After what seems to me to have been an ever too short a break, with one thing or another, the summer holiday is now nearing its end. Things have seemingly been conspiring on a near daily basis to change the landscape in education, it certainly is the case that this summer has been a very busy one. Between planning for September, normal building improvements, the exam results and their fallout, and the continuing numerous changes, we have been kept busy over the weeks. The good news is that some sense of normal is nearly upon us. I am sure that for the majority of students, they are eager to see their friends and get back into the routine of school, for them the start of term will be welcomed. There is no doubt that for me it will be fantastic to see the school with all of our students on site again, for the first time since March.
I am conscious that it is a while since I last wrote to you to update you about September. We did outline in detail the manner in which we are intending to operate back in July and all the relevant details are on the school website here. As I write this newsletter I have just updated the main school Risk Assessment and over the coming days, the rest of the operational material and guidance will similarly be updated. As these are completed they will be published, as always, on the school website. So, this newsletter is to provide a summary to remind, refresh and update everyone on the start of term.
The first thing to remind everyone of is the phased return to school. This is being done so we can see how things work operationally, debugging as we go, as well as to ensure the students get used to the changes that will be in place as we start the term.
Start of Term
Thursday, 3 September – Years 7, Year 9, Year 11 and Year 13 attend school.
Friday, 4 September – Years 7, Year 8, Year 10 and Year 12 attend school.
Monday, 7 September – all year groups in school.
Parental and Student Briefings
On the INSET days we will be recording parental briefings for each year group. These will be available on the school website from Wednesday morning and will hopefully answer some questions from both parents and students, as well as showing students some of the practicalities in place for their return to school. I would encourage everyone to watch the appropriate briefing when they are posted online. We will email both parents and students when they are available.
While we operate in Year Group bubbles the school day will be: Period 1 starts at 8.45am and school finishes at 2.45pm.
The new arrangements of the day and the move to a static lunchtime and a smaller break, as well as removing the need for movement time between lessons, cuts 30 minutes from the school day. Period 1, not registration, will start at 8.45am and school will finish at 2.45pm, while we work within these parameters.
To reduce staff movement, the Period 1 teacher each day will be in charge of the Pastoral time between Period 1 and Period 2; we will be working a floating Tutor period into the week on a rotating basis, so students have weekly contact with their normal Form Tutor for Pastoral stability.
The Library will be open until 3.30pm for students who use the 685 bus in particular and the Learning Provision Department will be running an after-school provision for any student and their siblings, who may need to use it.
Arrival on the First Day of School
All students should arrive via the front car park of school. Staff will be on hand to show them where their entrance into school is and to help them with the removal of any face coverings. One of the reasons for the phased return is to reduce numbers, so that students understand this process clearly, as it is an essential part of maintaining the year group bubbles. Students will be sat in the year group bubbles on their school bus, so as they alight they should proceed to these entrances:
Year 7 – enter school via the entrance through the front yard and into the main common room.
Year 8 – enter school via the entrance at the bottom of the Maths stairwell and ascend the stairs at that point.
Year 9 – enter school via the right-hand side doors of the foyer and ascend the CET staircase.
Year 10 – enter school via the gate next to the Languages Department.
Year 11 – enter school via the left-hand side of the foyer, proceeding straight through school towards their bubble area.
Year 12 and Year 13 – enter school via Student Services and proceed to the Sixth Form Centre.
There will be clear signs telling the students which room they are in for their form time during Periods 1 and 2 on the first day. After their first day, students will be entering at the same points as above and proceeding immediately to their Period 1 lesson room.
Our local area has a low rate of Covid-19 infection and transmission and as a school we have taken a number of precautions to minimise risk, as outlined in previous correspondence and on the school website. Therefore, in line with the Government guidance, we will not be making the wearing of masks mandatory in any area of the school. The guidance is clear that this is only required in local areas where the transmission of the virus is high.
However, I do absolutely recognise that some students will feel more comfortable wearing a face mask in the corridors and/or in the classroom and I am happy for them to do so. Please note that masks should be plain in appearance, no logos or motifs, and must be worn appropriately and sensibly. It is important to emphasise that any use of a mask merely supports the other good practices that will be in place within school. All students must continue to respect one another’s space and maintain good hygiene.
The school will continue to follow guidance and update and revise processes accordingly. Should masks become compulsory nationally, or in light of a local lockdown, then we would make changes as appropriate.
Lunch and Breaktime
Students will all have a 15 minute break and a 30minute lunch break. As we have previously outlined, at break there will be no food available to buy, though students are welcome to bring their own food in to eat. During lunchtime, all students will be in their designated lunch area, where they can eat a packed lunch or purchase food as normal. Full hot meals will not be served due to the limitations of using three different areas as canteens, but baguettes, rolls and hot food that would normally be bought in the common room pantries will all be available. This is far from ideal, but with the Performance Hall and Sports Hall being utilised as dining areas, there is a limitation to what can be offered on site.
Buses and Public Transport
As we outlined prior to the summer break, all students will need to wear a face mask on school buses. Temporary face coverings will need to be removed and placed in the bins provided before entering school. Students with their own face coverings should place them in a plastic bag for storage as per guidance. The other major change is that all students will need to sit in a designated seat on their bus. The seating plans will be displayed at the front of buses and students need to check these when getting on the bus on their first day of school. We will be checking that students are in the right seats on departure from school and on occasions when students arrive at school.
The 685 arrives in good time from both directions so that students can be in school ready for the start of Period 1. After school we are aware that the bus timetable does mean that there is wait for the service bus and as students may want to stay in school, the Library is made available for them to wait in, before departing for the bus stops. Students must wear face masks on these buses as per governmental regulations.
Current Public Health England advice in Department for Education guidance is clear that school uniform does not need cleaning more often than normal. Students will be expected to follow normal school uniform rules on returning to school next week.
All students are expected to return to school full-time in September. We have completed individual risk assessments for our students who were previously identified as extremely clinically vulnerable and for all other students with EHCPs, which allows them to return to school. The general measures being put in place in school are identified by Public Health England as being sufficient to enable all other students to return safely to school.
If you have any questions about September, please do contact the relevant Year Group Teams and they will answer any questions you may have and be happy to discuss any of your concerns, when staff return to school on Tuesday. As with all things, our aim is to help students feel comfortable returning to school and as such we will try to be flexible around individuals and their circumstances where we can.
Mr Chris McAree