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

We have recently received new COVID guidance from the Department for Education on the government expectations for Easter and we wanted to let you know what was on the horizon as soon as we could.

This email will cover:

  • COVID Testing
  • Easter Arrangements
  • Free School Meals
  • Recovery Curriculum
  • School Uniform
  • Year 11 & Year 13 Grades

COVID Testing:

Our COVID testing programme was whistle-stop and we managed to get through the 3 tests in a fraction over 2 weeks. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the volunteers who helped us and to you at home who prepared your children so well for the experience. The initial tests had a very different atmosphere to the last one as your children got ever more confident and at ease.

We were fortunate not to turn up a single positive test throughout the process which is great news for our school and the wider community.

You will be aware that your child came home with their testing kits up to Easter and you have the reporting arrangements already.

Easter Arrangements:

This week the Department for Education informed us that the home testing arrangements should continue over the Easter Holidays. Consequently, your child will be given further home testing kits next week and the reporting arrangements will remain as they are.

One key point to mention is that it will be important to have your child take a home test on the last weekend of the Easter Break. This will confirm that they are negative before they re-enter the school, particularly if COVID rules ease and they begin to mix a little more. By doing this, it will potentially keep lots of people safe and ensure we remain open.

Free School Meals:

We are pleased to inform you that Staffordshire County Council have supported Free School Meals provision through the Easter Holiday. We will arrange this support in the normal way.

Recovery Curriculum:

We are focusing on putting plans in place to support every child in catching up both in academic and socio-emotional terms. We will look to send out Year specific emails next week so that you are clear on what is going on for your child’s cohort.

Over Easter, we would flag the importance of checking your child’s online behaviour – both in terms of content and social media interaction. These initial weeks back in school have turned up a small number of online issues relating to viewing and relationships which now necessitate some unpicking. Children have had little face-to-face contact for months but have now been thrust into the melting pot of school life which takes a bit of getting used to.

The parent-child relationship on online behaviour is often one of trust, but it is vital it does not become blind trust. At times we speak to shocked and upset parents when we contact home to flag up issues. The first comment is often that he/she would never do that, or say that, but then there is a dawning realisation that things have gone awry. During lockdown, online life became all-consuming, but like when we flag up to parents about attending a first house party, or the importance of following teacher instruction on the ski slopes, there is a need to be safety conscious and welfare aware.

The online threats were in the news again this week: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-56337505.

It is this sort of socio-emotional impact of lockdown which is a particular challenge for younger children who lack the experience and well-established foundations of friendship of their older peers.

School Uniform:

We have worked hard to gently assimilate students back into school life – whether that be with routines, lessons, or exam courses. The key has been to engender a positivity and warmth that makes the transition easier. Even so, we have noted that standards in terms of school uniform, PE kit, etc, are more lax than we would like.

A blazer in itself, or a hair colour, do not affect an exam result but having clear structures, expectations and routines makes managing 1,200+ children a lot simpler and provide them with a clarity, comfort and security. Consequently, as we move forward we are going to be picking up on uniform standards over the next few weeks and need your support in making sure your child comes properly prepared for school.

The full guidance on uniform, PE kit, hair, piercings, etc can be seen via: https://www.friaryschool.com/uniform/

We know our main priority is to support learning and to close gaps so having clear rules and standards, alongside your support on them, means we can focus our attention on what the real priority is.

If any parents have issues in terms of acquiring school uniform then contact us via office@friaryschool.co.uk as we may be able to help.

Year 11 & Year 13 Grades:

Our Facebook Live event took place last night to talk to Year 11 and Year 13 parents about the Summer grades process. It saw plenty of views so we are pleased the dialogue is getting out to you. The broadcast is also available on catch-up via our Facebook page (@friaryschool).

One key element was that we want to be crystal clear on what internal assessments are taking place in subjects in the run up to leaving the school.

All of the Year 11 assessment tasks can be viewed at: https://www.friaryschool.com/y11-grades-2021/
All of the Year 13 assessment tasks can be viewed at: https://www.friaryschool.com/y13-grades-2021/

These assessments add to the detailed picture we already have of your child as the last 5 or 7 years given us a great weight of evidence to base judgements on. Of course, you have the most recent report (from December 2020) so you already have a good idea where your child sits.

Equally, if you missed the previous letter and guidance booklet then they are available on these pages too and they explain the whole process fully.

This subject continues to be a hot topic in the press but we believe that if there is openness and transparency then no-one can have grounds for complaint:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-56523629
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-56499559

We do not yet have a leaving date for Year 11 and Year 13 students as we have had no guidance from the Department for Education. If we do not hear from them by the end of the Easter Break then we make a call early next half-term. Our decision will be based around when grades are taken in and finalised.

Regardless, we will also be working to ensure that events like Leavers Assemblies, the Y11 Prom and the Y13 Meal take place. We will also look to set up Year 11 students with activities that prepare them for their next steps.

Matt Allman, Headteacher, added: “We hope you have a chance of an Easter Break and that the R-rate and COVID measures continue to fall over the holiday. Certainly, if the Summer Terms runs through uninterrupted then it will be our best period in school since 2019.”