We have had a very positive end to the year with an increasing number of key worker children attending school, and a significant proportion of students in Year 10 and Year 12 able to return to school, albeit on a limited basis. It has been great to see students smiling and happy to be in school, and keen to continue their learning with face to face contact with their teachers.
You may be aware the government guidance on schools opening in September was released on Thursday and this provided the clear message that all students will be back in school full time in September; what was less clear was how schools could translate that instruction into reality. The guidance itself can be found here.
Whilst we are all really looking forward to seeing our students return in September, there is a considerable challenge in keeping any risk to an absolute minimum, and this has been the key factor in our plans. The guidance is clear that the DfE expects schools to reopen to all students at the start of term, with full-time provision for all, and for students to be accessing the full curriculum (with only slight modifications, where needed). The following factors were uppermost in our minds when planning for September:
- ensuring procedures are in place which minimise the risk of contracting the virus for all members of our community;
- re-establishing relationships, routines and positive attitudes;
- ensuring there are effective procedures for dealing with anyone who is symptomatic or where there are confirmed cases;
- effective hand-washing facilities/routines and good respiratory conditions;
- enhanced cleaning of surfaces;
- maintaining year group bubbles;
- minimising student movement where possible.
The senior leadership team have already spent a significant amount of time planning for September and our plans are currently embryonic in many ways, but I wanted to share our current thinking to provide you with the reassurance that we are doing all that we can to ensure school opens safely in September and that it supports both our students’ learning and well being.
The guidance is clear that students are to remain in their year group ‘bubble’ throughout the day and we need to make sure that students in each year are kept apart from those in other year groups whilst they are in school (Year 12 and 13 are considered as one ‘bubble’ as the combined number of students is similar to a year group in the main school). To support this, we are providing separate routes into school for each year group, planning for students to be taught in general classrooms that are located together so the teachers move classrooms rather than students, and ensuring that they have separate locations for breaks and lunches – a huge challenge in itself! The government are clear that they want students to access the full curriculum so we will need to manage access to specialist rooms carefully, for example in science, computing, technology, PE and the performing arts. The guidance suggests that social distancing for students within in each year group will not take place, but adults are expected to maintain this wherever possible.
As such teachers will need to stay at the front of the class and will not be able to circulate and support students as they normally would.
After careful consideration we have concluded that different start times are not practicable and we can only stagger the end of school by a short amount of time for each year group. We will though, need to stagger break times and students will access a location that is separate from other year groups. There will be no food served before school or at break and students may want to bring a snack and drink with them. Lunchtimes will take place during an extended period 5. There will be five lunch slots, one for each year group. Students will have 20 minutes to access the canteen/hall with a further ten minute ‘break’ in their classroom. Students are encouraged to bring a packed lunch with them or alternatively they can purchase a meal in the canteen as usual, though there will be a reduced choice. We want to minimise the amount of cash handled in school and would therefore ask that parents use ParentPay wherever possible to credit their child’s lunch accounts or pay by cheque.
In terms of travelling to school, the government has made a distinction between dedicated school transport (school buses) and general public transport. The guidance indicates that social distancing is not required on dedicated school transport and as such ‘school buses’ can operate as they have always done, with students sitting in close proximity. Currently all transport accessed by students at Haslingden High School is available for use by the wider public and as such would be subject to social distancing rules. This would mean that those buses would only be able to operate with at most a 25% occupancy. This would clearly create difficulties in transporting the numbers of students required to attend school. This is a significant issue for all secondary schools in Rossendale and the headteachers have met with the Commercial Director of Transdev to discuss our concerns. We have been advised that Transdev are putting plans in place to reclassify the buses our students use to get to and from school as ‘school buses’ and so should be able to meet the demand. This is a complex logistical problem for Transdev to resolve and we have been informed that information relating to revised times and services will be made available next week. I will keep you updated as soon as I have more information. The government advice is still that students should avoid public transport where possible and you may consider encouraging your child to walk or cycle where this is an option.
The emphasis in school will continue to be on prevention of the transmission of the virus and I respectfully ask that parents support us in keeping the whole of our school community safe. If your child is not well or is exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 then they should stay at home and engage with the NHS test and trace scheme if necessary. We will be putting enhanced cleaning regimes in place and will be encouraging students to wash their hands and employ the ‘catch it kill it bin it’ approach to promote good hand and respiratory hygiene. There will be foot operated pedal bins and hand sanitiser in every classroom, though we would encourage all students to bring hand sanitiser with them wherever possible. Students will need to bring with them all the equipment they will need for school as sharing of equipment will not be possible. Parents are respectfully requested to make an appointment if they need to come into school for any reason. Your co-operation with this would be greatly appreciated.
There will not be any extra-curricular activities at the start of the year, but we hope we can start to offer these again as soon as it is practical to do so. I firmly believe these are an essential part of school life at Haslingden High School and we normally offer a wide range of opportunities for students to pursue their interests and aptitudes. We look forward to seeing the return of the vibrancy of school life at the end of the school day.
We pride ourselves on the high standards we set regarding all aspects of school life, including behaviour in school and the standard of dress. Full school uniform will be expected in September and I thank parents for their support in this matter. If there are any particular problems relating to school uniform please contact the relevant head of year in the first instance. Our Eight Expectations have never been more important and we will need to amend our behaviour for learning policy to take account of the current circumstances, in order to further support the health, safety and welfare of all our school community. We will ensure that you are updated on any changes that affect your child. It is essential that we work together to support our young people through what has been a very difficult time for many and we will be supporting students as best we can to ensure the return to school is as smooth and successful as possible. We understand that students will have been affected by the pandemic in a wide variety of ways and want to help in any way we can.
Finally, we will not be able to hold our Open Day or Open Evening next term and so we have decided to move the INSET days which are allocated to facilitate these; students are now expected to be in school on Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 September. We have moved one of the INSET days to Wednesday 2 September and this allows us a little bit more time to prepare for the return of our students and the revised start to the year is as follows:
Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 September: Staff Inset days, no students in school.
Thursday 3 September: Years 7 and 12 in school.
Friday 4 September: All students in school.
The second INSET day has been moved to Monday 4 January 2021. An updated list of term dates for 2020-2021 can be found here.
I will provide a further update before the end of term. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.