family members who fall into the shielding category. Steps have been taken to try to secure additional staffing to ease this pressure but this will take some time to put in place.
Plans for Week 3+ will be shared with all in the school community in August to allow us to take account of the public health advice that is likely to emerge over the summer period.
I hope the above will give some indication of the complexity of the task. Rest assured we will continue to work towards bringing as many of our pupils back for as much in-school learning as we safely can.
I would like to remind you of two events that will be taking place this evening.
As previously announced, our S6 Leavers’ Ceremony will be taking place virtually. I hope that our S6 pupils and their families will take the time to sit down together and enjoy the programme that we have devised to remind them of the years spent at Dalkeith High School. The programme and associated videos can be found on our website. I would like to take this opportunity to wish our S6 leavers a very fond farewell and to thank them for all that you have given to Dalkeith High School. They will be missed!
In addition to the above, Midlothian Instrumental Music Service will host a Virtual Concert this evening to showcase the musical talent of pupils from schools across Midlothian. Since the school closure, our amazing Music Instructors have continued to work with pupils who receive music lessons, working hard to put together a concert to celebrate the talent and commitment these young people continue to demonstrate, even when working remotely.
The following pupils will be performing in the concert:
The concert can be accessed via the Midlothian Council Facebook page from 7pm on Thursday 18th June. Those who do not have Facebook can listen to the concert on Black Diamond FM at 7pm
I am sure our young people would love if you were able to tune in.
Today I would like to pick up on a few questions that we have received from you. Although emails from individual families have been responded to directly, the information below may be of use more widely and will hopefully clarify any uncertainty.
I am sorry if my email regarding the supply of stationery has caused any confusion. Pupils will be supplied with jotters by the school and they will be expected to bring them when they attend for in-school learning. There is no expectation that families should purchase jotters themselves. Pencils cases containing basic equipment should be brought to school by pupils. However, the school is able to provide pencil cases to any pupils who may require this support. Please let me know by email if you would like us to help in this way.
We have had a few phone calls about SQA certificates received by some pupils in recent days. Please be assured these are not their full exam results; these are due to be issued on 4th August. These certificates are due to a particular type of award being achieved e.g. Photography at Level 45. Certificates for such awards are sent out at various points during the session. Certificates do also list unit results for other courses but these will be converted to National Qualifications in August.
Information from SQA regarding assessment procedures for the new session has yet to be confirmed. I must reiterate how important it is for senior phase pupils to continue to engage with at-home learning until the end of term to allow for a positive start to their new courses.
Although we are still awaiting refunds from travel/insurance companies for cancelled trips, we will endeavour to fully reimburse all families by the end of term. I thank you for your patience in this respect.
I do hope that the above information is helpful.
I hope that you enjoyed the weekend despite the dreich weather.
I am sorry that I was unable to send you the normal email on Friday. My time on Friday was taken up by a meeting with Health and Safety officials from Midlothian Council to review our procedures for the return to school for staff this week and for pupils in August. I know that you will be reassured to hear that our procedures, based on current public health advice, were considered to be appropriate by the Health and Safety officials. Staff will now be working in school throughout the course of this week to prepare the classes for pupils returning after the summer break.
By the middle of the week I will be in a position to share detailed plans with you for Week 1 and 2 of the new term. Week 1 will focus primarily on Induction Days for the new S1 pupils, while Week 2 will involve Reconnection Days for all other year groups. Plans for the first two weeks of term are based on the current guidance of 2m social distancing.
Plans for Week 3+ will be shared with you in August. I intend to wait until then before publishing the plans to take account of any possible changes of the 2m social distancing guidance. I am still awaiting news from SQA of the assessment arrangements for the coming session but I will share this information with you as soon as I have it.
Thank you for your ongoing support and patience as we work towards the final preparations for reopening of our school in August.
Today I am sending you a copy of the Midlothian Promise. This document outlines the key principles that schools will work towards when planning for our return to school in August. The principles will provide for a degree consistency across all schools in Midlothian, whilst recognising the need for variation at school level to take account of local circumstances.