Headteacher - School Weekly Update

Key Worker Update: Monday 11th January 2021


Thank you to everyone who has registered for their child to attend school as a Critical Key Worker during this latest lockdown. Parents and carers contacted school over the Christmas break and during the first week back so that we now know how many student to expect on a daily basis.


If you have not yet registered for a Critical Key Worker place but need to do so, please contact the school before 3pm on Wednesday 13th January 2021 so that we can ensure we have sufficient staff and facilities available for all students attending the school site. After this date we will not be able to accommodate any more Key Worker students unless there is an exceptional change in personal circumstances.


It is essential that we know how many students to expect in school each day so that we can ensure the appropriate guidelines for social distancing and class sizes can be followed. The whole school COVID-19 risk-assessment document is based upon these safety measures. It is thanks to how well these measures have been managed at Benfield that we have been able to avoid some of the closures and issues other local schools faced last term. Now that the coronavirus has changed, we must be even more careful to make sure that these small steps to ensure the safety of all students and staff continue into the spring. Please note, we are not refusing a place to any Critical Key Worker student, but we need to know in advance to ensure we can accommodate them safely on site.


Please be aware that anyone requesting a Critical Key Worker place will need to provide proof of key worker status in the form of a payslip or ID badge. All personal data will as usual be handled in accordance with our data protection procedures.


At Benfield we are committed to providing the best learning experience we can during these challenging times for everyone in our school community, so thank you once again for your understanding and support in this matter.



Parent/Carer Update - Friday 8th December 2021


I update you all today after the first week back of term following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday. 


Indeed, this has been a week of lots of announcements and changes from the government in relation to education that has given schools very little time to react and inform students, parents/carers. 


Here in Benfield we have worked hard to accommodate these changes and so I would like to begin by thanking you all once again for your patience, understanding and kind words of support to the school which we have received as we have made arrangements this week to continue to prioritise the education, as well as the safety of our students.


We all currently have a shared sense of disappointment that this is not the start to the new term which we had hoped for and presently every Benfield student cannot yet access the site to physically attend school.


Vulnerable children and children of Key Workers


We were very much looking forward to welcoming our students back to Benfield on Tuesday, but like all other schools, we have been forced to close to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers. Children with at least one parent or carer who are listed as a critical worker are eligible for a school place.


As you know, we have implemented an extensive range of protective measures to prioritise the safety of our pupils and staff and so we would encourage you to send your child to school if they are eligible and well enough to attend; if you are unsure, please contact the school and we will be able to give you advice.


Free School Meals


All pupils who are eligible for free school meals have continued to receive the vouchers as they did before the Christmas break. If you have any issues with accessing vouchers, please do not hesitate to contact the Main Reception.


Online Learning for students working remotely


Following this week’s government announcement on Monday, all schools have had very little time to prepare.  Here in Benfield we have worked hard to ensure that quality lessons are made available for every student for every lesson of the school week and to provide teacher support to assist students in completing this.  


The Government, along with myself and Benfield staff recognise that it is essential for children to continue to engage with their learning and so we will continue working hard to ensure this is the case. The expectation is that we:


  • set assignments so that pupils have meaningful and ambitious work each day in a number of different subjects
  • set work that is of equivalent length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school, and as a minimum 4 hours a day, with more for pupils working towards formal qualifications this year
  • provide frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher or through high-quality curriculum resources or videos
  • have systems for checking, at least weekly, whether pupils are engaging with their work, and inform parents immediately where engagement is a concern
  • gauge how well pupils are progressing through the curriculum using questions and other suitable tasks, and provide feedback, at least weekly, using digitally facilitated or whole-class feedback where appropriate
  • teachers adjust the pace or difficulty of what is being taught in response to questions or assessments, including, where necessary, revising material or simplifying explanations to ensure pupils’ understanding


So far this week we have monitored how students working at home have been managing to access and complete work set for remote education. 


Please remember that this is new to all of us but will only improve as we all move forward in this together.  Students have tried very hard this week and we value the support of yourselves. 


Initially, phone call and emailed enquiries in to school at the start of the week were to request log in passwords and specific advice as to how to access student work.  I am pleased to inform you that as the week has gone on, enquiries have reduced and the number of students logging on, completing work and submitting it has increased.


Over the next few weeks we will be evaluating how remote learning is operating in Benfield and an important part of this will be for us to reach out to seek feedback from students, parents and carers so that you can tell us what is going well, what can be improved and what is not working.  This will help us address any issues and then build and improve on the learning experience for everyone working at home.  Thank you for your understanding with what has been a very swift introduction to new ways of working and we all become much more familiar and confident with remote learning as the term progresses.


For those students struggling to access work or who may have issues in accessing a device then please contact school.


A reminder that all information in relation to remote learning and Microsoft TEAMS is available directly via the Benfield School website


Summer examinations for Year 11 and Year 13 


The government announcement also informed us that the summer GCSE exams will not now go ahead as planned. This does not currently mean that there will be no exams, or any other assessment of your child’s learning. We do not know fully yet how the government will replace these exams in order to assign your child a GCSE or A-Level grade.  As soon as we do know, we will inform you.


What we are sure of, is that your child will be graded upon their learning and what pupils can demonstrate they “know and can do”. Teachers must be able to provide robust evidence in relation to progress and attainment, and so engagement in lessons is now more important than ever. We ask that you encourage your child to try their best and be committed to their learning, both in school when we return, and online. We have witnessed this from the vast majority of pupils so far this academic year and are very proud of their efforts. Learning is key to a healthy life and better life chances.


COVID Testing


I am pleased to inform you that we are almost set up to deliver the mass and close contact testing to our pupils and staff. This can begin with those children who are eligible to attend school at present, and will be of here on site in school.  This will then also be offered to all pupils on their return to school.

This week myself and the leadership team have been working closely with Newcastle Local Authority and consulting government guidance to ensure that our systems are as straight forward as possible and that we can provide you with as much detailed information as we possibly can.


Next week, we will send out parent/carer consent forms along with detailed information so that we are able to begin testing once our preparations are complete.


 Contact home


I would like to also inform you that staff in school will be making regular contact home to all students not in school via telephone calls.  These calls will take place in order for us to check in with students about how they are coping and feeling during lockdown, how they are managing with remote learning and to check that all students can access it through having a device that enables this.  Maintaining contact with our students is also key in supporting mental well-being and keeping them engaged socially in what are very challenging circumstances.



Finally, there are lots of announcements and rapidly changing plans within education at the moment and this can be confusing at times.  I have previously informed you that a focus for the school this year has been to improve communication to home.  To keep you as informed as possible, we will continue to send out regular communications via Facebook and information will also appear on our website so please check back regularly.


If you have, any worries or concerns in relation to your child’s education or well-being please do not hesitate to contact us.


Thank you again for your continued support and please stay safe and look after yourselves.


Richard Carr