MHS update 9-7-2021
Hope lies ahead
According to the internet, the phrase ‘It is always darkest before the dawn’ was first written down in about 1650 by a chap called Thomas Fuller. I guess it’s supposed to give people hope in difficult times, reminding them that even when the going is tough brighter days might not be all that far away.
Well, if we are indeed not far away from a new dawn – a school term in September with no contact tracing, no close contacts isolating and no ‘bubbles’ – then it’s true that it’s been pretty dark these last few days. As every parent, carer, student and colleague will know, we’ve had it rough these past nine days. Until then we had stayed relatively untouched by the new wave of Covid cases, and the memory of the ten straight covid-free weeks in mid to late spring was still very much alive. However, that all changed about nine days ago and we are now in the thick of a surge in cases. This is of course following the pattern of every other school and most communities in the North West and beyond, but it’s so very very frustrating.
I thought therefore I’d try to outline the situation now and at various points in the future – as best I can.
I attended a local Public Health briefing this morning and the message was clear; the Delta variant is spreading rapidly in this area, is particularly prevalent within secondary school students and is likely to keep on increasing in the near future.
Because of this we are experiencing the most intense rate of cases we have had to deal with all pandemic, eclipsing the previous ‘worst week’ of early November in just three days. As you will almost all be aware this had led to several rounds of contact tracing and currently 200+ students identified as close contacts. This is definitely therefore ‘the dark’.
Do we have to keep identifying so many contacts?
Sadly, yes. We’re in a strange situation where the country is being opened up but the rules that govern how we handle cases has changed. We’re still running a system that was in place when people couldn’t visit each other’s houses, couldn’t go out anywhere and mixing was limited. Now of course the opposite is true and our unvaccinated young people are rightly starting to live their lives again, but our hands are tied and we have to send home close contacts whenever we find them. As I’ll explain below there is a plan to avoid this in September, but I really wish the rules could change right now rather than allow students to experience such a disjointed end to the year.
Learning in school and at home
I have been incredibly proud of both students and staff from day one of this pandemic. Their commitment and attitude has been something else and hasn’t waned at all. Adults and students alike are making the most of their opportunities in school and at home, but I freely admit that the overall experience has been affected by the current surge in cases. We have been particularly blessed over the whole year with remarkable levels of staff attendance, but even that has changed recently. More colleagues than ever are contracting covid, many more on top are isolating with their own children or looking after their own infants who have been sent home from school or nursery. One day three weeks ago we only had to cover one single lesson…on Monday this week we covered 40. That’s a huge amount, putting an increased burden on staff in school and a great deal of stress on those at home trying to set work and deliver live lessons while juggling their own family needs. I am therefore aware that there will have been some gaps in remote learning at times, but I remain confident that we are giving isolating students a very strong offer despite these challenges.
It was confirmed earlier this week that we will be asked to conduct two lateral flow tests per student at the start of term in September (assuming we have consent from parents/carers). We’re working on a plan for this now, but the essence of it is that we aim to complete this testing with no/minimal disruption to lessons and learning. That will mean some testing in the final week of August for all those who can come in, and those who can won’t have to miss a single minute of lessons when term starts. More to follow of course.
The new school year
And here we get to the ‘dawn’. As it stands in September we can look forward to a pretty normal school term. No masks, no whole school one-way system, no hand sanitiser, no contact tracing etc. What that means is that if a student or staff member tests positive for covid then they will isolate as an individual, but no-one else will need to. I’m aware that this may cause anxiety to some people and I’m sensitive to that, but from an educationalist’s point of view it is a game changer. The 200+ students currently isolating at our school would drop to 6…a reduction of 97%. To be honest I’m grumpy that we can’t have the new rules right now. After all, the nation is experimenting with full houses at Wimbledon and Wembley…could we not have brought the new school ‘no contact tracing’ rules forwards just a couple of school weeks?
But, that’s a passing frustrating and the overriding view is one of hope and optimism. I’ve been honoured to lead our school through Covid and we’ve all collectively done a great job, but I want to get back to leading our school as it ought to be, covid free.
Ps It’s definitely coming home…
PPs No, Mr Southern and Mr Angove, I am not closing the school on Monday just in case.