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Principal's update: Friday 22 May 2020

Published on 22/05/20

Dear parent/carer,

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

Government proposal for schools

Over this past week we have been considering the government’s proposal for small groups of Year 10 students to return to school in June. As you can imagine, there is a lot to consider. To help with our work, we sent a survey to staff, as well as students and parents in Years 10. I thought it would be useful for all of you to see a summary of the results, so have included it at the bottom of this message.

As we further develop our remote learning provision, we will of course be asking for feedback from students and parents in other year groups. Just please bear with us for now – as the work needed to consider a potential return to school for some students is quite significant. As ever, our priority in all of this is student and staff safety.

Remote learning

Thank you for continuing to support your child with remote learning.  We are now at the beginning of journey towards creating a ‘Virtual School’ in the true sense of the phrase.  After half-term, our staff will be undertaking more training in the use of Microsoft teams and then planning to use this platform to provide online teaching, some of it ‘live’. There are many practicalities to consider, students knowing how to use Teams properly, access to equipment, how to teach live lessons from school and also the safety of staff and students online and in school. There is a lot going on in the background – please trust that we are working hard to create a more interactive approach.

Can I clarify that our tutors are contacting the children and young people on a fortnightly or weekly basis. There has been some confusion about whether this was contact with parents and carers.  If you, as parents or carers need to contact us, please do so through tutors or subject teachers.  We are all working at home and here to help.

Year 11 students

Our Year 11 students should have received information about bridging work from their chosen sixth form or college. If they haven’t, please do get in touch with their new school/college as this is important work for them to do before September. We hope to share with them some videos and messages from our staff after half term. They are never far from our thoughts and we do hope that at some point in the coming year we will be able to see them again to celebrate their achievements.

Year 10 Students

As you know, the Government has confirmed that Y10 will receive Centre Assessed Grades for their GCSEs in 2019/20 in line with Y11 students. I have attached the guidance for parents and students and offer my reassurance that we had already begun work on this in case this was the outcome.  You do not need to do anything at all – the grades are being assessed from an agreed evidence base and will be fair and objective as per the guidance. 

Transition to Y7 in September 2020

We have tried to contact all families of Year Six children this week to reassure them about our plans for transition. There will be a transition programme this year and we are working on the details of this whether it is virtual or in person.  


Please ensure that our students take time to relax next week over half term. I hope they are able to find safe activities to keep them occupied.  Remember that our Extra-Curricular Activities page on the website has lots of suggestions.

Can I also remind you to be vigilant around online safety? At the moment, we are spending more time online which increases the opportunity for those people out there who will try and take advantage of our children and young people online.  Please keep talking to your young people and checking their online interactions – stranger danger is equally important online.  If you need any support with this, please contact your child’s tutor. There are also lots of links to online support on our website. We are here to help.

Thank you for your continued support and please stay safe and well.  I am in school most days and have a great view of the valley from my window. I miss the children and young people of HVC and I know that my colleagues feel the same. A school is for children and young people and without them it feels empty.  I know that for now this is the right decision and many of you agree, but I am still working hard with colleagues in and out of school to make preparations to reopen safely in whatever format this takes.  Thank you again for your support – the views of Year 10, Year 10 parents and all our staff are below for your information.

With very best wishes,

Mrs Gaynor Jones
Principal of Hope Valley College


Survey Responses

We asked staff, students and parents what they thought about the government’s proposal for small groups of Year 10 and Year 12 students to return to school in June. There was an excellent response rate for each group that we surveyed. We are still working through the responses but wanted to share an indication of the key themes that have emerged. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond. 

Should students return?

There was a clear split between those who feel very strongly that students should return and those who do not. 

For those who did want to see a return it was largely out of a concern about what the students have missed in terms of their education and wanting them to experience better teaching and learning. Some highlighted students’ mental health and wellbeing as a reason for returning; some students said they found it very hard to get motivated with home learning, or just found it too challenging to do on their own. Some students explained how their home situation made it very difficult to study – due to responsibilities for younger children or a lack of private space or IT equipment.

For those who didn’t want to see a return, it was largely born out of fears about safety. The fear of infecting vulnerable members of their household was one of the top concerns given by students. Safety concerns covered everything from travel to school, to sharing equipment, and whether social distancing could be maintained.

It is clear that there are very strong, legitimate views on all sides.

How do we improve remote learning?

There was a lot of support amongst all groups for more creative ways of providing remote learning. This is something we are going to investigate further. Whatever the future holds, it is clear that remote learning will be part of it, whether alone or combined with face to face learning. 

There are concerns about how accessible different tools are for everyone. Some students reported that, even though they had IT equipment, it had to be shared with others in their household.

It is clear that everyone – staff, students and parents/carers – have learnt a great deal in a very short space of time about remote learning. 

How are students finding remote learning?

Over half of students said that they coping fine with remote learning – or were even enjoying it. But a significant number said that they were struggling. A few said that they hadn’t done any at all.

Finding work confusing or in a format they couldn’t access was the main challenge for students, along with needing extra help with their work.

Maintaining motivation was also a common issue.

What next?

We are taking time to study the survey results in detail. Alongside this, we are looking at how the government’s proposal to let small groups of Year 10 and Year 12 students return to school in small groups in June could be implemented in our school. This involves undertaking risk assessments, drafting new procedures, working with facilities and cleaning  staff, and liaising with our governors/trustees. We are also still awaiting the secondary-specific guidance from the Department for Education (DfE). The current DfE guidance is not fit for purpose in a secondary setting.

In our school we also have the challenge of local transport provision and the viability of school bus services. This is in the hands of the local authority and their contracts with private bus company and our parent groups who co-ordinate some of the bus routes.

There is a lot of work to undertake and at the centre of it all is our commitment to staff and student safety. We will endeavour to give staff, students and parents/carers a reasonable amount of notice, should we decide to reopen.

We are also looking at how we can improve our remote teaching and learning, including what we can learn from other schools and organisations. At the start of the lockdown systems were set up in a very short space of time with little preparation. If we are to move to the next level it will require more training and preparation, at a time when many of our staff face challenges similar to our students and parents: caring responsibilities, shared resources, health conditions and different levels of IT expertise. However, we are determined to find a way to address all these challenges, whilst also providing the ongoing in-school service to vulnerable students and children of key workers.

In the meantime, thank you for your continued support. We will update you with our progress in the week after half term.