This half term has been exceptionally challenging in school in a wide variety of ways, with the pandemic impacting on a significant number of our school community. The infection rates across Lancashire have seen the county placed in Tier 3, the highest category of classification, where rates are deemed to be ‘very high’. East Lancashire is an area within the county that has been particularly hard hit and community transmission has been identified by Public Health England as the key contributory factor so far. We have been in regular contact with Lancashire County Council and Public Health England who both concluded we have followed all the government guidance rigorously and robustly and, in their opinion, have handled the situation very well. Their support has been very reassuring as we want to do all we can to keep students and staff, and their families safe.
I would like to thank parents for your support as we continue to work hard in school to keep your child’s education as ‘normal as possible’, given the very abnormal situation we are working in on a daily basis. I fully understand that things are not perfect, and we are continuing to review all that we do in school to try to improve our provision for your children. This week has been particularly difficult for a variety of reasons, not least the fact we have had a number of members of the site team absent, and simply keeping the school open has been a challenge in itself.
It is essential that we minimise transmission and that is why school has been operating very differently in a number of ways since September. To support this, please could we ask again that you do not send your child into school if they have one or more of the following symptoms, and arrange for them to have a test:
• new continuous cough
• fever (a temperature of 37.8°C or higher)
• loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell
Please do not send your child in for us to ‘check’; if in doubt please keep them at home and arrange for them to have a test as soon as possible.
I would like to thank parents for their support in helping us uphold the school’s ‘8 Expectations’. Given the restricted way schools are operating at the moment, in the interests of maintaining a calm, safe and harmonious community, it is even more important that students get the basics right in terms of uniform, behaviour and general cooperation. The overwhelming majority of students have been fantastic this term and have been an absolute credit to themselves and to you.
Another area that will need regularly revisiting will be the wearing and safe use of face masks. All students are expected to adhere to the government guidelines regarding their use in school and when accessing transport or shops within the local community and your conversations to reinforce these would be greatly appreciated. We would also welcome your support in frequent checks of your child’s mask(s) and ensuring that they have it on their person ready for the school day. We have been issuing masks each day, at a cost of 50p, where students have forgotten to bring them, however, this is placing a strain on our already stretched resources in school.
March seems a lifetime ago and we are acutely aware of the ongoing impact that the current situation is having on our students and staff, and their families. Through daily conversations with colleagues, parents and students, it is clear that the pandemic has affected different people in different ways. The fact that we are now eight months further on without a clear end in sight has inevitably resulted in this having a negative impact on the wellbeing of our community. Haslingden High School remains passionate and committed to ensuring we help those within our extended school family. In school, we have structured our assembly programmes to address some of the main concerns that have emerged or have been heightened due to the pandemic and continue to work with and invite external services in to our school. The school nurse continues to be available for appointments and we are pleased to announce that the mental health in schools team will commence their work in Rossendale from January, seeing eight specialist practitioners work across local schools.
We have also continued to update our website with helpful links to advice and services for both parents and students and would like to remind you of the support available via Kooth, the free online mental health and wellbeing app. There is also a parents’ helpline that is provided by YoungMinds and is available for concerns relating to anyone under the age of 25. We hope this will be of help to our students and their families, particularly during the upcoming half term.
Reporting positive Covid-19 tests during half term
Responding to a single positive case is a difficult, time consuming task that takes several hours in itself. We fulfil the role of track and trace and identify close contacts of the infected student during lessons, before school, at break, lunchtime and after school. Once identified, the government guidance requires close contacts to self- isolate for 14 days from the date of the last close contact with the infected person. The task of identifying close contacts will be even more challenging over half term but we feel it is important that, wherever possible, we will endeavour to inform parents where their child has been a ‘close contact’ in school. This information will be provided via an email and I would ask that you check your emails regularly if possible, especially this weekend and for the first couple of days of the half term break.
We would ask parents to be mindful that, during half term, we will be working remotely and will not have access to all the resources we have during a normal working week. We will not be able to access registers at this time and therefore will notify you of potential close contacts and ask that you consider whether your child was present on that day to ascertain whether they need to isolate. If there is more than one day where your child may have been in close contact then you will receive more than one email. Your child should then isolate until the later of
the identified dates. When we return to school after half term we will check the attendance records in the usual way.
If you do receive confirmation of a positive test for your child over the half term please email me directly on email@example.com.
We fully appreciate how difficult this situation is and how disrupted the learning of some students has been this half term, and indeed since March this year. It is important that students are reassured that many people across the country are in a similar position and as a school we will support them to achieve their potential in exams next summer and beyond.
We will be running assessments as usual in order to better understand gaps in learning and to help teachers plan to address those gaps. We are mindful of the anxieties many students may have about these assessments and teachers will be discussing the purpose of these with their classes and will hopefully be able to offer the reassurances students require. Whilst we do not want to alarm students, we do want to strongly encourage them to work hard in class when they are in school and on any remote learning tasks they are required to undertake
during any period of self-isolation. It is a difficult balance to achieve and we welcome your support to regularly motivate and reassure your child in the coming weeks and months.
Year 11 mock exams
The year 11 ‘mock exams’ are calendared from Wednesday 18 until Friday 27 November. These will be going ahead as planned but, as mentioned above, will take a very different role this year in how these are used to support students in their preparation for the summer exams. These will be used to identify gaps in students’ learning and, in many cases, will not be directly indicative of the likely final grade. Again, your child’s class teachers will be discussing these assessments with their classes and will endeavour to alleviate any concerns they may have. We
would encourage students to prepare for these assessments as best as possible but we don’t want students feeling unduly under pressure and this having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing.
GCSE and A-level exams 2021
Schools in Scotland have already been informed that GCSE equivalent exams will not take place next summer and their A-Level equivalent exams will be delayed by three weeks. In England, huge concerns have been raised at a national level about the current unfairness of a situation where some students have seen no disruption to learning and others have been in school only a few weeks so far this year. The north of England has been significantly impacted and this situation looks like it will not resolve itself quickly.
As you may have seen, the Department for Education (DfE) has announced last week that GCSE, AS and A-level exams will go ahead next summer – and teachers and students will be given a bit more time to prepare for them, to help make up for the disruption caused by the pandemic. Most exams will take place three weeks later than usual. The summer exam series will start on 7 June and end on 2 July for almost all A-levels and GCSEs. However, one GCSE English and one GCSE maths paper will be scheduled before the summer half term, to give students affected by Covid-19 the best chance of being able to sit at least one paper in these two qualifications.
Some exams for A-level qualifications which typically have low entry numbers will be scheduled before the half term break too. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) have recently published a provisional version of the new exam timetable for summer 2021. There will also be adjustments to the timetable for Vocational and Technical Qualifications. Results days will be a little later than usual – on Tuesday 24 August for AS and A-levels, and Friday 27 August for GCSEs. I feel sure there will be more on this topic in the coming weeks!
Year 13 Parents Evening (Wednesday 18 November) & Year 10 Parents Evening (Wednesday 25 November)
We have two parents evenings calendared for next month and, given the current situation, holding these events face to face in school is not possible at present. We are exploring a number of options for these to take place on the above dates as planned using a video conferencing platform. We are looking for a package that is easy to use, can be accessed via a range of devices (including mobile phones) and supports running a complex event like a parents evening, where appointment times are key. We will provide further information on this shortly after half term.
Schools have been asked to gain parental support in protecting passengers and drivers whilst students use public transport and have asked us pass on the following message by Lancashire County Council: The county council is urging pupils aged 11 and over to wear face coverings on school buses, throughout the journey, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep children in school. It is the law now for everyone aged 11 and over to wear face coverings on public buses and is currently advisory on school buses. However following reports that many high school aged children aren’t following the advice, Lancashire County Council is stressing the importance of wearing a covering on all forms of public transport including school buses.
As well as asking parents to encourage their children to wear face coverings on school transport, they can also help reduce transmission of the virus by:
• Providing hand sanitiser for their child to use on boarding and after getting off the bus.
• If they pay bus fare in cash, having the right coins to minimise the need to handle change.
• Reminding their child to keep a safe distance where possible.
• Avoiding mixing between households indoors and keep outdoor mixing as low as possible.
• Only using public transport only for essential journeys like school, work and health appointments and try to stay and shop locally.
It is estimated that around half of pupils live within 2 miles of their school and, where they can, families are being asked to arrange for pupils to walk or cycle. The current Switch to Cycling campaign is looking to build on an increase in people cycling during lockdown with lots of helpful information and advice for anyone thinking of cycling. For help and advice on preventing the spread of coronavirus visit https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/your-health-and-wellbeing/coronavirus/
For more information on walking and cycling and the Switch to Cycling campaign visit https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-travel/active-travel/
I really appreciate the support we receive from the vast majority of our parents and I look forward to working together with you to support our young people in looking after their mental and physical wellbeing and supporting their achievement over the coming weeks and months.