MHS Update 11-12-2020
It’s been a busy week in the news for education with a number of announcements, but perhaps the one that could have mattered most to us at MHS was the one on Tuesday about the end of term. The Department for Education stated that schools could move an INSET day to enable them to close on Thursday 17th December and not Friday 18th December, stating that this would mean that the school’s track and trace processes would be able to end on the 23rd December.
Two things stuck me about this. Firstly, like other headteachers, I have never formally been asked to conduct track and trace activities over evenings, weekends or school holidays. We just seem to have become a key part of the nation's track and trace effort without really knowing it! We are doing the job and we are happy to do it for the good of the community, but we have never been asked to do so. Of course we had already planned to monitor and act on the Covid-email inbox over the first part of the Christmas break, and now we know that this should last for the six days following the end of term. Schools that close on the 17th therefore track and trace until the 23rd.
However, the second thing that struck me about the announcement on Tuesday was the apparent lack of awareness that many schools, MHS included, are officially due to close on Tuesday 22nd. Being offered the chance to move an INSET day to the 18th wouldn’t help at all, and we don’t have enough INSET days spare to cover Friday 18th, Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd. However, as you may have read in my blog on the 23rd November available here, Stockport Council made a decision a few weeks ago that staying open so close to Christmas was an unnecessary risk. As families look to make the most of the relaxed rules over the festive break it makes a lot of sense to close MHS a day and a half early, providing work for the students to complete, and thus gaining four more days gap including the weekend before Christmas starts. Given that students also completed work during the INSET day on 27th November, I believe we have protected the education of students whilst also looking after the wellbeing of students, staff and their families.
The DfE announcement has not therefore changed our plans. We intend to close on the 18th December at 2.50pm. Remote learning will be put online for the 21st and 22nd – although no hybrid lessons will take place – and we will run a track and trace process from 2.50pm on the 18th through to 3.00pm on 24th December. Any cases reported to the Covid email address (email@example.com) between those dates will be actioned and may result in school having to send texts home to advise that students need to isolate. I sincerely hope not!
One of the things that we have done this week to minimise the risk of students being caught up in track and trace is to enable students to wear their PE kit to school. The idea is to avoid the changing rooms where students have sometimes found themselves in ‘bubbles’ with positive cases. I get the logic and I’m glad we’ve done it, but we’re reverting to proper uniform in January. Aside from the obvious drop in uniform standards this week, students need to be able change out of dirty PE clothes and so we’ll go back to the standard approach in January.
I mentioned hybrid lessons above and as I said last week we’re now able to track attendance and the number of hybrid lessons that are taking place. Last week we provided over 780 hybrid sessions and attendance was at least 73% (some marks may be missing). To think that in September we hadn’t even thought of the concept of a hybrid lesson! Interestingly, and this is a good thing, the number of hybrid lessons we delivered this week ought to be lower. The reason being that the number of isolating students is falling and as of today we have got to a point where there are no students isolating as a result of cases in school. This is remarkable and again testament to the way that students and staff are following protocols and families are isolating when they need to. We’re braced for the almost inevitable spike in cases after Christmas, but for the moment at least the picture is great and attendance high and improving rapidly; 87% this week at MHS compared to a national figure of just 81% last week.
So, one week to go and fingers crossed our good run continues. On a personal level fewer Covid cases means more time doing what I love the most about school. I have spent a lot of time these last two days walking round school and seeing students in lesson. All I will say is that you should be proud of your sons and daughters. They are taking this crisis in their stride, working hard and helping our school to thrive.
Ps I've heard that the Government have announced mass testing of students to try and deal with a spike of cases amongst secondary school students in London and Kent. I must have missed the same emergency action last month in the North West, how remiss of me.