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 Blog – week beginning 25 January 2021

Dear Parents/ Carers

I hope you are well – I know that life is a but ‘hum drum’ at the moment but it is good to see the levels of Covid-19 transmission fall in our area to a position where we are now below the national average.

This combined with the roll out of the national vaccine programme focussing at the moment on the oldest and most vulnerable members of our community is good news. However, the more contagious new variants mean that we are all having to be extra cautious as we are at school with our 40 Key Worker, Vulnerable and SEND students with weekly testing and maintaining a rigid approach to hands-face-space.

COVID Stats Blog 2021-01-25

Our students continue to do extremely well under the circumstances. We have had a fantastic response rate to live on line lessons – looking at attendance on the SMHW lesson-by-lesson monitor, we have a figure of 93% which rises to 96% when we take out technical problems – which are fortunately becoming less frequent. The feedback we are receiving on our on-line survey reflects this. If you have not had time to complete the parent survey, the link is below alongside the link for students. It takes five minutes and is really useful for us as a school to see what we are doing well and where we need to improve our virtual teaching and support.

GCSEs and A-Levels? Ofqual have launched a public consultation which closes on Friday 29th – if you would like to find out more, please click here : Ofqual Consultation

I know that teachers at Birchwood are working hard to set lessons  which will allow  Year 11 and  13  students to  do their best if it is entirely a teacher assessment or  an external assessment. We are also focusing on Sixth Form, Post 16 and University applications to ensure that students  are able to move on to  do what they want  to do.   We have record numbers of students applying for University and the Sixth Form  which makes absolute sense  – to stay in full-time education and  improve your qualifications whilst the world tries to reconfigure post-Covid.

Year  8 parents: We are unable to run our normal Options Evening on Tuesday 2nd February due to Covid restrictions.  With Year 8 interim reports going live on Friday 29th January and  Parents’ Evening schedules for Tuesday 2nd March, we think it would be prudent to move Options Event after this (date to  be  confirmed) – we will also know by then whether this has to be  on-line or can be hosted in school.  There is plenty of time to process students’ option requests ahead of them starting  their GCSEs in  September.

Wellbeing:  As a thank you to our hard working students we are having a well-being break on Friday 29th with taught lessons finishing  at 12:30pm (end  of Period 3).    This will also give our teachers a small break.   If your child  is up-to-date by then, then they can enjoy Friday afternoon to do something  they want to do.  If ever there was an  incentive…


As for  a return to school,  this is a topic of great debate at the moment.  Learning from home is  not a substitute for being in the classroom and I know that it is far  easier for  teachers to gauge what students have learnt when the  student  is in front of them.   We are 3  weeks away from half term and we have been told that  we will receive at least 2 weeks’ notice by the Secretary of State so we should know soon.  A return  may mean staggered returns for certain year groups or a return  to a tiered approach depending on  local area infection rates.  It is difficult to speculate.    As soon as I am clear I will let  you know.

Thank you again for everything you are doing to support your son or  daughter during these trying  times.


Yours sincerely

Dr Chris Ingate


Dr Ingate’s Blog – week beginning 18 January 2021

Dear Parents/Carers

I thought it would be helpful if I resume my Monday Parent Update - this will also be published on the school website as a weekly blog.

Firstly, I wanted to say once again how well our students are doing….every day I get emails from teachers saying how engaged and enthusiastic their classes are. I know this is no substitute for coming to school and having real lessons as opposed to ‘live’ lessons but I think the infrastructure is now in place to get us through to February Half Term. If lockdown continues through to March, or we have a staggered return, I will write to you as soon as I am made aware by the DfE.

From today, we are tracking attendance in each lesson and tracking participation. If you do have any IT issues please let your child’s form tutor know. Equally, if you have any connectivity issues, please contact our IT helpline We are also keeping to our interim report and parents evening schedule (done on-line). We will shortly be writing to you with a short Survey Monkey questionnaire to find out what we are doing well and where we need to improve.

Year 11 and 13 update:

If you have a child in Year 11 or 13, following the Government’s decision that GCSE, AS and A Level exams would not go ahead as planned later this year, the Secretary of State for Education has asked Ofqual, the exams regulator, to consult on alternative arrangements for the award of these qualifications.

The overarching expectation is that, this year, GCSEs, AS and A Levels will be based on teachers’ assessment of the performance of their students (and that there will be no algorithm used to determine grades at national level).

Ofqual has now published the consultation on the proposed ‘alternative arrangements’, detailing suggested processes and systems required to award grades fairly and consistently in summer 2021. The full set of proposals can be found here and responses can be made online here until January 29th 23:45pm. There is a connected and complementary consultation on the arrangements for vocational, technical and other qualifications, which will be covered in a separate letter.

The key proposals for GCSEs, AS and A Levels are outlined below and cover the assessment expectations and arrangements, the timescales involved, quality assurance processes, results days and appeals.

Key proposals in the consultation:

  • A student’s grade in each subject should be based on their teachers’ assessment of the standard at which they are performing.
  • The grade recommended should be evidence-based and that evidence will need to be retained for exam board sampling.
  • The final assessment should be informed by a breadth/combination of evidence, but there may be limits on what schools can use to inform their judgements.
  • To account for time missed as a result of the pandemic, assessment should focus on the content students have covered (but there will be a minimum proportion of the overall subject content that will need to be considered).
  • Exam boards should provide a set of papers (either compulsory or optional) to support teachers in assessing their students’ work; these will be marked by teachers.
  • Non-exam assessment should be taken into account in the final assessment.
  • Final assessment should be made towards the end of the academic year, at about the time students would have taken their exams and will involve internal standardisation and moderation.
  • Grades would be submitted to the exam boards by mid-June and results would be issued to students in early July, after the exam board had undertaken quality insurance (including sampling of work).
  • Students would not be told the grade their school has submitted before results day.
  • Students would be able to appeal but a grade would only be changed if it is found not to represent a reasonable assessment.
  • A Level students would be informed of their results before universities (to allow for an appeal process) to support fairer admissions decisions.

Once Ofqual publishes its final decisions on the process for assessment, we will, of course, keep you informed of the outcome and next steps. This will include further specific guidance from the exam boards on particular subject expectations.

For now, it is essential that students, who were expecting to take exams later this year, continue to work hard so that they are well prepared for whatever assessment process is expected of them and their teachers – the evidence to date shows that are doing this extremely well.

Sixth Form applications update:

Having received a record 150 applications from our Year 11 students and 120 external applications, we will be contacting you shortly to arrange a 1:1 interview on line to discuss your application, expected GCSE levels and any career aspirations.

How to support your child at home:

Finally, I thought I would share five top tips for supporting your child with home learning from a recent BBC review:

  1. Keep to a routine: We are keeping to a routine at Birchwood of delivering normal lessons as per timetable without setting homework (unless you are in the Sixth Form). This should allow your child to register with their form tutor, have five online lessons including two 30minute breaks and finish at 3.00pm so they can get some fresh air or do what they want to do.
  2. Be organised: Not having to pack your bags the night before should mean that students have time to check their timetable for the following day and make sure they have enough stationery, essential equipment, charged headphones and charged mobile device if required.
  3. Listen to your children: If your child is sticking to their timetable from 8:45am to 3:00pm, then allowing them space or time out is a fair return. If they are struggling or not keeping to their timetable, research shows that it is best to try to listen to them rather than tell them off in the first instance. Some students struggle with online learning whilst others thrive. They may have other issues or concerns and please contact your child’s Form Tutor or Head of Year if you feel they need additional support.
  4. Don’t let a lack of space or resources hinder you: This may sound like an odd ‘top tip’ as it’s easy to think that having a big desk, a quick computer and space are prerequisites for success but actually eating well, trying to get a good night’s sleep and fresh air and exercise are more important.
  5. Cut yourself some slack as a parent: You’re doing an amazing job. It’s also, hopefully, a once in a lifetime opportunity to have your child(ren) at home doing so much school work. Give them some slack to give yourself some slack – secondary school children are, on the whole, very good at working independently with the help of ‘google’.


Yours sincerely

Dr Chris Ingate

Press Release – GCSE Results 2020

After all the political turmoil, 236 Year 11 students received their long-awaited GCSE levels this morning to smiles and jubilation.

Principal, Dr Ingate, said “I was so relieved to hear that the government had decided to do a U Turn and base these results on teacher assessed levels. Last week’s A-level fiasco has also been addressed and we are in the process of re-sending these students their up-dated grades. I was delighted to see so many happy and successful boys and girls. At Birchwood, I was so impressed with the professional and accurate way our teachers worked to give each student the best-fit GCSE level for each subject they studied. There was rigorous moderation and standardization. No one should feel that Year 11 students have got off lightly. They worked incredibly hard for the last 3 years and were preparing for their public exams as schools were closed due to Covid-19. I know that many were upset by this at the time, but hopefully today has gone a long way to redress their sense of achievement. We have seen record Sixth Form uptake for students wishing to study A-Level or Level-3 BTEC. Students moving on to FE College or apprenticeships also have the qualifications to do so."

Mr. Herbert, Head of Year 11 said “I feel privileged to have been able to work with such a fantastic set of students over the past 5 years. I have witnessed the hard work, enthusiasm and drive to succeed in so many, as well as the kind, polite and caring behaviour they demonstrated every day. I am exceptionally proud of every single one them and I wish them all the very best as they embrace the next stage of their education.”