Living the first 'Year group' lockdown
Tuesday was the day we had been dreading since the start of term – the news of a positive case in the school community and the need to act fast to safeguard everyone in school. Our local contact at Public Health England (PHE) was amazing. Clear, direct and authoritative, she took on board all the information that we had gathered and worked with us to decide on the what needed to be done. We always knew that our model would mean that a case almost certainly meant a whole year group closure, a by-product of us offering the full curriculum experience in school, and so that is what happened. However, thankfully our Year 8 lockdown is only for four school days. By staying off school as soon as symptoms emerged the student involved saved their classmates a week of isolation, for which we are very grateful. It is though very important that our Year 8s do indeed isolate until next Tuesday. They need to stay at home for the whole time and not venture out, as otherwise the chances of further transmission of the virus will increase and more year group lockdowns likely. Family members of Year 8 students do not need to isolate unless of course anyone in the household develops symptoms.
Of course I was hoping that we’d miraculously make it all the way through the term without any cases but as I have said before, that was always going to be unlikely. When one case can close a year group regardless of school size, it stands to reason that the bigger the school the more likely it is that we’ll see a case. So, despite the fact that this is unwelcome, it has afforded us a good opportunity to test our remote learning plan. A few weeks ago I outlined that the standard approach would be to set work daily via Show My Homework (Satchel One) for three days and then shift to live lessons on Microsoft Teams. However, thanks to the great work done by the network team and all teaching teams, we were able to reduce the delay before live lessons started to just two days. Therefore today has been the first day of live lessons, with every student expected to log on to their form time and five classes as per the normal school timetable. As I upload this blog we’re in the middle of this first attempt at running over 60 live sessions over the day and there have indeed been some technical issues – problems with sound and screen sharing…but I have also seen plenty examples of students online, engaged and participating with their classmates. Mnay colleagues have reported a very positive experience indeed. Remote learning is no substitute for being in school, but I am heartened by the fact that I think we have built an ambitous, strong alternative and one that will serve students very well indeed.
On Tuesday we had the logistical issue of requiring Year 8 to leave early. This wasn’t optional, it was deemed essential by PHE that the year group left school well before year 7, 9, 10 and 11. Our staff team did a great job in getting everything ready for the departure whilst of course making sure there was no panic amongst Year 8 or other students (and staff). However, we are aware of an issue whereby the emergency text sent to parents shortly before the departure of the students didn’t always arrive in time, leading to some parents and carers finding out about the closure from their children and not from school. I apologise for this and assure you all that we will send the text earlier if there is a next time, but would ask that families refrain from calling the school switchboard or their children on receipt of such a text, as it will overwhelm the reception staff and potentially lead to a lot of mobile phones going off in assembly as we are dismissing the students!
The rest of the week in school was ‘normal’ for Years 7, 9, 10 and 11. The systems are still working well and aside from a slight change to ‘zones’ outside, no other changes were necessary and we don’t anticipate any further changes to routines next week. The one thing that will change soon is our attitude to face coverings, as some students – often in the oldest two years – are ‘forgetting’ to wear their coverings properly as they walk along corridors. From doing duty at least six times a day I know that students invariably have coverings with them, and all are very obliging when we ask them to wear them, but some are choosing to lower their coverings as soon as they pass a member of staff. This is of course not acceptable and we will, regrettably, have to start issuing ‘not following instructions’ sanctions to students found doing this. In addition from 5th October any student who does not have a mask will be given a uniform strike when they collect a free mask from school. I’ll reiterate that the numbers are low and there is never an argument, but especially given the case in Year 8 we need to tighten up on this aspect of the plan.
Today marks half way through the first half term and overall I am incredibly pleased at how the reopening plans have gone. It is truly wonderful to have our school feeling ‘alive’ again and, in the midst of rising case numbers and the Prime Minister warning of potentially more restrictions to come, we are savouring every moment.
Thank you as always for your support,