Headteacher's Blog 21/08/2020

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Head Teacher’s Blog 21st August 2020

The main purpose of today’s Blog is to confirm the ‘back to school’ arrangements for September. Heads of Year will be sending messages to the students in their year groups over the coming week so that they know for themselves what to expect and feel ready for the return. I would ask you, however, to still go through the information I am sharing here with your children. We are very much looking forward to seeing them all again.

Before I get to the plans for September, however, I do want to say a few words about the exam results and the next steps for those students who were in Y11 and Y13.

Every student’s experience is of course individual, but I have continually been struck by the extent to which so many students have dealt so incredibly well with the cancellation of exams, the fact that they didn’t get to do all that they expected (proms etc.), to mark a big moment in their lives and then all of the upheaval and uncertainty that has happened with results over the last two weeks. I am full of admiration for the many different ways that I have seen students and their families deal with this.

We were certainly very disappointed with the moderated grades for A Level, with overall results for students which were so much lower than students have achieved in the past that we can say with certainty that many were not a fair reflection of what the students would have achieved. We were therefore pleased at the decision to award grades according to the teacher assessments or the moderated grade if it was higher, for both A Level and GCSE as we believe this did produce grades which more fairly reflected what we had seen from students over their time with us. Of course, the late change is still causing delay and uncertainty for some students hoping to go to University. We know too that had the exams taken place, some students would have achieved different grades in some of their subjects and that can be hard to deal with.

Whatever the individual experience, I hope that students feel rightly proud of who they are and of the things they learned at school in and out of lessons, from success and good experiences as well as from mistakes and hard times. We celebrate with the many students who I know are rightly pleased and proud with their grades. We hope and pray that the way will come clear for those who are facing more uncertainty and frustration. As adults we know that these big moments in life pass, whether they are times of great joy or a time of disappointment. I pray that all of our students who are moving on in some way are able to continue to grow and develop, discovering each day the wonderful child of God that they are and making a positive mark on the world around them with their unique gifts and talents.

Now onto plans for September….


Summary of plans for September

- All students will be back full time from September (see notes below about the first week back)

- We will be able to run a full timetable, taught in normal teaching groups, with a few changes


What changes?

- Staff will be supervising regular handwashing, when students arrive, before and after each break time and before students leave, just as we have been with the Y10 students who have been back in to school this term.

- We will continue with the extra cleaning in school through the day and at the end of every day as we have been this term.

- There will be changes to the timings of the school day (see information below). We will have a shorter lunch break, with each year group having lunch at a different time, to keep separation between year groups and reduce crowding.

- There will be no food available at break time. Break times will again be split, so that there are no more than two year groups on break at the same time and each year group will have their own areas where they can have their break.

- Lessons will, as far as possible, be timetabled so that each year group is in a different part of the school. This will help to stop mixing of year groups and will reduce movement and gathering of large groups of students between lessons. All students will have practical lessons in specialist classrooms, however, as this is needed to be able to deliver the full curriculum. There will be extra cleaning and handwashing around the use of these rooms.

- Y7 students will be taught in their form groups for all lessons to start with and, apart from practical lessons, will stay in the same room. Y8 students will be in taught in their form group for more of the time than would normally be the case, though they will be grouped differently for some lessons including Science. This helps to reduce mixing of students and will help with induction of Y7 students, when they have had such a different end to primary and start to secondary school.

- Where possible, classrooms will be set out facing forwards and teachers and other staff will need to maintain distancing from students as they will need to mix across year groups

- Form time will move to the start of the day, to help you get resettled into school and to check in.


Plan for the first week back

Tuesday 1st September  Training Day (no students in school) – this is an important time for staff to go back through plans for welcoming students back and to look at any updates that have come over the summer 
 Wednesday 2nd September All Y7 students and Y12 students who are joining us from other schools only. This allows us to do some of the induction work with these students that we haven’t been able to do in the normal way.
Thursday 3rd September All students return. On Thursday and Friday, students will spend time in form groups, where we will be working on activities to help us to catch-up with one another, get settled back into school and make sure that students know how things will be running in school. Lessons will begin again from Monday 7th September.

Timing of the school dayThe start and finish times will not change, as a large number of our students will rely on public transport, making it impossible for some to start or finish at different times. However, we have changed the timings within the school day, as set out below:

Pre school 

Students met on the drive and directed to their ‘zone’ in school to wash hands and go to their form room.

Students met on the drive and directed to their ‘zone’ in school to wash hands and go to their form room.We ask that students do not arrive before 8.45am*

9am-9.20am Form time – Form time at the start of the day will help to give time to check in with students. In the first couple of weeks, it will help to get students settled back into school and to remind them about the things they need to do which are different to normal.
9.20-10.20 Period 1

Period 2; 10.20-11.20 for some year groups 10.40 to 11.40 for the others

Some students will have break from 10-20-10.40 & others would have break from 11.20 to 11.40.
Year groups will have designated areas across the site. As well as reducing the number of children out at any one time

11.40 – 1.40

Period 3 running for 1 hr 20 mins, at the following times, depending on when the given year group has lunch:

Year group A; Lunch 11.40-12.20, P3 12.20-1.40
Year group B; P3 11.40-12.00, Lunch 12.00-12.40, P3 12.40 – 1.40
Year group C; P3 11.40-12.20, Lunch 12.20-1.00, P3 1.00 – 1.40
Year group D; P3 11.40-12.40, Lunch 12.40-1.20, P3 1.20 – 1.40
Year group E; P3 11.40-1.00, Lunch 1.00-1.40

Y13 students in school for P3 will have their lunch break 11.40-12.20
Y12 students will have their lunch break 1pm to 1.40

1.40 – 2.30 Period 4
2.30-3.20 Period 5
3.20 – 3.35

Staggered dismissal from P5 rooms so that students are not all leaving at the same time

Staggered dismissal from P5 rooms so that students are not all leaving at the same time.Students waiting for school busses after 3.35 will be supervised in their P5 classrooms until the bus arrives, allowing them to get on with independent study.


Students will be directed to supervised hand washing areas at the start of school, before and after break time, before and after lunch time and before leaving school.

*We do understand that some busses will arrive before this time and that in some exceptional cases, other students may arrive before 8.45 but we are not able to fully staff and supervise students in their year group ‘zones’ until 8.45.

We do not expect all students to arrive at 8.45. School starts at 9am with form time, so we expect students to arrive between 8.45 and 9am, allowing us to quickly spread students out into their year group zones, where they will wash their hands before form time.


Travel to and from school

Please do take time to read the attached letter from Sheffield City Council about travel to and from school, which covers the guidance from local public health teams and transport managers for the whole city.

As you will see in the letter, the guidance remains that students should walk or cycle to school where possible.

If this is not possible, the next best approach for helping to reduce the chance of Covid spread is for students to come by car, preferably only with members of their own household, though people can look at sharing lifts as an option. You will note from the letter that parents across the city are being asked to stop their cars at least 5 mins walk from school if they are giving their child a lift to or from school. This is in order to help reduce congestion and pollution around schools. This approach will certainly help at Notre Dame as there is very limited parking around school and the area is very busy before and after school with all the busses and with a number of other schools close by us.

We understand that for many of our families, students will rely on public transport and this has been confirmed by your responses to our survey. We can confirm that all of the bus services that normally serve Notre Dame will be running their normal routes before and after school. The 779, 780, 781, 782, 783 (Stocksbridge), 784, 785 and 786 busses have also been re-designated as ‘school service’ busses, meaning that other members of the public will not be able to board them. This also means that they are not subject to the rules which reduce capacity on other busses, because they will be carrying people who will be spending time together in school anyway, so it is not increasing the ‘mixing’ of people.

There are some other minor changes with individual busses, but you will have been informed about that with individual messages from school. You can also find an updated copy of the bus timetables on our website.

Students who are traveling by bus, including those who catch the 120, will be dismissed in stages at the end of the school day, so that we avoid large groups gathering together while waiting for busses.

I remind you that students who are using public transport will need to wear face coverings while on the bus. Students need to remove those coverings safely when they arrive at school. There will be bins at the top of the drive where students can drop disposable face coverings worn on the bus. Face coverings which are not disposable should still be removed and placed into a sealed bag within their school bag. The link below takes you to a video, showing how to properly wear and remove face coverings.



Face coverings in school

The guidance remains that students and staff do not need to wear face coverings in school. This is because of the other measures in place that help to limit the risk of spread of the virus while in school and because the wearing of face coverings for a full day is uncomfortable and does make it harder to communicate, which is of course so important in school.

We do understand, however, that some students may feel reassured by wearing face coverings so we are not banning them. We simply expect that students and parents to respect the decisions of
individuals whether to wear face coverings or not as wearing them is not advised under the current public health guidance for schools and so is optional.

If a student is travelling to school by public transport and is choosing to wear a face covering in school, they must still remove the face covering that they have worn on the bus and either dispose of it or put it in a sealed bag inside their school bag. They can then wear a different covering in school. This is to help further reduce the risk of transferring the virus from one place to another in order to keep everyone safe.



Students in Y7 to Y11 will be expected to wear full school uniform as normal. Hopefully as the restrictions have eased, families have been able to replace uniform that students have outgrown. If you have had any difficulties, please let school know with a note in the journal and an email to your child’s head of year or form tutor. We would ask you then to work with us to get them into full uniform as quickly as possible.


Summary of the key measures to keep everyone safe:

The biggest measure that will keep everyone safe is not having people in school who have Covid. You can’t catch it from people who don’t have it. Following the guidance to keep the numbers of cases is low is therefore the biggest way that we can keep each other safe.

The public health guidance that we are following are designed to keep those numbers low and reduce the chance that anyone who has Covid is in school. The steps are:

- Staff and students not coming in to school if they have Covid like symptoms. They should get tested as soon as possible and notify us if there has been a positive test, so that we can work with the track and trace teams.
- Students and staff must follow the advice of track and trace teams if they are advised to quarantine because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, (in or out of school).
- As you see from our plans, we will be building a routine of regular handwashing in school.
- We will maintain increased cleaning in school, during and after the day.
- Students traveling on public transport must wear face coverings, putting them on, wearing them and taking them off properly.
- We will be staggering breaks and lunch times to keep students in different year groups separate from one another and to help students to be able to spread out during this social times.
- As far as possible, year groups will be ‘zoned’ in different areas of the school during lessons, to reduce mixing and also to reduce the numbers of different students sharing the same classrooms and resources.
- Once everyone is back, it is impossible to space students out in classrooms as much as we did with those who were in during the summer term. Classrooms will be arranged as far as possible with students facing forward, with teachers maintaining social distancing from students.
- There will be seating plans in lessons, to help us to support track and trace in the event that anyone in school does have a positive test result.

Many of the changes we are making to the running of the school day are to help us to engage with track and trace, by limiting the numbers of people that students and staff have close contact with so we can track them more easily if we need to.

We are able to make these changes, while keeping many other key parts of the curriculum the same and allowing all students to be in school every day.


Key messages to pass on to your children:

- We understand that they have all had different experiences of lockdown. Teachers are planning for that in the way we’ll help you to get settled back in to school life and the way we’re planning lessons. There will be lots of opportunities to check in with how students are getting on and lots of opportunities to recap learning covered during lockdown.
- We are making sure that we’re following the public health guidance to keep our community safe.
- We understand that somethings will be different and they may wish that it wasn’t the case. Arrangements at break and lunch times will be different and it won’t be so easy to run some extra-curricular activities. We will keep reviewing what we’re doing as a school, to try to strike the best balance between keeping everyone safe and school as normal.
- We will also be looking all the time for ways we can use the experience of lockdown to find new and better ways of doing things. Rather than returning to normal, it would be great if we can eventually do better than the ‘old normal’.

We need students to take responsibility for their part in all of this. We can make changes to the way we run school and teachers can remind and guide students, but no one can do their part for them. We need them to sensibly follow the guidance above and the guidance that they are given by teachers. I have every confidence that they will.

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