Christmas newsletter 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

I can hardly believe we have reached the end of another calendar year. The beginning of this term signalled much hope that we could return to some of the things we had missed the year before. Admittedly, it has not been quite as straight forward as we may have liked, but there have been many highlights and successes, for which our Birch Wood community can be extremely proud.

Finalist- Leicestershire School of the Year 2021

Many of you will be aware that we discovered in late November that we were one of three finalists for ‘Leicestershire School of the Year 2021’. On December 9th, members of the leadership team including Hannah O’Mara, Robbie Hesketh, Michelle Walker and Claire Wood accompanied me to a sparkling awards event at the King Power Stadium, where professionals from across the county, celebrated achievements from the world of education. Although we were not the overall winner, it was amazing to be able to represent the work of special schools in Leicestershire and reflect on how fantastic our staff and students are.

Wider curriculum

This term many of our students have again been experiencing learning activities in the community and impressively on the stage. On Sunday 7th November, students from the Moving Together Group took part in a day of live dance performances at the Y Theatre in Leicester. Congratulations on being part of such a wonderful show Holly Curtis, Caitlin Drinkwater, Savannah Davies, Josh Kennedy, Kimberly Twist, Annalise Nuggent, Ellie Brightwell, Holly Hunter, Emma Atterbury, Leanna Henson, Poppy Hearne and Kerenza Gee. You were all amazing as were the staff that gave up their day to support the event.

Also this half term students from Ashton House have been attending sessions at Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre; it has been inspiring to watch the students try new activities and challenge themselves to achieve things that they thought were impossible.

Sport and PE

Exciting sporting events have also been in abundance this term, students have accessed a range of sports within their lessons from new sports like Kin-ball, through to more traditional sports like tag rugby with Leicester Tigers. Some of our students have been lucky to access sessions with Leicester Wheels and our Year 7’s at Birch Wood Vale have accessed a specialist Basketball session. Students across both sites have also competed in the Virtual Sports Hall Athletics competition – we are awaiting the results but we are hopeful that Birch Wood will do well due to the mass participation by many of our students! Don’t forget you can follow all our sporting achievements on the Birch Wood Sport & PE Facebook and Instagram accounts

Charity Events

This term also saw us celebrate Jeans for Jeans Day, Children In Need, National Anti-Bullying Week, World Diabetes Day and Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day. Thank you to families for supporting with this and helping us raise money for these worthy causes. I would also like to thank you for your food and household donations for the local Storehouse charity, which due to your generosity we were able to support again this year. Storehouse will now put together the donations into food bags for those most in need. The items Storehouse give away are because of referrals they receive from local organisations such as Melton Borough Council and Children’s Centres.

Bikers Run

This year also saw the return of the Nottingham Triumph Owners Motorcycle Club Toy Run! Over 200 motorbikes (many dressed as Santa, snowman and reindeers) descended on Birch Wood where they received bacon or sausage rolls or hot soup. In return, they delivered hundreds of toys for our students, which we presented this week. In addition the bikers made a collection which raised £461.43p which we have put towards selection boxes for some of our older students at Birch Wood Vale and Ashton House Thank you to all the staff volunteers and of course the amazing bikers!

Christmas Card Competition

The annual Headteacher’s Christmas card competition winners this year are Sean Bristow – 7LC, Aanya Mistry – 7DP and 1RS – whole class effort. I am sure you will agree the cards are lovely and highlight the student’s imagination and creativity. Every child and young person at Birch Wood will receive a Christmas card- so watch out for those in schools bags today when they get home.

Virtual Christmas Show

Our virtual Christmas Show will be emailed out to all parents today; we will also share snippets via Facebook over the Christmas period. I am sure you will agree it is an amazing production, which highlights the beautiful diversity, inclusiveness and talents of our student population. I would like to thank everyone involved in putting the performances together, but especially Hannah, Matt and Dan who produced and edited the film. I know it has taken many hours of work to ensure we do our student’s efforts real justice.


At Birch Wood we continually reflect and review, what we do and how we do it. This term we have been reviewing our curriculum to ensure that what we deliver in the classroom enables your child to achieve their personal best by building on prior knowledge and skills. We have put details of our curriculum pathways on the website and you will receive more information on these in the New Year. You will also be able to see the Long Term Curriculum Maps for your child on the website by the end of January. Our Curriculum newsletters will be with you shortly after Christmas. If have any questions please speak to your child’s form tutor, class teacher or Phil Leaney- Lead for Professional Development and Learning, as we know our young people do best when we work in partnership with parents.

Hello, Goodbye and Congratulations!

This term we will say goodbye to Grianne McNally, who has been teaching in 1BN this half term, we would like to thank Grianne for her hard work and care this term and wish her all the best in her future endeavours. Next term we will welcome EYFS/KS1 teacher Anneka Masson to 1BN, Anneka is an experienced EYFS practitioner with a passion for SEND, she has spent some time in class over the last week and is looking forward to meeting parents next term. We would also like to welcome back Courtney Glover from maternity leave, who will be joining 5CA as a Senior Teaching Assistant 4 days a week.

Huge congratulations are in order for English Teacher Anna Leaman and her family for the safe arrival of their little baby girl this week. Anna’s classes will be covered by teachers Emily Saxby and Catherine Mitchell in her absence. Amy Dunstan, Assistant Head will also be taking some extended paternity leave in the new year to be with her baby girl who is also expected this side of Christmas! I am sure you will join me in wishing her and her partner all the best of luck on this new adventure. Amy’s paternity leave will be covered by Joe Knowles- Lorriman and Robbie Hesketh, both who will be stepping up as Acting Assistant Head’s in the New Year.

Covid Response

In terms of our Covid response to government announcements, we have already prepared contingencies for various eventualities, as our experience indicates that the situation is likely to change a number of times over the coming weeks.  If necessary, we will contact you with any final details of our arrangements before students return on January 4th 2022. We have already written to all parents and careers about testing in the New Year, this information is on our website in the letters section. We have conducted over 900 LFD tests on site this term, thanks to the efforts of our onsite testing team, Nicky O’Dare, Rebecca Gray and Sarah Alldridge. We will continue to adopt the highest standards safety in light of the new variant and levels of community infection, these measures include the use of facemasks for all teachers, class bubbles, enhanced hand hygiene and cleaning as we go. An updated version of our Covid guidance will be available on our website by January 4th; this will include updates from the government over the Christmas period.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your continued support over the last term. It remains an immense privilege to be Headteacher of Birch Wood and work with this fantastic community. Please do continue to contact me with your ideas, concerns or suggestions, as I believe together we can keep making the positive difference for all our children and young people. Have a safe and merry Christmas, best wishes for 2022!

Yours sincerely

Rosalind Hopkins