Coronavirus KIT 11 (“Keeping in Touch” update letter 10th June)
Dear parents, carers and families
Re: Wider opening of schools for Year 10 students and others
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your continuing patience on this particular issue. As you are probably aware, there have been a lot of changes to government guidance over the past few weeks and this has made it very difficult for us to communicate with you in a clear and timely manner. I should say that I am not making any political points here (I recognise the huge challenges the government faces) but simply saying that I do sympathise with those of you who are eager for some clarity. Thank you also for completing the questionnaire so we know how you are feeling about returning. The situation has been further complicated by local ‘R rate’ issues. Nevertheless, subject to our Risk Assessment being signed off this week, we will go ahead with a phased reopening to Year 10 from next week. This letter therefore sets out the situation as it currently stands. I would be grateful if you could read it carefully.
Expectations from government
In addition to maintaining the full-time provision for vulnerable children and those of keyworkers that we have been doing ever since the lockdown began, the government is now asking secondary schools to do the following from 15th June:
“provide some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of Year 10 pupils, with a clear expectation that remote education will continue to be the predominant form of education delivery for these year groups”
There is plenty more detailed guidance which has now been given, but the other key point I would draw your attention to here is that we must ensure only a maximum of a quarter of the year group are in school at any one time. As we are a large school we have decided we will be providing in-school education only to a 1/5 of our students on each day to ensure adequate social distancing.
With all of this in mind, we have drawn up a phased plan that we believe best meets the needs of as many of our students as possible, but also remains firmly within the spirit and letter of the government guidelines. It was shared and approved by the School Governors on Monday evening.
The basic principles behind our plan are:
- Always follow and strongly reinforce government guidelines, prioritising safety and social distancing over education.
- Give all Year 10 students the opportunity to have a personalised 1:1 support and guidance meeting with someone who knows them well to “temperature check” how they are feeling, how the lockdown has been for them and what learning they have achieved.
- Give all Year 10 students the opportunity to attend school this term so that they can begin getting back into the right habits and can receive encouragement and support from staff in school.
- Provide additional support for students with special educational needs (SEND) and some of those who tend to find school more challenging than most.
- Continue to develop our online learning programme for all students in all years through TEAMS.
- Respect the right of parents/carers to choose whether or not to send children into school for the remainder of this term, with no pressure either way from us.
- Do all of this as safely as we reasonably can, including having all risk assessments quality assured by Rochdale Borough Council.
Outline of plans
June 15– 26:
- 1:1 Form tutor Team sessions with Year 10 (dependent on Risk Assessment – socially distanced and by 15 minute appointments in a 20 min slot);
- ‘Welcome Packs’ out to all Year 10 students (see below for explanation);
- Increase in vulnerable students and children of key workers; some SEND students returning;
w/b June 29th:
- Year 10 students in for sessions on using TEAMS remote learning, Wellbeing and Expectations
- Year 10 students in for lessons in English, Maths and Science
The ‘welcome pack’ will be given to students physically during their meeting or sent to those students where it has been indicated they will not be returning to school. This has been uploaded also to Doddle and will go live with students as of the 15th. We expect all students, regardless of if they intend to return prior to the summer, to work through the activities for each of their subjects mentioned in this pack. It has been designed that regardless of the level of work completed so far, if this work is completed, all students will be at the same point for when the in school and remote provision begins on the 29th June. As parents we would encourage you to go through this pack with the students and support them in getting this work completed.
When students are in school, we will be operating on this basis:
- The school day will run from 8.30am until 11.00 for one group and 9.00 until 11.30 for another, hopefully leaving time for students to get home and eat lunch in time for their afternoon online lessons.
- There will be no lunch in school because of the additional challenges of ensuring social distancing at meal times.
- Each day from July 6th will involve a lesson in English, Maths and Science with subject specialist teachers. Pastoral/well-being support will also be available.
- The in-school lessons will supplement the online learning timetable as per government guidelines.
- Students will be allocated to ‘populations’ (10 groups) made up of a maximum of 30 students and a very small team of teachers. These populations will not come into contact with one another and will be located in different parts of the building, using different stairs and different toilets. Each population will then be split into smaller classes or ‘bubbles’, with a maximum class size/bubble of 10 to allow for seating 2 metres apart from one another. Excess furniture will be removed from rooms to make distancing even easier.
- Students will remain in the same class/bubble all day, to minimise ‘mixing’. Instead, teachers within each bubble will move between classes to ensure specialist teaching.
- At any ‘move’ times students will stay within their bubble and will be supervised to ensure they maintain social distancing (see Home School Agreement).
- Additional hand sanitising stations have been ordered and will be in place around school prior to the 29th Students will be supervised washing their hands before entering the building and at other times throughout the day, and signs will be up to remind them of the importance of hand hygiene.
- Toilets will be suitably supervised to ensure social distancing is maintained.
- An enhanced cleaning operation will be in place, with all classrooms being deep cleaned at least once a day and toilets, door handles, and other ‘high use’ surfaces being disinfected more frequently. Hand sanitiser, tissues and disinfectant wipes will be readily available throughout school. (A detailed Risk Assessment on this is being signed off by the LA)
- Students will be expected to wear a scaled down version of normal school uniform. This will be non-blazer and non-tie. They will still require a white shirt, black trousers and black school shoes. Make up and jewellery rules will obviously still apply.
- We ask parents and carers to keep an eye out for any symptoms of Covid-19 and not to send your child into school if there is any doubt at all. It is essential everybody follows the government guidance on this.
The government has asked that people avoid public transport and we ask that you respect this where possible. Please encourage children to cycle and walk to school if possible. However, if you do need a bus then please note school buses will not be in operation on the 15th given the small numbers of students accessing school at this point and there only being 15 minute appointments. During the Year 10 interviews, we will be able to gather information on travel habits and once we know who may need access to the school buses, school can liaise with TfGM to see what they can offer us (particularly when considered against start and finish times).
Below are the pointers which TfGM have asked us to share with families:
- Ask them to protect school buses and public transport for those with no alternative. If they must use the bus, space will be limited on school buses and public transport due to social distancing
- Please ask them to keep themselves and others safe by wearing a face covering; keeping your distance; washing your hands regularly and buy tickets online or use mobile apps
Behaviour and Safety for all students in school
To ensure the systems work well and safely we are updating a number of policies and protocols. The School Governors on Monday approved the updated policies and protocols ready for a return for more students. The main one for parents and students to be aware of and agree to is our behaviour policy and associated Home-School Agreement. Staff have updated both in light of the Covid-19 and our ‘bubble’ plans. The new Home-School Agreement (see below) may appear rather Draconian and harsh at first glance. Hopefully though, as you digest it, you will realise its purpose is to be very clear on how we must all follow government guidelines and the school-agreed principles around why and how we can have students back in the building whilst the pandemic has not yet fully gone away. It is there to keep us all as safe as possible and be clear on our expectations to our young people. Many adults are now used to these measures in shops and work places but some students may well not be and we all need them to be sensible and follow the guidelines without argument to ensure it is safe for us all. The first week’s lessons will focus on feelings and the pandemic rather than core lessons so we can support our young people to make sense of all that has and is happening to them. I hope you will understand that and sign to agree when the time is right.
Survey – Year 10
Having read the above, we would be very grateful for the few of the year 10 parents who have not yet managed it to complete our brief survey by Thursday 3pm. This will really help us to finalise the details of our plan as well as giving you an opportunity to raise any questions or concerns. When I write again next week, I will address any frequently asked questions that come up in the survey.
It is the school’s responsibility to balance the health and safety of staff and students with the need to start providing some face-to-face education as soon as possible. We believe the plan outlined above achieves a sensible, achievable balance. However, we respect the fact that everyone will have their own opinions on the relative risks and rewards; some may feel that we should be providing more face-to-face time for more students, whereas others may feel that it is unnecessary to be doing as much as we are. For those of you who are especially worried about the health and safety aspects, please rest assured that we will do all we can to enforce social distancing and proper hygiene measures. For the most part, this ought to be achievable in a secondary school with great students and staff like ours, although I am sure you will understand that it is impossible to guarantee at all times in any school setting. It is also important to stress that we will not be putting any pressure on you to send your child into school this term if you decide that it is not a risk worth taking.
For those of you who are more inclined to think that school should be open to more students and more often and/or for longer, we simply ask for your understanding that it is not our place to make decisions that would mean we are offering more than the government has asked us to. With a legal limit for all schools of a quarter of Year 10 students being in at any one time and the need to avoid mixing of groups of students or staff wherever possible, we don’t have a great deal of room for manoeuvre. Safety and effective social distancing is our priority.
Either way, I am sure we can all agree that we are looking forward to the time when we can welcome all our students back to school safely. In the meantime, very best wishes to all of you and please do raise any questions or concerns via the survey or firstname.lastname@example.org.