MHS Update 26-2-2021
You wait a while for Government announcements and then several come along at once…
This has been an important week for the country with the PM’s announcement of the ‘Roadmap’ out of lockdown on Monday, based as it is on the rapid vaccine roll-out and the drop in new cases of Covid-19. Of course centre stage is the plan to re-open all schools to all students week commencing March 8th, with secondary schools being given some flexibility to arrange an initial round of lateral flow testing prior to students accessing lessons for the first time. This was followed yesterday by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, sharing plans for how grades will be awarded this summer to A Level and GCSE students, a matter of huge important to families of MHS students in Year 11 and 9, and of course to all of us in school too.
Although we’ve been waiting for these announcements for a very long time it’s only been this week, having heard what has been said, that we could start to plan in earnest. You’ll have seen from my blog on Tuesday that the initial priority was to get the ball rolling with the huge task of arranging the first of the three lateral flow tests offered to all students from the 8th onwards. We plan to run the testing centre for the nine days that it will take to offer all three tests to every year group, after which we hope to settle back into more normal (ish) routines.
Alongside the plans for testing we’ve been working on the return to school in general. We’re very excited to welcome students back, and have been working hard to make sure that we keep everyone as safe as possible. The team have been reviewing our risk assessment and making further changes to classrooms and other spaces, all in the name of reducing transmission both to protect everyone and to minimise the risk of cases leading to students having to miss yet more school. I guess we have to expect some cases though; the data shows that rates of infection are still higher now than they were in October when we perhaps had one or two cases a week. However with the continuing fall in rates, testing and tweaks to the risk assessment we must hope that disruption is kept to a minimum.
Of course one big change this term will be the expectation that students wear face coverings in lessons as well as on corridors and in canteens, and that adults do so as well when they are not 2 metres apart from students. This will take some getting used to, but I have faith that our students will understand that it’s worth it. I plan to record an assembly for all students to watch on the morning of Friday 5th March (Teams cannot cope with more than 300 participants in one go so it can’t be live), and then I will be delivering assemblies to all year groups on their return to school proper to remind them of our covid-protocols.
Finally there is the issue of GCSE grades this summer. We now know for sure that schools will be the ones to set the grades for each student, guided by exam boards and based on a range of evidence gathered either previously or in the final months of the school year. There will be the chance for schools to set assessments to help in this process, but there is no national approach to this and so every school will take a different view on how best to do it. However yesterday’s announcement was perhaps more about what it didn’t contain than what it did, as unfortunately we have to wait perhaps another month for the all important detail from the exam boards as to exactly what we’re going to be asked to do. People are allowed to be frustrated by this…I can tell you that I am!…but I suppose the key message for all GCSE students is to simply keep going. We care about you and we will do everything we can to make sure you get the grades you deserve. We will share further information about what we know and don’t know about the grading process with the parents of Year 11 and Year 9 MFL/Sports Studies students shortly. In the meantime can I ask that parents and carers don’t ask individual teachers for updates, as we need to co-ordinate a whole school approach. There will be an assembly for Year 11 students on Tuesday 2nd March and the same for Year 9 MFL/Sports Studies students on Thursday 4th March.
A busy week then in many ways but a purposeful one. It feels like things are changing for the better and I’m sure we will overcome the challenges that lay ahead.