Friday 5th February 2021

Ella Fitzgerald once said, “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do”.  We want to provide the best learning experiences in our power to each of our students, irrespective of personal circumstance, and bring everyone through this winter with the hope of better times ahead.

Thank you so much for communicating clearly with us and for the encouragements you have sent in to our staff. Your feedback helps a great deal. At the time of writing, we have not heard any further detail with regards to the return to school for secondary aged students in Wales, and when this detail arrives, we will endeavour to inform you of subsequent plans as soon as we are able.

Next week is ‘Wellbeing Week’ in school. No ‘new learning’ will be taking place for a few days although lessons will still run as per timetable. Instead students will have the valuable opportunity to check in with their teachers and continue to get the support and guidance they need, whether that’s in finishing off any outstanding work, consolidating their knowledge of recent learning, or having a chat about how their remote learning is going. Extension activities will be available for each class, although these will be voluntary of course. We’ve decided upon this approach for the week in response to the wealth of feedback we have received about current learning practices, challenges and student wellbeing.

The current situation has affected everyone in many different ways. Whilst many have dealt with the changing circumstances and the move to remote learning effectively, we all fully appreciate that not everyone has adapted in the same way, through no fault of their own. We are mindful of the importance, arguably now more than ever, that half term affords students, and parents, in providing the opportunity to have a week without schoolwork, so that everyone can come back refreshed and ready for the following half term.

In this respect, next week provides an especially useful opportunity for those students who may need to catch up on some of their work, whilst having access to their teachers in their normal lesson time so that they can continue to get the support they need. Teachers will be there during all timetabled lessons, checking in with students and offering any help required. For those students, and there are admirably many, who are up to date with their work, teachers will still expect them to attend at lesson times.

As we continue to monitor levels of student engagement, it is really important that lines of communication remain highly effective. Most students are really proactive in keeping in touch with their teachers and informing us if they need more help / more time or if indeed they feel they are struggling. Teachers are incredibly supportive of this and we are here to help students – that is our core purpose. However, a small number of students sadly fail to respond when they are contacted via Gmail by teachers, enquiring if further help or support is required in response to a perceived lack of engagement. We actively encourage all students, and parents, to keep their teachers and the school informed of anything that may be affecting the student’s ability to engage. Staff are both supportive and understanding but knowing that support is needed is important in order to be able to offer it.

Year 9 Parents’ Evening

The week after half term is Year 9 Parents’ Evening. For our Year 9 students this is a particularly important event as it often helps inform options for GCSEs. Given the current circumstances, Parents’ Evening is not in the usual format, instead it will be carried out virtually, using the SchoolCloud system. From next week Year 9 parents will be able to make appointments online with subject teachers, and you will very soon receive details to guide you in this. In addition, staff of subjects which are not taught at KS3 but which are on offer at GCSE will also be available, via an appointment, so that students interested in those subjects can glean further information to assist them in making their choices. For students and parents the school website also contains really useful information for all subjects, including options, with specialist staff presentations detailing what their subject involves at GCSE level. Year 9 families will have received the Year 10 Programmes of Study booklet through the post in recent days, which again should provide a good deal of relevant information leading up to the evening on Thursday 25th February. Please remember, we are available throughout the week to answer your questions also, whether by phone or email.

Sixth Form

Recently we launched our virtual Sixth Form Open Evening. Castell Alun has a vibrant and popular Sixth Form and each year we welcome back a significant number of our own Year 11 students as well as numerous students from other schools in the area. We’d just like to take the opportunity to remind potential students into Year 12, that all the details for Castell Alun Sixth Form are available on the school website. Here, students will find information from Mr Kevin Davies, Sixth Form Student Development Manager, about the application process and life in the Sixth Form and the opportunities it provides. There is also a subject by subject guide to all the courses on offer to study at Castell Alun. In the coming weeks subjects teachers will be incorporating talks into their online lessons to help provide our current students with the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about studying post-16. If anyone would like further details about Castell Alun’s Sixth Form, please consult the school website or contact the school directly. Application forms are available on the school website and a hard copy is also attached to the Sixth Form Prospectus which has been posted to families.

Year 7 History

Year 7 students have been recently learning about the development of castles in their History lessons. Throughout the project students have been building up their knowledge of castles and castle design, and applying what they have learned about the features of a castle and their function in order to design their own strongholds. Last week many of our Year 7 students presented their finished castles and the department has been seriously impressed with the results! Students were able to decide for themselves how they wanted to design and present their castle and there have been a variety of interesting final pieces, from posters to actual models, even the use of Minecraft! Some notable pieces of work include those from Zak, (7M) Huw (7E) , Ella (7N) and Menna (7T). As always Year 7 have embraced the topic and responded enthusiastically to the challenge. Da iawn blwyddyn saith!

So, as we pick our way through February, and await further developments and announcements, I’m mindful of the words of Robert Brault,

“How often in life we complete a task that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we first started it”.

As students and adults we have already faced challenges we could never have possibly envisaged, and we’re still going! We are more resilient than we ever realised, and when others need a little extra assistance, the way we provide it to the best of our ability, speaks volumes about each of us.

Let’s hope the rugby results go the right way this weekend!

Have a good weekend everyone.