Welcome back to the start of the new school year. Over the last two days staff have been busy with lots of training and preparation work, ready for the term ahead. Part of the focus of this work has been the response to the impact of Covid restrictions on our students. Key priorities for us this year will be helping to re-establish relationships, routines and enrichment activities disrupted by the Covid measures. This runs through lots of areas of school life and will be supported by four members of staff who have been appointed to development lead roles in school to help with these priorities.
We are very much looking forward to seeing our new Y7 students tomorrow along with those students who are joining Y12 from other schools. Then we look forward to seeing the whole school back together from Monday of next week.
Start of term arrangements (including on-site Covid testing)
Friday 3rd September
1st day in school for all Y7 students and Y12 students joining us from other schools.
Students in Y7 and Y12 students joining from other schools will all arrive by 8.55 for a 9am start and will have their Covid test during the morning.
Students in Y11, Y13 and those joining Y12 from Notre Dame will come to school for their test only, if their parents have given consent. Students should arrive at the appointment time that was shared by email at the end of August.
Monday 6th September
All students in school, arriving for a 9am start as normal
Y8, Y9 and Y10 students will have their Covid tests during the morning, where parents have returned the consent forms.
Timings of the school day
Arrival at school
Students should arrive at school by 8.55, ready to start form time at 9am.
Students in Y7 to Y11 enter through the pedestrian gate on Fulwood Road. These gates will be closed at 8.55, students arriving after that time will sign in through reception.
All Y12 and Y13 students enter school through reception, where they sign in. Y12 and Y13 students who are leaving school during the day will also leave through reception, where they sign out.
Most school buildings (classroom areas, etc) will be closed to students until 8.50, as these areas will not be supervised at this time. This also helps staff to ensure that rooms are set up for learning at the start of each day.
End of the school day
We have returned to our normal end of school time of 3.35. This is to allow us to extend lunch time again, allowing students more social time and time for enrichment activities.
Students who are catching school service busses will have classrooms that they will wait in until their bus arrives. Y7 and Y8 students will normally be released before other students when their busses have arrived.
Covid Guidance for school – key things to know
The updated government guidance for managing Covid in schools was published during the summer break. As with the rest of life, restrictions have been significantly reduced and the guidance simplified, with a clear balance of doing all we can to return to a fuller school experience, while still having due consideration for the fact that Covid is still present.
I have summarised the key things to be aware of below:
As noted above, we are offering two on-site lateral flow tests for all students at the start of term, in line with government guidance. Thank you to all the parents who have returned consent forms for this already.
Following these on-site tests, students will be issued with home test kits, to be used twice a week. We recommend testing on Monday morning and again on Thursday morning.
As it stands, guidance for home testing runs until the end of September, though this will be reviewed and may be extended.
We had very high levels of engagement with home testing last year and appreciate that support for measures to minimise the chance of spread of Covid in school.
Any student who has a positive test or any student who develops Covid symptoms will be required to isolate as was the case last year.
The situation has changed with regard to close contacts, however.
The first change from last year is that the school will not be acting on behalf of track and trace. If your child tests positive for Covid, then NHS track and trace will speak to you directly to identify close contacts and then they will get in touch with those contacts.
Students identified as close contacts will be advised to take a PCR test. If they test positive, they should of course isolate. However, if they have a negative test they will not be required to isolate.
This should mean significantly less disruption to schooling in the year ahead.
As with last year, classroom windows will be opened to improve ventilation and those classrooms which have mechanical ventilation, it is being used in line with the guidance about circulation of air from outside the building.
We know now that this is a key measure that reduces the chance of transmission of Covid.
We will continue to have hand sanitiser in all classrooms, with teachers reminding students to sanitise as they enter and leave. We will continue to promote washing hands with soap and water, particularly at break times etc.
In the revised government guidance, the wearing of face coverings in classrooms is no longer recommended. We know that face coverings can be a barrier to communication and learning in the classroom, so we will not be asking students to wear face coverings. However, our position remains that students and staff should feel free to wear face coverings if they wish and that the decision to wear or not wear a face covering in the classroom must be respected by others.
As with last year, we will keep this under review, along with other measures, in liaison with the pubic health team. If the balance between impact on the quality of education and the risk of transmission changes, we will re-introduce the need to wear face coverings at all times in school buildings.
Students will still be required to wear face coverings on busses to and from school.
We will continue with the arrangement from last year that students who have PE period 1 on a school day can come to school in their PE kit. Similarly, students who have PE period 5 can travel home in their PE kit. This removes the need for changing where it isn’t necessary and it worked well last year.
Please do note that students with PE P1 should still ensure that they have their full uniform, including school shoes, to change back into after their lesson.
Maintaining higher level of cleaning:
In line with the updated guidance, we are maintaining higher than normal levels of cleaning across the school.
Some key changes from last year:
The main change in the guidance from last year, apart from the change around isolation and track & trace, is the removal of the need to keep year group ‘bubbles’ completely separate.
What this means in school is that students will return to moving classrooms between lessons. This allows teachers to be based in their classrooms with relevant equipment and resources. It also means that teachers are able to be in position on corridors outside their classrooms to supervise movement round the school and it allows for better start and end of lesson routines as the teachers are not needing to re-set their resources as they move between rooms.
It has also allowed us to move closer to our previous arrangements for break time and lunch time. We have been able to extend lunch time again, allowing for more social time and time to re-introduce enrichment clubs and activities. It also means we do not have lessons which are of different lengths, with some lessons split in the middle by lunch time.
We are nevertheless keeping an element of the ‘staggering’ of lunch time and each year group will continue to have a time when they will be in the canteen and students will have their own seat during these times. This does reduce the potential for creating new close contacts between year groups and it also helps students to be able to space themselves out more across the site during social times.
Events coming up to be aware of
We publish school events on the calendar (accessible through the website in the parents section) and I will include a summary of key events in my Blog.
As with last year, these events are of course subject to change, depending on guidance related to public health measures around Covid. When and if there are changes from what we have published we will notify parents affected by email and will include information on the website.
Information evenings – dates TBC
We will be running information evenings for parents, giving key information for what to expect in the year ahead and guidance on how to support your child. These are likely to run remotely as they did last year. They were originally scheduled to begin next week, but we will put them back to allow us to see if there are any changes to current guidance once schools get back into operation.
We will inform you as soon as we have confirmed dates.
Y6 Open Evening – Tuesday 21st September 5.30pm
This event is for parents of children in Y6 who are considering an application to Notre Dame for Y7 next year.
We are awaiting local guidance on whether this event will be run remotely or live. However, it will certainly be on 21st September, beginning at 5.30pm.
Sports Day – Wednesday 22nd September
This is the Sports Day that we deferred from the summer term. It will involve Y8 to Y11 students at the EIS, with Y7 students having their own day in school. Again, we need to confirm that we are alright to go ahead with this as planned and will write as soon as possible with information about the day and what will be involved.
We intend to run this Sports Day in addition to the one that we will run at the end of the summer term, which will be for students in Y7 to Y10 (as Y11 students will have left by then).
Approach to Learning Report 1 – 28th September
On 28th September, you will receive the first report on your child’s approach to learning in each of their subjects. This gives an opportunity to recognise the great start that students make to their time in school and, where needed, to flag up any early concerns so that we can work together to nip them in the bud.