'SUPPORT WITH THE COST-OF-LIVING': LETTER FROM THE EHT
OUR COMMUNITY AND THE ‘COST-OF-LIVING’ (LETTER FROM MR PRUNTY, AUGUST 2022)
The academy is actively seeking to do whatever it reasonably can to support our students, staff, and their families, with the rapidly growing cost-of-living pressures.
I outline, in this letter, some examples of the strategies and support that we envisage being able to implement either immediately or during the course of this academic year to help each other, whilst a broader societal approach is awaited.
The academy is, of course, also facing the same huge rise in costs (especially energy, estate maintenance and staffing costs) and without any extra income from Government to offset the unprecedented rises.
We are, nevertheless, continuing to invest in the academy’s resources, its staff and its students.
To fund this, the Academy Trust Board is drawing down upon a portion of the academy’s ‘rainy day’ reserves where appropriate and necessary.
We will ensure that the quality of education offered by the academy remains exceptional and that our children are safe, happy, and thrive academically, socially and culturally in spite of any personal challenges they may face.
Cranford is an inclusive COMMUNITY comprehensive school in an area where an increasing number of families are likely to be under significant financial pressure as prices rise rapidly and wages and/or benefits are not keeping pace.
We also have strong values and principles which drive the ethical policies and practices of the academy.
We need to consider how the academy can support its community and be supported by the community of which it is part.
A fundamental tenet of Cranford is that ‘education should be free at source’. We do not have hidden charges such as School Fund contributions, a PTA contribution, school transport charges, costs for essential trips, and the other hidden extra costs that you can see elsewhere.
No local parent should ever feel that they need to consider private or grammar school education, with the additional costs that these would entail.
The financial situation in the U.K. is a heavy burden as we deal with the longer-term consequences and on-going, spiralling, additional costs relating to the pandemic and Brexit.
We remain committed to ensure that our students ‘catch-up’ on the social and cultural opportunities that were not always available during the pandemic restrictions and that the increasing financial burdens do not prevent this.
The Bank of England has predicted the U.K. will go into recession by the end of 2022. Those of us who can remember previous recessions, will want to ensure that disadvantage is not compounded for our community, especially lower income families, and we all would want to do what we can to help lesson divisions in our society and community and prevent them from becoming wider during any financial downturn.
Additional social and capital opportunities are often costly for parents and the academy and so we need to address that reality in a strategic way so that our children and young people do not lose out further.
On a very positive note, I am truly delighted to report that the actions we took together during the pandemic restrictions proved to be highly effective in:
The academic outcomes this summer are uplifting and should make everyone proud of the achievements of our students. Overall, the outcomes make for the best-ever examination performance for Year 11 and Year 13 and continue the upward trend of the past 20 years.
You can read more about Results 2022 on the academy website.
Huge congratulations are due to the students and staff who ensured that the A-level, GCSE, Vocational & Technical Results in Years 11 and 13 have remained first-rate.
We are also pleased to see that so many are able to continue their progression into Cranford’s Sixth Form and beyond to university and/or work-based training.
SUPPORT OFFERED BY CRANFORD
Whilst we will develop and share further information on a comprehensive set of strategies in due course, I outline the following key areas initially:
FOOD & WARMTH
In spite of rising food and energy costs, we will:
- Significantly subsidise the catering provision in the school for everyone
- Immediately cancel the planned school meals / food tariff increase
- Engage with pupils and parents and culinary experts (including our own talented Head Chef) to develop the attractiveness, range, nutritional value and healthiness of the menu offer and to educate young people on healthy choices and eating healthily on a budget
- Freeze the cost of purchasing food at the academy at no higher than last year’s prices
- Seek to reduce the cost of some healthier foods with the aim of ensuring every child is able to eat well at school
- Look into the possibility of making a healthy / core food offer before school (a breakfast offer) and after school (a supper offer) at nominal or no charge
- Encourage greater uptake of ‘Free School Meals’ (these are meals that the academy pays for out of its budget instead of the parent)
- Make it much easier, for those who are eligible, to access the sixth form bursary grants
- Seek funding for further community initiatives such as the ‘Household Support Grant’ which has paid for the daily restaurant serving free evening meals and free ‘Sunday Roast’ lunches (and sometimes entertainment), which has been operating in the school canteen over the summer 2022 break, and supported by local volunteers
- We are also investigating with HMRC, on behalf of our children, whether and how it may be possible for them, at age 18, to access the £500 in the ‘Child Trust Funds’ https://www.onefamily.com/child-trust-fund/
- We will allow the use of the academy site and facilities as a ‘warm bank’ in the colder months to ensure there is a welcoming and hospitable place for members of our community to come, at no cost, if spiralling energy prices make it difficult for people locally to heat their homes.
As mentioned above, we will also seek funding to offer food and entertainment in the case of a ‘warm bank’ being needed, should the numbers of people needing to use the ‘warm bank’ be sufficient.
Similarly, the premises (which are air-conditioned) could be offered as a ‘Cold Bank’ if we have another heatwave.
- Provide more opportunities, through school holiday and extra-curricular programmes, where a proper meal is part of the package.
- Look into extending the school day and offering sustenance where appropriate
- Providing information on food banks and other sources of food support on the academy website, alongside other help available
- Be open to ideas from the community – please use the ‘CONTACT US’ tab on the academy website, http://www.cranford.hounslow.sch.uk , to contribute.
Workers across the board are being affected in the same way and struggling already with the cost-of-living rises, with pay not keeping pace with the rises nor with company profits. It seems increasingly likely that schools and public sector staff will feel obliged to embark on industrial action in the coming year and that requires there to be disruption, e.g. this letter will no doubt be delayed by the Royal Mail strikes. If there are school closures as a result, we will at least endeavour to offer the school premises and site as a ‘warm bank’, for those children / families in need.
SCHOOL UNIFORM / PE UNIFORM
In 2020/21, the Academy Trust Board consulted on the introduction of a new PE uniform and this was scheduled to be implemented over a full year later for 1 September 2022.
Students played a pivotal part in selecting the new designs and consideration was given to the designs being wearable outside of school at weekends and in the evenings as well as the need for better quality to make the PE uniform items last longer.
The response to the new PE kit has been very positive and will also help to create a stronger sense of identity, belonging and self-confidence among our students and aspiring sports stars.
The most popular purchases over the summer 2022 break have been the T-Shirt with either Tracksuit Bottoms or Leggings, and we have ordered additional stock to meet demand.
We will, of course, also want to build on the success and inspiration of England’s Women’s Team at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Final and will be investing further in sporting opportunities for girls.
However, the increased cost of the new Cranford PE kit is an unhelpful burden at this time and has cost us more than originally estimated.
At the time of the Academy Trust Board decision, no-one could have fully predicted the significant increase in costs of the uniform, nor the growing cost-of-living crisis, but we can take action now to mitigate the increased costs for our families, especially for those at KS4.
It has been decided to retrospectively offer a transitional cost subsidy (in the form of a ParentPay credit or voucher) for 1 OCTOBER 2022 as follows:
- This credit can be used to pay for school dinners, trips and visits, uniform items and school shop items, the school prom (year 11), etc.
- This one-off transitional credit cannot be paid in any other way, other than a voucher or ParentPay credit.
Additionally, we will be re-issuing some clarifications on uniform requirements on the academy website, such as footwear, to help parents avoid purchasing items that are not permitted and hopefully this will help prevent a mistake which ‘wastes’ money that is hard come by.
IMPORTANT: The uniform rules will be enforced fully regardless of hardship as there is sufficient support for those most in need.
The school shop will also develop a virtual shop to facilitate an online uniform exchange between parents (See ‘c-Bay’ below).
BUYERS / PARENTS BEWARE: Please be aware that different schools have different standards of school uniform so the fact that an item is sold by a private business or shop as ‘school uniform’ does not mean that it will meets the requirements of Cranford’s uniform.
Additionally, we shall review and publish the scheme for accessing the Executive Headteacher’s Hardship Subsidy Fund, (EHTHSF) which can periodically help eligible families with periodic grants towards the costs of the uniform, educational materials and associated costs such as trips, interview expenses, industry placement costs, etc.
our students should not come to school by car.
We are very grateful to the vast majority of our parents who support the school in this appeal and, at the same time, are making an important contribution to their children’s development by encouraging greater independence and responsibility from their secondary agreed children.
It is disappointing that the school does not get support with this appeal from 100% of parents.
With the prices of vehicle fuel so high, there is an obvious incentive and means of saving money if you currently drive any child when they can perfectly well walk, cycle or take free public transport.
Apart from the obvious health and environmental benefits of reducing car use, congestion before and after school is a significant health risk and adds to the pollution levels from the nearby A4/M4, A30, A316 and the planes which now take off over the school since the end of the Cranford Agreement.
In the coming years, we will also be investing in electric vehicles and infrastructure for essential transport such as minibuses, on-site vehicles and staff vehicles as well as offering a competitive advantage to contractors who use electric vehicles.
Parental drop-off and pick-ups, even in electric vehicles, exacerbate the congestion, thus making the local pollution around the school worse at the very times when we most want the cleanest air for our children, as well as being wholly inconsiderate towards our valued neighbours. We are also lobbying the Council and its Highways Department to make changes to the road restrictions and layout near the academy, to address all the safety concerns and limit the problems caused by vehicles over 5.5 Tonnes, which also drive too fast when traffic is flowing and should be using the Parkway instead.
Parents known or seen to be driving their children to and/or from school may, from 1 September 2022, be deemed ineligible to claim any hardship funding and/or access subsidies from the academy, including the PE uniform subsidy. The exceptions to this are set out on the academy website.
We shall also be looking at ways of increasing the length of the school day for some students which will also potentially help families keep fuel costs down by reducing their own heating, lighting usage and food bills.
THE SCHOOL SHOP
The school shop will play a central role as the hub for some of the cost-of-living support strategies for our community.
- At Cranford, we provide ALL the educational materials and books necessary for our courses free of charge.
- There are also a number of supplementary resources, for example revision guides, which some parents / students want to purchase additionally and, for convenience and to minimise cost, we sell some of the most popular in the school shop and can order others.
This year, we envisage establishing a not for profit, second-hand book exchange at the school shop so that students can sell their old books to recoup a portion of the cost (depending on condition) at the end of their courses.
Younger students can then purchase them at a second-hand price as they embark on those courses.
- Similarly, we envisage establishing a not for profit, second-hand uniform exchange online with deposit / collection via the school shop
- We will also explore the technology to support a Cranford based online buying and selling site, to be referred to colloquially as ‘c-Bay’ with deposit / collection via the school shop
- We will also look into offering other value for money and helpful bundles such as a ‘Transition to University Starter Pack’ as well as support with the practicalities such as healthy eating on a budget.
- We are also freezing the cost of purchasing some educationally essential school shop items and will change suppliers as necessary to ensure we are offering the best possible value for money
- We will also make free sanitary products more readily available within school
COMMUNITY SPORTS & LETTINGS
We believe that it will be more important than ever for our community and young people to keep active and healthy.
There has been significant investment in the sports and lettings facilities recently including:
- Enlargement and complete modernisation of the changing rooms and showers. The showers may be of particular benefit if the school needs to offer a ‘warm bank’ provision in the winter.
- Resurfacing of the Tennis Courts, installation of flood lights and new fencing
- New floors in the Sports Hall, Upper Gym and Dance Studio (October 2022)
- Extension of self-access sports facilities around the academy site (Christmas 2022)
- New lighting and Wi-Fi installed in Cranford SuperDome
- Enlargement and refurbishment of event and classroom spaces
- The planned increase in the sports and lettings tariffs has been cancelled and prices frozen at last year’s level.
The restrictions of the Covid pandemic have now ended (please see the details of the current requirements on the academy website). The vaccination centre will continue to operate on-site in Autumn term 2022 offering the booster vaccine to people aged 50 years and older, residents in care homes for older people, those aged 5 years and over in a clinical risk group and health and social care staff.
The academy has installed new desktop computers in a number of classrooms during the summer 2022 break and upgraded other infrastructure.
There is a separate learning provision, known as the RAP Room, for any student who arrives to school late (details on the academy website).
Students and staff who are well enough to be in school should attend as pre-pandemic (please read the details on the academy website).
The reduction in Covid isolation requirements will mean that children will be allowed into school and will not generate additional electricity and gas costs by staying at home during the day.
There will, therefore, no longer be any remote learning from home offered on this basis.
Fund raising in 2022-23 will favour local charities supporting those with greatest need within our community.
We will be working with our charity partners and coordinating our support efforts with those of other local charities and charitable organisations (e.g. Heston West Big Local, Hounslow Council, C-Change, Hounslow’s Promise, Foodbanks, etc. …).
We believe that by coordinating our efforts with other organisations, we can multiply the impact for all.
EXTRA-CURRICULAR, REWARDS, COMPETITIONS & RECOGNITION
We shall be working with our students this year in a new impetus to restore ‘Pupil Voice’ post- pandemic and to redesign and ‘tier’ the academy’s systems for rewards and recognition.
Rewards will favour ‘extra-curricular’ activities and opportunities, especially those that support enhanced social and cultural capital and international activity.
We shall also be trialling extra-curricular competitions, with pilot programmes at Post 16 and Years 7 & 8.
We will also be seeking volunteers from the community, parents and other locals to help us to create this added value to the lives of our young people.
GO LOCAL: OPPORTUNITIES TO EARN ADDITIONALLY
During the coming year, we envisage making most additional paid opportunities and jobs available first and preferentially to suitable local applicants including:
- Students in the upper school,
- Our families, including former students (Alumni)
- Other members of our local community
- Staff, who might otherwise be considering second jobs elsewhere, and their families
These paid opportunities will include the multitude of ad hoc needs, including the occasional shift, hourly or daily paid work (zero hours) or internships where the academy would otherwise seek agency staff and well as contractual work.
We intend to develop, expand and energise the alumni network to support the community which has given them so much and helped them to success.
We will make a clear distinction between what is a paid role and what is a volunteer role and we will not use volunteers to occupy a job that should be paid.
WEBSITE, SOCIAL MEDIA & TEXT MESSAGES TO PARENTS
The academy website http://www.cranford.hounslow.sch.uk/ will become the main source of all information from the academy this year, including contractual job vacancies.
The ‘CONTACT US’ tab on the academy website is also going to become the virtually exclusive route for contacting the academy as we restrict our use of incoming telephone and email.
Outgoing communication will be via the academy website, social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc) and via greater use of text messaging to parents.
Future letters / newsletters to groups of parents/guardians will only be made available online via the academy website.
It is crucially important therefore that you take responsibility for making sure your mobile phone number, email address and other emergency contact details are always correct and up to date. You can update these details using the drop down menu within the ‘CONTACT US’ tab on the academy website homepage.
SOURCES OF HELP & ADVICE
The website will also include a variety of resources and links for self-help in a variety of subjects such as money management and safeguarding topics. I include some initial links in this letter as a starter:
MAYOR OF LONDON
Best wishes to all our community as we embark on a new and exciting year ahead
EXECUTIVE HEAD TEACHER
NATIONAL LEADER OF EDUCATION
MESSAGE FROM THE DfE: 8 SEPTEMBER 2022
You will have seen that, this morning, recognising the financial pressures which families and organisations across the country are under, the government has announced an ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ which will limit the price suppliers can charge customers for units of gas and electricity. Measures to tackle the root causes of the issues in the UK energy market through increased supply have also been announced.
Typical UK households will pay no more than £2,500 a year on their energy bill for the next two years from Saturday 1 October, saving the average household £1,000 a year based on current energy prices from October. This comes in addition to the announced £400 energy bills discount for all households and together they will bring costs close to where the energy price cap stands today.
There will also be a new six-month scheme for businesses and all non-domestic energy users, including charities and public sector organisations, which will offer equivalent support as is being provided for households. Providers in all DfE sectors will therefore be eligible.
After this initial six-month scheme, the government will provide ongoing, focused support for vulnerable sectors. There will be a review in 3 months’ time to consider where this should be targeted to make sure those most in need get support.
Further information is available at GOV.UK. More details of how support will be received will be published shortly