I write to update you on the impact of the Corona virus on the college and our plans to address these. I wish to set out from the start that the goal for all at the college is simple: to educate our community to the best of our ability in a safe and productive environment. We know that how schools are managing this and indeed the impact is an emotive topic with some calling for schools to be closed. I do not support this idea but do call from greater flexibility and support to allow us to meet the ever-increasing challenges around Covid. The information in the media is not always helpful.
As of 02nd November, the college has 36 staff absent due to general absences, illness and of course, isolation due to Covid. Within this group were 19 teachers. To have 20% of our teaching capacity missing makes the task of delivering lessons incredibly difficult. We know that, provided that those teachers forced to isolate does not rise further, that this will reduce to 8 colleagues by Monday of next week. We have attempted to use external supply teachers where appropriate and where the risk to educational stability supports it. For example, we would always seek to use a subject specialist for an absence over 24 hours. This will be a similar position in many other schools as we all fight to get both the quality supply teachers alongside the subject specialists. This is therefore a critical point for us to maintain stability but also remain open to as many students as we can. Where this is not achievable, as has been highlighted today, we must act.
For this reason, I have taken the decision to limit attendance at college to four out of five year groups per day until Friday 06th November. This will allow us the vital time to ascertain if our absent colleagues can return or not, thus hopefully avoiding yet further disruption.
This will be yet another frustration to the parents and students of Newman College who have faced a turbulent period since December 2019. This decision is not taken lightly but is a necessary and immediate adjustment to gauge the extent of absences, many of which occurred immediately after the college broke for half term and where isolation periods cease by the end of the week. We are purposefully not taking steps for a sustained absence as we neither know the scale of absences nor wish to suggest that this will become the normality. Instead, we are taking this pragmatic decision to keep as many in college as possible until greater clarity is apparent.
Therefore, the following year groups will be asked TO NOT ATTEND COLLEGE ON THE FOLLOWING DATES:
a. Year 9 – Tuesday 03rd November 2020
b. Year 11 – Wednesday 04th November 2020
c. Year 7 - Thursday 05th November 2020
d. Year 10 – Friday 06th November 2020
The ‘days’ that each year group has been allocated will be a fixed day should the situation mean that this arrangement must be extended; however, at this stage we are not anticipating this extending beyond Friday. This means that should we need to continue this arrangement, the day of absence for each year group will remain the same. Additionally, the days chosen represent the best curriculum coverage or opportunity to each year group based on the timetable. Work will be provided on MS Teams via the Assignment module but will not include live lessons due of course to the staff absences. This is far from ideal but is a short term response to the immediate issue.
The patience and support offered by parents has been hugely welcomed by staff and a continued motivator during our difficulties. I am sure that the frustrations of parents and students are great and these are shared by myself and my committed team. I would ask please that you continue to support the college, accepting that this is neither of our design nor wish and that we must remain a cohesive community if we are to see this through. Whatever the future holds during this pandemic, we must look out for each other and most importantly, the future of the young people we serve.
Thank you for your support and patience.
Mr G R Potts DL