Friday 26th February 2021

A warm welcome back, so to speak, at the start of a new half term. As we return to teaching and learning, I truly hope you are a little refreshed and our students eager to continue learning. I know however, that despite best efforts, this will not be the case for some, and I genuinely think you are doing tremendous things in extremely trying circumstances to support your families and friends. Please try to have realistic expectations of what is actually possible, and know that your best is always good enough.

The 15th March will see a return to the building, at least for some of our learners, after the announcement from Welsh Government regarding their intention to bring Year 11 and 13 students back into their classroom before the Easter Holidays. Though once again we all wait for further clarification on this, and indeed we maintain the awareness that the ever-changing circumstances mean that subsequent announcements are yet possible, we nonetheless welcome at long last some positive news regarding the reopening of school and the potential return of learners to the classroom where they belong.

In the short-term though, we all continue through online and remote learning. The message remains the same as last half term, students should be logging on to their lessons according to their timetable, where they will be able to have contact with their teachers. Lessons continue to be a blended experience of live streaming, pre-recording and set work. Whichever the format of the lesson, all teachers will be online during timetabled lessons and are there to respond to any questions students may have regarding their work. If for any reason this is not the case, most likely due to unforeseen circumstances or technical issues, please do let us know. We genuinely value your ongoing feedback and are so thankful for the wealth of kind, informative, helpful comments made by students in response to our recent Years 7-10 questionnaire. We will process all comments made and continue to seek to develop current practice to best meet the learning needs of all students, diverse though they most certainly are. Indeed this half term we will endeavour to provide more live-stream sessions to our younger students, although we appreciate that many of you tell us that your children prefer parts of sessions only to be conducted in this way in order to give them time to process their work.

Please remind students to log on at the start of their lessons and to complete and submit the work set, as the curriculum continues to be delivered and learning takes place. It cannot be stressed enough just how important it is that students remain in contact with their teachers throughout. We all really do appreciate the difficulties of the situation and how this affects people in a variety of different ways. For this reason it is so important that students communicate with their teachers anything which concerns them and that they ask for support when needed. Teachers are more than sympathetic to the realities of online learning and we are all here to support one another in the Castell Alun family as best we can. Likewise we value greatly the conversations we have daily with so many parents / carers, and the incredibly helpful insightful information you share with us. These communications allow us to tailor our expectations of students more effectively and help us to provide learning pathways suitable for individual needs where necessary.

New Build

It has been a few weeks since a progress update concerning the new build has been featured. Needless to say, considerable progress has been made in the interim, despite the recent poor weather, indeed when students finally do return to school they will undoubtedly be surprised by the fact that there is now an actual building in place! The build is very much on track for occupation in September, and we can’t wait! As you can see from the pictures included, the building frame is now complete, the side insulation panels are all on and have been fire proofed and the floors and stairs have and are being laid. The roof is now being installed and the gas and water mains have also been fitted. As progress gathers pace we will continue to include details in the forthcoming weeks. Again, I really want to thank you so much, especially those living close to the premises, for your patience and understanding in what must be really quite frustrating circumstances at times.

Saint David’s Day    

Having such a strong Welsh ethos, Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St David’s Day) is always a highlight in the Castell Alun calendar. The Welsh department have put together a special celebratory online assembly for all students to access next week.  KS3 students have been busy getting involved in a variety of craft and cookery competitions, the standard has been ardderchog (excellent). Judging is underway and results will be shared with students next week. All winners will be sent a certificate and will receive a prize on their return to school. The winning entries will be showcased in the Blog next Friday, so, keep an eye out for that.

The Welsh department is busy planning some fun and interactive sessions for students to access during their online Welsh lessons next week in order to enjoy and celebrate our country and patron saint.

Sixth Form and Year 9 GCSE Options

Next Friday, 5th March, is the initial deadline for applications for next year’s Sixth Form as well as GCSE option choices. The school website is laden with information for both our Year 11 and Year 9 students relating to the subjects on offer at Key Stages 4 and 5 as well as details on how to apply and submit application forms. With Year 9 Parents’ Evening having taken place yesterday, we hope that this has helped our Year 9 students in making their important choices for study next year. Any student who may still be undecided or have any questions relating to their option choices, is encouraged to speak to the relevant subject teachers, remembering that all teachers are available during lesson time, or to message them any questions via gmail. Please don’t worry if you’re really not quite sure about anything – get in touch – we are here to help, guide and advise.

Welsh National Hockey Cup – Virtual 

As featured in the Blog the week before half term, the Castell Alun PE department are taking part in the Welsh National Hockey Cup, which is taking place virtually this year. We are really pleased to say, after a real concerted effort from the PE department to rally support that saw votes come in from as far and wide as China and Australia (!) that not only did Castell Alun make it through, beating Welshpool High, but we have also since progressed from the quarter finals, having beaten Ysgol Llangynwyd from Bridgend. That now places us in the semi-finals against none-other than Mold Alun! With a place in the final, and a local derby to boot, all votes count. Please show your support by voting on twitter via the link attached. This round of voting closes this Sunday. If we win through a place in the final awaits, which brings with it a financial reward for the department which would mean a great deal – oh, and of course local bragging rights! Mr Colin Ellis, currently Deputy Head at Mold Alun and soon to join us (Headteacher Designate), has not been contacted to do the right thing yet….

World Book Day

Our English team have some wonderful plans for the celebration of this event next week. I won’t ruin any surprises by disclosing them now, but there is much to look forward to for many of our classes…..with guest readers galore!

In Closing

I will not be in the school building next week due to the recent passing of my parents. I know many of you have experienced personal loss also. Please be so good as to refer any urgent matters to Mr Carl Pugh or Mrs Gail Davies (Acting Deputy Heads), or indeed any member of the Senior Leadership Team, who will be on site as usual throughout each school day. Miss Sarah Edwards will write the Blog and keep you up to date with any developments, as we try always to do. I am thankful to my colleagues for their resilience and unfailing support, and I will return on Monday 8th March.

To close perhaps on a personal note, my parents were always committed to the principles of the old song, ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine’. I truly feel that, irrespective of any personal beliefs, there is wisdom and strength in each of us bringing that something special which we can offer, to both improve things around us and indeed help one other. Thank you so much for your lights which are guiding our children through a time that they should never have to experience.

Have a good weekend. Enjoy the match!