Message from Mr Jackson – 29th January (wellbeing day, reopening of schools, COVID-19 testing)

I hope you are well and that you and your family are coping during these difficult times. The following letter provides a brief update on some of the areas of school life that will be of particular interest to parents.

Wellbeing and Learning Consolidation Day – Friday 5 February

I would like to thank parents for their continued support and the positive feedback sent to us via email and our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whilst we are very pleased with how this is going, particularly given the significant challenges remote learning presents, we are increasingly aware that this online environment presents challenges for a number of young people. The normal interactions between individual students and their teachers and friends have been removed during the school day and they are having to spend long periods in front of their iPads. Whilst some students have coped well with this change, others have undoubtedly struggled.

In order to try and support our students’ wellbeing and their learning, we have decided to dedicate Friday 5 February to being a learning consolidation day.  There will be no work set by your child’s teachers and this will be an opportunity for students to catch up on any learning they may not have had time to finish or have an opportunity to pursue other interests that they can engage with offline.  If there are areas in which your child does need to catch up, their teachers may have made this clear.

If your child feels that they are up to date with all their work, they can spend their day on things they enjoy, ideally offline, which may include time reading, taking part in some physical exercise or participating in a hobby or interest. If students wish to pursue some educational activities they can access resources on our website, including Oak Academy or the new material provided by the BBC.

I hope you share our views of the benefits that this day offers and your child can enjoy some time offline. In addition, there will be an assembly available to all schools and families and will feature children and well-known faces discussing the theme of Children’s Mental Health Week, as well as ways that children and young people can get involved at home. It will be hosted by Blue Peter’s Lindsey Russell and CBBC Presenter and Place2Be Champion Rhys Stephenson.

The assembly will be available from 9am on Monday. We have confirmed with Place2Be that students will be able to access the link at a suitable time during the week, when they are not taking part in live learning. This will allow students to find an appropriate moment in the week to access the assembly, either during Core PE, PSHE or outside of the school day. Please find the link below:

February half-term

We have received confirmation from the government that schools will close as usual over February half-term and will not remain open to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers during that week.

We have also been advised that vouchers during the February half-term will not be made available.  We understand that some families will be disappointed to learn this but this decision has been made at government level.

There is wider government support in place to support families and children outside of term-time through the Covid Winter Grant Scheme. The £170 million scheme is being run by local authorities in England, with at least 80% of the funding earmarked to support with food and essential utility costs and will cover the period to the end of March 2021. It will allow local authorities to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals over the winter period. The government believe that local authorities have local ties and knowledge, making them best placed to identify and help those children and families most in need.  Regrettably, we have no further information at this time. Should we be made aware of further updates, we will keep you informed.


Prime Minister’s statement on the national lockdown position

On 27 January the Prime Minister announced that it will not be possible to resume face-to-face learning immediately after the February half-term but that it is hoped that it will be safe to commence the re-opening of schools and colleges from Monday 8 March. This is in response to the national public health data and pressure on NHS capacity.

If the Government achieves its target of vaccinating everyone in the four most vulnerable groups with their first dose by 15 February then those groups will have developed immunity from the virus around three weeks later, that is by 8 March. It is for this reason that the government believes that it may therefore be safe to commence the reopening of schools from this date.

Education settings, as well as students, parents and carers will be given at least two weeks-notice to prepare for a return to face-to-face education.

We will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers after February half-term, as we are now. All other students will continue to receive remote education at home. This is in line with the wider national lockdown measures to help minimise the spread of the virus and respond quickly to the new variant.

The government will also continue to provide support for students eligible for benefits-related free school meals through the national voucher scheme or lunch parcels to those learning at home during term time next half-term.

Education attendance restrictions are to be reviewed again in mid-February when the Government will look at when more students can be brought back into schools and further education.

You can read the full statement made by the Prime Minister here.


Update on the secondary school testing programme

As requested by the government we have set up a testing regime in school, run by our trained staff, to use lateral flow tests in order to identify cases of COVID-19 amongst staff and students who are asymptomatic. In line with the government advice we are testing all staff who agree to this, on a weekly basis, and are looking to increase this to twice per week.  Also as a one-off exercise, we will start testing students currently in school, where parental consent has been provided.

Once again, please can I take this opportunity to thank you for your patience, understanding and continued support.

Best wishes and have a lovely weekend

Mark Jackson