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COVID-19 Information

Friday 22nd May 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

As another term draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your hard work, encouragement and positivity over the past six weeks.

I know that this a difficult time in so many ways, but your support for your children and our school has been fantastic. Thank you for all that you do. 

I would urge you to have a break from school work over the next week. We will resume setting work and continue to keep you informed regarding any updated government guidelines after half term.

Take care and stay safe.


Wednesday 20th May 2020: Whole School Assembly

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” This quotation is attributed to Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. There has been lots of speculation since last weekend about what life will be like post-lockdown. Journalists and historians are looking to history and literature to see how societies of the past have coped in similar times of crisis. The pessimistic view is that things will return to ‘normal’ very quickly and, in fact, disasters and pandemics tend to bring out the worst in people – selfishness, scapegoating and xenophobia can all be seen as a growing phenomenon in our society and across the world. When the Black Death came to Europe in the 14th century, cities and towns across the continent shut themselves to outsiders – and assaulted, banished and killed ‘undesirable’ community members.

As an English teacher I have taught the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ many times. The story is of a group of English school boys stranded on a desert island without any adult supervision. After a gradual descent into chaos and violence, the book ends with 3 of the boys dead and the island ablaze. The famous line that concludes the book refers to Ralph’s tears as he is recused. Golding writes that Ralph weeps for the "end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart”. I have always struggled with this reading of man’s essential nature and it is a debate that is as relevant today as it was in 1945 when the book was written. The introduction to the novel’s Faber and Faber classic edition puts this into context. Golding was writing in a world that had seen “within 20 years the systemic destruction of the Jewish race, a world war revealing unnumbered atrocities of what man has done to man, and in 1945, the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb which came to dominate all political and moral thinking”.

The great question of our current time is, what will be our response to the current global crisis? Will it be a return to ‘business as usual’, or will we see the emergence of a ‘new normal’?

We cannot be sure. However, what we can be sure about is that, as a school and as the Marlborough community, this period of closure does give us an opportunity to reflect on what is important to us, and will allow us to actively shape our response to what has happened. We cannot control the situation, but we absolutely can control how we choose to respond.

The Marlborough School that I would like to see re-emerge from this current situation is one that builds on the amazing spirt, perseverance and sense of community that has been so palpable over the past weeks. The cancellation of GCSE and A levels has left lots of schools adrift as they search for meaning and purpose – our vision for education was always broader than this, in that “our school cannot be judged by outcomes alone, but by the people it helps to shape.” This remains our vision, and remembering this will be so important for us in the coming months and years.

So what does a school look like that has ‘people’ at its heart? It means that we will focus even more on the health and well-being of all our staff and young people. We will bring in additional counselling services, as well as making sure all of pupils have mindfulness training as part of Oxford University’s Myriad programme. We have, this week, secured funding to develop further our Chaplaincy provision and will look to create specific areas of school dedicated to both prayer and secular reflection.

We will promote reading in every aspect of what we do, not only for its intellectual and academic benefits, but also for its calming influence, the perspective it brings and its ability to stir the emotions and fire the imagination. We have already seen a massive out-pouring of creativity in our pupil’s response to the lockdown and the pandemic in general. We must harness this, and never lose sight of the crucial importance of drama, art, music, sport, cooking, design, craft, building and engineering that is so important to so many of our young people. We have preserved these in our curriculum – and we must continue to promote excellence in all these pursuits.   

We will re-dedicate ourselves to creating the most environmentally friendly, eco-aware community that we possibly can. We have done much already, but this drive must continue and there is so much we can do if we set our minds to it. Giving our young people a voice and letting them lead with these actions is something we are also committed to. Exciting plans are already in place for our return.

And we must also look at our engagement, not just with the global world, but with our local community. The school’s central place in lots of people’s lives has been highlighted in so many ways over the past weeks. Caring for our elderly, the homeless, and the vulnerable members of our community must become the driving force behind what we do as a school. A school that is geographically and culturally at the heart of our local community, a place known for kindness, compassion and generosity. 

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection

  • Think about what changes you want to make as we emerge from lockdown. What would a kinder, more compassionate society look like? What part could you play in creating this?
  • Let us try to see the current pandemic not just in negative terms, but as an opportunity to choose a new, and better, way of living our lives together. 

The Big Marlborough Food Challenge


Wednesday 13th May 2020: Whole School Assembly

As most of you will be aware, last week saw the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. In the run up to last Friday, the BBC showed a programme that told the life stories of some of the veterans who fought in the Second World War, called ‘Britain’s Greatest Generation’. This was a collection of first-hand accounts of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I watched the programme with my young daughter and found it incredibly moving. You can watch clips and episodes here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05v3q9l

What made it so remarkable was not just the amazing stories of bravery and fortitude, but what stayed with me were the photographs and pictures of the people telling their stories as they had looked when they were young – full of life, youth, optimism and hope. It is important to remember: everyone who is now old, was once young! They had the same dreams, the same ambitions, the same frustrations and joys as young people experience today. But what sets that generation apart is that they also had to face circumstances that were incredibly challenging and unimaginably difficult. Many, if not all, of their stories were often marred by loss and tragedy.

Over the past years I have been privileged to become friends with members of the local Woodstock British Legion. I have heard, first hand, their own stories of conflict and sacrifice, and know how those memories and experiences do not fade with time, but in many ways become more urgent, more visceral, as time goes by. The generation that I first met and spoke with six years ago are nearly all gone - as are the generation of people who spoke so movingly and with such humanity in the documentary.   

Listening to the authentic voices of ordinary people is an amazing way to connect to the past. Lots of you will have tuned in to hear the Queen give her address to the nation on the anniversary of VE Day, at exactly the same time that her father, King George VI, delivered a speech to the nation in 1945, from a bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace.

In his speech, he spoke of the legacy of the conflict that had raged for so many years, and also of the challenges that lay ahead. He said:

“There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over, and, please God, forever.

We shall have failed, and the blood of our dearest will have flowed in vain, if the victory which they died to win does not lead to a lasting peace, founded on justice and established in good will. To that, then, let us turn our thoughts on this day of just triumph and proud sorrow; and then take up our work again, resolved as a people to do nothing unworthy of those who died for us and to make the world such a world as they would have desired, for their children, and for ours. This is the task to which now honour binds us.”

To make the world…as they would have desired, for their children, and for ours.

We all have a role to play in creating and contributing to this work of building a society where peace, goodwill, justice and honour are not out-dated concepts we might study in history books, but living values that we aspire to live out in our daily lives. Inspired by our past, we can be even more determined to shape a brighter, more caring, more selfless future.   

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Let us take a moment to remember all those who gave their lives in conflicts across the world. Men, women and children from all backgrounds, all cultures and all nationalities.
  • May we keep in mind the lesson taught to us by struggle of our previous generations: ‘never give up; never despair’.

Tuesday 12th May 2020: Home Learning update

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you for the feedback you have offered us about our approach to Home Learning, both through our parent survey and our conversations with you. We are hugely grateful for the efforts you are making to support us and your children in these unprecedented times for school and education.

Your feedback was overwhelmingly positive. You identified the following as some the strengths of our current provision: 

  • The clarity and accessibility of tasks.
  • The quality of communication from teachers through Show my Homework.
  • The encouragement and feedback provided through Show my Homework.
  • The phone calls home from tutors, Heads of Year and other staff.
  • All work appearing on a Monday morning allowing parents and students to organise their week.

We have already developed our approach in a number of ways to address your feedback and have plans in place for further developments. You can find our response to your feedback here.  We hope you find this information useful. Be assured that we are thinking really carefully about how we can support you and your children make the best of this challenging situation. Below you’ll find some key messages relating to students in Years 7, 8 and 9.

Year 7 and Year 8:

  • As of this week, we expect students to complete all Geography, History, Languages and RE activities in addition to their Maths, English and Science tasks. As a result, students can expect more frequent feedback in these subjects. Tasks for other subjects will remain optional.
  • We suggest that students stick to the following schedule:

Time

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9.00 - 9.30

PE

PE

PE

PE

PE

9.35 - 10.00

Maths

Maths

Maths

Maths

Maths

10.05 - 10.30

Science

Science

Science

Science

Science

11.00 - 11.25

English

English

English

English

Reading

11.30 - 11.55

Geography

History

Languages

RE

Optional

12.00 - 12.25

Geography

History

Languages

RE

Optional

1.30 - 1.55

Maths

Maths

Maths

Maths

 

2.00 - 2.25

Reading

Reading

Reading

Reading

 

2.30 - 2.55

Optional

Optional

Optional

Optional

 

 

Year 9:

  • You should have received your confirmed curriculum choices at the end of last week and an updated Home Learning schedule corresponding to these. If you have not received your confirmed choices please email me.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with further questions or suggestions. Please email: ja.jones@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk.


Monday 11th May 2020: Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will all have heard the announcement yesterday evening from the Government that made some mention of the proposed re-opening of schools. As things stand, we are all awaiting clarification about what this will mean for us in practical terms. We are continuing to work closely with our partner schools in RLT and taking advice from national organisations such as ASCL. We wait for more details to emerge in the coming days and weeks. When we have more clarity we will, of course, make sure that the health and safety of our pupils is at the forefront of our considerations.

In the meantime, our plans for remote learning remain in place. We have produced a response to the parental survey we issued on 27th May. You will all receive a letter today with information about how we will be setting and monitoring work in the coming weeks.

In addition to this, we have written to all Year 11 parents and pupils regarding Centre Assessed Grades and will be contacting all Year 13 families later this week. We will also begin the process of transition with our primary school colleagues and start welcoming the Year 6 pupils as the latest members of the Marlborough family.


Wednesday 6th May 2020: Whole School Assembly

We have seen and read a lot recently about the importance of keeping ourselves active and healthy during these current times. I came home from school last week to find my entire family, including our pet dog, taking part in an on-line yoga session. This was in addition to the daily Joe Wicks, the ‘fitter futures’ programme and other various workout sessions which have even included Mr. Motivator (pupils will have to google this one).

There have been lots of inspiring stories in the media recently, as we mentioned a few weeks ago when looking at the story of Captain (now Colonel) Tom.  I am delighted to share with you the story of one of own community heroes, Miss Bishop. Miss Bishop was all set to run the London Marathon for the seventh successive year, until it was cancelled. However, determined to do something to raise money for her charities and to challenge herself, she decided to cover the race distance at home, in her back garden!

The reality of this meant that Miss Bishop had to run 1,688 laps of the 25-metre course she set up in her garden – all in a circle. For nearly 5 hours. Running for 26.2 miles. Miss Bishop said that she felt sea-sick and dizzy half way through – her solution? To turn around and run in circles the other way! By completing the challenge, Miss Bishop raised money for Blood Cancer UK and NHS charities, in what is an incredible achievement.

More than what she achieved in completing the task, the most remarkable thing was that Miss Bishop didn’t want any recognition for completing her challenge. It was about doing something positive, making a choice to be active and to be do something for others in a selfless way. More than anything, this encapsulates the Marlborough spirit and our school values – of ambition, of perseverance, of acting for others. 

As Miss Bishop reported, the biggest challenge was not necessarily physical, but psychological – to continue for that amount of time and that many laps of one small space. As teachers, and as parents, we are as concerned with our mental and emotional health as we are our physical health. Keeping our minds active and being creative is absolutely crucial. The recently launched ‘Big Marlborough Challenge’ (BMC) had really tapped into this need for us all to have some creative outlet. It has been amazing to see that since lockdown began, although proportionally the amount of time young people spend on screens has gone up, we have also seen an absolute out-pouring of creativity. You are turning off your screens and starting to write, paint, draw, bake and compose.

The first BMC involved writing a poem on the theme of Spring and/or Isolation. The entries were fantastic – so much so, that instead of choosing a winner, we have decided to publish all the poems as part of an Anthology. This can be found in the The Big Marlborough Challenge area of the Home Learning section of the school website. It is well worth a read.

There are two poems I would like to share with you this morning. One, by Jacob, because it made myself and Miss Knowles laugh out loud and encapsulates what lots of you are feeling at the moment; the other, by Ella, we both thought was a remarkable and thought-provoking piece of writing– beautifully constructed.  

 

ISOLATION by Jacob B, Year 7

I’m stuck at home,
So I’m bored.
Oh, I wish I could play football
Lots.
Anyway, in the meantime I am baking
Too much.
I do my work
Often.
Now I’ve finished it.

 

Reflecting In Isolation by Ella T, Year 9

We are fighting in a battle we cannot win
I refuse to believe that
This lockdown is making a positive impact
Precious lives are stolen every day but
We have shut ourselves away from the problem
It cannot be said that
We are lucky to be alive
In the mists of this dystopian disaster
‘This will all be over soon’
Is false news, and
‘This tiresome isolation is helping no one’
So, I will tell myself that
The Government don’t care if I live or die.
It would be wrong to assume that
My friends and I will be reunited
I must remember that
Nothing is guaranteed during this time of ambiguity
When I worry about how
The world may be coming to an unimaginable end
I mustn’t fool myself into thinking 
I will find hope
Stranded alone in my bedroom

Now read this poem in reverse - from the bottom up.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • When we are reflecting on our time at home with our families, let us think about how we can support each other to be heathy and active – both in mind and body.
  • What challenges can we meet today? We can try to be patient; to be kind; and to put the needs of others before our own.

Wednesday 29nd April 2020: Whole School Assembly

I received an email this week that helped to put the on-going crisis into a different perspective. It was from our friends at the international charity, BEFSA. This is an organisation that we have helped to raise money for during our Charity Week in 2018. Since then, we have kept in touch and were in the exciting process of starting a formal link with a partner school in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. We had been in contact with our partner school, Ntabenyonkana High School (NHS!) in Middledrift, when global school closures were announced due to the coronavirus. 

Some of you will already be aware that in South Africa the lockdown is far stricter than it is here. There are huge restrictions on who can travel even small distances, and local communities and areas that are already poor are really suffering. This is happening now in the township where our partner school is based. Because the schools are closed there, the majority of children do not have access to food or safety, never mind any form of home learning. The charity has already opened soup kitchens in the township to provide families with a food parcel and children with a hot lunch each day, but they were writing to ask us, as their partner and friend, for help.

Of course, I have responded, and we will be supporting our ‘other’ NHS with an immediate financial donation. I have been in contact with our own Mr. Smith, the lead teacher who is working with our partner school in South Africa, to discuss how we might raise money in other ways by involving more of the whole school community.

It reminded me of a story that I had heard about life in a small village in South Africa. A western visitor had brought sweets and gifts for the children of the village, and proposed playing a little game. He placed the basket of sweets near a tree, and then asked the children to stand a few hundred feet away. Whoever reached the basket first would get all the sweets. When he shouted for them to start, rather than rushing and shoving, the children held each other’s hands and ran towards the tree together, divided the sweets and enjoyed them equally. When they were asked why they did this, they replied “Ubuntu”. Which to them, meant ’how can one be happy when all the others are sad?

This Xhosa saying 'umntu ngumntu ngabantu' really resonates with what is happening in the world at the moment. It translates as 'a person is a person because of other people' and speaks to this broader concept of 'Ubuntu'. Ubuntu is generally understood as the belief in the one-ness of humanity and the importance of showing humanity toward others. ‘Ubuntu’ is rooted in the idea that community is one of the building blocks of society.

Here is an explanation of Ubuntu from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"Ubuntu is the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person because of other people, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity."

A person is a person because of other people. In a time when we are physically separated, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves of our common humanity; of how we are all linked and connected through our shared experience of the world; and how empathy and care for others can help sustain our own selves in these difficult times.

I will finish with the traditional ending of a conversation in isiXhosa: 'hamba kakuhle' and 'sala kakuhle', which directly translate as 'go well' and 'stay well'.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • We take a moment to think of those people across the world who will be suffering at this time: refugees; the homeless; the poor; prisoners; and those who feel lost without any help or support.
  • Let us continue to think of the needs of others, remembering the universal truth of humanity: I am because we are.

Monday 27th April 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Welcome to the start of another week. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our parents and carers for continuing to support the school and your children. It is not an easy time for any of us, but your time, effort and commitment are extraordinary.

We begin another week of home learning. As a school, we have put a huge amount of thought into how best to organise this, to ensure what we are doing is manageable, sustainable and impactful. If you would like to get a sense of this, you can read a paper outlining our thinking on this subject on the ‘Home Learning’ section of the school website.

We are aware that a particular issue that all schools – and indeed society – is grappling with is the issue of connectivity or ‘connectedness’. Attempts to replicate the complex daily interactions of the classroom, not to mention the varied social relationships that exist within a community of over 1200 people is certainly a challenge. Here at The Marlborough School, we have always been proud of the quality of our relationships, between teacher and pupil, pupil and pupil, and indeed between teacher and teacher. Maintaining and developing these connections and relationships is something we are focusing on as the time spent away from school increases.

We have taken a number of steps already to address this issue. This includes our commitment to contact every pupil and family over the coming weeks, as well as increasing the frequency of individual teacher responses on SMHW, whist making this process manageable for all parties.

I cannot tell you how much all the staff are missing the children and being in school – working directly with young people is the reason all of us became teachers in the first place! It will be an amazing time when we are all together again soon.

In the meantime, we are interested in gathering feedback from parents on our Home Learning provision. Please find a few minutes to read our paper explaining the underlying thinking on the subject and the complete our on-line survey. It can be found here:

Home Learning Survey

Have a lovely week and enjoy this time together as a family.   


Wednesday 22nd April 2020: Whole School Assembly

It is difficult at times to comprehend the scale of the global pandemic we are currently experiencing. You will have seen the media and various commentators comparing this situation to other times of unprecedented upheaval, such as the Second World War, when Britain was under daily attack from the air, thousands of lives were lost and everyday life was changed and disrupted. Lots of you will remember for our assembly earlier this year, that it was during this time that The Marlborough school first opened and welcomed a large number of evacuees form London who were sent to live with families in Woodstock for the duration of the war. Going to school every day provided a sense of normality and structure for those young people whose lives had been turned upside-down.

I often wonder what it must have been like to be one of those young people, living with the daily uncertainty of what was happening to their homes, their friends, their parents and their families.

Living with uncertainty is something we are all having to get used to. This is particularly challenging for those of us who are used to being in control of things – that when a problem presents itself we come up with a strategy, devise a plan and manage the situation effectively. In these times, when we are not clear what will happen on a week to week basis, when all of our comforting structures and routines are out of synch and disrupted, we are afforded no such luxuries.

It is tempting to feel powerless in these kinds of situations. The scale of the problem seems so huge, that it can feel impossible that we, as individuals, could make a difference. How amazing to see then, so many people deciding to do something that will make a positive difference.

I am sure lots of you have read and seen the news story about 99 year-old Tom Moore. ‘Captain Tom’ actually lived through the horrors of the Second World War, serving in India and Burma. Having been treated recently for a broken hip and skin cancer, Captain Tom decided to raise £1000 for the NHS by doing 100 laps around his house in his Bedfordshire garden. What happened next is a truly remarkable story. The video below lasts for 6 and a half minutes, but is well worth watching as it tells Tom’s story:     

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-52312019/coronavirus-the-story-of-captain-tom-s-walk

The total money raised by Tom to date now tops £27 million pounds. Something about Tom has captured peoples’ hearts and minds  at this challenging time. His dedication, maturity and the wisdom that only age can bring, speaks of a broader perspective on life, a sense that, despite how bad we think things are, that what one hundred years of living has taught him is this universal truth: that although it may take some time, we shall all be OK again.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Take some time today to appreciate the things you have: the people and friends who love and support you; the home and comforts that keep you safe.
  • Think of positive ways you can make even a small difference: speak kindly to each other; offer to do small jobs in the house; enjoy a cup of tea together.
  • Remember the message of hope from Captain Tom: “To all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment – the sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away.”

Monday 20th April 2020: Welcome back!

Dear Parents and Carers,

Welcome back to the new term. I thought I would give you all an up-date on what has been happening over the ‘holidays’ and what the plans are for the week and term ahead.

Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the staff who have kept the school open over the Easter holiday period. Their professional dedication has enabled us to continue our commitment to provide care for the children of our most critical workers and their siblings.

At the start of this new term, it is important to re-establish the routines of work and study that you implemented before the Easter break. Marking a clear difference between holiday time and learning time will be important for all concerned. Teachers are continuing to set work to help you and your children with remote learning. We have put a huge amount of thought and effort into our provision and we will be writing to you to explain the under-lying thinking and principles that are informing how we are organising this. Our aim is for the work to be purposeful, valuable and stretching, whilst being manageable for staff, parents and pupils. We will be asking for feedback from you on what we are getting right, and what we need to improve.    

We have also spent some significant time thinking through the management of our Year 11 and 13 final grades. I wrote to you at the end of term and will up-date you all later this week with our latest plans. Ofqual are continuing to consult on some of their proposals and rest assured that we have been giving feedback as well as reading all the documentation extremely carefully.  

Finally, a reminder that you are all invited to take part in our Whole School Assembly that will be published at 9am on Wednesday morning.

I hope that all members of the Marlborough community are staying safe and keeping well.


Friday 3rd April 2020: End of Term

Today is officially the end of the school term. Well done for making it to this point and for all the support that you, as parents, have given your children over these past weeks. We have been incredibly impressed and amazed by the work and commitment shown by our pupils in what have been unprecedented circumstances. They should be proud of themselves.

We are aware that pupils’ time on-line and in front of screens has increased significantly since school closure began. Parents may find it helpful to remind themselves of the talk presented by our Designated Safeguarding Lead, Ms Harrison, earlier this year. We have updated this and produced a really straightforward information sheet with some useful links and suggestions for how you can make sure your child is working safely on-line. These can be found on the website under ‘Information – Safeguarding and E-Safety’.

It is important now to have a break from school work and take some time to relax and enjoy life as a family! We will resume work setting and all regular communications after the holidays.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyful Easter.


Wednesday 1st April 2020: Whole School Assembly

On a number of occasions last week, I found myself in the slightly unusual position of being the last person left in school. This is not too unusual in term time, but normally I would be in my office, late at night, and there would always be a member of the site team (usually Mr Cooper) around to lock the doors, close the gates and turn on the alarms. For the past week I have undertaken the duty of closing up the school myself, which involves walking from the English Block through the school towards the Drama Studio corridor to lock up at 4.30pm.

This particular afternoon, I stopped right in the middle of school where the wooden canopy area is. Usually, this area is alive with noise – children shouting and chatting, the buzz of the Dining Hall, the sounds from the field drifting over the Languages Block and the blare of instruments and drum beats emanating from the Music Department. This afternoon, I was struck by both the silence and by the noises that were present. Looking up, I noticed the substantial, mature silver birch trees that dominate this area, along with some smaller tress we have planted in the last couple of years. There were birds flying between the trees, visiting their nests as the branches swayed. I noticed the early signs of leaves coming into bud and the early blossoms shaking in the strong winds. In that moment of calm and isolation, in the beautiful spring sunshine, a couple of things came to mind.

I was mindful of how the Disciples, spending their own period of self-isolation in the upper room following the death of Jesus, interpreted the strong winds they heard surrounding them as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, bringing them reassurance and comfort when they were at their most anxious and troubled. I was also reminded of Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’ that hears the message of new life in the sound of the trees as clearly as “something almost being said”. The poet writes:

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Larkin is often seen as a pessimistic poet, but this poem abounds with optimism – despite our individual fears and concerns, the world will go on turning and life will return again. The sibilant message whispered by the tress makes it clear that this period of all our lives is only transitory, and that there is always a chance for a new start, a new opportunity to “begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”  After winter, comes spring. And with spring; hope.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Let us remember that all things and all situations will change, and that all around us we see signs of new life and new hope.
  • Let us take a moment to think of the needs of others, and to consider how we can connect and bring hope to their lives, especially in these difficult times.

Bloom


Friday 27th March 2020: one week done

Dear Parents and Carers,

Congratulations on completing your first week of home schooling! I really hope that is has been a positive and productive experience for your children and for you as well.

School continues to remain partially open for the children of what the Government now term ‘critical’ workers. I am hugely grateful to the dedicated team of staff who are keeping us going even in these most testing of times.

We continue to receive feedback from both parents and pupils and are responding to this as quickly as we can. We will be asking for some formal feedback towards the end of next week as we look to refine and improve our provision for the period after the Easter Holidays. We have robust and detailed plans in place, but want to make sure that we are meeting your needs and giving our pupils the best opportunity to continue learning, rather than just being kept busy. We are actively monitoring the amount of work being done and I can tell you that 99.12% of our pupils are active SMHW users. An amazing statistic! Well done everyone. To the other 0.88% - we know who you are!

We have been made aware that a small number of parents who are accessing SMHW though the App are finding it hard to see the work that has been set. Curriculum Leaders are setting work once per fortnight at KS3 and once per week at KS4. This is to declutter the SMHW feed and make it simple for students and parents. The easiest way to look at your child’s work is to go into SMHW through your web browser and look at the calendar. All the tasks for the week/fortnight are there.  

If you or your child is using the APP, click on ‘see all tasks’ and select ‘upcoming’. 

  • If your child is in KS4, go to Friday of each week and all the tasks are there, as the deadline for most tasks set is Friday
  • If your child is in KS3, go to Friday week A (3rd April, 1st May, 15th May etc) and the current tasks are all there, as the deadline for all tasks is Friday week A. I hope this helps.

Again, if you have any queries, please contact Doctor Jones directly and he will talk you through any technical difficulties you might be experiencing.

We have also been in contact with our friends and colleagues from the Myriad Project at Oxford University for some help and guidance around supporting our young people at a time when anxiety and worry are likely to be high. Working with Reading University, they have put together the following resource:

https://emergingminds.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID19_advice-for-parents-and-carers_20.3_.pdf

There is a lot of good advice here about keeping healthy habits and also useful support for parents on how to frame potentially challenging discussions with their children. There are also lots of links to other resources and information.

I am sure the sunshine and the sense of spring in the air has helped us all this week. Thank you for all your positive messages and for supporting us and your children so well.

Please continue to look after yourselves, stay safe and have a lovely weekend.


Tuesday 24th March 2020: Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

I hope you are all keeping safe and well and enjoying time as a family. We have been really impressed with the amount of work being completed – you are clearly organising and motivating your children well. Parents have shared stories of pupils getting dressed in school uniform to come downstairs in the morning and even of some parents organising assembly! Thank you for your continued messages of support - it is clear from your responses that parents appreciate even more the job that our teachers do!

The Marlborough School remains partially open for the children of our brave and inspirational front line NHS workers. As long as they need us, we will be here. However, I have now effectively cleared the school site of all other staff except those absolutely necessary to maintain a safe environment for the children still in our care.

We remain ready and able to respond to any questions or queries, so please do email us. We will be writing to parents and pupils in Years 11 and 13 in the next couple of days and I will update the school website on a regular basis.

Take care and stay safe.     


Monday 23rd March 2020: keeping in touch

Dear Parents and Carers,

Today saw the first day of our partial opening for those pupils whose parents are key workers and other pupils who need additional support. We were overwhelmed with staff offers of help and support, and in the end had more than enough capacity to cope with the very small number of pupils who came to school today.

I cannot express my gratitude to those of who have made the difficult decision to keep your children at home, where you can, to look after them yourselves. I am able to now allow my staff and teachers to work from home and support their own families. I am once again, inspired and humbled by the dedication and commitment of the staff here at Marlborough. It has been another up-lifting day.

It is crucial to us that we are maintaining strong lines of communication with parents and carers. There will be questions and queries around a number of areas and we are monitoring all communications carefully and regularly to ensure that we stay in touch. Some key points of contact are:

For general enquiries about school: admin.4560@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

For the Finance Department: finance@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

For information about pupil learning, please contact Dr J Jones directly: Ja.Jones@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

For information about pupils eligible for FSM or about Marlborough Scholarship Students, please contact Ms E Bromley directly on: e.bromley@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

For the personal attention of Mr Hanlon, Headteacher, please contact Mrs L Cox: lcox3439@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

We will get back to you as soon as we can.

We would remind you that you can ask questions specifically about the work and give feedback via the response function on Show My Homework. We are also planning to keep sending messages out via the school, website, so please keep checking! Enjoy the evening sunshine.


20th March 2020: Home Learning

Dear Parents and Carers,

You should now have all received details of the work that has been provided for your children during this first part of our school closure. You will be able to find all the information in the new Home Learning section on the front page of our website.

Please read it carefully and do get in touch if you have any questions or queries. All instructions are included in your letters.

Rest assured that those school staff who are not self-isolating or have caring responsibilities will be available to answer any questions or clarify any issues you may have. Staff will also be in school next week to provide support for those members of our community that need it.


Friday 20th March: Key Workers

Dear Parents and Carers,

The Government have now released further information about school closures. They have made it clear that parents are being asked to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and that schools are to remain open only for those children who “absolutely need to attend”. The statement says: “the most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading’’.

The statement goes on to say: “Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors outlined below (see links). Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be’’.

Please, therefore, follow these key principles:

  1. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  2. If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
  3. Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  4. Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.”

The full statements and FAQs can be found via these links below. There are detailed descriptions of ‘key worker’ occupations. Please take some time to read them carefully:

GOV.UK – Coronavirus (COVID-19): maintaining educational provision

GOV.UK – Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers 

Please note that if you fall within the critical categories in the list you should confirm with your employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, your specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

Thank you to those of you how have already contacted us with details about your work and children. Please continue to do so by contacting us directly via The PA to the Principal’s email address: lcox3439@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk 

These are extremely challenging times and we are doing all we can to support those children and families who most need our support. We will be sending details of the work that will be set for all year groups later this morning and are awaiting news of the arrangements that will be put in place for those pupils not sitting their GCSE and A Level Examinations this summer. As always, when we have this information, we will share it with parents.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or queries – if we can answer them, we will. I hope everyone is keeping safe and continuing to look after each other. Everyone at school remains really positive and committed to doing the absolute best we can for all our pupils and their families.


Thursday 19th March 2020: Key Worker Information

Dear Parents and Carers,

Yesterday the government announced that educational settings, including The Marlborough School, “will be closed to everyone except children of key workers and vulnerable children from Monday 23rd March, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus”. The government said: “examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans.”

At present the government has not confirmed a list of ‘key workers’. We are waiting for this to be published but wanted to move ahead with our planning as soon as we can. When we have the definitive list, we will share it with you.

Parents and carers who are able to self-identify now as key workers (working on the current definitions of NHS staff, police, teachers, social workers and supermarket delivery drivers) and who are not able to make other childcare arrangements, and therefore would not be able to go to work unless the school remains open, are able to send their child to school. This is part of the government’s response to slow the spread of the coronavirus and it is expected that, where possible, children should remain at home with suitable care provision.

If you self-identify as a key worker in the context of front-line services to support the national effort with coronavirus and require the school to remain open in order that you can attend work, please contact school directly via The PA to the Principal’s email address: lcox3439@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

It would be really helpful if you could confirm your work role and how many of your children attend our school. This will then help us to plan as best we can for next week. Thank you.

We are currently managing our Year 11 and Year 13 pupils as they experience a huge mixture of emotions. Ms Harris is writing to all those parents today. We will keep in touch with details of what arrangements will be in place for next week, where parents and pupils can access work and what the school’s plan for the foreseeable future will be. We will endeavour to keep you informed without inundating you with different messages.

We have received countless messages of support from parents and governors and there has never been a stronger sense of community in school than there is today. The strength of any organisation is never really seen until truly tested. I am proud to tell you that The Marlborough School is united and strong.

Thank you, as ever, for your patience, understanding and support.


Thursday 19th March 2020: Key Messages to Year 11 and Year 13

Dear Parents and Carers,

We wanted to share with you the messages that we have given to all Year 11 and Year 13 students this morning in light of last night’s announcements. I spoke, with Mr Hanlon, to all of our Year 11 pupils this morning. Mr Buckmaster and Mrs Jones spoke with all our Year 13s. We wanted to let them know that we will support them during this time and to reassure them that we remain fully committed to ensuring they fulfil their potential and are able to go on and achieve their ambitions and hopes for the future.

We realise that the news last night around school closures and particularly around GCSE and A level exams this year will have been very unsettling for them, and yourselves. We realise that they may be feeling anxious and worried and that you may have many questions.

We wanted to reassure them that, while we don’t yet have all the answers to these questions, we will work tirelessly to get these answers. As soon as we have any more details around GCSEs and A levels, our Year 11 and 13 pupils can rest assured we will communicate this to them and you straightaway.

We reassured them that whatever the situation in the country and the world, we will not let this crisis disadvantage them and their futures in any way. We are so proud of all of our young people and of how hard they have worked so far, and we will support each and every one of them in securing their intended destination for September.

We wanted to let them, and you know, that amidst the conflicting messages and uncertainty, our commitment to the well—being and care of our pupils remains our highest priority.

Very best wishes to you and your families at this difficult time,

Emily Harris, Assistant Headteacher & Tony Buckmaster, Head of Sixth Form 


Wednesday 18th March 2020: Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will be aware of the Prime Minister’s announcement this evening to close all schools from Friday 20th March “until further notice”.

This will apply to all pupils except those who are children of key workers and our most vulnerable pupils.

The government has also stated that examinations will not take place this summer. However, they have said they will make sure pupils “get the qualifications they need”, but have not as yet provided any details about when and how this will happen.

The Marlborough School will remain open for all pupils on Thursday and Friday this week. We will spend this time gathering more information and will provide this to all parents as soon as we have more detail and clarity about how these announcements will impact our school community.


Wednesday 18th March 2020: Managing Anxiety

Dear Parents and Carers,

We are aware that some of our young people are finding the uncertainty around the current situation is making them anxious and unsettled. We are working hard in school to calm these anxieties and provide sensible, practical ways in which young people (and staff) can develop helpful strategies to cope with stressful situations.

Part of this advice involves pupils not engaging in speculation around the spread of the virus and avoiding social media coverage and posts that are deliberately targeted at raising anxiety amongst young people. We are also making it clear that if family and friends have made the decision to self-isolate for a period of time, this does not mean that they necessarily have the coronavirus.

Parents may find the following websites useful when talking to their children about how to make sense of the current situation:

Mind

Young Minds

There are also more really useful links on these pages.

Please continue to take care of each other.


Wednesday 18th March 2020: Year 9 Parents’ Evening

Dear Parents and Carers,

In light of the postponement of the Year 9 Parents’ Evening scheduled for Thursday evening (19th March), parents are invited to request information about their son or daughter’s progress by emailing school directly. This can be done by emailing Mrs Parker our Senior Administrator: Pastoral on: spar4576@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

Please specify the name of your son and daughter and what subjects and/or teachers you would like feedback on. Please indicate if you would prefer an email response or phone call. You should expect a response within five working days of your enquiry.

Parents who would like advice on curriculum choices for Year 10 should email Dr Jake Jones, Deputy Headteacher, directly on: ja.jones@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk. Dr Jones will respond personally to all questions and queries.

I would like to take this opportunity, once again, to thank you for your support and patience during challenging circumstances.


Tuesday 17th March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you for your patience as we respond to the current situation to the best of our ability. Things are changing on a daily basis but, since last night, the instructions and guidance are clear in that anyone sharing a house with someone showing symptoms (a new persistent cough and/or a high temperature) now has to self-isolate for 14 days. This is clearly already putting a lot more pressure on our staff resources as many more families make the difficult choice to either not come to school themselves or to keep their children at home. We are all working together as teachers and staff to cover lessons and provide as normal a school experience as we can. As long as we are able to do this, we will carry on.

In order to help with more effective communication, I will now be uploading updates directly onto the website. We have created a bespoke area where you can find all previous letters, messages, links and updates. This has gone live from today and can be found in the home page banner ‘COVID-19 Information’.

The instruction to avoid social contact and non-essential travel means that we are unable to hold Parents’ Evening and no trips or visits, as this would increase social, non-usual school contact. This approach has been agreed by all our schools across River Learning Trust, and we are thankful to have the support and guidance of our professional colleagues. I am in contact on a daily basis with other Heads in the Trust, as well as our Chief Executive Officer and Secondary Advisors. I am also attending a meeting of our Woodstock Partnership Primary Heads tomorrow at William Fletcher School to ensure we are all taking similar action.

This does mean therefore that this week’s Year 9 Parents’ Evening has been postponed. Parents will be offered the opportunity to get feedback on their child’s progress via email or with a telephone call. The details of how we will manage this will be on the new section of the school website. We have also taken swift action to postpone more forthcoming events – The WOLP Apprenticeship Fair (26th March); Battle of the Bands (27th March); Year 7 Parents’ Evening (2nd April) and the Whole School Photograph (2nd April).

We are also having to curtail our Electives Programme this week due to staffing shortages and managing the risk of travelling by buses and coaches. We will make sure that any paid Electives will be reimbursed – although this may not be immediately as we are trying to manage other priorities.

These are unprecedented times. We are trying to manage the message around self-isolation and social distancing whilst remaining open as a school. However we may feel that these instructions are contradictory, we will carry on supporting our community for as long as we are able to do so.

Perseverance is one of The Marlborough’s school key values – so that is what we will do. Please be patient with us: our teachers and staff are also parents, children and carers, so are dealing with all the pressures these roles bring. We are committed to providing the best care we can for all our pupils in these challenging times.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hanlon

Principal


Friday 13th March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I am writing to you with an up-date on the school’s response to the on-going coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. This update is based on the guidance from the government Press Release, Public Health England information and the DfE Guidance for Educational Settings issued on 12/3/2020, which now includes advice on school trips.

The government announced yesterday that we are moving out of the ‘contain’ phase of their plan and into the ‘delay’ phase. The headline for us remains that schools should not close unless they have been specifically advised to do so by Public Health England.

However, the guidance around self-isolation has changed. The advice now is:

“Anyone who shows certain symptoms is to self-isolate for 7 days, regardless of whether they have travelled to affected areas. This means people to stay at home and avoid all but essential contact with others for 7 days from the point of displaying mild symptoms, to slow the spread of infection. The symptoms are: a high temperature (37.8 degrees and above) and/or a new, continuous cough. You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation.”

As per the current advice, the most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves remains washing their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into a tissue, which is then put in the bin. I am pleased to say the school is well-stocked with soap and hand sanitiser gels, as we anticipated the increased demand for these items a couple of weeks ago. Our daily routines for checking levels of soap continue and we are maintaining a clean and hygienic site.

The Department for Education continues to publish daily updates on its website and you can visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus if you have any further concerns. As the situation evolves further new information will be added to this website.

So far, only a very small number of our pupils have self-isolated (less than 0.1%). We have had no confirmed cases from anyone connected to the school, either pupils, parents or staff. We are continuing to monitor the situation really carefully and are seeking advice from all external agencies and our own Multi-Academy Trust, River Learning Trust.

We are also planning what actions we would take in the event of a school closure. We are confident that we have some robust plans already in place but these will be firmed up in the coming days. In terms of our planned school trips, I will write separately about these as there is not quite the level of clarity around this issue at present.

Could I take this opportunity to thank you all for your support of the school and your children. Your sensible, practical, professional approach is much appreciated as we manage what is potentially a challenging situation, not just in our school but across the country.

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon

Principal


Friday 13th March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I am writing to you with an up-date on the school’s response to the on-going coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. This update is based on the guidance from the government Press Release, Public Health England information and the DfE Guidance for Educational Settings issued on 12/3/2020, which now includes advice on school trips.

The advice given is as follows:

“Overseas trips for children under 18 organised by education settings

The government advises against all overseas education trips for children under 18. This is because trip leaders would face significant challenges in making arrangements to ensure children’s welfare, should adult supervisors or children be required to self-isolate.”

The advice makes no reference to time-scales that may be applied to this situation, so we must assume that this situation will continue indefinitely. What this means is that, as it stands at the moment, the planned trip to Berlin in the Easter holidays will not take place.

We will need some time to investigate what this means in terms of our insurance, flights and so on. We will keep you up to date with information as soon as we know it.

There are also therefore some questions about whether we will be able to go ahead with the planned Sports trip to Spain in May half-term and indeed the Music tour which is planned for July. We will seek some further advice and clarification around this in the days and weeks ahead. As the situation is continually evolving, it seems prudent to wait to see what happens over the coming days before making a final decision on what action to take with regard to these future trips.

As a school, we recognise that this is disappointing news. However, we are in the midst of an unprecedented international crisis and, as always, our first priority is the health and welfare of all members of the Marlborough community.

If you have any further questions or queries, please contact our Finance Manager

Kathryn Dalton on: finance@marlborough.oxon.sch.uk

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon

Principal


Tuesday 3rd March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Following my earlier communication, I wanted to reassure you that we continue to monitor the coronavirus situation on a daily basis and are carefully following the advice issued by the Department for Education and Public Health England.

Thank you to all the families who have been in touch with an update regarding their recent travels. It has been most useful and allowed for effective, considered management. We are confident that no member of staff nor pupil at The Marlborough School has recently visited any areas classified as Category 1. To support families with best practice, both in school and at home, I am sharing the advice provided by the Public Health England. Their advice around school closures is clear: “No school should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 case unless directed to do so by Public Health England.”

The Department for Education has launched a new coronavirus helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687 Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)

Alternatively, parents can get in touch via email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

As a school we continue to encourage best practice to minimise infection. We advise all staff and pupils to adopt regular handwashing and to catch any coughs and sneezes using a tissue which can then be safely disposed of. We will be providing anti-bacterial gel for all classrooms across the school so that pupils and staff are able to maintain effective hand hygiene throughout the day. We have put A3 posters around the site and in our Reception and communal areas.

Of course, the situation remains changeable. I will inform you if there are any changes at school. In the meantime, please listen to advice being provided by the authorities through appropriate news channels and refer to the website below for further guidance. Here you will find the latest information/updates on COVID-19, as well as information from the NHS, travel advice and links to the latest up-dates from Public Health England’s blog posts about its response to coronavirus:

www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon

Principal