I hope that you have been able to enjoy some time off with loved ones over the festive period and I wish a Happy New Year to you and your family. I’m sure I am not alone in looking forward to 2022 in the hope that it will see us return to a society that we recognise as more familiar and certainly one which places less restrictions on our young people, allowing daily life to continue with fewer disruptions. During the week commencing 10 January, I will be talking to students about the opportunities a new year can bring and how it can be a catalyst for further developing a positive outlook, setting new personal goals and a chance for reflection. All of these concepts are vital and it is more important than ever that we strive to help to guide students, helping them to become kind, resilient and ethical individuals.
Our staff continue to work exceptionally hard to support the 1600 students that attend Haslingden High School and Sixth Form and we know that many students have and will continue to require additional support to make sense of the current situation. As a school, we continue to develop our offer, and are always seeking to strengthen our relationships with external providers to ensure we can make sure all students have access to the right support at the right time. If there have been any changes to family circumstances over the holidays which you think we should be aware of, please can you let the relevant Head of Year know in the first instance.
I am delighted to welcome Richard Brennand to the school staff as he takes up the Special Educational Needs Coordinator role from 1 January 2022 and he will be working closely to support our most vulnerable learners in school. Mr Brennand has worked closely with the school for many years in his various roles at Tor View School and whilst being seconded to Haslingden High School for a period of maternity leave in 2020. We are certain that he will be a fantastic addition to the team.
In a manner we have become accustomed to in the past 21 months, yesterday morning all headteachers received an email from the Department for Education at 7am, detailing a number of changes that will have to be implemented and communicated prior to the start of term. I apologise that I am having to share this information on a bank holiday and hope you understand that it is unavoidable. We will always do our very best to communicate these changes as soon as possible with all stakeholders.
The return to school arrangements for each year group will remain unchanged from my end of term letter, shared on 13 December 2021 which you can find here for your reference here. The only additional suggestion is that students take a LFD test in the morning or evening before they are returning to school (before they leave their house) to prevent any positive cases impacting negatively on the transmission in school.
However, the following changes have been directed by the DfE this morning and it is important that you are fully aware of the possible implications for your child. I appreciate that there is a lot of information enclosed but I hope that it can serve as a reference point over the coming weeks. I have summarised the changes in the following eight points:
- Face coverings, for all those eligible to wear one, will continue to be worn in communal spaces and on public transport. However, face coverings must also be worn in each classroom until Wednesday 26 January 2022, when the plan B arrangements will be reviewed by the government. Please note that if rates of transmission in school mean it is necessary we may make a decision to extend this period temporarily in school as we have done previously with three year groups in line with our contingency plans.
- The arrangements regarding self isolation periods for those who test positive for Covid-19 have also been amended:
‘Since Wednesday 22 December, the 10 day self-isolation period for people who record a positive PCR test result for COVID-19 has been reduced to 7 days in most circumstances, unless you cannot test for any reason.
Individuals may now take LFD tests on day 6 and day 7 of their self-isolation period. Those who receive two negative test results are no longer required to complete 10 full days of self-isolation. The first test must be taken no earlier than day 6 of the self-isolation period and tests must be taken 24 hours apart. If both these test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative test result and return to your education setting from day 8’.
It goes on to say that ‘Anyone who is unable to take LFD tests will need to complete the full 10 day period of self-isolation. Further information is available in the stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection’.
3. Similarly, the arrangements for those who have been a close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 have changed:
People who are fully vaccinated (currently both the first and second vaccination), or children and young people aged between 5 and 18 years and 6 months, identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, should take an LFD test every day for seven days and continue to attend their setting as normal, unless they have a positive test result or develop symptoms at any time.
4. It is still the view of the government that ‘as many students and staff as possible are strongly recommended to take part in twice-weekly lateral flow testing’. If you have not previously consented and now wish to do so, please contact the school via firstname.lastname@example.org so we can arrange for your child to be provided with the necessary LFDs.
5. In response to the threat from the Omicron variant, the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) advised that a Pfizer booster vaccine should be offered to:
- ‘children aged 12 to 15 years old who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of immunosuppressed individuals, and those who are severely immunosuppressed and have had a third primary dose
- all young people aged 16 to 17 years old
The NHS will communicate how eligible children and young people can get their boosters shortly.
Vaccines are our best weapon against this virus and our booster programme has accelerated rapidly, with almost 30 million doses of boosters or third doses administered, and more than half of adults jabbed, securing vital protection. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of infection, helps break chains of transmission and is safe and effective – so we encourage all those eligible to consider taking up the offer’.
6. In September, we looked closely at the ventilation in each and every classroom and communal space and have made changes to rooms where appropriate. We are encouraged to ensure we manage the ventilation in our settings and this will inevitably mean that windows and doors are left open in classrooms. We strongly encourage students to wear a vest (or a similar garment which is not visible beneath their school shirt) and/or a school navy v-neck jumper that can be purchased from school directly for £13. Students are not to wear their coats inside unless directed to do so by their form tutor or class teacher. Your support in this regard is greatly appreciated.
7. Examinations and assessments will continue as normal nationally. We have vocational examinations for years 12 and 13 in January and these will take place as planned.
8. In the communications today, we have been asked to think creatively about how we will keep schools open and overcome the staffing challenges that have impacted schools up and down the country. We will continue to do all we can to protect the learning experience for our students and want to do everything we can to maintain the exciting and broad curriculum we offer. This may mean we have to look at how we amend or combine classes to ensure those learning opportunities are not missed if staffing levels are such that we do not have enough teachers for each class. We hope that this is not needed and a switch to remote learning for specific year groups is not something I want to return to now or in the future, if at all possible. I will of course communicate any changes to the curriculum should we be in a position where these extreme measures are absolutely necessary.
Finally, please can I offer a sincere thank you for all that you have done to support the school. It is not life as normal in schools at present and there have been many changes, many of them inevitably last minute and your continued support is invaluable; without this support, it would make what is a very difficult job almost impossible. Looking ahead to this half term, there are a number of things that would really help me personally and the wider school staff. Please could I ask you to speak to your child regarding:
- The wearing of face coverings on a daily basis and making sure your child has one and ideally a spare one on their person each day
- Carrying a personal hand sanitiser for use during the school day
- Continuing to meet our Four Expectations, demonstrating the positive attitudes we are so very proud of within our school community
It would also be extremely helpful if you could support the school in ensuring that standards of uniform are upheld on a daily basis, providing further clarity that students should not have false or coloured nails, false eyelashes or jewellery (including rings, bracelets and additional earrings) in school. Makeup is not permitted. Added hair colours must be natural and subtle (bright colours including shades of red, and dip dying, are not permitted). Hair braiding is only acceptable without beads or accessories. Close shaved heads and patterns cut into hair or eyebrows are not acceptable. Very short hairstyles or extreme hairstyles (e.g. where some hair is very short and the rest isn’t) are not allowed. As a guide, no part of the hair should be shorter than a number 2. Skirt length and coats only being worn outside are also two areas that we would appreciate your support with.
We fully appreciate that there are a number of other issues that need our attention and it is for exactly that reason that we believe it is important to ensure standards are maintained in all aspects of school life, as the adherence to the expectations regarding appearance has a cumulative and positive impact on the learning environment for all students. It also reduces the distractions and negative impact on the use of resources, which means staff can use their limited time outside of the classroom productively to focus on pastoral care and teaching and learning activities.
Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to working with you in the year ahead. One certainty for 2022 is that the start of the year and the run-up to the summer examinations is going to require a genuine partnership, where we will need to offer understanding to one another and work together in the best interests of our young people. We greatly value your support, your patience and your willingness to work with us and this is only more important at a difficult time for all. Thank you again and as always, please do not hesitate to contact email@example.com if you have any questions.
Very best wishes
Russell Clarke, Headteacher