Today marks the start of the new national restrictions that have come into force and are due to expire on Wednesday, 2 December 2020. Last night we were issued with updated guidance from the Department for Education and it is important that we relay to you most elements of it. There are some areas to note that relate to the way in which the school operates.
Attendance at school
Unlike the period of national lockdown earlier in the year, schools will remain fully open during the forthcoming 4-week period. The Department for Education has outlined that:
Being at school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. Time spent out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children. This impact can affect both current levels of education, and children’s future ability to learn. It continues to be our aim that all pupils, in all year groups, remain in school full-time.
The risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school. For the vast majority of children, the benefits of being back in the classroom far outweigh the low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) and schools can take action to reduce risks still further.
The students have been excellent at following the modified systems in school since September and we will continue with these. If we have any positive cases of Covid-19 in school we will identify close contacts, ask them to self-isolate and support the students with remote learning as we have previously outlined. All students are expected to attend unless ill or unable to attend for a reason directly associated with Covid-19. A student not attending for another reason will continue to be recorded as having unauthorised absence. A student who has unauthorised absence from school cannot expect to be supported with remote learning.
Face coverings are mandatory for Year 7 and above in communal areas
As Carlisle had moved into Tier 2 Alert level last Saturday, we had implemented this change on Monday of this week. Masks need to worn in communal areas by everyone, except those who are medically exempt; students should wear face coverings when inside unless they are in a lesson or sitting down to eat. At all other times they need to have a mask on. This includes moving between blocks between lessons. At breaktime the students do not need to be wearing a mask when outside and they do not need to wear them once they have left the school building at the end of the day. The students have responded incredibly well to this which is a credit to them. Face coverings are of course also mandatory on all school buses and public transport.
Curricular activities (during the normal School Day i.e. 8.45am – 2.45pm)
PE, sport, music, dance and drama lessons can continue in line with the current guidance during school time. We are able to work with external coaches, clubs and organisations for curricular activities where we are satisfied that it is safe to do so.
This means that we will still have some visitors to school during the day, where they support the curriculum delivery and individual students. We will also be able to keep running our lunchtime clubs that have started.
After-school clubs can only continue if their primary purpose is childcare. So, wraparound care in a primary school would be fine, but a Year 8 after-school football club would not. This unfortunately means that all revision classes or any clubs after 2.45pm cannot go ahead until after Wednesday, 2 December 2020. The students have really engaged well with these activities over recent weeks as we have reintroduced them and it is a real shame that for the period of the national restrictions we are not permitted to run these.
Clinically extremely vulnerable students
Students who have been identified by their doctor as being clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), will be advised not to come into school. The school will be providing remote learning for any students in this category and will be in contact with parents directly. Students who live with people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, but are not clinically extremely vulnerable themselves, are still expected to come into school or college.
Exams in summer 2021
It is the intention to have GCSE and A-Level exams as normal in the summer. The start of these exams has been delayed by 3 weeks so the majority take place after the May half-term. Some syllabus changes have also been implemented and we expect some other safety net measures to be put into place for any student who may miss sitting those exams at the time. However, the direction of travel in England is very clear that it is business as normal in preparing for exams and that cancelling the exams is not an option.
As ever, I would like to thank all parents for their support of the school and students at this time. We have had a very positive start to the year and we look forward to that continuing for the rest of this half term. Do not hesitate to contact us at school if you have any questions or concerns, we will do our very best to help.
Mr Chris McAree