Friday 5th March 2021

As the beginning of Spring is fast approaching, it has been another busy week here at Castell Alun, not least due to the celebrations surrounding Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St David’s Day) which has been marked in a number of subjects this week, more of which can be seen below. The English department has also led the celebration of World Book Day, which took place yesterday, and students, and staff, have been busy taking part in a variety of activities and we look forward to seeing more details of this in next week’s blog.

More positive news come from Welsh Government this week announcing that students in years other than 11 and 13 will be returning to school, in some capacity, sooner than anticipated. Whilst we are all too aware that circumstances can change, all being well, Year 11 and 13 students will return to Castell Alun from Monday 15th March. As announced by Education Minister Kirsty Williams this week, the intention now is to see further year groups also return to school. In response to this announcement, it is currently our intention to bring our Year 12 students back to school on Thursday 18th March. Year 11, 12 and 13 will then remain in school, all being well, though to the Easter Holidays, which start on Friday, March the 26th. Our Year 10 students will also return for three days, from Friday 19th March to Tuesday March 23rd inclusive.

It is without question that the best place for learners is in school, sat in the classroom, engaging in their learning and we would all like to see the full return of every student as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. With this in mind we are additionally looking to bring all our lower school students, Years 7, 8 and 9, into school, also before the Easter holidays, for check in and wellbeing days. Year 7 on Wednesday the 24th, Year 9 on Thursday 25th and Year 8 on Friday 26th. Whilst we still await guidance on the matter from Welsh Government, in consultation with other Flintshire Secondary School and the LEA, this is currently our intention, though it must be stressed that details relating to this could potentially change should circumstances dictate or details from Welsh Government change.

Whilst this is not quite the full return that we would all have hoped for, a staggered return at this stage, with the COVID 19 virus still very much present in our communities and indeed with Wales still being in lockdown measures, this is currently our safest option. Should any details or circumstances change in relation to this then we will of course communicate details as soon as possible.

A letter outlining the plan for phased return will be sent out to parents/carers today and further correspondence, containing further details on students returning to school, will be sent to the applicable year groups next week.

For now, however, we continue to deliver the curriculum through remote learning. After such a positive return to learning last week, after the half term break, students have been continuing with their online blended learning with their usual vigour and conscientiousness and staff are full of praise for the efforts of the vast majority of our learners, during what we fully appreciate is a very trying time for both students and parents/carers alike. With such praise also comes the encouragement to continue with their efforts, in particular with the hope that the current way of learning will not be for too much longer. The results of last week’s student voice survey, which were gratefully received, indicated that students are overall enjoying the blended learning which is being delivered and the request for more live streamed elements at KS3 has been listened to. It is also important to continue to remind students to keep communicating with their subject teachers and group tutors, who are always there to help and support them. Group tutors are on line during registration every morning, providing students with the opportunity to check in and to have a regular point of contact each day. Teachers are all available during lesson time and students should contact them with any questions or concerns they may have. It is important to remind ourselves that we all face different degrees of challenge at this time and we are all here to support one another as best we can. The wellbeing and health of everyone in the Castell Alun family is of the utmost importance and communication is the key in helping to support this. Logging on to live lessons and messaging questions and concerns directly to teachers provides the contact that enables support to be given, whatever the degree required. Similarly, we continue to welcome all communications from parents/carers and the valuable insight and feedback you can give us in helping shape learning experiences and current provision. As it appears that we can finally start to look forward to the more imminent return of all our learners to the classroom, perseverance with the current situation will hopefully be more palatable given that it will likely not be for too much longer.

Sixth Form and GCSE Options

A reminder that today, March 5th, is the deadline for applications for both next year’s Sixth Form and GCSE courses. Our Year 11 and 9 students are faced with some important decisions and we would encourage any of those who are still unsure or who require further help, information or guidance to please contact the relevant subject teachers or SDM. Once the deadline has passed, those who have submitted applications will receive confirmation of their choices in due course. Should you miss the deadline, then applications and choices will still be accepted.

Saint David’s Day Celebrations

Saint David’s Day is always an important celebration here at Castell Alun. Each year the Welsh department leads the school in celebrating our heritage and culture and COVID was not going to get in the way of that this year. In the absence of our students being in school, the Welsh department held a virtual assembly for all the students to watch online during their form time. This provided an opportunity for everyone to reflect upon and celebrate Welsh literature, music, sport and of course, our valuable language. The clear message of the assembly was that of St.David’s, ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain’ meaning ‘to do the little things’. This message lives on with meaning today as something we can all do in all aspects of our lives, and is maybe most poignant at the present time.

In Cymraeg lessons this week, students across all years have enjoyed a variety of St. David’s Day themed activities. These have included taking part in cultural quizzes, competing in web-quests, learning about the tale of St.David as well as following a Welsh language art tutorial to create St. David’s Day displays. Students, as expected, have engaged enthusiastically, which has been wonderful to see, and their passion has been evident.

The lower school St. David’s Day competitions have now all been judged. The Welsh department received many fantastic entries and the standard has been exceptionally high. The effort that so many of our students have gone to really has made us smile with pride. Da iawn to pawb who entered! The results of the various competitions have been posted on the Welsh department’s Google Classroom pages, thanks to a video created by Miss Anna Jones which showcases the entries, and some of these very impressive entries can be seen below.

Year 13 Art

It has not only been our lower school students who have been busy. With many practical subjects feeling the impact of current restrictions more so than others, our A-Level Art students have continued to find creative ways of developing their projects from home. They have shown a great deal of resilience and creativity in utilising materials that they have available in order to develop their ideas independently, and some of these can be seen below. The Art department here at Castell Alun is responsible for nurturing the talent of many skilled artists and many pieces of work produced by students, both past and present, can be seen displayed around the school. It may even be that these make it there too!

PE Department’s My Welsh Workout!

In another celebration of all things Welsh, the PE Department have also set work this week with a Welsh theme. Students have been asked to ‘Do My Welsh Workout’ where they have had the opportunity to workout like some of their favourite Welsh sports stars. Students could pick to follow the workouts of sports stars such as Gareth Bale, Nia Jones, George North and Leah Wilkinson. Within that workout students then got to decide whether to follow the Bronze, Silver or Gold level workout, with the challenge getting increasingly harder the higher they went. As always the response was enthusiastic from our students and the PE department had lots of feedback from students who had completed the various challenges. Da iwan i pawb.

Hockey Wales Virtual Welsh Cup

What a better way to celebrate St David’s Day than to hear that Castell Alun are through to the final of the Hockey Wales Secondary Schools Virtual Welsh Cup!

A big thank you to everyone who voted and a plea for one final time to support the school in the FINAL!!!

Having beaten Mold Alun in the semis by a margin of 52% to 47%, with votes coming in from as far afield as Australia and Dubai, the pressure is on now to go one final round to become Welsh Champions! In the final we face another local rival in Ysgol Maes Garmon.

As this looks like also being a close run thing, we once again ask everyone who can to vote. Victory will bring with it a financial prize for the department and thereby much appreciated resources for our students. The link to vote is attached below and you have until this Sunday, the 7th, at midnight to vote. Please share the link and help drum up a victory for Castell Alun. C’mon Casti!

In conclusion

I know that Mr Edwards likes to include a quote of choice or even some appropriate song lyrics to conclude the weekly blog, so I thought I’d include this one from Martin Luther King Jr on the theme of perseverance;

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”