18th December 2020
RE: Arrangements for the start of the Spring Term
My sincere apologies for the very late notice of these arrangements but they are in response to a government directive only issued yesterday that applies to all schools in England.
I am sure that, like me, many of you will have found out about the intention of the Department for Education to roll out the use of lateral flow testing in secondary schools, in the evening news. This is clearly a welcome announcement and will hopefully enable more children to maintain consistent in-school education without the disruption caused by an extended period of self-isolation following the positive test of a close contact.
Be reassured that although, as you will no doubt understand, we have not had sufficient time before the Christmas break to respond fully to the announcements, we will do everything we can to support our children and our families.
You will no doubt also be aware that the Government has announced a staggered start to the return to school in January, for Secondary age pupils. Schools and colleges have been asked schools and colleges to provide remote education to most pupils, only opening for face-to-face education for vulnerable children, children of critical workers and those in exam years.
Monday 4th January is a staff training day – as previously planned. It is anticipated that on Tuesday 5th January, only the following pupils will return for on-site learning:
- All Year 6 pupils
- Vulnerable pupils in Years 7 and 8
- The children of Critical Workers
All pupils will return as normal for on-site learning from January 11th.
Children of critical workers in Years 7 and 8:
Pupils who are on-site in Years 7 and 8 will be supervised and supported and will access the same learning as those at home - the lessons will be delivered live to pupils at home. Pupils who are working from home accessing remote learning, will be marked as an ‘X’ in the register which does not count as absent in the calculation of attendance. We will send out a booking for the children of critical workers to complete in order to book a place from 5th January. In order to secure a place, this must be completed by Monday 21st December at 4pm. For these children, attendance will be mandatory and non-attendance will be followed up in the normal way and recorded as absent unless the family is following direction from track and trace to self-isolate. In this case, and in the case of any illness, parents are asked to report in accordance with the school’s existing policy.
The list of those groups that may be considered as vulnerable can be accessed from the full guidance to schools via the link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/schools-and-childcare-settings-return-in-january-2021/schools-and-childcare-settings-return-in-january-2021
It is our expectation that all children on an EHCP, or those with a social worker will attend school as normal and will be supported in the normal way to meet their needs. Parents/carers do not need to book a place for their child to attend school and absence should be reported in the normal way should they be unwell or isolating from 5th January.
Parents of vulnerable children, outside of children with an ECHP and those with a social worker who are expected to attend as normal, will be contacted individually to confirm attendance and arrangements on Monday 4th January.
Remote learning will be delivered according to pupils’ timetables. Children in Years 7 and 8 need access to a device in order to be able to access live lessons. The material for those will be available on the school’s website from Monday 4th January, so any required work sheets can be downloaded or printed in advance. Learning will follow the normal timetable for the week so it is very important for pupils to maintain participation, which will be monitored by teaching staff.
Unfortunately, as the guidance arrived yesterday evening, we were not able to ask pupils to take books home with them before the close of term. Consequently, if parents are able to source a basic workbook for pupils to use during that week, this may be helpful. We will send full details out on Monday 4th January.
Testing – guidance we have so far:
The DfE posted its initial guidance to schools yesterday evening and I am therefore able to provide a summary to all of our parents:
- lateral flow testing is offered by schools to as many secondary school-age pupils and students at FE colleges as possible, starting in week commencing 4 January
- testing will not be mandated and all students will be expected to attend school or colleges from 11 January, regardless of whether a test has been undertaken
- those children expected to attend in week commencing 4 January, and the workforce, are prioritised for testing first
- information on next steps will follow in the coming days
- primary schools and early years provision will not be affected
Schools are expected to devote a staff team to undertake the testing process. The recommendation from the DfE is that a small core team of staff testers is supported by additional volunteers (for example governors) or paid agency staff brought in for this specific purpose. I would welcome contact from any of our parents that have successfully undertaken a recent enhanced DBS check and are willing to support the school in administering tests during the week beginning 5th January as a volunteer.
Schools will receive notification in due course of how they may order the tests and guidance in relation to their administration. Similarly, I am certain that information will be provided by the DfE regarding what requirement is needed for parental permission for children to undertake the test. I hope to provide further information prior to the school reopening on Monday 4th January.
In addition to those tests administered to children attending on-site provision, tests may in addition be made available to those children receiving remote education. Should this be possible, children accessing remote education during the week commencing 5 January will need to attend school to receive a test arriving at a scheduled time and then returning home directly following their test.
We currently understand that testing will only be available to secondary age children and not Year 6. We are however, seeking further clarification regarding our position as a middle school.
I am certain that you may have further questions about the arrangements for children returning to school in January and arrangements for the administration of the lateral flow test. Hopefully, further information will be provided to schools in due course. Please be assured that my staff and I will always act in the best interests of our children and I will happily cascade further details as they are made available.
In the interim, please accept my best wishes for the Christmas Season and I hope that you and your family have a wonderful festive break.
Mrs A Large