The following COVID message was sent out to parents on Friday 4 September 2020:

We are just dropping you an email at the end of the first week back to run through a few COVID-related topics so that we can make things run smoother and safer for your child. We know you will be aware that the government advice changes regularly, and is often very last minute, so it may be changes have to made quickly at times and without as much notice as we would like.
Even so, a lot of this information has been communicated previously but it does not hurt to clarify things from what we have learnt this week:

Overview:

Our school is a very busy place. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise. In many ways it still feels like it did before and it will be a marked difference to what many people have been used to. However, it is also very different due to our COVID measures. The students have been excellent so far – one or two slips – but bearing in mind we had 1,200+ arriving back after 6 months away, to a tide of new systems, they did amazingly well. Thank you to the overwhelming majority of parents who have obviously helped us out.

Face Masks:

We are not changing our stance on these but we would recommend your child bring one in. We have had two queries about why they are not compulsory. The government advice is that they are not and would be detrimental to classroom learning. To reiterate, we will allow any student to wear a face mask in communal areas, such as corridors, where the risk is low but the bubble is not maintained. The many secondary Heads we communicate with regularly have the same sort of stance.

Our current thinking on face masks can be viewed at: https://www.friaryschool.com/headteachers-welcome/.

We are happy for children to wear any style of face masks – though we would appreciate if the odd Zombie-flesh-eater style on was toned down. Perhaps plain, perhaps decorative flowers, or ideally Maths timetables for others to look at. We are though keen to avoid a ‘Walking Dead’ experience for the new Year 7s. 

We will be doing Year group only assemblies (with Year 11 on Monday). The risk has been mitigated by a one-way system, a staggered arrival / dismissal, whilst mixed-year House assemblies have been scrapped. The reality is that your child will be at no greater risk than being in a lesson or going around the corridor but it may be that you wish your child to wear a mask at that time. This stance also follows government guidance.

If our position on face masks changes, or government advice changes, or if they become compulsory due to a lock local lockdown, then we will let you know.

Brunch / Lunch Arrangements:

In order to maintain our year group bubbles, all year groups get one 1/2 hr slot when they can access the canteen.

If you child is in the brunch window then they can either eat then, or buy an item to eat elsewhere at the lunch-break later. This is inconvenient but there is on other way of doing it. Our canteen would need to be at least 5 times bigger if we wanted to get every child in whilst retaining their bubble.

There is no daily rota on this as we wanted one system that made it easier for students – and staff – to get their heads around. Your child has one daily canteen slot to remember.

If you have not done so, it would be advisable to talk this through with your child so they understand how they need to manage when they eat.

Water Fountains:

These have had to be switched off. Our only secure option would be to position a member of staff by them to wipe and check after each user – this is not feasible.

We would advise children bring in a water bottle – most children have lockers too so can store a drink in there – and drinks can be purchased from the canteen.

Buses:

It is clear that many parents have followed school and government advice to provide alternative transport and this has been a big help – thank you.

The students on the buses have all left with face masks on too – where obviously they are out of their bubble – again thank you.

Arrival at School:

We had around 30 students in school from 8.10am and though we accept that early buses can leave no alternative, we would reiterate that it is difficult for us to supervise children at this time whilst retaining our COVID measures.

We request that children arrive ideally no earlier than 8.30am and go straight to their designated places. If those who can do this do so, then it makes it easier for us to manage those who have no option.

PE Kits:

We had our first children in school today wearing their PE kits, rather than normal uniform – they were pleased this measure had come in.

Even so, it was noticeable that there were some girls who arrived with just a skirt and a PE polo-shirt. The weather is not cold, but it certainly isn’t tropical, so despite the insistence of “I’ll be fine” we would suggest they bring a fleece, coat or even a tracks suit with them. It will get colder, it will get wetter, and this is not a time to be getting rundown health-wise.

School Events:

We are in communication with the Department for Education, Staffordshire County Council, trade unions, etc, on how to run the events that are ‘normal’ on the school calendar; like open evening, parents evenings, etc. It is certain that some things will fall by the wayside, and others will be markedly, changed, but rest assured we will go as far as we safely can to maintain school life for your child.

Communication:

We would encourage you to check the website weekly and/or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. We are also getting Instagram up-and-running now too.

Tiered Opening:

At the very end of last week the government announced a tiered approach to schools opening if there was a local break-out of COVID. We now have plans in place and they would see certain year groups in at certain times, with the home learning arrangements kicking back in for the others. It would be familiar and it would include Show My Homework, videos, Teams, etc.

We are hoping these plans are never needed but if they are then at least they are in place.

And Finally:

Again, we recognise that there are lots of different views on how schools should deal with COVID, and there will be lots of different stories that get home via children. Equally, we talk to some children who say they have been in the park most of lockdown, others who talk about family events, and others who say they have not been out-and-about at all. We can all hear a story and rush to conclusions about the people and judgements involved – but this is not helpful.

If you do wish to query anything then by all means email office@friaryschool.co.uk and we will get back to you. However, though we may not (and cannot) run a COVID-safe school as every individual parent wants us to, please be assured that we are carefully following the government guidance (which is publicly available). We are proud that more and more staff and governors send their own children to our school and hopefully this gives you confidence that we’re treating your child as if they were our own.

Thanks for your support.

Matt Allman, Headteacher, added: “We are trying to maintain a regular dialogue with parents so that they are up-to-speed with how things are working at school. Our school cannot be COVID-secure in isolation, it relies on our parents, families and community, doing all it can to keep the virus at bay. We are desperate to keep our student in school with us and we need everyone pulling together to help us to achieve this.”