Dear Parents,

Thank you for your ongoing support during another busy and productive week at school.

I am aware that Covid cases are increasing as winter sets in, but we continue to be very careful, and I’m very grateful to all our young people for being so sensible over using the sanitisers around school and keeping their masks in place. These are challenging times, but working with such responsible young people does make it easier.

We are coming to the end of the term, so there are some staffing changes I want to share with you. Allen and Chrissy Hamilton are stepping down as Houseparents in Carisbrooke. Chrissy has been juggling this role with her new role as Deputy Headteacher and wants to focus on her new job. I am very grateful to both Chrissy and Allen for all their hard work looking after our younger boys for the past four years. Mr Aym Dupuis and his wife, Harriet, and son Murphy will be taking over in January, and are very much looking forward to getting to know the younger boys as they all move back into a refurbished Carisbrooke.

Ms Harriet Dare is also stepping down as house parent in Longfield. Ms Laura Holt, our Operations Director is taking over as Longfield’s Houseparent. Ms Holt is already spending evenings with the boys in Longfield and is enjoying getting to know our senior boys. I am very grateful to Harriet for the work she has done, caring for our boys in Longfield, and wish her well in her new job at another local school.

Ms Lorna Johnson, our Head of Boarding, is doing a great job with the boarders’ weekend programme despite the difficulties of a national lockdown, and we’ve seen a wide range of activities. I’m very appreciative of the staff who have volunteered their time to give the young people interesting things to do in their free time. Mrs Cathy Whaley, Valeria and I had a lovely time last Saturday making Christmas wreaths with a large group of our students. Having raided the grounds of the school for evergreen foliage, we decorated wreaths together, while eating chocolate and listening to carols and Christmas songs. I was delighted with the creativity shown. We all had the same basic materials, but every item created was extremely individual.

As the Christmas trees go up around the school, we are currently discussing how we can celebrate Christmas as a school community, while keeping to the new rules. With the announcement this week of Devon being in tier 2, we obviously cannot hold our usual Church service, but we intend to develop new ways of celebrating together, and we hope to ensure parents can join us remotely, as you did for our Speech Day last summer. For senior school pupils we will have our Christmas Jumper day on 11th December. Then on the last three days of term, 14th – 16th December, we are encouraging senior pupils to come to school in uniform but with a touch of festive cheer; perhaps donning a Christmas hat, or maybe some tinsel – I am sure I can rely on the pupils for adding some festive style and flair!

We still are awaiting news from the exam boards about arrangements for public exams next summer. As you are aware, this continues to be a rapidly changing situation, but we will be going ahead with trial exams after Christmas for our students in exam years. While we don’t expect the exam season to be anything like normal next summer, we would like our students prepared for all eventualities. Can I please encourage you to support your child by giving them some time and space to study over the Christmas holidays.

Finally, I would like to thank all our parents for the way in which we have managed to maintain good school attendance. You will have seen headlines in the media which show school attendance across the country is very much lower than normal. At Kingsley, we are seeing almost normal levels of school attendance, and teachers are reporting to me that they have seen very little impact on the progress our students are making. It is very good to know that despite the very strange times through which we are living, your child’s education is continuing and that the virus is having very little impact on their learning.

Mrs Gill Jackson

head@kingsleyschoolbideford.co.uk