Principal's Update 20th November
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope you and your families remain safe and well.
Once again my congratulations to the students who are continuing to attend school and put up with wearing masks, moving to collection points throughout the day, continually sanitising and speaking to staff wearing masks every day without complaint and just trying to get the best education in the circumstances they possibly can.
They are a massive credit to you and their community.
Thanks also for the improvement to students going home. I am regularly on Withycombe Road and we are now seeing far fewer groups of students congregating there with students moving home in a timely way. Thank you for your help with this issue.
Once again my apologies for an update packed with information about Covid related matters. I very much look forward to a time when I can get back to telling you about the amazing things that are happening at the College, such as the new £3.4 million Maths block that will start after Christmas.
If you want to keep up to date with more positive life-affirming stories about how incredible our students are, please sign up to our official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. It only takes a second to sign up but I promise you it will lift your spirits!
In this update I wanted to touch on the following areas,
• Provide reassurance about recent cases
• Advice from Public Health England
• Emerging new symptom- headaches
• Sleepovers and self-isolation
• Returning to school within the self-isolation period
• Working on Teams when in self-isolation
• Thanks for your feedback!
Provide reassurance about recent cases:
As you are aware, like many schools in our area at the moment at both primary and secondary level, we have started to see our first positive Covid cases. As a nation, as well as locally in East Devon, cases are going up and we are really pleased that we took the decision to implement face coverings well before this became a national requirement for all secondary schools after lockdown. Pleasingly the vast majority of students remain committed to wearing their face coverings and sanitizing their hands- thank you to all of them for taking this situation do seriously.
It is clear that the number of positive cases varies enormously from school to school and we have seen schools locally close to whole year groups. Just on Friday, a secondary school in North Devon closed to all students due to increasing numbers of cases. It is therefore really important we do not get complacent and would appreciate your support in reminding your child about the importance of maintaining their distance from each other at all times, wearing face coverings and regularly sanitizing their hands.
To help students understand how we are managing the pandemic in college, they will be shown this presentation next week in their virtual assemblies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0S2jwSM3nc The presentation addresses some frequently asked questions whilst emphasising the importance of staying home when told to isolate. It also explains our in college Test and Trace process. Please do spend a few moments watching it for your own reassurance.
A Parent Guide to explain the process in a more detail has also been emailed to all Parents & Carers so you will know what to expect if your child is asked to leave college to isolate.
Support for Mental Health and Wellbeing for students:
We are aware that many students, but particularly for Year 11 and 13 students the uncertainty about their examinations as well as some of them having to self-isolate is causing significant levels of anxiety. If this is the case please encourage them to speak to the relevant pastoral team at College to see what extra support we can put in place.
We have already conducted some surveys with students about specific well-being issues and tailored our PSHE (Lesson 42) programme to offer guidance on these areas. For Year 7 we have also signed up to a programme designed to further develop their resilience which some of our Year 8 students completed last year.
We are also investing in additional help for the mental health and well-being of students from external organisations. We will shortly benefit from an extra 5 days a week of counselling for the rest of the academic year from Young Devon for our students. There will also be extra support for students from a range of other organisations who specialise in this area. This will also include some sessions offering advice and support for parents and carers so please look out for these events.
I am really sorry to have to ask any child to self-isolate but again please do contact us if your child is struggling with this or can’t access their work.
I also recognise that sending students home during the day is difficult for families and so thank you so much for doing your best to pick students up as quickly as possible.
Advice from Public Health England (PHE):
Firstly thank you to all those parents and carers that have contacted us so promptly about a positive test for their child or someone within their family. This is really useful and helps us to put our response plans into action very quickly.
Just to reassure you, whenever we receive notification of a positive case, our first action is to contact PHE about what we should do next and we always follow their advice to keep everyone safe. Where two cases may have occurred in the same year group they carefully examine the circumstances and whether the cases might have transmitted the virus at school or within the community. So far, PHE have been very happy with our processes and believe that our cases are most likely to be happening through community transmission.
This fact makes it really important to remind your child, both in and out of school, to be keeping themselves as safe as possible and maintain their distance from others wherever possible.
Emerging new symptom- headaches:
Some time ago we sent information out to parents and carers about other less well known symptoms of Covid which we had found on the BBC. One that schools and PHE are now reporting as becoming more prevalent is a headache and so this may be something to watch for. If in doubt please do not send your child in but wait to see if further symptoms like the cough, high temperature and loss of smell/taste develop.
Remember our first line of defence is making sure the virus does not get into our school and you have been brilliant at being really proactive in keeping your child away from school if you have any concerns. Thank you.
Sleepovers and self-isolation:
Unfortunately, we have heard some rumours about some students who were meant to be self-isolating meeting up with each other in different houses or meeting other students at the end of the school day outside the College. If this is the case can you please urge your child not to engage in these activities since they could well help the spread of the virus into your household. The self-isolation period is 14 days due to the time it takes to emerge and so even towards the end of the fortnight your child could still develop symptoms and/or become infectious.
Returning to school within the self-isolation period:
We have had some questions about students returning before the end of the 14 day self-isolation period if they test negative for Covid. We have checked the guidance and spoken to PHE about this issue and they are very clear that you should not get a test without symptoms and that even if you do, and it is negative, then you still need to complete the full self-isolation period. This is because, due to the gestation period of the virus, you may test negative at a certain point only to then test positive or develop symptoms later in the self-isolation period. I am afraid for us we just cannot take that risk. Thank you for your understanding on this issue.
Working on Teams when in self-isolation:
If you do have to go into self-isolation it will be really important to ensure your child remains as connected to their work as possible. Staff have been asked to upload materials such as Knowledge Organisers and web links to resources for their subject areas on to the Teams area which can be accessed from our website through the Unify staff/student button on the home page .
If you are having difficulty finding these resources please contact the appropriate subject leader whose email address you can find at https://www.exmouthcollege.devon.sch.uk/contact-us and will be able to help. We have asked staff to try and keep these areas as up to date as possible and contact you each week to see you’re your child is getting on.
Obviously with only a relatively small, but growing number of students at home, staff will still be busy teaching lessons to those students in school, so I hope you will understand that we will try and do our best to contact everyone but it may not always be possible.
If, however, you are having significant problems or serious concerns for example, about too little or too much work or accessing the work please do not hesitate to proactively get in touch with us sooner rather than later.
Thanks for your feedback!
Finally thanks for your feedback, both good, or indeed things you wants us to try and develop more. We always welcome your feedback, including from students, and so thank you for taking the time to send your comments in to us.
At the end of quite a long week, we were delighted to receive the following comment from a Year 7 parent on Friday which really lifted everyone’s spirits at the College. Thank you to them for sending it in and hope you all have a lovely and safe weekend.
"I wanted to let you know how impressed I have been with the communication from the school generally but also from my child’s individual teachers. My daughter has mailed her work in everyday to her tutors and everyone has replied either the same day or first thing the following morning, giving her feedback and even awarding points, this has provided my child with great motivation through the week. Considering most of my child’s class remain in school, this has been brilliant by her teachers.
Please can you pass on my thanks to her teachers, it’s certainly made things easier for us as parents while we’ve been home working."