Letter to Parents – End of Year Letter / Critical Information for New School Year
27 July 2020
I hope that this letter finds you and your family well following what has been an incredibly difficult period for all within our community. During this academic year, we have faced considerable and sustained difficulties that have made living out our vocation far more challenging. The response from the staff has been incredible, living out their vocation in service to our community and showing courage and compassion to those in need. However, it is the response of our students that has been truly humbling. Whether they be in Year 11 and facing an anxious summer without examinations, or Year 7 who have faced considerable absence from the college, they have modelled positive determination and not allowed excuses to stop their personal development. It would be wrong to not draw praise and thanks to our students and the parents, grandparents, carers and neighbours who have made this work.
Normally, the end of year letter has some generic reminders about expectations for the next academic year and some key information. However, this year I am required to share far more critical information and I would strongly encourage all parents to read and discuss this letter with their children. The information within this letter not only sets out how we will manage the return of all students in September, but additionally the steps we will take to support our community on lost learning. It is based on the information we have to date from Government and will be updated prior to our return in September.
In this letter, I will be discussing arrangements for:
- The return to school in September
- Information from GMPTE around transport arrangements.
- Changes to the entrance and exiting of students from the building.
- Arrangements for lessons and changes to curriculum to accommodate health and safety requirements in support of guidance from the Government.
- Our response to extra-curricular activities
- Adjustments to our behavioural code and support for mental health and resilience of students
- Changes to hygiene routines and expectations for all visitors to the college.
- Uniform expectations from September
- The building repair work and progress.
The Return of School In September
On 02nd July, the Government issued “Guidance for full opening: Schools.” This document sets out the expectations and requirements on schools and covers school operations, curriculum, pastoral support, assessment and contingency planning. The government believe that, “the prevalence of coronavirus has decreased and our NHS Test and Trace system is up and running.” The return of students to school is, “…vital for children’s education and their wellbeing,” and that “the risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school.” Finally, they state that, “…it is not possible to ensure a totally risk free environment,” and that the “….balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children returning to school.”
These statements give clear direction to parents and school leaders, that children should return to education in September. However, I believe that they do not yet answer all the questions that parents may have around the implication of this decision and our duty to protect children and staff. The guidance states that schools must do all they can to minimise the number of contacts that a pupil has during the day to reduce the risk of infection. Schools must also complete a detailed ‘Risk Assessment’ that is approved by the Local Authority and shared with staff. The guidance accepts that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach and what works for one school, may be very different in another. Therefore, whilst this letter sets out our intention for September, we aim to supplement this with an online presentation and Q&A session to help parents. Details of this will be shared via MyEd prior to September.
In order to meet the guidance, the college will be introducing changes to the way we operate in order to minimise risk. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Minimising contact with individuals who are unwell.
- Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual.
- Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting ‘catch it, bin it, kill it.’
- Enhance cleaning including frequently touched surfaces.
- Minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing.
- Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment. (PPE)
The first four bullet points must be in place in schools all the time.
To prevent infection, the college will use the guidance from the government ensuring that we remind all of the symptoms of Covid-19 which are attached at the end of this letter. Where a child displays any of the symptoms identified, they must remain at home and follow advice from their local GP and notify the college of the absence and the reason. Specific details are:
“If anyone in the school becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow ‘stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’, which sets out that they must self-isolate for at least 7 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19). Other members of their household (including any siblings) should self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.”
Where a child develops symptoms in school, they will be asked to sit in a pre-prepared room with adult supervision. A separate bathroom will be made available for the sole use of those with signs of Covid symptoms. Staff who will supervise cases such as these will wear personal protective equipment. The space will be subject to rigorous cleaning routines.
Certain traditional school events will be handled differently during this national crisis. For example, large gatherings will be avoided meaning that events such as assemblies or parent evenings will not take place in the traditional format, but instead in a virtual manner. As a college, we will not be permitting interschool competition during the first term. Any trips or events will be reviewed individually with the balance of risk considered as the primacy. It is therefore unlikely that trips will occur in the first term.
Guidance from the government indicates that it is expected that a ‘bubble’ grouping children together in order to minimise contact with others is the best course to take; however, it is accepted that in secondary schools, this is likely to be the size of a full year group and in the case of Newman: 300. Each Year group bubble will be kept separate from others, receiving their curriculum in one specific area of the college. Students will not move across the building as they would do normally, but instead stay in their designated area with teachers and staff moving across the building to deliver provision. Students will have to use specific entrances and exit allocated to their Year group, utilising the new ‘one way’ system in each zone and adhering to social distancing as best they can. Desks will be positioned in class to face the projection board and not have students sit face to face to each other. Excess furniture will be removed to accommodate classes and where possible, a 1m distance will be applied between all students’ desks.
Whilst there will be no dilution of the curriculum during this period, some specialist equipment will be prioritised to those Year groups facing examinations. We will take steps to ensure that social spaces and sharing of facilities or equipment is severely restricted or introduce additional hygiene routines to manage the process and reduce risk. We would ask all parents to ensure that students arrive to college with their own pen and equipment, as sharing of equipment such as pens and pencils is not to happen. It is recommended that pupils limit the amount of personal equipment they bring to school, but they are encouraged to bring their own personal sanitiser gel.
The college will staff breaks and lunchtimes to ensure that social distancing can be maintained and time afforded to allow for cleaning of furniture as well as consumption of food. Students will be expected to maintain social distancing and follow the guidance of staff in completing hygiene rules. Students who do not do as asked by adults, or who willingly risk the safety of others will face sanctions in line with the college ‘Behavioural Policy’ and an updated annex that deals specifically with the Covid crisis. More details will be shared with parents prior to September.
Transport to College
Transport for Greater Manchester have written to the college to explain their response and services from September 2020. These services fall in to two categories: Dedicated school services (buses that only accept students attending Newman College) and Public Services (traditional bus and tram services on offer to all.)
Their advice remains that, where possible students should avoid public transport and they are encouraging students to walk or use a bicycle to attend school. This is likely to be incredibly difficult for a large number of students who arrive at college via public buses and the tram system. They have also indicated that they believe, “…there to be a reduced capacity on the public network…” from September, thus making travel arrangements more difficult for students.
For those arriving by dedicated school services, the college has indicated that we must have a full service with the same timetable as last year. However, at this stage we have not received confirmation of this. Finally, if students must use the bus or public transport, pupils should follow Government guidance on safe travel by wearing a face covering; keeping their distance; and washing their hands regularly. We will endeavour to share any updates as to the service or restrictions with parents via MyEd and the college website.
Measures for arriving at and leaving college.
Newman College relies heavily on the dedicated and public transport systems. Whilst government have suggested that schools can stagger the start times of students, we know that for our community, it represents a challenge to younger siblings at other schools as well other logistical issues. We are therefore continuing to operate with the traditional college timings which are also attached at the end of this document.
When students arrive at college, they must remove their face coverings and they will be reminded of this on entry. This is following the guidance issued by government. The college will not allow face masks to be worn in the building, in line with Government guidance.
Each Year group will have a dedicated entrance and exit that they must use. These will be communicated in advance of the return. On entry, students will be asked to either wash their hands for 20 seconds or use sanitiser gel. Each Year group will have a specific zone for their lessons in the college and they will be expected to stay within their zone for all lessons, leaving only for breaks and lunch time.
Students with SEN
For those students with Education, Health and Care plans or SEN Support, our Inclusion team will liaise directly with parents to remove any concerns. All EHC plan students have a bespoke risk assessment completed by the Inclusion Team and will discuss arrangements and support with parents prior to the full return of the college. Additionally, specific dates have been identified prior to our return, to invite students with SEND needs and others, to visit college for a supported return. Details will be shared by the Inclusion team during August. If you feel your child would benefit from such a visit, please contact the college.
Action on a confirmed case of Covid-19 in our school
Should the school have two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in our community, we will take direction and guidance from the local health protection team and the Local Authority, who will direct what action the college must take. It is not necessarily the case that a confirmed case will lead to the school closing or of a year group being advised to stay home. Instead, the college will be advised of the correct steps from public health experts.
Building and Repair work update
Parents will be fully aware that the building has had significant and sustained faults across multiple areas since opening. Governors have made repeated attempts to force those with responsibility to address these issues, to act, and to protect the provision on offer. Given that the faults and risks escalated to such an extent that the school had to close, the building owners and the council now believe that repairs must take place.
As of May, the building owners have been carrying out remedial repair work to replace all pipes and heating systems within the building. Additionally, they are carrying out extensive repairs to the roof, which has continually failed to hold back the Oldham weather. This means that by September, the entire pipe work will have been replaced, and the roof repaired. We are holding weekly meetings with the contractors and at present, they are ahead of the published schedule of works. I hope to be able to report to parents that the issues that plagued the college, have been overcome and that we finally have the building that our children deserve.
Our community has faced difficulties that have made our task more challenging. I wish to put on record that it is the view of all the staff that we will not allow these difficulties to be an excuse of poor performance of either ourselves or the students we serve. We are already planning to put in strategies to ensure that our students have the ‘unfair advantage’ that we know they are entitled to. I wish to thank those parents who have actively sought to promote and support the work of the college during this crisis. With the support of parents, the expertise of our staff and the talents of our students, we will surely go from strength to strength.
I hold you and your family in my prayers and hope that you have a safe and relaxing holiday period.
Mr G R Potts DL