Head Teacher’s Blog 22nd May 2020
This week’s blog is in a bit of a different form as I want to update you on our plans for responding to the government’s announcement about providing some face to face teaching for Y10 and Y12 before the summer.
What have we been asked to do?
The government have asked schools to begin to invite Y10 and Y12 students back into school from 1st June at the earliest, to give them some time with teachers before the summer, to supplement their home learning. This will only happen if the five tests (below) outlined by the government are met by that date:
1. Making sure that the NHS can cope
2. A 'sustained and consistent' fall in the daily death rate
3. Rate of infection decreasing to manageable levels
4. Ensuring supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand
5. Being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS
What are we planning?
First, we will continue to offer provision for children of critical workers and vulnerable children in all year groups, as we have been doing since the beginning of lockdown. Parents of children that come under these categories will already be receiving regular emails from us asking you when you need to take up this provision and this is how we will continue to operate.
In addition, we are well on with plans for offering some teaching in school for Y10 students across the majority of the exam subjects. This will be from 15th June at the earliest. This will not be full time teaching in school. Instead it will support home learning. Our main aims with the provision are to help support engagement with learning, through some contact with teachers and other students and through a bit of additional routine and structure for the Y10s. Of course in doing this, our first concern is the safety and health of students, staff and all their families.
We have taken the decision to prioritise an increase in interactive online contact with teachers to support Y12 students rather than have them back into school at this time. This is because the advice that we have at this time is that students will have to remain within the same group or ‘bubble’ every time they are in school. Because students study completely different combinations of subjects to each other in 6th form, there is no way we can construct these ‘bubbles’ so that students can be taught in their different subjects. We were also mindful of the distance the majority of our students travel to school and concluded that, given the current health restrictions, it was far more sensible use of staff and student time to increase contact through remote means. We will continue to monitor the advice and guidance and we will also continue to look at how we can support Y12 students who have difficulties with accessing online teaching.
All of the above plans are subject to change as the guidance comes out. I had hoped to give more detail at this time and be further on with planning, but at the time of writing we have not received the government guidance for secondary schools that we are expecting. We are taking the view that it is better to do things right than do them quickly.
There is a survey attached for parents of Y10 students and Mr Birch is surveying Y12 students. We will review our plans based on feedback from those surveys, input from all members of staff and also on the updated government guidance once we receive it. We will communicate the detail of those finalised plans to everyone involved in time to make sure all fully understand before we increase student numbers.
What might plans for Y10 look like?
As noted above, I cannot share the detail I would like to at this point because we don’t have all the information we need to confidently finalise our plans. However, I do want to give you an outline guide of what we do know at this point to help parents of Y10 students respond to the survey we have sent with this blog.
- Students would not be in for full days, and are only likely to be in school for two days per week.
- Students will be in very small groups (maximum of 15, but more likely 8 to 12 students) and they will be with the same group of students every time they are in school.
- To do this, groups of students will be made of students who study the same mid-sized option (the one they will finish in Y11) and the same language. So, for example, you would have a group made up of students who study History and Spanish. They will be in this group for every lesson in every subject whenever they are in school.
- This means that students are not going to be with their normal classes or teachers for the majority of the lessons in school.
- Students will stay in the same classroom whenever they come in to school. The teachers will move to them.
- The purpose of the time in school is to give some contact with other students and with the teacher, which we know can help mental health and engagement with study. It will also give teachers a chance to see how students are getting on with their home learning each week and for students to get some direct feedback and guidance from teachers.
The reason we are making plans along these lines is to ensure that whatever we do, we can follow the guidance about how to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. I have summarised below how our planning takes this into account.
How we are managing risk?
- Minimising the chance that anyone in school has Covid – schools are only opening if the infection rates remain low and any student or member of staff who has symptoms or has been in close contact with someone who has Covid will be required to self-isolate until they have had a negative test and have no symptoms.
- Social distancing – This is about stopping direct transmission of the virus from person to person. We are supporting this by having very small Y10 classes so that students can be spaced out in classrooms and we can maintain strict social distancing between everyone in the room. We also plan staggered arrival and finishing times. By doing this and by keeping students in the same room we avoid having times when large groups of students are moving about the site at the same time.
- Hand washing– This is about minimising the risk of the virus spreading from one person to another through it being transferred onto a surface by someone with the virus and another person touching that surface then touching their face. First of all we are looking to reduce the number of ‘shared surfaces’ that different people will touch through measures such as students staying at the same desk while they are in and propping open classroom doors so that people don’t have to touch the door handles. We will also be asking teachers to supervise handwashing before students enter their classrooms and as they leave. We will have all the displays up reminding about regular handwashing and ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ and will ask teachers to give regular reminders to students about these measures, along with social distancing.
- Cleaning – This is about minimising the risk of the virus being present on shared surfaces. We are bringing in additional cleaning staff so that desks, computers, toilets, and other ‘shared’ areas between use by different groups. Again, we are also planning to limit as far as possible areas of school that will be used by different groups of students
- Avoiding ‘mixing’ of different student groups – This is about helping to make it harder for the virus to spread widely and helping to ensure that people with the virus aren’t in school. This is why students will stay in the same small groups every time they are in school. It means that if one of those students did have the virus, they have been in regular close contact with only a small number of other people. If a student tested positive with the virus, only the students in their group would need to self-isolate and be tested as it is much less likely to have spread to anyone else.
We will be planning for other measures such as one way systems, signs and marking to indicate how to keep 2m distance in ‘public’ areas of school, rearranging staff social and working spaces to allow for social distancing etc.
The public health advice is that PPE will not be needed generally in school, other than for any situation where it is impossible to observe social distancing. Please see the advice below from the scientific advisers to the government.
Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended. Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in some shops. This does not apply to schools or other education settings, as protective measures will be in place ensuring children and staff only will with a small consistent group.
Within our current plan, we have prioritised social distancing and so only expect to need PPE available in the medical room, for use by any staff who have to administer first aid with a student.
If my child is in Y10 would they have to attend?
The government have removed the legal requirement for children to attend school during this period but they do strongly encourage students to attend any provision that schools can offer.
We would obviously love all students to take up whatever provision we can give as it will add to their home learning, help us start back toward some kind of normality and, perhaps most importantly, give them some contact with other students, which we know is great for mental health and for education.
We also understand that parents may have concerns about safety. I hope that you have been assured by what I have shared above and, as we are able to finalise plans, we would be able to share more detail which we hope will provide reassurance.
Finally, we understand the great difficulty of transport for the majority of our families who live some distance from school. Public transport services are limited and the government guidance is to travel by other means where possible to keep numbers using public transport low. This is something that we cannot control directly and understand that it may make it very difficult if not impossible for some students to attend school at this time. We will continue to liaise with the bus company and the city council and provide what advice and guidance we can as things move on.
If you are a parent of a child in Y10, please do return the survey indicating whether or not you expect to send your child to school from 15th June if we are able to offer the provision described. This will help us with our planning.
It is now clear from the government’s announcements that Y7 to Y9 will not be back in school before September and that all round the country, Y10 and Y12 will be continuing to learn at home for the majority of their time. At Notre Dame, at this time Y12 students will be continuing with home learning at this time and Y10 students will still mainly be learning from home.
Part of our planning for the next step is about making sure that teachers have time to continue to support home learning for all students, as this will still be the main focus of school.
We are very aware of the need to continue to learn and improve in the way that we support home learning as time goes on. Teachers are now reviewing their plans up until the summer and are once again doing training together sharing ideas that have worked best and looking at research from around the country on what is working best, taking into account the fact that no one approach works for every student in every household.
After the half term break, I will share in more detail some of the lessons we have learned as teachers and the things that you can expect to see in the weeks up until the summer.
For now, I just want to thank you again for all your support and recognition of the challenge that teachers are facing. We know that the experience is very different from one house to the next and we remain committed to doing the best for our students, your children. We are so proud of the level of engagement so many of the students continue to show and some of the amazing ways that young people are making real positives out of this difficult time.
The school is not open on bank holiday Monday, but we will be continuing to offer provision for those children of critical workers who have asked us to over the rest of the half term.
As with the Easter break, please do be assured that your child does not have to do any work over the half term holiday week. Teachers may set work that is due in for after the half term, but they will not set new work during the half term, so students can leave this work until the start of the new half term on Monday 1st June.
On the Sunday before the start of next half term, Christians round the world will be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost, often called the birthday of the church. We remember the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to those first disciples, who were living in fear with an uncertain future. I pray that the Holy Spirit may bless us all in this time of uncertainty:
Come O Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of Your faithful
Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created.
And You will renew the face of the Earth.