Marple Hall School End of Term Update 26-3-2021

Marple Hall School End of Term Update 26-3-2021

At the end of a completely unexpected 12 months, this has been a term that has had it all. A full lockdown, 100% remote learning, cancelled exams, mass testing, a full return to the classroom and a positive case since we’ve been back. As a school, just like everyone in the community, we’ve had to adapt and adjust to the different challenges that have come our way.

As you know I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been incredibly proud of the school all the way through the pandemic, and especially this last term. I have been awed by the flexibility and dedication of my colleagues, humbled by the support of parents, carers and Governors and inspired by the resilience, attitude and can-do approach of the students. We may not be out of the woods yet and I am sure there are challenges to come, but one thing we can rely on is that we’ll get through it together.

A quick word on lateral flow testing. We've been asked to encourage families to carry on with the testing twice a week throughout the holiday, hence the distribution of more kits yesterday. As ever please report positive cases directly to us. 

We’ve only had 6 days back in the new-normal routines, counting from the end of the mass testing regime, and already students and staff are setting into familiar routines. As students will know we paused the sitting of sanctions for the first two weeks for anything but ‘respect’ issues, and that the pause ended at the start of this week. It’s a part of a deliberate plan to keep raising our expectations to get the students back to where we know they can be, and is something that we’ll continue with after the break. I make no apology for having high standards and have every faith that students will rise to meet them. If parents or carers want to mention one thing to their children then it would be to remind term to ‘walk with purpose’ between lessons. The one-way system means we do lose some learning time, which is even more reason why our tolerance for dawdlers will shrink next term!

One of the more regrettable ‘school-experience’ losses during the pandemic has been the cancelling of all extra-curricular activities. Therefore I was overjoyed this week to see the return of after school competitive sport, courtesy of Mr Stretton and the PE and Dance faculty. On consecutive days we’ve had football and netball tournaments for forms in years 7-9, attracting enthusiastic participants and even some form tutors coming down to watch. The lack of opportunities to watch live sport must have really got to some people! Sitting in my office yesterday and hearing the cheers from the netball courts was lovely and a great symbol of hope for the future.

I’ll sign off by congratulating Year 11 and Year 9 MFL/Health and Fitness students for the calm, deliberate and unflustered way that they are handling the new approach to assessments. As a group of students and staff we have a crucial job to do to ensure students get the grades they are capable of, and we are approaching the task with a considered determination that I am sure will pay dividends. Students – do some revision over the break and come back ready to show what you can do.

Huge thanks for your ongoing support,

Happy Easter,

Joe Barker

MHS update 19-3-2021

MHS update 19-3-2021

First ‘full’ week back – done!

Just as in all walks of life not everything is perfect at MHS. There are always things we can do better, systems that could improve, individuals who could make wiser choices…but weighing up all the evidence I’ve been over the moon with the way in which the school has come back together these last nine days.

1) The students have been fantastic. In many ways it’s like they had never been away, settling back into routines instantly and going about their business without fuss. Most teenagers are way too ‘cool’ (is that even a word now?) to admit it in public, but it’s clear that the vast majority of them have missed school and are glad to be back. This says a great deal about them, the support from their families/carers and the school itself.

2) Attendance has been really good. Remembering that ‘normal’ illness is still out there, and some students are having to isolate, attendance on Tuesday was over 96%. That would be a good figure any day and a great one when we factor in the pandemic and all the barriers to attendance that this has brought.

3) The in-school testing programme has been a great success. Testing officially ended yesterday with a grand total of 3427 tests completed in nine days, with 3427 negative results. More importantly, we believe we managed to complete this job with the minimum disruption to lessons. If you were to visit the testing site in operation you would be struck by how simple and easy the whole process looks, but that of course masks the enormous task that went into setting up and running the testing programme. A team of 40 of colleagues made this happen I am hugely grateful for their creativity, energy and ‘can-do’ attitude. Having said that I am very glad that this is now over! Students are encouraged to keep testing twice a week at home, and please remember that any positive lateral flow test done at home means that the student must self-isolate, inform school and get a PCR test asap to confirm whether positive or negative. It is the PCR result that will then determine if the student can return straight away or not.

4) Like the students, I have been equally impressed with my colleagues’ hard work and positivity as school re-opens. We have asked a lot of them recently in many ways, not least asking for their support in giving time over to the testing site, doing extra duties before school, break and lunchtime, being visible on corridors between lessons – basically making sure that school is calm and running smoothly every day. The response from colleagues was fantastic and went a long way to ensuring we hit the ground running.

However like I say, not everything is perfect, and one thing that took the gloss off the week was of course the news of a positive covid case in Year 11 on Wednesday. As you’ll probably have seen in the local news we’re not alone, and it’s inevitable that the virus will keep spreading amongst the unvaccinated youth and younger adults. I had though hoped for a longer period of grace, but never mind! As with before Christmas we will ensure that students at home have access to good quality education, and we are thankful that the students currently isolating are not out for too long.

Looking ahead have a week to go until the Easter break. In many ways the break is coming at the wrong time as a big part of me would like us to keep building the momentum we’ve built up over the past two weeks. But, that can’t be helped and we’ll come back stronger on April 12th!

Best wishes

Joe Barker

MHS Update 12-3-2021

MHS Update 12-3-2021


We’re back – and it’s great. Great to see the students in school, great to see staff doing what they do best and great to watch the amazing organisation of the testing centre in action. Students have come back and are in the swing of things already, as to be honest we thought they would be. No fuss, just 1550 young people getting back to as close to normal as possible. The only real challenge for them has been having to cope with slightly over-excited teachers at the front of the class who are overjoyed at no longer teaching into the abyss!

Next week I’ll be able to share more with you on how students have settled back into school life, as well as giving the full picture on the enormous lateral flow testing operation.

However, today I would like to use the opportunity of this blog to remind everyone of exactly what to do if someone might have/does have Covid, and how by doing the right thing we can all help to keep the school fully open for as long as possible. By following this guidance we can hopefully keep instances of sending close-contacts home to a minimum.

If anyone is in any doubt over what to do in any case then please email


Symptomatic students

If a student develops symptoms of Covid – a new cough, fever or loss of sense of taste/smell – then they must isolate and get a PCR test, even if they have had Covid before. These PCR tests are the original tests conducted at test centres or through the post, NOT the Lateral flow tests that look like a pregnancy test and that give a result in 30 minutes.

  • If the test is negative then the student can return to school
  • If the test is positive then the student must isolate for 10 days and school needs to be informed immediately via

To clarify, if a student has symptoms and then takes a Lateral flow test at home, and that result is negative, they must still not return to school until a PCR test comes back negative or the isolation period is over. Lateral flow tests cannot be used for this purpose.


Symptomatic household members

If someone in the students household develops symptoms of Covid – a new cough, fever or loss of sense of taste/smell – then the whole household must isolate whilst the symptomatic person does a PCR test. Again, these are NOT the Lateral flow tests that give a result in 30 minutes.

  • If the test is negative then the student can return to school and the rest of the household can leave isolation
  • If the test is positive then the student and rest of the household must isolate for 10 days and school needs to be informed immediately via

To clarify, if a person in a student’s household has symptoms and then takes a Lateral flow test at home, and that result is negative, this does not mean that the isolation period is over. Only when a PCR test comes back negative or the isolation period is over can the household leave isolation.


Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs)

These are the tests that we are doing in school at the moment and that, from next week, can be done at home twice a week. The most important thing to remember about these tests is that they are ONLY to be used to try to find people who are infected without showing any symptoms. People with symptoms should not use the Lateral flow tests but should instead book a PCR test (see above)

  • If a LFT that is done in school is positive: According to current rules, this counts as a confirmed positive case and the student and their household must isolate for 10 days.
  • If a LFT that is done at home is positive: According to current rules, this is not a confirmed positive until a follow up PCR test is also positive. The student and their family should isolate while awaiting a PCR test, and then if the PCR test is negative the isolation can end immediately. If it is positive then isolation must take place as above and the and school needs to be informed immediately via


What about people who have had Covid in the last 90 days?

People who have had a confirmed case of Covid within the last 90 days should not take part in Lateral flow tests. This is because LFTs are only being used to find asymptomatic cases, and people who have had Covid recently may well be carrying remnants of the virus that would trigger a ‘positive’ LFT result in error. Given that a positive LFT will lead to at least some time in isolation (see above), it is therefore strongly advised that people who have had Covid within the past three months do not take the Lateral flow tests.


Close Contacts

Where students or staff are identified as close contacts, they will have to isolate for 10 days or until 10 days has passed since they were in contact with the infected person. No test result can alter this – not a negative Lateral flow test nor a negative PCR test. This is because symptoms can develop some time after being in contact with the virus and a test may not pick up the virus.


Is all this confusing – YES!

It is ok if you’re not sure what to do in each situation, but the key messages from school are:


1) If you’re not sure then ask us via the Covid email address which is

2) If a student is symptomatic then please please please do not send them to school. Isolate and book a PCR test instead.

3) If a student is symptomatic then under no circumstances can a Lateral flow test be used to then prove a ‘negative’ and send the student to school

4) If a Lateral flow test done at home is positive then please inform school immediately, keep the student at home and book a PCR test

5) Keep smiling!

I appreciate that there’s a lot here but as I am sure you agree, it’s important that everyone knows what to do. We are of course trying as hard as we can to keep everyone safe and to keep school open for as many students as possible every day. I know there are a lot of conflicting messages ‘out there’ about what can and cannot be done with testing etc, but if in doubt please speak to us directly and we’ll advise as best we can.

Welcome back!

Joe Barker

MHS update 4-3-2021

MHS update 4-3-2021

A big feature of the nation’s response to the pandemic has been ‘change’ – changing from one normal to another, and then to another, and hopefully at some point to a normal that we recognise as being exactly that.

I write to you today on the cusp of another big change, this time moving towards a more normal situation for the school albeit with some small humps to navigate on the way. The important bit is that next week we will start putting our school back together. By Thursday 11th we’ll have all year groups back into school, and by Thursday 18th the three rounds of in-school lateral flow testing will be done and we’ll be back to being where we were in September, which is the closest to normal we’ve been for a year.

I’m very aware that a LOT of information has been sent out over the past week and so I’ll try to keep this blog to the point with three key messages:

1) I have pre-recorded an assembly that all students should watch tomorrow (Friday) morning. Their heads of year/form tutors will be sharing how to access this. It outlines the plans for next week and reminds students of the expectations in school. Students should still log on to forms as usual in the morning.

There is one addition to the assembly that I want to make clear. Students who have PE lessons must attend school in uniform – we allowed attendance in PE kit for the fortnight prior to Christmas only to safeguard family plans for the festivities. However that no longer applies so uniform must be worn with PE kits being brought in bags as per usual.

2) ‘Day 1’ Lateral flow testing

See the end of the blog for a visual reminder of when each year group is invited in for testing. Please can students be reminded of the following prior to their first test:

a) Students should arrive at the time that has been sent home to them. If you were expecting a time but have not received one, please email

b) Uniform does not need to be worn for ‘Day 1’ testing unless the student is in school for the whole day as part of the usual VKW cohort.

c) Students should make sure they have the following with them to enable the test to take place: School lunch card (used for our check-in system at the test centre), the covid testing registration card, a set of three matching barcodes (all three are needed for one test) and a face covering.

d) On arrival students should report to the car park outside the sports hall.

e) As we are aiming to process 100 tests an hour it is essential that students register online for the test before arriving in school. If students are yet to register for the test then the mobile phone number used should be that of a parent, not the student themselves.

3) Home lateral flow testing

The Government announced that following the three in-school tests families will be asked to test students twice weekly. It has now been confirmed that schools will not be asked to distribute tests, and nor will they be posted home. Instead families can order tests online or collect them from nominated test sites. The nearest test site to school is a car park in the centre of Marple (Chadwick Street car park). Further information can be found here

I would strongly recommend that students are tested regularly and of course that any positive test results are reported to the school. All results have to be reported to Test and Trace, but we will only need to know about positive cases.


Next week therefore sees the end of ‘lockdown three’ from a school point of view. Based on the expectations of our school community I couldn’t be more proud of what we have achieved. By the end of this week we’ll have delivered around 13,000 live lessons and form times with an incredible attendance rate of around 95%. That is a lot of online engagement!

On top of that we’ve supported around 80 students in school each day, made thousands of welfare calls home and kept on top of key milestones such as the Year 9 options and several parents’ evenings. It’s been a remarkable effort from all concerned – staff, students, parents and governors – but the time is right to get back to what we love most and see the school full again.

Many thanks for your ongoing support,

Joe Barker

Marple Hall School
Hill Top Drive
Stockport SK6 6LB Headteacher: Mr Joe Barker
Tel: 0161 427 7966
Fax: 0161 426 0931