Principal's Update 24th February 2021
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you and your families remain safe and well. As I am sure you are aware, on Monday night, the Government set out their expectations for the return of students to school from 8th March 2021. We are delighted to be able to welcome students back to face to face learning and try to return to some sort of normality; even if we are not quite yet back to the full range of school opportunities, extra-curricular activities, events and social time which we all miss so much. I appreciate that for some students they will be very excited and pleased about the return, whilst others may be anxious about the return to classes and moving around the College after being away for a prolonged period of time. All our staff are committed to ensuring we do everything possible to prepare all students for the return and so, if you do have any concerns that arise over the next few days, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss further.
I am conscious there is a lot of information to send out over the coming days and so I will try to break the information down into various subjects across several updates so that you do not get too overloaded. We are currently working on developing our plans to meet the new guidance that was issued on Monday by the Department for Education and so the purpose of this first update is to give you an overview of the key changes that the Government have put in place to keep everyone safe.
Most of our processes will remain the same Pleasingly the measures we introduced for the Autumn Term worked really well and, despite rising infection rates, with students, families and staff all working together, we kept everyone safe and limited the number of infections in our College and community. Therefore, all our Covid protocols, such as, regular hand sanitizing, collection points, staggered starts, one way systems, arrangements for lunch, wearing PE kit into school for PE lessons, behaviour expectations, wearing full uniform, staggered breaks and wearing face coverings around the site will all remain in place. Attendance at school will once again become mandatory from the 8th March. We will issue more details over the coming days on this, again, however, if you have concerns about this area please speak to your child’s pastoral team. Three key changes
1.Wearing face coverings in lessons
The first big change in the guidance is that it is now “recommended that face coverings should be worn in classrooms or during activities unless social distancing can be maintained”. In our classrooms it will be impossible to maintain 2 metre social distancing and so face coverings will need to be worn in lessons. The Government will review this part of the guidance at Easter. For those students who have been working on site during lockdown this will not be a change since they have been wearing face coverings in their classrooms throughout the term. However, this is a significant change for others and so this may cause a concern initially for some students. We have seen over the past few weeks that face coverings in classrooms can work however, as always, if you or your child is concerned please do not hesitate to get in touch. We would prefer students to not wear snoods and they may need to bring in more than one mask each day particularly if using the surgical masks which can’t be used for more than four hours or when they get damp. We will re-issue guidance around the use of face coverings separately. As previously, we are aware, and support, students who are medically exempt from wearing face coverings but just ask that they have an exemption card to show when asked. Thank you for your support with this.
2.Testing on return
The new guidance requires the school to test all students on return and for them to receive a negative test before they are allowed to return to face to face learning. It is important to note that testing is voluntary, however, we have now completed thousands of tests on site for students and staff without a problem and we know that the tests can detect asymptomatic cases of Covid infection which protects everyone in College, their families and our community. We will shortly send out consent forms for you to complete but again we know that the prospect of a test will cause anxiety for some students. If that is the case please get in touch so we can walk you through the process which is both quick and entirely painless plus the Test Centre staff are all really kind, patient and caring. A rota to get everyone tested The guidance allows schools to put in place a rota for students to return during the week beginning 8th March so that everyone can get tested. We are currently developing this rota for each year group to start returning and getting tested without mixing with any other year group. We will issue details of this shortly. Remote learning will continue during this week, though there may be less live teaching since all staff will return to site to start welcoming classes, and we will continue to welcome our critical worker and vulnerable children throughout the week as normal. Additional volunteers to work in the test centre We have already spent a great deal of time thinking about how we will ensure that we will be able to offer every child three Lateral Flow Tests over the first week or so in order that we have the best chance of picking up any asymptomatic cases. Our plans are beginning to crystallise but it is very apparent that we will need more volunteers to get through this number of tests over such a small time scale. We will therefore be contacting all the volunteers (who have been brilliant over the past few weeks!) as well as asking for any more volunteers to come forward, particularly for the two weeks beginning 8th March when the bulk of testing will take place. If you feel you are able to offer some time to volunteer (training is provided) please complete this electronic form: Volunteer Form
3. Testing Students at Home
The final change to the guidance is that after the initial 3 tests for each student over the first couple of weeks back, students (and staff) will then be sent test kits home to test themselves twice a week with the results reported to NHS Test and Trace either online or by phone as per the kit instructions. The result should also be reported to the College whatever the result. More details on this will follow in due course.
Thanks for reading this far…… Apologies for giving out so much information in one update but I wanted to give you the overall picture so that you are in a position to talk through, and importantly reassure your young person what will happen as we begin to return to face to face teaching. Of course, as we did previously, our pastoral teams, counsellors, coaches, tutors, SEND teams and our Aim Higher mentors will all be available to support your child from now and right through the process of returning. We will also put in place additional Lesson 42 (PSHE) support and signposting on our website for families to get an extra help while students re-connect to their curriculum. In order to break up the information we will also shortly issue information about the testing rota and when students need to start to return, consent forms for testing, a reminder of the timings of the school day and information around expectations, praise and attendance so please keep a close eye on your emails, our website and social media over the coming days.
As ever thank you for your continued support.
Andrew Davis Principal
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