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Update Letter 18: 17.07.20


I am writing to you all to draw this academic year to a close and what a year it has been! Challenging, unprecedented, and certainly as the pandemic has unfolded it has been an uncharted path that we have all had to navigate. Never in living memory have schools had to close suddenly mid-year, adapt to offering child care, online learning and then partial reopening. It has been a challenge for all schools to adapt, change direction, respond very quickly to requirements and not lose sight of our core purpose: the need to support our children, families and staff.

At times of high anxiety and great uncertainty, my highly skilled team: office staff, TAs, teachers, caretakers and leaders, have risen to the challenges they have faced, identified barriers and overcome them. My leadership team have grown in stature, working tirelessly and creatively to provide the direction and support to hold our teams together and deliver for our children, families. It truly is an honour to be able to work alongside such talented individuals. As CEO I am so proud to be able to say that I do lead an exceptional team who are absolutely grounded in our shared belief in the need to champion every pupil in order for us all to ‘be the best we can be’. Our children and school communities are so fortunate to have them. I do know my team are remaining positive but are feeling tired, jaded and are certainly in need of the holiday.

Equally, for you as parents, home schooling I know was a big ask at a time when personal anxieties: the virus, financial pressures, could/would be a worry. I am sure some days have been an absolute joy, others a trial. As a parent myself I absolutely understand that. We spend too much time feeling pressured by all of the different roles we hold: daughter/son, wife/husband, father/mother, sister/brother, friend, worker and guilty for all the things that we feel we haven’t done. All of this had the potential to be amplified during this period, add teacher to that list and the context we are operating in too and it could have been a recipe for disaster, you will have had ups and downs…. But if you take the time to reflect I am sure you have all done an amazing job: your children are happy, fed, watered, safe, have been supported and enjoyed special family times too. I am sure too their education continued regardless of how much of the home learning was completed. It is very nearly the end of this academic year and I sincerely hope that you all do indeed manage to have some high quality uninterrupted family time.

I know that as difficult as this period has been I am sure it has led to many people re-evaluating their lives, their purpose, enjoying a less pacey lifestyle, reconnecting with family and friends and these things will have a lasting positive impact on our lives as we move forward and out of this troubled period. I do know that in my professional life it has shown me the importance of strong, considered and calm leadership; remaining aligned to your own morals, values and purpose.

We at TILT have taken a considered approach to all of the COVID challenges and have avoided reactive decision making or indeed the easy path of following the crowd. I have to say that our approach has been firmly grounded in our values and experience with the wellbeing of our children as the overriding concern. I also know from the very many emails, letters, comments shared with us we have very much had the support of the vast majority of parents in our response to COVID and for that I whole heartedly thank you for trusting us to make the right decisions for our community of schools. We will continue to plan for September and beyond with the same level of care and thought.

I wish to reassure you that we are very mindful of the 13 weeks of school our children have missed. We have identified the key concepts that have been missed and we will ensure we teach all essential skills, knowledge. We are determined that our children will not be disadvantaged long term by their absence from school. Could we ask all parents to ensure we are all highly positive in our approach to the return to school and counter all claims we hear on the TV about a ‘generation lost’ etc…. it is damaging for our children to hear and internalise moreover, it really is not grounded in reality, fact or research: Our children will be supported and challenged to move forward as quickly as they are able to.

Planning for September

Trust decisions have been taken with regard to planning, organising and teaching of the curriculum, assessment of learning needs, set up of classes, the daily routine and approach to attendance. I know that individual schools have shared with you all practical arrangements for September. Of course our plans might change if there is further guidance issued by the government, please do be aware of that.

You will be aware that the government are clear they expect every child to be in school full time from September, with this in mind we ask that any parent who has a concern linked to vulnerable categories and increased risks to please make contact with the relevant school, closer to September via email so that we can arrange a discussion around actions required and authorised absence.

Minster Primary School: k.nixon@minster-sheppey.kent.sch.uk

Halfway Houses Primary School: sargent@halfwayhouses.kent.sch.uk

Sunny Bank Primary School: headofschool@sunnybank.kent.sch.uk



Please have a wonderful summer, we hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and well. Despite yearning for a restful 6 weeks I am excited for the new school year and look forward to seeing you all again in September.

Kind regards

Debbie Wheeler

CEO The Island Learning Trust

To be the best we can be

©  Sunny Bank Primary School  2020