End of Term Letter and Arrangements for September
I would like to start by thanking you all for your incredible support during what has been the most unusual and challenging period I can remember in over twenty years in the profession. We are so grateful for your cooperation and contribution to the education and learning that has had to take place at home since the end of March.
We have all been learning, adapting and having to change the way we do things but the commitment of our pupils with your support has helped enormously.
Recent weeks have seen the current Y10 pupils re-integrated in a phased capacity in line with government guidance and this has worked very well. Almost all Year 10 pupils have attended for their allocated day of core curriculum per week meaning increased face-to-face time with some of their teachers as they prepare for next year’s GCSE’s.
At the time of writing we have had the Year 7 face-to-face tutor meetings which went very well and we look forward to welcoming back Year 8s and Year 9s later this week. Albeit a short meeting, but I was delighted when I read that we could invite KS3 pupils in to see how they were prior to September. In a similar way to Year 10, the uptake for the KS3 tutor meetings has been very high and I appreciate your involvement in bringing them in.
It goes without saying that we continue to prioritise health and safety and all of the children who have been in have responded maturely to the increased hygiene measures in place.
We are delighted that, as things stand, we will be welcoming back all of our pupils including our new Year 7s on Thursday 3rd September 2020. It will be wonderful to have all of our pupils back with us again and since the guidance for full re-opening was published at the start of July, we have been planning extensively to ensure that we do so in the safest possible way.
In accordance with the guidance, significant changes have had to be made to the way we would ‘normally’ do things. These operational changes are all geared towards mitigating the risk of transmitting the spread of Covid-19 by keeping pupils in ‘Year Group Bubbles’. The theory behind this is that the KS3 year groups (7-9) will have their lessons from September in specific allocated rooms in which they will largely stay with exceptions for subjects such as P.E. Y10 and 11 will also remain in Year group bubbles minimising contact with other years, but will need greater access to specialist rooms for their GCSE courses.
Rest assured, we will be meticulously following guidance regarding the cleaning of shared equipment and areas of the school such as changing rooms.
Larger gatherings such as assemblies and whole school worship will not be able to take place in the first half-term and this will be held under constant review until such restrictions are eased by the government.
The School Day
Due to our more rural location and the fact that School Transport are unable to provide additional or different services, we are unable to consider a staggered start. There will be no morning or afternoon registration or assemblies initially and as such, the school day will be as follows:
8:55-9:55 am Period 1
9:55-10:15 am Break
10:15-11:15 am Period 2
11:15-12:15 am Period 3
12:15-13:15 pm Lunch
13:15-14:15 Period 4
14:15-15:15 Period 5
End of the School Day
Please note the slightly earlier finish time of 15:15pm, which presents us with an opportunity for those pupils being collected by parents in cars to do so immediately prior to the departure of most school buses. Parents who are unable to make this earlier time will still be able to come in at the usual time to collect their children. We anticipate this being one aspect which will need careful review and may require changes if it is proving too busy or problematic.
Please see the separate correspondence from School Transport sent earlier in the week for full details of their plans for September and the safety measures they intend to put in place. Use of public transport is advised to be kept to a minimum and where no other alternative is available. We are conscious that some of you have children in both key stages making a staggered finish time impractical.
Pupils will not be able to eat in the hall at break or lunch, as we do not have the space to preserve the year group bubbles. This will mean that they will have to eat their packed lunch outside and also any take-away hot food bought from the canteen. The extended lunchtime should enable the various year groups to purchase food without coming into contact with other bubbles and our catering company will be in touch with you shortly regarding a ‘Grab and Go’ menu that they will be providing. Details of how payments should be made will also be included as we will not be able to use our usual fingerprint method. You may of course wish to send your child with a packed lunch for the initial weeks of term and we will revert to our usual catering arrangements as soon as it is safe to do so.
One-way System & Toilets
We have been operating a one-way system for those Year 10 pupils who have been attending during lockdown and intend to keep this in place for September for all pupils. To reduce the mixing of year group bubbles, specific toilets around the school site will be allocated to the different year groups. All of this will be explained to the pupils on their return in September.
Cleaning & Hygiene
As you know, since lockdown began, we have retained our full cleaning arrangements and all areas of the school have been thoroughly and routinely cleaned. This process will continue, and frequently used door handles, handrails and bannisters will be re-cleaned throughout the school day. Hand sanitiser will be positioned directly outside all rooms where possible (inside where not) and pupils will have to apply this on entry and exit to the room. Special cleaning arrangements will be put in place for Science Labs and D&T rooms, which are likely to be used across year group bubbles. Guidance regarding the need to wear face coverings may have changed again by September but I will of course be in touch with any essential updates or changes in arrangements.
During the pandemic, we have ensured that stocks of cleaning equipment, essential PPE and general cleaning supplies have been well maintained. I do not foresee a shortage at this stage but you may also wish to send your child with their own antibacterial hand gel, which they can apply, in addition to that provided by the school. This is by no means essential, as there will be a number of opportunities to use hand gel all over the school site.
I am in the process of conducting a revised risk assessment with regard to the full re-opening in September and I will ensure that this is added to the school website.
There are no plans to narrow the curriculum offer at St Mary’s in light of the lockdown and need for year group bubbles. I am keen for our pupils to have access to the full range of subjects and will put all of the necessary measures in place to achieve this in the safest way possible.
Pupils will have PE lessons and Mr Giampalma and his department will be adhering to the separate recommendations regarding school sport and activity.
Thursday 3rd September 2020 (First day back for all pupils)
Please be advised that the first day back will be quite different than in previous years, for all the reasons set out in this letter. When your child arrives on the first day, they will be sent to a particular area depending on their year group. Years 7-9 will go to our field at the back of the main building and Years 10 & 11 will initially report to the front field. The pupils will then safely be taken to get their timetables before going to their allocated rooms within the bubbles. Pupils will not be permitted to mix with other year groups at social times such as break and lunchtime. Please be advised that all pupils, in all year groups, will be expected to wear full school uniform.
I am very conscious that in addition to all of these changes, your children may be anxious about returning to school having had so long away. The tutor meetings will hopefully go some way to reassuring them that whilst things may be a little different, they will be well looked after and supported in all that they do when they return in September. We are determined to redouble our efforts to build on the learning that has taken place at home, intervene where gaps need to be plugged and accelerate progress from the first day back together.
I am confident that we are well-placed to have a good start to the new academic year. It may be different but this extends beyond education and we just ask for your patience and continued support as we all navigate these changes together.
I wish you and your families a safe and relaxing summer break and I look forward to working with you all again in September.