18 September 2020

Dear Parents & Carers,

 

It has been another good week in school. Our students are becoming increasingly familiar with the new routines and systems associated with this term and they are working hard with their teachers and effectively covering the curriculum. Their attendance has been very good and they have responded to each adjustment to school life in a mature and sensible way.

 

From a regional perspective, there are a number of changes that you need to be aware of based upon the Department for Health’s guidance for the North East of England. The Local Authority have provided a summary of the key things that we all need to be aware of, both in terms of school and more generally. Durham County Council have also shared the following information with all schools in the area.

 

As of Friday 18th September the following changes apply:

 

Mandatory wearing of face coverings in education settings for Year 7 and above.

  • All staff, students and visitors (unless exempt) will be required to wear face coverings when moving around in corridors and communal areas. 

Changes to rules around households mixing

  • Other households cannot visit you in your home or garden, unless they’re in your support bubble.
  • You cannot meet people you don’t live with in their home or garden, whether it is in the affected areas or not, unless they’re in your support bubble.

Childcare

  • Childcare settings including childminders, before/after school clubs and nannies can still be used
  • Children of parents who are separated can continue to move between households

Travel

  • Pupils are advised to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school where possible. If this is not possible you can use your own car or public transport, rather than car sharing etc.

 

You can find out more about the changes that DCC have introduced by clicking on this link.  

 

We have updated our guidance on mask and face covering based upon this, and that update can be found at this link.  Please contact the school with the requisite medical evidence if your child is exempt from wearing a mask, but note that the wearing of masks is now mandatory in all communal areas and corridors of the school in accordance with the national and local instruction that we have been given.

 

Like all other schools and businesses in the region, we are very concerned about the potential consequences of the new guidelines for parents who have informal childcare arrangements in place. We fully support the actions of the 7 regional councils in the North East who have asked for this to be reconsidered and for an exemption to be granted. We have many staff members with young children and this will make it very difficult to balance work and childcare. I am aware that many of you will be in a similar position and will be equally worried by this.

 

The Local Authority have also provided some helpful information this week so that parents can distinguish between the normal range of seasonal illnesses and COVID symptoms. It is very hard for the school to offer medical advice and we have tried hard to support individual families, whilst also ensuring that the school is open for all students to learn. The flowchart provided by DCC should help parents and carers to make an informed decision about whether or not their child should be in school and what steps to take if they are unwell. 

 

DCC: Can my child go to school today?

 

I would also encourage you to talk with your child about the importance of good hygiene, social distancing and behaving maturely within our local community. As promised in last Friday’s update, we have shared the following information with students this week and it would be helpful if you could reiterate the importance of these points at home too:

 

  • Travelling to and from school on foot – Please travel straight to school and enter the school site immediately. At the end of the school day leave quickly and do not congregate in large groups on the A167.
  • Travelling to and from school by bus – Please make sure that you go straight onto the appropriate yard for your bubble and straight to your bus when your bubble is allowed to leave at the end of the day. You will be dismissed by a senior teacher and the buses will be asked to leave when the school is cleared. Follow the instructions given by the driver – stay seated and wear a mask if asked to do so. 
  • Wearing masks/face coverings – All students need to wear face coverings in communal areas and when moving around the school. At the end of each lesson you will be asked to stand and put your mask on. You will be asked to do this when entering and leaving the building. Please do so promptly and bring a spare if necessary. Please provide medical evidence if you have an exemption.
  • Entering the building – You will be met by your teacher and escorted into the building from your bubble each morning. Move quickly and follow the instructions that you are given.
  • Exiting the building – Follow the instructions that you have been given by a senior teacher and use the designated exit that you have been asked to use.
  • Queuing for lessons– Please go straight into the classroom when asked to do. If the corridor becomes busy a senior teacher will take you into your classroom straight away.
  • Queuing for lunch – The school yard is very large and there is no need to queue anywhere near to school entrances and exits. A senior teacher will identify when it is possible for you to come into school at lunchtime. This is to keep you safe, not to stop you from eating. We explained this to Year 10 and 11 students in form last week.
  • Leaving the school site – We will release each bubble in turn. Do not wait for friends on the school site and leave when instructed to do by a senior teacher.
  • Social Distancing – We are fully aware that social distancing is very difficult within schools, particularly in large secondary schools. Please move quickly on the corridors and as you enter and leave school and also be considerate of other members of the community beyond the school gates. Wear a mask when moving around your protective bubble, don’t crowd people and be considerate towards others.

 

Next week we will share information about our virtual open evenings for Year 6 and prospective Year 12 students. Those evenings will take place on 28th September and 5th October 2020 and we will share a number of important documents via the school website next week. Additionally, Year 12 parents and carers are usually invited to an information evening by Mrs Lennon at this time of year. As we cannot organise such events at present, she will provide ‘settling in’ information via the school website on Monday.

 

Each week at present provides a new and unique challenge. Given that context, I would like to thank you for your ongoing support of the school and for working so closely with us.

 

Best wishes

 

Mr O’Sullivan