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Headteacher's blog 18-12-20

The end of term's to a better 2021!!

And so term 2 draws to a close. It has been another highly unusual term in what we all know has been a highly unusual year. A year in which so many parts of our lives have been turned upside down; a year in which we have had to adjust to a new normal; a year in which so many words have entered our everyday language that only a year ago would have left us all looking blank. I am hopeful that with the roll out of the vaccination programme and the prospect of rapid testing (see below) we can begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel. However, we know there will be bumps in the road, certainly over the coming few weeks.  

This week we have been given information from the DfE regarding the introduction of rapid testing in secondary schools in the new year for staff and students.  Whilst this could be a game changer in terms of limiting the educational impact of Covid and limiting the spread of the virus, the timing of the announcement and the details we have been given can only be described as unacceptable. In short, we are expected to put in place an entirely new testing regime, find the staff to run it, train those staff and find a venue in school to house it. Initially this was to be for staff and then any close contacts; be they staff or students. 

Despite the obvious challenges, we have developed a plan at incredibly short notice to deliver this. The DfE are now asking us to plan for the mass testing of all students prior to their return to school as well. The scale of this is difficult to over-estimate. We have just under 1300 students. According to the limited information we have been provided to date, to test 100 people we will need 9 staff and will take 3 hours. So, to deliver two tests to 1300 students will take 78 hours. We are supposed to be able to deliver this in the first week of term!! Oh and we are also expected to keep teaching our students as well!! I am expecting more details to come in over Christmas and will write to parents with full details before the beginning of the new term. At the moment, words fail me.                                                        

Talking of the beginning of the new term brings me to another last-minute announcement from the DfE. At 6.25pm on Thursday evening, I received an email from the DfE telling me that we would be having a staggered return for students in January.  Year 11 students will be returning to school as planned whilst students in Years 7 – 10 will be moving to remote learning before returning to school on 11th January.  Again, we have been left with no time to plan, no time to disseminate resources including IT equipment, no time to organise provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. 

The DfE have suggested that schools can take an Inset day on 4th January to help with the planning. I feel I have no alternative but to do this. This will give us time to ensure our testing plans are functional, time to prepare for the near full implementation of remote learning, time to distribute IT equipment to this that need it and time to organise our plans for the provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Once again, I will write to parents with full details of our plans in the coming days. 

At the moment it will appear to you that we are having to make lots of last-minute announcements. These do not reflect well on us or on any of the schools making similar announcements. I can only apologise on behalf of all of those that work in schools for the chaotic and last-minute planning that we are seeing from those with responsibility for the national leadership of education. It simply isn’t good enough. 

As always, here is my weekly reminder about Free School Meals eligibility. 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 will end by wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please do keep safe and enjoy the time with your loved ones.

Kind regards

Richard Johnson