The following COVID guidance was sent out to parents on Friday 28 May:

After the news of the Variant of Concern (‘Indian’) case with one of our students, we wanted to update you on how things have gone there, as well as flag up a couple of things for after half-term:

* Variant of Concern

* INSET DAY (Monday 7 June)

* Uniform

* School Events

Variant of Concern:

Our Sixth Form COVID case linked to the ‘Indian’ variant created some interest – even apparently making Central News – but with the student out of school for a good time and all the Year 13s having left there is no evidence of any spread. We know that the case originated outside of school and with all Year 13 students having precautionary tests we can be confident any transmission will be picked up and isolated away from school.

Despite the Department of Education’s removal of face-masks, all other COVID measures remain in place, and we are seeing very low and often zero COVID related absences. Clearly, this may alter in the weeks ahead as lockdown continues to ease, and as every school simply reflects their locale, then we might get hit too. Fingers crossed we will all keep safe.

INSET Day (Monday 7 June):

Next week’s half-term break is extended by a day on Monday 7 June for an INSET Day. This will see staff come in to train on teaching and learning, supporting catch-up and recovery, and re-jigging our curriculum provision to continue to adapt to the impact of COVID. Certainly it will be a busy and full day.

Following this, all students should return to school as normal on Tuesday 8 June.

Uniform:

As we move forward, one problem COVID has caused is with standards of school uniform. The blurring of the lines with PE kit has brought issues, the extended time at home somehow brought multiple piercings, and there is no doubt standards as a whole have slipped for us.

Occasionally, we get a parent who says uniform is pointless; that a piercing won’t affect learning equations, fake nails won’t affect Macbeth, and a branded jumper won’t affect the theory of relativity. Of course they are right, but uniform is still vital.

Undoubtedly, uniform standards help us to manage the 1,200+ students on a daily basis. It sets a standard and it sets an expectation. The consistency reduces the risk of bullying, reduces the distraction of a fashion show (plenty of children tell me Non-Uniform Day is a panic), the fake nails and piercings are a real problem in practical subjects, and having a group identity helps students to see they are part of a bigger organisation and responsibility. Equally, the children are only with us about 13% of their year so there is 87% of the time when they can express their own personality as much as they like.

We have not been pressing on this matter in recent weeks, partly because we have been very conscious that children are settling back in after lockdown, but with the departure of Year 11 and Year 13 we now have a lot more capacity and will be enforcing the standards we expect clearly and strongly after half-term.

The good news is that there is nothing new and for all parents the uniform expectations have not altered for a long time; certainly not when it comes to the issues we will be picking up on:

* No fake nails

* No extreme hairstyles / hair colours

* One stud / sleeper earring per ear only

* No facial piercings

* Only moderate jewellery

* No hoodies

* Plain black jumpers only

* Plain black footwear only

* Plain black trousers only – no jeans, no leggings, no fitted and no detailing

 

We know for parents that having high standards of behaviour in lessons is a big deal and this is one of our tools to do it. Equally, it is pretty soul-destroying to be doing all we can to sort out catch-up for a child when there is also a battle going on with home over uniform.

More details on uniform can be seen in your child’s planner and on the school website – see www.friaryschool.com/uniform/.

To the vast majority of parents who are always with us – thank you for helping us and every other child in the school – and for those parents who spot their child is infringing on our expectations then please address the gaps over half-term.

School Events:

We are in constant liaison with Public Health England, Staffordshire County Council and other local, secondary schools so are always using this pooled knowledge to inform future school events.

Our plans for the next half-term – whether it be Sports Day or Prom, Year 6 Transition or the Sizzler – are all subject to new information on variants, community transmission rates, etc, so we will keep you posted.

Even so, we are confident there will be a little more ‘normality’ in the final six weeks of the academic year and we will keep you up-to-date via our website.

Matt Allman, Headteacher, added: “After a miserable few weeks, the sun is now out and school seems a much brighter place. The Year 11s and Year 13s left beautifully and we had lots to celebrate with them, the younger Years groups are now happily spending their lunch-breaks out on the fields, and after-school and Saturday sessions are rammed. There is lots to be happy about and we all hope this feeling carries on into a sunny and fun half-term break for you all.”