Apologies for the length of this letter!
As I am sure you are aware secondary school students will be returning to school from Monday 8 March and I am delighted to confirm that we have plans in place that will see all our students back in school full time from Thursday 11 March. There is no doubt we have all missed seeing our students face to face and enjoying the day to day interactions that makes our school a positive learning environment where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically.
In my letter dated 23 February, I stated that Friday 5 March may be a learning consolidation day, with no work set. Following extensive discussions and planning this will not be the case and lessons will take place as ‘normal’.
The government expects schools to phase this return so that, where parental consent has been obtained, students can be tested once before they return to lessons and on a further two occasions in school, between 3 and 5 days apart. After that, school will provide students with these lateral flow tests to administer themselves twice per week at home. Indeed, the government have just announced that whole families and households with primary school, secondary school and college-age children, including childcare and support bubbles, will be able to test themselves twice every week from home as schools return from 8 March; further details are available here.
Lateral flow tests
Lateral flow tests are one of the strategies the government expects schools to implement to help keep students and their families safe. However, it is essential that if a student has any COVID symptoms, they must not come into school; they should go to get a test at a local testing centre and you should inform us as soon as possible on firstname.lastname@example.org. PLEASE DO NOT SEND STUDENTS INTO SCHOOL FOR A LATERAL FLOW TEST IF THEY HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19. The lateral flow tests are only designed to identify asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus.
In addition, it is important to note that lateral flow tests are by no means foolproof and a negative test does not mean that the person concerned is virus free. Students who do receive a negative test result should continue to take all the necessary precautions in relation to social distancing where possible and undertake all of the safety measures that are currently in place, including regular hand washing and sanitising, wearing a mask when required, avoiding crowds, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.
Anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 should not proceed with lateral flow testing until 90 days after their positive test was taken.
Lateral flow testing arrangements
In order for us to fully re-open the school on 11 March, we will be inviting students into school to have lateral flow tests on 8, 9 and 10 March. If you wish your child to have these tests, and have not yet given your consent, please complete the Covid Testing Consent form for your child(ren) on Edulink by 12 noon on Thursday 4 March to allow us to complete the registration process. If you cannot login to Edulink, please email email@example.com.
We have been strongly advised by the government that we should encourage all of our students to take part in this testing programme, however, the government has also stated that this testing is not mandatory and parents do not have to give consent. If you do not consent, or your child has tested positive for Covid-19 within the previous 90 days, your child will not be tested but will still return to ‘normal’ lessons on the same day as the rest of their year group.
These tests are administered by students themselves, under supervision, and our experience to date suggests the vast majority of students are able to test themselves quickly and effectively.
Given that, where consent is given, students should only return to school following a negative lateral flow test and the number of students this involves, the first test will be a ‘drive through’ test where students attend school just for the test, then return home. To speed the registration process up, parents will only be informed if students return a positive result in the lateral flow test. The schedule for these tests is outlined below:
|Monday 8 March||Tuesday 9 March||Wednesday 10 March|
I ask that students wear full school uniform when they attend for the test to help us ensure only our students are on the school site.
Students should enter the school site through the entrance they have used since September and make their way to the rear of the sports hall, facing Broadway. Once they have had their test they should depart the site via the same route.
Parents who consent for their child to have the test, but feel they may struggle without parental support, can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavour to offer a slot between 2.30 pm and 3 pm on the relevant day where parents, or a nominated adult, can attend.
Following the day of testing for a year group, all students (apart from those testing positive on the lateral flow tests or those with symptoms of Covid-19 etc) will return to school for face to face lessons. For example, Year 11 and sixth forms return to the classroom on Tuesday 9 March.
We fully understand that students will not be able to complete remote learning whilst they are travelling to and from school to have their lateral flow tests and there will be no work set on that day. Students should use this time to catch up on any work that has yet to be completed or engage in some worthwhile activities offline. In addition, teaching staff will be in school on Monday for us to plan the return and discuss a number of other pressing issues that will need to be resolved prior to students returning. A summary of what is happening each day is given below:
Monday 8 March
Year 11 and sixth form students will attend school for their first lateral flow test, then return home.
There will be no live online lessons, but work will be set for years 7 to 10 and this will be shared through Edulink or SMHW.
Tuesday 9 March
Sixth form students and those in Year 11 will be in school for lessons.
There will be no live online lessons, but work will be set for years 7 & 8 and this will be shared through Edulink.
Years 9 and 10 will attend school for their first lateral flow test, then return home.
Wednesday 10 March
Sixth form students and those in years 9-11 will be in school for lessons.
Years 7 and 8 will attend school for their first lateral flow test, then return home.
Thursday 11 March
All students will be back in school and where consent has been provided, they will complete their second and third lateral flow tests over the next seven days.
Keyworker children and ‘vulnerable’ students
Given that the first three days of next week will be very intense I would respectfully ask that you only send your child into school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday if absolutely necessary.
I fully understand that there are a range of views amongst the general public on practically every aspect of the government’s response to the pandemic. Over the last twelve months we have consistently adhered to the advice to schools provided by the government, who have access to the best scientific advice available. The government ‘advice’ on face coverings has changed:
Where pupils in year 7 (which would be children who were aged 11 on 31 August 2020) and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils when outdoors on the premises.
In addition, we now also recommend in those schools, that face coverings should be worn in classrooms or during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons.
We are taking this additional precautionary measure for a limited time during this period of high coronavirus (COVID-19) prevalence in the community. These measures will be in place until Easter. As with all measures, we will keep it under review and update guidance at that point.
As such, on their return, students will need to wear face masks in classrooms, where social distancing is not possible. We are already aware of students who are exempt from wearing face coverings for specified medical conditions. Staff only need to wear face coverings in classrooms where they cannot socially distance from students.
I am aware that there are a very broad spectrum of views on this issue and that this will also present challenges to many students, but I thank parents and carers in advance for your support in ensuring your children come to school equipped with a face covering. Disposable masks are available in school for 50p, but we hope these will only be needed on rare occasions. The government position on this will be reviewed at Easter.
The school day on students’ return
When students return to school, we will continue the arrangements that we put in place from September 2020. A summary of these, taken from my letter of 16 July are included below:
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 around. 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 8.25 am. When they do arrive, they should enter school by the designated entrance for their year group and follow the route to their form room.
- 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.
- 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 10.15 am, with Years 8 and 10 at 10.35 am.
- 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 2:45 pm (2.05 pm on Wednesdays)
Pastoral support and expectations of students
We fully understand that students have experienced an unprecedented amount of disruption recently and they will have been subjected to a wide range of experiences as a result of the latest lockdown. We will be doing our very best to get our school back to being as ‘normal’ as possible and our pastoral team will endeavour to support any students that find the return to school difficult.
Given the exceptional circumstances surrounding the first half term following the Christmas break, it is even more important that our expectations regarding uniform, appearance and behaviour remain the same. Students should arrive in school on their first day back in full school uniform, fully equipped for their lessons and should conduct themselves in the sensible, cooperative and respectful manner that the vast majority of our students do, day in day out. We understand the difficulties that families may have in ensuring your child returns immediately in full school uniform. We have some uniform in school that has been washed and quarantined and can be provided to students in the short term. If you have any specific concerns about uniform please let us know at email@example.com. I firmly believe that school uniform is an important part of school life for many reasons and I thank you for your support in ensuring our high standards are maintained.
We are really looking forward to welcoming our students back to school. We have enjoyed the challenge of delivering our curriculum remotely and we have been extremely grateful for the many messages of thanks, encouragement and support sent to us by parents and carers. We understand that students may feel anxious about their return but please reassure them that this is not unusual and the school staff will be here to offer our support. We have overcome so much as a school community and we are all looking positively at the opportunities the next few months will bring. We look forward to welcoming all our students back next week.
If you have any questions about the return to school, please don’t hesitate to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Jackson, Headteacher