This week saw the return of our students after the Christmas break. We were delighted to welcome returning students and some new students. We look forward to growing together as a community over the coming weeks and months.
We are continuing to work hard, on a daily basis, to adapt and respond to the challenges of trying to keep our school as safe as possible during these Covid times. The challenges increased on Tuesday morning when we all awoke to the huge amounts of snow that had fallen the previous night and continued to do so throughout the day. I was so impressed by my staff's determination to get to work and we were able to keep the school running for all the students who were able to attend. A true demonstration of a sisu mindset.
The first week of term has been used for re-setting our ethos and values, settling into new classrooms and getting used to the new schedules. From week 3, study sessions will begin again and information about these has been posted on SchoolSoft. The mentors are also preparing for the student-teacher-parent (STP) meetings that will be arranged for weeks 4 and 5. Obviously, these will be conducted by video calls.
On Thursday 7th January 2021 I was delighted to welcome all of my staff back to IES Östersund for the first of two staff training days. Whilst the Fritids staff have continued to care for many of our children over the Christmas holiday period, for the rest of the staff, this was their first time back to school after a two and a half week break. It was really good to see everyone again and to see that we were all healthy and feeling excited to be back. During Thursday and Friday we did some work to re-focus on our school goals, to receive first aid training and to prepare for lessons to re-start on Monday 11th January.
At the moment we are all concerned about the worsening news about Covid-19 and the safety of our students and staff is my primary concern. I am in regular communication with IES Headquarters, health officials, union representatives and colleagues. I and my team are constantly reviewing our procedures to make sure that we are making well-informed decisions. As of writing this (January 8th 2021) the decision is that school will re-open for all students on Monday 11th January and we expect all students to be at school for their mentor time which begins at 08:15. We will continue to keep parents and carers updated via SchoolSoft and our social media platforms.
Week 51 has been filled with plenty of festive celebrations and IES Östersund has felt a wonderfully, cosy place to be. I am so very proud of all our students and staff who have worked incredibly hard all term and yet kept standards high throughout the last week of the autumn term. Grades have been set for our Year 6s and 7s and subject rubrics updated and developmental comments written. Although lessons continued as normal throughout the week, we still had time to participate in some fun. There were three different tipspromenad (scavenger hunts with multiple choice questions to answer) to participate in, festive food to eat at lunchtime and special dress up days.
Phase 2 of our school building is now open and so several mentor groups also took some time to move classrooms on the last day of term. This means that when the spring term starts on Monday 11th January 2021, all classes will be ready to start learning again in their new locations. We will also have all our practical rooms in operation and I know that teachers and students are really excited to finally have lessons in the custom built cookery (HKK), craft (slöjd), art (bild) and science (NO) rooms.
One of the activities for all students on the last day of term was to watch a short film which celebrated many of our achievements since the start of August. It reminded me that although many things have felt new, strange, difficult and often uncomfortable for staff, students and caregivers over the past few months, we also have so much to celebrate and be proud of.
I have spoken to all IES Östersund students about sisu. Sisu is a Finnish word and it is used to describe a mindset. Sisu is about resilience and grit and determination. Sisu is about never giving up, even when things seem unfair or difficult or even impossible. Sisu is about developing skills to persevere even when things do not feel comfortable and cosy. I firmly believe that sisu is a characteristic that is a good fit with our IES core values and message. What we have all (students, staff and caregivers) achieved over the past five months has only been possible as a result of a collective desire to build a school which has a clear and unified culture. I would like to thank everyone involved in our journey so far for their cooperation and patience. It has not always been easy. It has not been perfect. But, everyday, we all try to do our best and every day we have taken another step in building a school that we believe in. Thank you so much, merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy new year! We look forward to welcoming all students back at 08:15 on Monday 11th January 2021.
This week it felt like the countdown to the Christmas break had really begun! These are difficult times and we have to constantly adapt and be careful to act in a way that is in accordance with health guidelines. But that is why it is even more important that we at IES Östersund work creatively to set up our end of term traditions. On 10th December we held our first Nobel Day and then on 11th December we celebrated Lucia. Our large hall meant that it was possible to have a Luciatåg and our Year 7s sung in three separate performances to enable all students and staff to participate in a socially distanced way. The events were fantastic and were yet another opportunity for me to feel extremely proud of what the staff and students have been able to achieve in such a short time and in such challenging circumstances.
I am so looking forward to the special events that we have planned for our final week of term in week 51. However, I know that my teaching staff are also working extremely hard to complete the gradings for all Year 6 and Year 7 and to also update subject rubrics and information on SchoolSoft for all students from FSKL upwards. As a result of Covid restrictions we have not been able to hold parent information sessions about grading but there is information available on SchoolSoft and our student-teacher-parent meetings in weeks 4 and 5 will provide opportunities for more discussion about next steps for students.
The constantly changing situation with Covid-19 in the Östersund region has presented many challenges for us at IES Östersund. Information and advice changes on an almost daily basis and it sometimes seems difficult to make sure that carers, students and staff are all hearing the most up-to-date messages.
I would like to thank all IES parents and carers for helping us to keep our students and staff as safe as possible. It is really appreciated that carers try and minimise the number of times that they enter the school building and if it is necessary to come inside, I have been grateful that all visitors do not proceed beyond the 'stop' signs that are at reception. The adapted Fritids check out system in the afternoon also seems to be working quite smoothly.
Additionally, if a student becomes unwell at school, the student's mentor must call home first to inform parents/carers. The student should then be collected as soon as possible from school. This procedure is in place to help keep all of our students as safe as possible and to reduce the possible risk of a spread of infection, both within school and the wider Östersund community.
Thank you very much to everyone who is helping us to uphold these protocols.
In my last blog I wrote about the importance of feedback and communication. We regularly ask our students for feedback and are currently in the process of using some of their ideas to help with continually reviewing and developing teaching and learning for all students. In this blog I would like to provide some feedback to our parents and carers.
Over the past few months our lost and found boxes have been filling up very quickly. What started off as one box has now become four boxes. Whenever we find items that are named, we immediately return them to the student. Unfortunately, most items have no name. We have included messages on SchoolSoft, asking carers to name items. We have also asked carers to ask their children to check in the lost and found boxes or for carers to come and look, so that items can be returned to their rightful owners. (Boxes have been put outside the school building to make it easier for carers to check). Our mentors have also spoken to their students about taking greater responsibility for their own items in order for us, as a school community, to maintain a calm and orderly learning environment. Despite all of this, we still have a lot of unclaimed items.
Therefore, we will be informing all students and their carers that any unclaimed items that remain in the lost and found boxes by Monday 11th January (student school start day) will be donated to charity. It is my sincere hope that over the next couple of weeks, the amount of items starts to reduce and many of the items are reunited with their owners and that more items (especially hats, gloves and shoes) are named before they come into school. Thank you for your help with this!
At IES Östersund we believe that it is really important to ask for feedback, to listen to feedback and to take action (when appropriate) on feedback! Over the past few weeks, we have been working with all our students to gather their feedback about teaching and learning at IES Östersund. During a mentor time, students in every class were asked a few simple questions about academics. The survey results were then shared and discussed with the student School Council representatives. Most recently, the student School Council representatives led discussions with their own mentor groups to collect answers to the question, "How can teachers make lessons even better at IES Östersund?".
The results are now in and the feedback has been fascinating. We have received some very informative, well-considered and imaginative ideas from our students. However, there is no point collecting feedback if the next steps are not communicated to stakeholders and so, over the next few weeks, we will be informing students about some of the actions that will happen as a result of their comments. The students' ideas will also be communicated to all staff and incorporated into workshops and training plans over the next few months. We shall also be using the TV screens around the school and our social media channels to keep students and parents and guardians updated about how we are responding to our students' feedback.
I believe that it is very important to keep communication channels open and so I encourage all parents and guardians to make contact with their child's mentor, in the first instance, if they have any feedback for our school. Together we can work collaboratively to continue to make IES Östersund a school with a calm learning environment where we have mutually high expectations of each other and we all continue to develop our command of English.
November can often be a dreary month, and certainly, with the increased challenges that Covid is presenting, it has at times been tricky to keep things upbeat at school. Therefore, as a school community we are embracing the concept of 'Nice November.' We have been encouraging random acts of kindness throughout the month and on Friday 13th November we all celebrated World Kindness Day together.
The day was a great success. Everyone was encouraged to wear bright colours and mentor groups participated in a variety of activities to promote kindness and empathy. There was also a special display at school which shared staff and students' thoughts about what made them proud and what made them happy.
Possibly the most popular feature was 'friendly fika' which was provided for everyone. Different year groups met to enjoy it together, chat and get to know each other a little better. There was a lovely atmosphere around the school during the day and it was a super example of our Student Care Team, our Admin team and our teaching and fritids/junior club staff all working together to promote one of our school messages - be kind. I am sure that we will all be doing our best to continue these good vibes throughout the rest of the year!
The autumn break week was a wonderful opportunity for many teaching staff and students to relax and re-energise. However, the IES Östersund Fritids and Junior Club staff and the Student Care Team staff were still on site, caring for children and carrying out useful tasks in preparation for the start of the second part of our autumn term.
We have all been affected by the news that Covid-19 rates are increasing again in Sweden and I have been advised by IES Headquarters that we must take extra measures to best manage the situation. One change is that most on site face to face meetings must now be cancelled and only the most urgent meetings can now take place. This means that with immediate effect we respectfully ask that no parents or carers proceed beyond the school reception if they enter the school. It would be ideal if all parents/carers said goodbye to their children at the school gate. Parents/carers who are collecting children from Fritids are now asked to enter the school and check out their child at the Fritids check out point which is located in front of the school reception.
I am sure that everyone will understand the importance of these new procedures and will cooperate with us so that we can do our best to try and reduce the spread of infection.
Friday 23rd October was such a special day in the history of IES Östersund. We had reached a significant milestone - the end of the first half of the autumn term! However, what made the day so great was the fact that we also had our first IES Östersund Halloween dress up day on that day too. It was such fun to stand at the school gate in the morning and meet and greet our students as they arrived for the day and see so many in costume. A lot of thought and effort had gone into their outfits and I was very pleased to see that everyone had taken careful note of our dress up guidelines too. Many of our staff had also entered into the spirit of the day. There was a lovely atmosphere of happiness and peaceful celebration around the school and this was increased by the super decorations that several classes had made. The school yard wasn't forgotten either because the F-3 classes had been working hard on making special, autumnal lanterns and these were placed under the trees during the day.
It felt such a privilege to be part of IES Östersund history, as we, the school community, worked together to create our first traditions. This was a wonderful way to end what has been a very busy few months. The day made me feel so proud to be Principal of our new school. A school which is building a strong ethos day by day and which is creating a community which can work hard together but can also have fun together. Our Fritids team will continue to be providing activities during the autumn break for some children but it is my wish that for the rest of the staff, our students and their families, week 44 will be a time of relaxation and enjoyment away from school.