The following message was sent out to parents on Friday 26 February:

Well we are sure you have seen the good news that schools will begin re-opening from Monday 8 March, but we know for many of you this will be tempered with worries on how things will proceed.

This return is not straight-forward, what with mass testing, social distancing, extended face-mask usage, etc, so there is a lot to tell you, but pretty soon we will be a lot closer to normal than we are now.

 

The Schedule of Return

The big announcement produced lots of celebratory headlines but unsurprisingly there is a lot of detail that comes with re-opening. Equally, the guidance keeps changing, so be ready for some alterations as we move forward.

You can read the key elements of the DfE guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mass-testing-for-secondary-pupils-as-all-schools-and-colleges-fully-reopenfrom8-march.

The main point is that all students should be tested before they can resume full-time education and this means we have to stagger the return. Clearly, it is impossible to test everyone at 8.45am on the Monday morning.

This means students will have to return at different points in the school day – a bit like how we usually run the start of the school year. We have attached a schedule which tells you when your child’s tutor group returns here.

Your child must arrive promptly for their time slot but should not arrive early. It would be irresponsible for any of us to allow large groups of students to hang around outside the front of school waiting to come in. It would increase the transmission risk and, as it would be before testing, it could potentially bring an increase in cases here and in your homes.

On arrival, your child should enter the school through the Library Entrance and report to C1 and C2 which are on the left as they enter the building. There will be staff to steer them in the right direction. It is at this point that your child will complete the registration process for their testing.

Next, they will be escorted with their tutor group over to our testing site in the Sports Hall. After the testing arrangements are complete they will head to their normal lessons and follow the same school day that they experienced last term. Alternatively, if your child is a Sixth Former, and they are on home study, then they should simply return home.

We will only notify students / parents if their test is positive so no news is good news. If a child tests positive, then we will offer parents guidance on what they should do next. It may also mean that other children will have to isolate if they have been in close contact.

If a child misses their testing slot then they will have to wait for availability. This will not be immediate and could stretch until the following week. We are having to operate within a tight framework so have little room for slippage. Similarly, if a child fails to follow the arrangements with due care then they will return home and be re-admitted after the initial testing cycle.

It is important to note that the canteen will not be available to children in slots running from 12.35pm onwards. This is because lunch will have long ended by the time these students complete the process of online registration and testing. If this applies to your child, they will need to eat at home prior to arrival on site.

We recognise that this schedule will be inconvenient for some families, especially those attending later in the school day. Even so, you will appreciate that testing over 1,200 schoolchildren in a week is not very convenient either. This is very much something we need to work through together and if it gets every child safely back into school, as swiftly as possible, then it will be very much short-term pain for long-term gain.

 

COVID Testing

We have already mapped out our COVID testing arrangements so will not go through it all again.

If you wish to refresh your memory – or support your child through the process – then this video link will be a big help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI3u5dTnZBk&feature=youtu.be.

The vast majority of parents have been brilliant but unfortunately we have over 200 children whose parents have not completed the consent form for COVID testing – even if it is not to sanction the test.

We are now having to undertake the laborious task of calling these parents individually which is not helping our preparation for re-opening.

You may well still get the call, but if those late parents can fill in the form now, it may avoid the call, or at least make it a very short one. You can access the consent form at: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=P-ucX7zN1UGH6FkhJ-duehVZXHc4EnRKoEnDUJGh9-1UN0NHNkFCTkRYN0EzUURMRUFKRjVJWkw2WS4u.

You can also re-visit the Privacy Notice related to the COVID testing here: https://www.friaryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/COVID-19-Testing-Privacy-Statement-Students-Jan-2021.pdf.

 

COVID Measures

In addition to the COVID testing, the other big change in terms of COVID measures in schools is the use of face masks.

The latest DfE guidance is that children should now wear face-masks in classrooms, as well as in public areas, so we will be running with this measure from Monday 8 March.

Clearly, this is not ideal and will be somewhat uncomfortable, but it is going to be reviewed at Easter (just 3½ weeks away) and if it gets us safely back in then it is worth ploughing on with in the short-term. Indeed, many children in other countries have been doing this for a good while.

Of course, children can remove their masks when they are eating and may be asked to temporarily take them off in class if they are speaking.

Naturally, those children with exemptions will see this continue to apply, but to help avoid problems, we would ask parents to check their child still has their exemption sticker in their planner. If not, then put a note in the planner highlighting the exemption and collect a new sticker from Student Support as soon as possible. Clearly, with over 3 months away from school, not all teachers will immediately recall who is and is not exempt.

It would be useful if you re-visited the guidance at school with your child and this can be seen here: https://www.friaryschool.com/2020/09/09/covid-update-settling-into-systems/.

Also, it would be useful for your child to check out the one-way system again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFDD_iaVqVM&feature=youtu.be.

Again, the DfE will review the rules in schools at Easter so there may well be changes sooner rather than later.

 

Home Learning

 

The current arrangements for remote education will run up to and including Friday 5 March. From Monday 8 March, live lessons will cease. This is because all staff will be on site. More importantly, we need to prioritise the school network and internal band-width for students registering online for testing, which will be on-going throughout the week.

Even so, constructive learning activities will continue to be set via Show My Homework up to the point that your child’s year group has fully returned to school. There will be a clear emphasis on consolidation, revision and finishing off work, prior to the return to face-to-face teaching. This content will be revisited immediately when your child is back in the classroom. This approach, called ‘Flipped Learning’, will help all children make a smooth transition back.  

Due to the carefully staggered return, some children may find their class is set work on the day they are due back in school. This is because other students in their class may not return to school on the same day. There is no expectation that your child complete work at home on the day they are returning to school.

We would also ask that your child (helped by yourself) re-familiarises themselves with the one-way system and the school day schedules which can be seen on the links in this email. This should not take long, but visual preparation of this kind is likely to reduce any anxiety or confusion.

 

Others News

There is lots of other news to tell you, and we will get the full details out to you ASAP, but as an early heads up:

(1) Year 11 & Y13 Results:

OFQUAL announced their plans for the summer exam results on Thursday 25 February and the Exam Boards are already working on them.

There are no immediate answers but we will look to get initial guidance out to you sometime next week.

(2) Catch-Up / Recovery Programme:

There are lots of hysterical newspaper headlines on this and if all of them come through then we are all going to be very busy. We do not agree that your child’s life chances are irreparably damaged, we do not agree that the detrimental effects of lockdown cannot be overcome, we do not agree that your child is in a ‘lost generation’, but we are absolutely confident that with the right support your child’s learning and well-being will get back on track.

Naturally, we are already working on extending our catch-up programme from that which we published earlier in the school year: https://www.friaryschool.com/covid-catch-up-funding/.

Many parents will already be aware that we run pre-school, after-school and Saturday School boosters on a regular basis so we are not a school that doesn’t go the extra mile.

There will be focused work to do, but we are confident we can cover any gaps, and rest assured we are on it. We will keep you posted on what we come up with, and we will make a difference, but we have no intention of locking up children in classrooms for the summer holidays when they have already spent months cooped in at home.

(3) School Calendar:

At the moment the re-opening, testing, exam arrangements and catch-up plans are taking priority, but we want to quickly re-jig the calendar and start getting events back on that have been withdrawn.

 We won’t be able to do everything, but we will do all we can, and we will circulate the new schedule soon.

 

 Finally…

 Things are very hectic at the moment, and you will be able to see that lots of details are coming out soon, but if you have any immediate queries about the re-opening arrangements, then feel free to contact us via office@friaryschool.co.uk.

 Matt Allman, Headteacher, added: “We are hugely looking forward to seeing your children, and despite the obvious concerns with the COVID situation, it does seem that we might have turned a corner. Let’s keep COVID-safe at home, and when we are out-and-about, as this will help maintain the opening of our school, and hopefully by Easter the world will seem brighter still.