Staying Connected

In the event of Partial or Full Lockdown, we have set up this page as a one-stop shop for the required links and information.

We will post any new information regarding the school’s status on this page, together with other useful updates.

See the section Working Online for more information on submitting assignments using Show My Homework and Microsoft Teams

Lateral Flow Tests – these need to continue to be done on Mondays and Thursdays until further notice.

Please can you make sure you complete a LFT on 31st October prior to returning to school. We have given students fresh supplies but if you are running out, these are freely available from pharmacies and supermarkets.

Vaccinations for students:  Sixth Form Students were offered vaccines during the July / August Period. Vaccine uptake was high with over 90% of our oldest students now fully vaccinated.

Vaccines were also offered to 12-15 year-olds on 5th October.  All Year 11, 10 and 9 students whose families had requested that they were vaccinated were completed that day. Unfortunately, we were unable to vaccinate Year 7 and 8 students due to being understaffed by NHS (SIAS) personnel.   We are, therefore, planning to run a second day on 17th November.  Students will come out of normal lessons that day so there is no need for a parent to accompany them providing permission has been granted.  Letters from the NHS along with instructions will be sent out WB 1st November.  There will also be an opportunity for anyone in older year groups who was unable to be vaccinated due to illness or following self-isolation to also take up this offer.

Anyone who does not want to be vaccinated for medical or personal reasons will have full access rights to their education unaffected.  Whilst the majority of parents have supported the vaccination process, this remains a personal choice.

We will continue to apply measures which help reduce or mitigate against the spread of Covid-19 or any other virus. These include one-way systems, separate social and recreation areas for different year groups, additional cleaning and hand sanitisation areas.  The wearing of face-makes remains optional for students and staff and we fully respect the right of someone to wear PPE if this makes them feel safe.   We have been very fortunate to have relatively low levels of positive Covid cases at Birchwood.  If infection rates do increase in November / December we will liaise with PHE who will advise us accordingly.  Equally, if the DfE change their regulations for schools, we will fully abide by these.

Our students have been  excellent this term – re-engaging with any lost learning and showing positive attitudes, keeping to the rules we have put in place to keep everyone safe.  The last thing anyone needs is a further lockdown or partial lockdown so we will work our utmost to keep focussed on providing high quality teaching and learning whilst maintain a healthy school environment.

Letter from Dr Ingate regarding the re-opening of school on 8 March

Dear Parents/Carers

I am sure that you will be aware that the Government have just announced a return of all schools in England on Monday 8 March. This is good news. A return to greater normality and routine as well as actually teaching in the classroom is well overdue. Students and staff have done their best with online learning but it is no substitute.

There is a more detailed DfE plan for schools, which has just been released, detailing arrangements including PPE and Lateral Flow Testing. We will spend this week formulating a plan that works for Birchwood. I will also liaise with the other local secondary schools to ensure that there is consistency across the town. I would hope to be in a position to give more details by Monday 1 March so I hope you don’t mind being patient this week.

For now, it is a continuation of business as usual for the next two weeks with remote learning and Key Worker Provision.

Yours sincerely

Dr Chris Ingate


Update: 7 January 2021

5 January 2021

Please note that, due to Government restrictions as a result of the Covid 19 Pandemic,  Birchwood High School is now closed to Students until Monday 22nd February.  Work is being set on-line for all our Students including Key Worker and Vulnerable Students who will work in school during this period of time.

Lateral Flow Testing

We will be testing students attending Birchwood during the lockdown, including Key Worker and Vulnerable Students and those attending examinations (BTEC and LiBF).

Key Worker testing will take place for the first time at 08:30 on Wednesday 6 January.  This will be a drive through and all registered Key Worker student/parents will be expected to attend. Also, on this occasion, parents are expected to wait with students for the result.  Thereafter; Key Worker School students will be tested weekly on a Tuesday at 08:30 or weekly on their first attendance of the week if they are not in on subsequent Tuesdays.

Testing for BTEC/LiBF examination students.  All students who are able to take part in these exams will be expected into school between 12:00 and 14:00 on Wednesday 6 January to undertake a test prior to them sitting the examinations.

Consent: We require parental consent (for students under 16 years of age) or the student’s consent (if aged 16 or over) to carry out these tests:

You will be able to accept or decline consent via this form. If you do decline please fill in the form declaring this so we have a completed record of data. Should you require a paper copy of this please contact . You can also see the Privacy Notice below explaining how we use and store the data.

For all other students the mass testing programme will be postponed and we will write to you in February when we know the Government’s intentions.

The following letter relates to the original testing timetable, but the information about the tests themselves and the procedure itself still applies:

Key Links

Some essential links for students

Websites recommended by our school counsellor

New Advice Lines

Healthy Minds Network (HMN) have launched a new early intervention and prevention helpline for children and young people aged 10-17 in Herts. The helpline will provide a safe , non-judgemental space to talk to a Young People Advisor or Mentor who will provide emotional support, advice and information, signposting and discuss coping strategies. For opening hours and more information please visit the website

The Helpline number is 01923 256391.

Opening times at the moment are:

  • Mon, Wed, Fri – 13:00 – 16:30
  • Tues, Thurs – 17:00 – 19:30
  • Sat – 10:00 – 13:00

The Schools and Families Advice Line (SFAL) is a new service established to provide emotional wellbeing advice and early help to children and young people, families and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It can be really worrying when you or someone you know is going through a difficult time. If you feel this service could help, please call our Single Point of Access (SPA) who will take your details before passing them onto our call back service.

This service is open to self-referrals from families and young people, and education, health and other professionals involved in supporting young people and their families.

Contact details:

You will get a call back from a mental health practitioner between 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday. Support will be offered in a one-off, up to 1 hour phone call

How can the service help?

Supporting children, young people, their families and schools by providing early advice around:

  •  General concerns around mental well-being, coping strategies and self-care.
  • How to support children and young people in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak (e.g. understanding, frustration, anxiety etc).Supporting mental well-being during the transition back to school and the anxiety around this uncertainty.
  • Support for education staff around their own mental well-being and advice around how they can care for themselves.
  • ‘Whole school approaches’ to supporting mental well-being.
  • Specific anxieties (around COVID-19/self-isolating measures, transition between year groups, developing and maintaining relationships, fear of failure, low self-esteem or aspirations, trust issues, social anxiety, etc.)
  • Phobias (animals/insects, specific food stuffs, specific objects, modes of transport etc.)
  • Low mood
  • Emotional regulation difficulties
  • Mild obsessive compulsive difficulties that are starting to impact day to day activities.
  • Low-level behavioural concerns
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Signposting to services and resources that may be helpful for supporting mental wellbeing.

Past Papers and Exam Board Information

Please see the Main Exams Page for all information relating to the 2021 Summer Examinations

IT Student Support

If you have any problems accessing SMHW, TLC Live or Online Reporting

Please Note: Students MUST use their Office 365 e-mail accounts when using this service and not their personal e-mail accounts. If students are unable to log in to their Office 365 accounts, then we will ONLY use the e-mail address recorded in our School Information Management System (SIMS) to send the new login.

If students have technical problems when using Show My Homework, TLC Live or any other website used officially by the school for lessons, please contact

Working Online

How to submit your homework online and use Microsoft Teams and TLC Live classrooms

Using Office 365

A quick demonstration on how to log in to your Birchwood High School Office 365 account

Using Microsoft Teams

We are expanding our use of Microsoft Teams in the delivery of online learning. In this YouTube video, Mr Briscoe explains the basics of using Microsoft Teams.

Submitting your assignments using Show My Homework.

The YouTube video to the right shows you what you need to do!

Certain teaching groups are now using TLC Live for their lessons.


Please see the following document if you are having any problems using the online lesson system. If you cannot find the solution you need here, please e-mail IT Student Support on

Updates and Announcements

Dr Ingate’s Weekly Blog – for the half-term holiday

Well done everyone for getting through the third or fourth remote learning saga (I’ve lost count).   I hope your son or daughter will turn the laptop off, disengage from unread messages and enjoy the week off.  You too can have a break from home tutoring (which we greatly appreciate by the way). The weather forecast looks ok – a dryer week – days lengthening and a bit warmer.  Hopefully you can get some fresh air and at least not be envious of anyone going abroad to warmer climes – as they can’t!

There are a number of unknowns and uncertainties to pick up when we return:

  • There should be an announcement on Monday 22nd February with speculation that there will be a return of children to full-time education on 8th March.   The smart money is on a staggered return with Year 11 and 13 returning first of all.
  • Therefore,  WB22nd and 1st February are a continuation of where we left off – remote learning as per timetable.  We will still be looking after key worker / vulnerable and SEND students
  • We have been testing key worker students and rota staff each week and we have enough supplies for mass-testing if required to do so by the DfE
  • Within the next fortnight, Ofqual are due to publish requirements for schools regarding the processing of CAGs for Year 11 and 13.  I think our Year  11s and 13s have shown tremendous patience and resilience waiting for the unknown.  Today, we have sent out 140 Sixth Form Offer letters and  Sixth Form Tutors are busy supporting record numbers of university offers (90 applicants) including offers from Cambridge and Oxford.

As we plan for students to return to school, measures we used in the Autumn Term will be re-applied including one-way systems, lunch & break  arrangements and PPE / Hands-Face-Space rules.  These worked well and I see no reason for any radical changes.  There will be, no doubt, further guidance from the DfE and we will implement these as required.

Keep safe and enjoy the break!

Dr  Chris Ingate


Dr Ingate’s Blog – week beginning Monday 8 February 2021

Dear Parents/Carers

A snowy landscape greeted me this morning.  We continue to open for around 40 key worker and vulnerable students but otherwise the school is eerily quiet.  I know that our students are doing a great job studying on-line from all the positive feedback I have received from their teachers.  But this is no substitute for coming to school and learning alongside peers.

With a week to go before we all have a well-deserved half-term break, there is a growing case for schools to return on 8th March, as Covid infection rates abate and the Vaccination Programme rolls out.  I can certainly see a situation where Primary Schools and Year 11 & 13 return before Easter – it is likely that there will be an announcement over half-term so at least we will know where we stand when we return.

Birchwood in the Snow

If we see, therefore, the next three school weeks (excluding half-term) as a continuation of current provision and practice, we just need to continue to ‘stick to the knitting’ with the vast majority of our students working from home, following their timetable and trying to make sure they stay healthy and safe.

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for guidance from Ofqual with regards  to the assessment of GCSE and Post-16 qualifications and I will share these with you as soon as we know.   Year 11 and 13 students certainly seem to understand that it will be their teacher and the school that decides their grade.   The unknown element is to what extent external exam papers or sampling moderation will affect these judgements.

Thank you for your continued support during these challenging times.

Yours sincerely

Dr Chris Ingate


Some Diary updates:

WB 8th February – Offer letters sent home to Year 11 Sixth Form Applicants – we have been so impressed with the 150 students who have applied to continue their education at Birchwood next year.

Tuesday 9th February – No lessons period 5 in lieu of preparation time for Year 10 Parents’ Evening

Wellbeing afternoon – Friday 12th February – Period 5 – students who have completed work and who are on track can have the afternoon off – those behind can use as catch-up.  Staff can also enjoy the half-day.

WB 12th April – Year 13 will have Internal Exams – further details to follow.

Online Parents’ Evenings for the rest of the academic year:

  • Tuesday 2 March Year 8
  • Tuesday 9 March Year 9
  • Tuesday 16 March Year 12

Dr Ingate’s Blog – week beginning 1 February 2021

Dear Parents/Carers

Well done to all our students once again for coping so well in these strange times. We continue to see fantastic attendance and work completion rates by our students. I know that teachers are also really engaged with Teams lessons and are getting really good responses during lessons. Thank you as Parents or Carers for all the support you are providing – I am aware that many of you have also had to brush up on your Science, Maths, Geography, History, French and so forth. If you are having any IT access issues or need online support please contact our IT Helpdesk (

Looking ahead, it is sometimes difficult to navigate school provision with the uncertainty around the Covid pandemic as we battle lower infection rates and vaccinations against new strains of the virus. What we do know is that we will continue to provide on-line remote learning up until Friday 5 March and that there will be an announcement over half-term by the DfE regarding what happens after this point. Half Term (15-19 February) will be a break for everyone so our hard working students can get some time away from their screens and staff spend time with their families. Options from 8 March could include a return for some year groups (eg Year 11 and 13) but it is unlikely that we will see a full return to school until after Easter.

So how are we fairing at the moment? Thank you to the many students and parents who completed our recent Survey Monkey questionnaire. A summary is detailed below:

Parent Survey:

  • 489 parents responded.
  • 85% say their children are coping ok or happy in lockdown. 15% say they are ‘struggling’.
  • 88% say their children said they had completed all, or most, of the work set. One response said none of it.
  • 98% say their children have access to technology.
  • 57% of parents say that their child spends 4 hours or more on schoolwork. Only 3% spend less than an hour. 73% think the time is about right.
  • 85% are at least somewhat confident with TEAMS.
  • 82% are quite or very happy with remote learning procedures. 5% are unhappy with remote learning.
  • The words ‘live lessons’ occurred 77 times (plus 26 in the final question).

Student Survey:

  • 408 responses from students.
  • 86% are okay or happy. 14% are struggling.
  • 93% are doing ‘most’ or ‘all’ of the work set.
  • 99% have access to technology that is ‘easy’ or have ‘some’ connection problems.
  • 80% are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ confident in using Teams but 0.5% are ‘not at all confident’.
  • 37% prefer live lessons. 41% prefer a mixture of live and set work. 17% prefer work left in TEAMS and 4% have no preference.
  • 23% say they are spending more than 5 hours on work; 36% between 3-4 hours. 5% say less than an hour.
  • Most students say they are getting fresh air etc but 3% say they are not leaving the house at all.
  • Overall, most students felt confident to ask their teacher for help via Teams or SMHW.
  • 51% say they don’t ask often, but would if they needed to.
  • Form time came out as very positive and most felt that they could easily contact their form tutor or Head of Year for support.

Overall, this is a very positive survey. The main issue that emerges for me is that there are some students or parents still struggling - so if you are reading this and feel you need personal help or IT help, please let us know. We are likely to continue to operate using live lessons for the next 4 weeks at least.

Other News:

  • We will be sending home a half termly Birchwood News next week celebrating, once again, some really excellent work being submitted to teachers during lockdown.
  • Year 11 Sixth Form Interviews are underway and those interviewing have been very impressed with the calibre of the students – with over 150 applications and 120 external applications, we should have a thriving Year 12 next year. For these students, I am hopeful that life after their GCSEs should be far more ‘normal’.
  • Equally, Year 13 are working closely with their Form Tutors and Mrs Crimes, our Careers Advisor, to ensure everyone goes on to their chosen next step – we have a record number of University Applications currently with UCAS and have also had successful offers from Oxford and Cambridge University.
  • Year 8 Options launch has been deferred to 29 April to ensure parents receive Interim Reports and a Parents Evening with subject teachers first. Hopefully we will have Year 8 back in the building by then and the process of explaining and discussing Options would be a lot easier.
  • Year 10 Parents’ Evening is scheduled for Tuesday 9 February – you will receive shortly a link to book online appointments with your child’s teachers. Feedback so far from Year 11 and 7 online parents’ evenings has been very positive with high attendance rates – the bonus being that you do not have to go out in the cold and dark to speak to teachers.
  • Period 5 on 9 February will be a well-being afternoon to allow staff to prepare for the Parent’s Evening.
  • Key Worker / SEND students: Please note that we have moved the Lateral Flow Testing to Monday 22 February immediately after half term – for other weeks it will remain on Tuesday Mornings.

Thank you for your continued support.

Keep safe.

Dr Chris Ingate