Dear Parents and Carers
The Prime Minister announced on Monday that, as expected, schools would return to face to face teaching from 8th March 2021. I am sure this is a huge relief to you and your families. Staff are also very pleased to be returning to some kind of ‘normal’ having done a tremendous job of teaching remotely since the start of term. Mr Johnson did not go into much detail in his announcement, and this detail has become apparent over the past 24 hours, so I think it important to draw a number of issues to your attention.
As you know we were planning to test students in school from the start of January, but this did not happen due to lockdown. There is now an expectation that secondary aged students (Years 7-13) will be tested THREE TIMES in the first two weeks on their return to school. This is not only a huge logistical exercise (around 3000 tests for our school) but also relies on parents and carers agreeing to this. Unfortunately we only received responses from around 40% of families when we asked for this consent in January. In order to make the testing effective we need a much higher take up. If you have not responded, the link for consent is here.
We will be starting the testing next week for years 12 and 13 in order to get a head start. Sixth formers will have received an email regarding this, so please respond to Mr Petit by Friday 26th February at 3pm.
We will be contacting families over the coming days where we have not received a response regarding consent. Once the three tests have been carried out in school there is an expectation that students will then carry out tests at home. Again, we have very few details on this at present and I will write to you once we know more about how this will work.
Given the huge number of tests that are potentially needed, we will be phasing the return of students during the week of the 8th March. Details about this will be sent out next week. I should also point out that as there is a need to test students three times during the first two weeks, lessons will inevitably be disrupted during this time.
Revised guidance this week is that face coverings are now mandatory in all indoor spaces where a distance of two metres cannot be maintained (this will be in place until at least Easter). This means that face coverings will be required in lessons as well as in corridors. The exceptions to this are in practical PE lessons or when students are eating. We expect all students to adhere to this in order to maintain the safety of the whole school community. Staff will not necessarily wear a face covering when teaching at the front of the class but will do so when working more closely with students. This guidance will be reviewed by the government during the Easter holiday, so I will update as to whether this will need to continue in the longer term.
Bubbles and zones
We will be maintaining the same arrangements (bubbles, zones, staggered breaks/lunchtimes) that we had in place last term, at least until the Easter holiday. We will also be continuing with our Covid mitigation measures in school. These include hand sanitising on entry and exit to rooms, social distancing whenever possible and ventilation of rooms.
I appreciate that students have limited access to some specialist facilities due to the zoning of the school, and so we will review this as soon as it is safe to do so. I hope to be able to move to a more ‘normal’ timetable for all students in the summer term.
Year 11 and 13 examinations
It was announced in January that examinations, as we know them, will not be taking place this year. We expect to hear the results of the consultation regarding the arrangements later this week, but it is likely that students will still need to sit some assessments in their subjects in order to support the grades teachers are giving them. It is vital, therefore, that students return to school with a real focus and purpose so that they are able to work with their teachers in the most productive ways possible over the final few months of this year.
I will write to you again next week with more details on how the testing and phased return of students will work.
Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to seeing the students in just a few days’ time.