MHS Covid update – change to procedures following a positive Covid test in the household

As you know we are keeping a very close eye on covid cases in school and in the local community, and it was a rise in both that led us to bring back ‘Masks on the Move’ last week. Compliance from students not exempt has been fantastic this week, and so thank you very much for your support.

Despite these efforts case rates in school are still very high. In the first four weeks of last year we had zero Covid cases in school. This year we have had over 100, with an acceleration of cases each week as the term has gone on. Parts of our catchment area continue to have some of the highest covid rates in Greater Manchester.

Therefore, we have liaised with Public Health and agreed that we need to bring back a further covid measure to try to slow down the spread of the virus.  

New process for when someone in the household has Covid

From now until the end of this half term (Friday 22nd October) we are asking that students do not initially attend school when someone in their household develops Covid symptoms or has a positive PCR/Lateral flow test result.

This means that

  • If anyone in the household has a positive covid result, any other MHS student in the same household should not attend school for 3 days starting from the day of the positive test or the date of the onset of Covid symptoms within the household
  • On the third day, the close contact child should take a PCR test. If the test is positive then they should isolate as normal.
  • If the PCR test is negative then the student should take at-home Lateral Flow tests each day for the next 5/6 days before coming to school each day (up to the 10th day from the start of household symptoms/positive test). If these daily tests are negative then the student can attend school each day. School can help with supplies of home test kits if needed.
  • Alternatively families may decide that these close contact children should stay off school for the full 10 days from the start of household symptoms.
  • Any student off school for these reason will be coded as an ‘x’ code and will be offered hybrid lessons, learning the same content as their peers in school.

A pair of flowcharts showing this process can be seen here: COVID-19 – Marple Hall School

As always, if in doubt please contact us on

Any parents or carers who still want their children to attend school have the right to send their children in every day. In this situation we strongly advise the precautions above are followed, but we recognise that this cannot be enforced.

We are reviewing the situation daily and this new process will end with effect from Monday 1st November unless stated otherwise.

Many thanks,

Joe Barker

Kick off for the new pitches

Just under a year ago I started to have a conversation with colleagues at the Local Authority over plans to completely rebuild our old ‘astroturf’ pitch. I guess in some ways it was the worst time to have that conversation – we’d just reopened the school after the first lockdown and we were holding our breath for the first covid cases to be reported. The chance of securing some funding, designing a new pitch, tendering the job, appointing a contractor and getting something built for September 2021 seemed nigh on impossible, and I think we’d have been forgiven if we had pushed the plans back a year.

But in other ways this was exactly the right time to be pressing ahead for new sports facilities. For one thing, extra curricular was all but banned last year and so no-one was going to mind the old pitch being out of action for a while. Secondly, we knew that when we could re-open properly there would be a massive appetite for sport, and so we wanted to make the most of the opportunity and crack on. We had been saving for a replacement ‘astro’ for several years and we were thrilled when the Local Authority came on board at the turn of the year to match-fund our project, meaning that not only do we now have a magnificent new 36 pitch but also a brand new floodlit MUGA (multi-use games area) where previously there was just some tatty old tarmac. This is great for the school of course, but also great for the local community. Demand for the pitches has been really high and it’s been great to see clubs making use of the new and existing facilities in the past week or so. Users who remember the old surface will be pleased to know that the new pitch has been thoroughly rain-tested this week and it doesn’t flood!

In planning our rebuild project we were determined to find a solution that would benefit the school in the long run, which in particular meant having the say over what we can do with any profits that come in from lettings. As well as maintenance and forward planning for the next time we need a full rebuild (15+ years away I hope), we will have the freedom to use any profit for the benefit of the school – and so not only those students and staff who are into sport will directly benefit. As a poorly funded school in a poorly funded area any additional income is hugely important, and the way we funded this project means that we’ll be able to make good use of every penny.

Students in PE lessons have used the 3G pitch all week, but on Wednesday we officially opened the main pitch as you can see below. I was joined left to right by Pete Hutchinson (Estates Manager), Olive and Alfie from Years 9 and 8, Michael Stretton (Director of Teaching and Learning for PE and Dance) and Clare Smith (PE Technician and Sports Hall Manager). These colleagues and others have all played a major role in ensuring the project has been a success and it was great to literally cut the ribbon with them this week.

Down to business, one of the first ‘competitive’ matches took place on Wednesday evening between two highly skilled staff teams…although when I tell you the final score was 9-6 you can make up your own mind as to the standard!

Major projects such as this are vital to our efforts to boost the work of our school. It’s a sign that we are keen to keep improving – that better never stops – and I am so pleased we took the plunge during the darkest days of Covid to deliver a great new facility this year.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

MHS update 24-9-2021

I aware that this is the second blog of the week and so I’ll try to keep it brief.

1) Thank you for your support with the return of ‘Masks on the Move’. As you know we have given students three days to get sorted with masks before we expect to see them as part of the uniform from Monday, but already mask wearing in the building has been good. Together we believe we can make a difference to virus transmission whilst not impacting on the quality of education. A reminder that parents/carers can register their child as exempt where needed.

2) Throughout the week it has become increasingly evident that Covid case rates are high in our locality. I know that other schools are suffering too and we can only hope that this phase passes soon. Students isolating with positive cases are able to access remote hybrid lessons, but I know that where staff themselves are unwell these are not always taking place. I know that this is frustrating but all I can do is ask for your patience.

3) Our teaching team are doing a great job pitching in and covering for colleagues who are absent. We’re not anywhere near crisis level yet but I have been asking a lot of my colleagues to go above and beyond normal practice, and I as ever I have been humbled by their response.

4) We have had our first news on the covid vaccine programme. I promised to share with you what I know and so here it is:
• As expected school will be asked to host, but not lead, the vaccine programme,
• The vaccines will be carried out by the NHS school nursing team,
• Within schools, only students for whom signed consent is received from a parent will be given the vaccine. This is important as the Government stated that in some circumstances young people would be able to override the wishes of their parents. Where this is the case students will NOT be given the vaccine in school.
• According to the draft schedule, at our school the vaccines for eligible students with parental consent will take place in mid-November. It will take two days to administer the vaccines to all who are to receive it, during which time we plan for lessons to operate as normal.
• School will help to distribute, collect and collate the consent from parents, passing this information to the nursing team before any vaccinations take place.

As you can imagine we expect a lot more detail as the date of the vaccinations approach. We will share everything that we are asked to share, and will respect the wishes of parents as to what they want to do. Fundamentally we are taking a neutral position, helping to bring the students and nurses together where the vaccine is wanted and not where it isn’t.

5) Extra-curricular PE is properly back! It’s been great seeing students take part in sporting fixtures against local schools this week…and as of next week we’ll have the amazing new sports pitches to use as well. Exciting times!

Take care,

Joe Barker

MHS Update 20-9-2021: ‘Masks on the Move’

MHS Update 20-9-2021: ‘Masks on the Move’

Apologies for the additional blog today, the last thing I want to do is bombard you with messages and especially ones about Covid – but in this situation needs must.

Today we’ll be sending out a letter by email/text explaining that once again we are asking all adults and students to wear face coverings when moving around inside our buildings. This will start as of tomorrow, Wednesday 22nd September, and by Monday at the latest we’ll be expecting students to be fully kitted out with masks. Students who are exempt do not have to wear them and we will be reissuing exemption passes where required. As of Monday morning masks will become an expected part of the school uniform for all but the exempt.

Why are we doing this when no other school in Stockport is taking this step?

The answer is simple. We want to do everything we can to keep the quality of education as high as possible this term, and we believe that bringing masks back will help us do that.

At the moment we have a high level of Covid-19 within the student population, the rate of transmission is speeding up and more staff are also contracting the virus. Of course not all of the transmission will be in school, but the result is the same. Too many students are having to self-isolate and too many staff members cannot do their jobs properly. Therefore, if I have any kind of influence over this situation, I feel duty bound to exercise it.

What is unique about MHS?

Government data shows that the level of virus in the community in several local areas such as Marple and Hawk Green, Romiley, Marple Bridge and Mellor is very high. These areas are between two and three times higher than the rest of Stockport/Greater Manchester, which is obviously being played out in the cases we are seeing here every day. Only on one occasion last year did we have more than one case reported to us in a day…this year we’ve hit four or more cases on five separate days.

Why masks and not something else?

I’m very reluctant to do things that will directly impact on learning which is why at the moment there are no masks being worn in lessons (which greatly hampers communication and learning), no whole-school one way system (which wastes lesson time), no strict segregation of Year 7 students from Year 8 and 9 at break and lunch (which wastes loads of lesson time), and no ban on extra-curricular activities (which limits social development and enjoyment of school). However, I am keen to take effective measures that help stop transmission but don’t really impact on learning. Masks on the corridors and when queueing in the canteen is the biggest card we have left to play that fits in this category, and I believe we need to play it now.

Will this be for the whole term?

Not if I can help it! Cases are very high now but they will no doubt come down, and when we are confident there is no longer a particular issue I’ll be the first to call for the end of ‘masks on the move’.

So what now?

I know that over the last 18 months I’ve asked a lot in terms of support from families, and here I am again asking once more. Anything that you can do to support your child in wearing a mask would be greatly appreciated, and if your child is exempt then do please let us know as explained in the letter that is coming out shortly. Together we can make a difference and keep the main thing the main thing – which is keeping our school open, your children safe and most importantly keeping them learning.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

MHS update 17-9-2021

MHS update 17-9-2021

A full-on Covid blog this week, but not on what you might be expecting. There is nothing here about the decision to vaccinate 12-15 year olds, other than to say that as yet I know no more than you do. I can guess that we will be asked to host the vaccinations, but as yet I have received no information what so ever about how/when etc or how consent will work.

Instead I want to focus on the day to day situation in school and how we are aiming to keep things as normal as possible. I’ll say at this point that the students have been fantastic since they returned. Calm, polite, hard working and full of the Marple Hall Spirit. I’m so proud of them and especially the new intake of Year 7 students who have taken to life at MHS so well. Like all my colleagues I came into this profession to help the kids, and our wonderful cohort of young people makes that so much easier to do. We are determined to give them the best possible experience despite the challenges we all still face.

Our aims of course are firstly to keep everyone safe, followed closely by delivering as good an education as we possibly can. We were proud of our remote learning offer last school year but I never want to have to use those skills again!

Obviously any increase in covid cases in school threatens both of our aims. The more students and adults are infected the greater the chance that someone will be properly ill, the more students who miss out on face to face lessons and the more members of staff who cannot do their jobs properly. To date this year we are seeing on average just over two cases a day amongst the students, and four members of staff have had positive covid tests and had to isolate. A couple more colleagues have also had to take some time to look after their own small children who have contracted covid. However the infection rate within both groups – students and adults – is already increasing as the term goes along. It’s not as high profile this year as obviously we don’t have ‘bubbles’ or close-contact students going home, but the virus is present and the disruption caused by absent staff is just as significant as last year.

Here’s what we are doing, and what you can do, to help us keep things as normal as possible for as long as possible


1) We’re keeping certain safeguards in place – good ventilation in classrooms, the use of hand sanitiser, a limited one way system and separate areas for year groups at break and lunch. These all work and have little impact on learning, hence why they have stayed.

2) I took the decision yesterday to stop almost all assemblies for the rest of the term. I absolutely loved seeing the year groups back in the hall again in the first fortnight of term but we have to be sensible. Gatherings of 300+ people are an unnecessary risk and they will stop in all but the most important situations.

3) Members of staff have been instructed to maintain social distance from each other when indoors, and I have strongly recommended that they wear ‘masks on the move’ inside the building. I have also asked teachers and learning support assistants to limit the time they spend closely supporting students. We all want to help children when they are stuck, but educationally it’s counter productive if the class then has to have a cover teacher for a week as a result.

4) We have moved our annual Open Evening online again this year. Open Evening is a major event for us but I cannot justify over 1200 people coming into school at this time, with the risk that this poses to staff welfare and their ability to carry out their roles should they have to self-isolate.

5) We support the right of students to wear masks at any time if they wish.


1) Please continue to support your young people in doing lateral flow tests at least twice a week. A pack of a further seven tests was made available to all students yesterday or today.

2) Please don’t send your child into school if they have any of the three main symptoms of a new cough, a fever or a change to the sense of taste or smell.

The challenges clearly remain and at the moment we’re doing ok…but I have bigger ambitions than that and I want only the best for MHS. No absent students and no cover lessons caused by Covid. I cannot predict the future and it may be that we have to bring in bigger changes sooner or later, such as a return to ‘masks on the move’ for all students, but for now I hope that the measures above will make that unnecessary.

Thank you, as ever, for your ongoing support.

Joe Barker

Ps The canteen choices have been pretty disappointing this week and I apologise for that. I know that our catering partners have struggled with supplies like many in the food industry and they are trying hard to fix this, but I know that the situation hasn’t been ideal.

MHS update 10-9-2021

We’re a week into the new term and it’s been a great start – lateral flow testing went well and was completed before the start of term, the new year seven students have made a strong impression and the student body as a whole has come back in determined and impressive mood. It was absolutely fantastic to be able to hold proper assemblies in the hall on the students’ first days back…I haven’t done that for 18 months and it felt lovely to bring that part of school life back properly.

In this blog I’m going to say a bit about Covid, forever hoping that unlike last year Covid does not dominate my communication home. My headline message I guess is ‘so far, so good’. As you know there are fewer measures in place this year to prevent the spread of the virus, but as it stands we have not seen the uncontrolled spread of cases that might have been predicted. We do have a number of children isolating with positive cases, and one is too many, but the numbers are not huge. Similarly we have a couple of members of staff in the same boat. Of course I hope that no-one gets serious symptoms and that we can keep cases down as much as possible.

To that end, please can I remind families of the following key points:

  1. If a child has any of the standard covid symptoms then they must not come to school but should instead go for a PCR test and isolate while waiting for the result. These symptoms are of course a new cough, a fever or a loss/change of the senses of smell and/or taste.
  2. People with these symptoms should not rely on the lateral flow tests but must go for a PCR test to confirm if they have the virus or not.
  3. People who are the close contacts of those with a positive lateral flow or PCR result can come to school, but it is strongly recommended that those living in the same house as someone with a positive PCR test book their own PCR test asap, and back this up with regular lateral flow tests if the PCR is negative.
  4. If in doubt please feel free to give us a ring!
  5. Please keep school informed if any student has a positive test of either kind.
  6. Live hybrid lessons will be in place for all students who are isolating with positive tests.

I know that you may think these reminders are unnecessary but I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing them. Bigger covid measures such as compulsory mask wearing, a ban on extra-curricular activities and stringent one way systems are all lined up in case infections start to rise quickly, and of course we want to avoid as much disruption to school as we can.

A word on vaccines for 12-15 year olds

This is not an announcement about imminent vaccines. Headteachers are yet to be informed of any plans to vaccinate young people, and so please can I request that parents and carers try to avoid asking us about this just at the moment. If/when we hear anything then I’ll make sure we communicate as soon as we can.

Open Evening

School is back to normal in so many ways, but one decision that we have made from a Covid point of view is to keep Open Evening as a ‘virtual event’ this year. We had planned to welcome Year 6 students and their parents into school as normal this year, but having reviewed the situation regarding covid cases in Stockport, the pros and cons of Open Evening and the risk to the effective operation of the school afterwards, we decided that the risk is too great. Open evening attracts around 1500 people each year (which is amazing, by the way) with classrooms and halls crammed full of people keen to see MHS in action. I love it. But…if that meant that one teacher caught covid, and even if not unwell their classes missed out on proper learning for 10 days, then I’d kick myself. I think at this time we have to pull out all the stops to make sure students miss as little learning time as possible, hence the decision to prioritise current learners and go online with Open Evening again this year. We’ll be sharing our online offer in early October, students with SEN or other vulnerabilities are welcome to come for a visit, and we’ll make sure next year’s transition process is top quality as usual.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Transport considerations ahead of the new school year

September is nearly upon us and with it comes an opportunity to try new things – including different ways to travel to and from school.

New cycling and walking routes have been popping up across Greater Manchester, making it safer and easier than ever to get about on foot or by bike – why not consider walking or cycling to us in September? This can be a great, healthy way to start your day – particularly for shorter trips!

Public transport is safe for those who want to use it, with transport operators implementing enhanced cleaning regimes on board services and hand sanitiser dispensers still installed at stations and interchanges. If you plan to travel by public transport, please be sure to check routes and timetables before you set off.

You can continue play your part in keeping yourself and others safe when using public transport or taxis and private hire vehicles, by following safe travel guidance. This includes:

  • Wearing a face covering – they are still required on Metrolink services and inside stations and interchanges, unless you’re under 11 or are exempt for another reason. The use of face coverings is also expected on bus, rail and taxi services
  • Keeping windows open to maintain fresh air flow and ventilation 
  • Cleaning your hands frequently by washing with soap and water or using hand sanitiser 
  • Using contactless payment if possible 
  • Being kind and consider fellow passengers when travelling

If you do need to drive, please switch off your engine when waiting outside to reduce air pollution and, if possible, try parking further away and walking the last part of the journey.

However you choose to travel, it’s important to plan ahead and check the latest travel advice. Support and information about this can be found on TfGM’s Schools Hub.

New school Year 2021-2022

Welcome back!

It’s September 1st 2021 and one day away from the first students returning to school after the summer break. The staff have all been in school today getting ready, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our Year 11 and Year 7 students back on Thursday 2nd September, with the rest of the school all together on Friday 3rd.

There’s a great deal I’d like to say about the start of term, but I’ll restrict myself to the most important information which once again centres around covid. Parents and carers may well be aware that the vast majority of covid control measures are no longer required in schools. However, there is of course still a responsibility on schools to minimise transition as much as possible – while delivering a full school experience.

There here are some of the things that are in place to keep students and adults as safe as possible at the start of this term:

  1. Lateral flow testing should take place twice weekly at home. School will share test kits as frequently as we get them delivered
  2. Students with positive Covid tests must self isolate as before, and online ‘hybrid’ lessons will be in place for them
  3. Students will still be asked to use hand sanitiser at the start and end of each lesson
  4. Classrooms will remain ventilated with doors and some windows kept open
  5. Canteens will be separated, with each of years 8,9,10 and 11 having their own canteen. Half of Year 7 will join Year 8, half will join Year 9
  6. Students will be given their own areas to use before school, at break and at lunch.
  7. There will be a limited one-way system in parts of the school. It will be much less involved than last year, but should help minimise busy corridors.
  8. Staff will continue to wear face masks in some situations, and all students are welcome to wear masks if they wish.
  9. Staff will no longer be banned from walking around classrooms, although we have recommended that staff keep distanced from each other and students as much as possible.

The majority of these control measures are ones that we have chosen to put in place as we seek to minimise infections without compromising learning. Common sense tells us that we may have to bring back more controls as the autumn progresses, but hopefully not and hopefully not to the detriment of teaching and learning.

The following controls are no longer in place:

  1. Students no longer need to wear a face mask in school. They can wear one if they wish
  2. Students no longer need to follow a one way system outside, or on most corridors
  3. Students who are identified as close contacts of people with positive covid tests will no longer have to self isolate
  4. Extra curricular activities are no longer banned

So…we face the prospect of an almost normal school year but one in which we are keeping some sensible and less intrusive control measures. How long this lasts for is anyone’s guess, but fingers crossed we can keep this new normal going for the foreseeable future.

Hopefully next week’s blog won’t be covid-themed,

Best wishes

Joe Barker

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