MHS Update 21-5-2021
Today’s blog covers two areas – Covid precautions and Year 11.
As you will no doubt be aware, the coming of the ‘Indian variant’ and a slight increase in the rate of transmission both nationally and in parts of the North West is threatening to slow down the much anticipated roadmap out of lockdown. I understand the need for caution but I very much hope we don’t end up going backwards!
Yesterday I attended a local briefing session which included more good news than bad – namely that Stockport is seeing only a very slight rise in cases, that the vaccination programme is having a clear impact in preventing infection amongst the older year groups and that as of yet, the Indian variant has not spread here as rapidly as elsewhere. These are all good signs and it is not inevitable that we will see a spike. However, the clear message from the briefing was that in order to keep moving forwards we have to remember the now ‘standard’ precautions that we have in place.
The key points to remember are:
1) Year group ‘bubbles’: Although we have seen some great unexpected benefits of splitting the year groups up, the separation of year groups is not universally popular as some students wish to socialise with older/younger students. However the evidence suggests that our approach is helping/has helped to restrict transmission. In the 26 cases we had between September and December 2020 there was no evidence of transmission from one year group to another. The bubbles mean that sadly Year 7 still have to have slightly shorter lessons before break and lunch, but there is no way around that at present.
2) Face masks in communal areas: The expert in the meeting completely agreed with our expectation that students and adults continue to wear masks in our corridors and canteens…hinting that this may well become a request of all secondary schools in Greater Manchester at some point if required.
3) Ventilation: Windows and doors will remain open in classrooms no matter the weather outside. I had hoped that May would be warmer than December but so far I’m not sure.
4) Social distancing for adults: Readers of the blog may well not be aware of this, but the message I have repeated more often than anything else this year has been to my colleagues instructing them to stay distant from each other and students. We have well and truly ‘hammered it home’, and I would like to think that the incredibly low instances of staff having to self-isolate is at least in part down to this expectation. The benefits of this in terms of the education we have provided/can provide cannot be over-estimated.
5) Restricted extra-curricular activities: These are no longer banned, but they are single year groups only. Like the bubbles point mentioned above this seems very sensible.
6) Hand sanitiser: Although now perhaps less important than it once was, based on how scientists believe the virus is transmitted, this remains an expectation and is no doubt helping to keep other bugs at bay as well.
Of course the million dollar question is how long will these 6 points (and other precautions) remain in place. Unsurprisingly the expert I listened to on Wednesday couldn’t say. I remain hopeful that September will see us back to full year group assemblies in the hall!
Every now and then I like to give the wonderful class of 2021 a mention. The ‘Teacher Assessed Grades’ process is now into its 8th week with one more full week to go, and never has a year group been assessed as often. Teachers are gathering as much high quality evidence as possible in order to award the most accurate and fair grades they can, and over the next three weeks (including the two after half term when Year 11 won’t be in school) we will be converting this information into grades. Subject teams are working hard to make sure the grades are fair and consistent, a job that everyone is taking very seriously indeed. To give you a tiny flavour of the task at hand, from my small class of twenty Year 11 historians I today marked my 250th mini assessment. This work has been replicated across every subject in school and I’d like to once again thank the students for their determination in creating the work and of course my colleagues for their dedication in marking it!
Yesterday was Year 11 Photograph day, where we position the year group on a massive outdoor tiered staging thing and then try to get everyone to stay still long enough to take the picture. I’ll be honest with you and say that 10 years ago both I and the whole senior team used to dread this day. It would take an age to get everyone to the right place and the experience was all very shouty. Over the past few years though Photograph day has been one of the ways in which I measure how far our school has come. I thoroughly enjoyed today. The students were fantastic – smarter than they have ever looked and a credit to every parent, carer and the school. The photographer chap caught me at the end and thanked me for how wonderful the students were. Telling me about a school in Luton where he vowed never to return, he looked me straight in the eye and said ‘You’re a very lucky man’. He’s dead right. I am.