There is no doubt this academic year has been exceptionally difficult for a wide variety of reasons, not least the current pandemic which has seen many students having to work from home since before Easter. This has presented significant challenges for teachers, students and parents and we have tried our best to support all members of our school community through the last four months. I would like to thank parents for the overwhelming support you have provided to your children, the school and myself, and I am sure that you share my hopes that we can welcome back all students in September. We have been open for the children of key-workers and those students identified as being vulnerable every weekday since we were told to close on 20 March, including through the holiday periods and bank holidays. The school will close to students on Thursday 16 July, however there will be a lot going on to ensure the site is ready for September.
The government narrative and media coverage has focussed heavily on students ‘being behind in their studies’ and needing to ‘catch up’. I am well aware that this messaging has created additional anxiety amongst students and parents, especially those that feel they have struggled with home learning or are feeling anxious for other reasons. I hope families are reassured to know that many students feel like this, not only in our school, but right across the country. In September we will be keen to further reassure students and support their well-being, encouraging students to stay calm, be positive and try their very best in every lesson; ‘learning gaps’ will be closed over a period of time and support will be offered wherever possible.
We have had time to consider the government guidance but it has been a huge challenge to translate this into specific plans to ensure we can open the school to all students safely and in a manner that supports both student well-being and academic progress. We are currently updating our risk assessment and this will be available on the school website at the end of August.
We are well aware that each year group will have specific needs, for example Year 6 have not had the usual transition programme and Years 10 and 12 will be concerned about timescales given they are sitting their examinations next summer. Regarding the latter point, we are awaiting information from Ofqual (the body responsible for examinations in England) about any modifications to the examinations in 2021, and we expect this to be made available before the start of the new school year.
I have sought to provide answers to some frequently asked questions below and hope that these provide some clarification and reassurance at this uncertain time.
When will my child start in September?
As mentioned in my previous letter dated 8 July, we moved the two INSET days from Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 September as we have had to cancel our open evening. Students will now be required to attend on those two days and this will provide much needed continuity at the start of the year. As such, Year 7 and 12 students will start on Thursday 3 September, with rest of the school returning on Friday 4 September.
How will the school day be different in September?
Whilst we are keen to return to as much normality as possible we have had to make a number of changes to how we will operate in September. The government’s guidance is clear that social distancing within a year group will not be possible. As such, students in each year group should be kept separate from other year groups wherever possible (Years 12 and 13 are classed as a single year group as their combined size is the same as a main school year group). As a consequence, students will be based in a particular zone in school and for the most part, teachers will move to the students rather than the other way round. The only exception will be when students need to access specialist facilities in subjects like science, technology, art, music, dance, drama and PE. To ensure we can implement this guidance we have had to make the following amendments:
- Students should not arrive before 8.25am. When they do arrive, they should enter school by the designated entrance for their year group and follow the route to their form room (information on this is attached at the bottom of this letter, including a list of form rooms).
- To create five separate entrances, we will be closing the turning circle on Greens Lane so that students can use this entrance safely. In the interests of safety, given there may be more parents choosing to drive their children to school, the difficult access and increased numbers of students walking down Greens Lane, I would respectfully ask that parents drop their children off on Broadway.
- Initially at least, there will be no food served before school or at break time. Students should bring a snack with them if they want something to eat at these times. Similarly, water machines will not be in operation and students are advised to bring a full water bottle with them. Small bottles of water will be on sale through the school’s cashless system at break and lunchtime, though we hope students would use this facility only if absolutely essential.
- To ensure we can keep year groups apart we have had to make small changes to the timings of lessons. Years 7, 9 and 11 will have a break at one time, with Years 8 and 10 at another.
- We have also had to modify lunch arrangements, with students in each year group getting a dedicated 20-minute slot to access the canteen. Food will be served quicker, as menus will be limited and there will be fewer students on each sitting. Students will have an additional ten-minute break at lunch, which will be taken on their return to the classroom. Students may wish to bring a packed lunch, especially in the first week until we can see how these plans translate into reality.
- Year groups will be dismissed from school at one-minute intervals, starting with Year 7 at 2:45pm (2.05pm on Wednesdays).
Will the buses be operating as usual?
As mentioned in my previous letter of 8 July, Transdev are hoping to classify a number of the buses our students travel on, as ‘school buses’, so that they can operate at full capacity. At the time of writing, given that students from all years will be travelling on public transport, face coverings are still expected to be worn.
We are awaiting the bus timetables from Transdev, and these will be shared with you once we receive them.
Will teaching look different?
Whilst students will not always be able to socially distance from their peers in year groups, adults in school are expected to maintain all the current socially distancing guidelines. As such, teachers will have to teach from the front and will not be able to circulate round the class as usual. In general classrooms, desks have been rearranged to face forward and adaptions to teaching arrangements will be made in specialist rooms. Students will continue to work in exercise books where appropriate, though some staff may choose to mark work in different ways, for example some may mark the books themselves, whilst others may ask students to photograph their work and upload it, with marking being electronic or through voice-recorded feedback.
Are face coverings permitted in school?
There has been much discussion about face coverings, especially given the changes in rules relating to shops and other enclosed spaces and the government messaging certainly appears to lack clarity. The current guidance seems to suggest that students should not be permitted to wear face coverings in school. The Department for Education has confirmed yesterday that it does not intend to change the guidance for education settings, and has provided the following statement:
“Public Health England does not (based on current evidence) recommend the use of face coverings in schools. This evidence will be kept under review. They are not required in schools as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups, and because misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. There may also be negative effects on communication and thus education.
“Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in shops.”
It has been pointed out to the DfE that this does not answer the question as to whether schools can permit individual students to wear face coverings if they wish. Further clarity on this may emerge over the next six weeks.
What equipment should my child bring to school?
In the current climate students should not be sharing common items of equipment. It would be very helpful if students could bring with them the following:
- two pens
- green pen
- pencil sharpener
- children’s safety scissors
- glue stick
- headphones (specifically for use in modern foreign language lessons)
- iPad (students will not be able to borrow an iPad for a day if they forget to bring their own)
We would also encourage students to bring hand sanitiser with them wherever possible.
Has the school’s behaviour policy changed?
The school has always taken great pride in establishing high expectations in all aspects of school life and September will be no exception. The new term will undoubtedly bring new challenges for staff, students and parents and for a smooth return to school it is vital that all students adhere to our Eight Expectations and conduct themselves in a spirit of co-operation. We are really keen to ensure that we establish and maintain a safe environment for all students in the current climate. As such we have drafted an addendum to the Behaviour for Learning Policy that highlights some specific instructions that must be followed in order to create a safe, positive environment which is conducive to students’ learning.
I would just like to remind the parents of Year 13 and Year 11 students that the exam results days are Thursday 13 and Thursday 20 August, respectively. Further details have already been shared with both students and parents about the arrangements for these events.
I am very hopeful that we have managed to secure funding for a perimeter fence for the school. This will greatly enhance our ability to keep students safe and help us manage the site more effectively. This has been a long, complicated process, and we have not had final confirmation, though I was hopeful work on this would start over the summer break. You may be aware that we have been unable to use our Astroturf as it had come to the end of its natural life and was a health and safety risk. Work on this is currently taking place and should be available for use at the start of term.
This year we are saying goodbye to a number of members of teaching staff: Mr Slinger, Mrs Piggott, Ms Wade and Mrs O’Connor. In addition, Mr Povey leaves us after having taught French for the last thirty-eight years at Haslingden High School, many of those as head of the subject. Mr. Povey has made a huge contribution to our school in many ways, including taking part in a wide range of trips and supporting a number of extra-curricular activities and will always be remembered as the inaugural sixth form quiz master. I would like to thank all members of staff who are leaving this summer for their contribution to our school and wish them every success for the future.
Although school will be shut for students over the summer break, there will still be a lot going on in preparation for September. If you have any queries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond as soon as possible.
I would like to wish all parents, carers and students a restful summer break and I look forward to welcoming all our students back safe and well in September.
Additional information about routes into and out of school are given below, as well as a list of form tutor rooms for September.
Routes into School