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Headteacher’s Blog 25-09-2020

An update on the current situation

Little did I know when I wrote last week about the school finalising plans for our contingency curriculum that less than 24 hours later we would be required to put those plans into practice! In the new Covid world, uncertainty seems to have replaced certainty. What is pleasing to report is the fact that our students continue to impress with the way their have adapted to our new routines.

It was a real disappointment to have to ask our Year 9 students to self-isolate and to close their “bubble” in school down. Even more so considering we had only just welcomed the students back after such a long absence. It was not an easy decision but given the circumstances and the need for a safety-first approach, there was little alternative. We look forward to welcoming the Year 9 students back to school on Thursday 1st October.

What has become apparent is that this is a situation that has been repeated across a number of schools across the city. With the increasing spread of the virus, it is highly likely that this won’t be the last time we are required to take this action. An extended period of disruption does seem increasingly likely for all schools. Testing remains a significant barrier and I know from conversations with parents and staff colleagues that access to tests and the speed of response are causing far too many issues. As the prevalence of the virus continues to increase, we have to hope that this situation is addressed.

One further issue that is causing disruption to our students’ learning is greater than expected absence. Whilst absence is still below national levels it is growing. To try to help parents make more informed choices regarding their child’s health, the NHS has issues further advice. A copy of this letter was sent to parents this week. A summary of its key points can be seen below. I hope you find it useful to distinguish between a normal cold and potential Covid symptoms.

I have been asked by a number of parents about whether we will be updating our guidance regarding face-masks. The Government advice remains the same: face masks are recommended where social distancing cannot be maintained and rates of infection are high. Despite recent increases, infection rates do remain low in Gloucestershire. Having spoken to Public Health England at the weekend, they said students wearing face masks would not have altered the decision to ask Year 9 to self-isolate. 

The concern regarding the use of face masks is that you introduce a whole range of additional requirements which if not followed potentially increase risk. In the government guidance it refers to:  “Safe wearing of face coverings requires cleaning of hands before and after touching – including to remove or put them on – and the safe storage of them in individual, sealable plastic bags between use. Where a face covering becomes damp, it should not be worn and the face covering should be replaced carefully. Pupils must be instructed not to touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing it.” Any time spent in public shows that these rules are broken regularly. 

There may come a time when face mask use is required. We are monitoring the situation and regularly taking advice from the public health authorities.

Some final points:

  1. Y9 self-isolation - our year 9 students have been given an instruction to self-isolate as a result of their contact with a student with a confirmed positive Covid test result. That instruction is to reduce the risk of potential transmission to the wider community. Self-isolation for these students means that they must stay in their house up and until Wednesday 30th September. Please be aware that new legal requirements for self-isolation have been introduced. These will include the potential for a fine if an individual does not stay at home and self-isolate if they are a contact of someone who has had a positive test result. 
  2. Jumpers – we are obliged to keep windows open to ensure effective ventilation as part of our reopening risk mitigation. Whilst the weather has been warm, that hasn’t been an issue. As summer turns to autumn, this is going to present challenges. We do have a jumper as part of our uniform. We would recommend those students with a jumper to be wearing them to school. We will be looking for more effective long-term solutions to this problem.
  3. Face masks – we have been contacted by Tesco to say that a small number of students have been in their store without a face mask. We have had a similar message regarding students travelling on Stagecoach buses.  Please can you remind your child that they must wear a face covering when they enter any shop or if they travel by bus.
  4. Free School Meals eligibility - please remember, if your financial circumstances have changed, your child may be eligible for Free School Meals. If you click on this link you will find guidance on the eligibility criteria and the application process. It's a quick process and we are notified of all FSM entitlements by Gloucestershire County Council each Monday. I would urge you to take a look if you think you may benefit from financial assistance.

I do hope that you and your family enjoy a great weekend.

Richard Johnson