16 April 2021

Dear Parents & Carers, 

 

We are getting quite used to starting back now and this return to school has seemed very calm and focused, with few surprises over the Easter period. However, we are very keen to avoid further disruption to the education of our students and I would encourage everyone to remain very cautious in the weeks ahead. As an example of that, please still keep your child at home if they have any of the common symptoms associated with Covid-19. 

 

Whilst Lateral Flow Tests are helpful and the Government continue to share updates relating to their increased accuracy, it is very important that you book a PCR test if your child has Covid-19 symptoms. Lateral Flow Tests have nationally recognised issues regarding sensitivity and false results, therefore it always imperative that anyone with symptoms books a PCR test and stays at home until they receive confirmation of a negative test. This will provide important clarity for you and your child and will also help to protect other students at school. National advice is very clear that symptomatic children should not attend school unless they have taken a PCR test and have been notified of a negative result. We are very fortunate that there have been no positive cases associated with the school during our first week back. We have contacted the Department for Education to order additional tests for distribution in school, but if you are struggling to access testing at present please be aware that you can collect tests in person from sites in Durham, or can arrange for them to be posted directly to you. The following Local Authority letter outlines how you can do so: please click here to read it.

 

We were hopeful that students might not have to wear face coverings after Easter, but the Department for Education have instructed schools to continue with a request for students to wear face coverings until 17th May 2021. The relevant guidance can be found at this link.

 

There was good news within the DfE’s updated guidance in relation to competitive sport being possible again and also the opportunity for school visits to start again. That clearly doesn’t apply to overnight travel, but it does mean that there is the possibility of organising transition days in the summer term for Year 6 and new Year 12 students. We missed doing so last year and are very hopeful that those starting with us in September 2021 will be able to visit in late June or July. We also hope to invite the parents of new Year 7 students in for a series of open evenings too.

 

There is a detailed update on the website for the parents, carers and students of Years 11, 12 and 13. We are keen to support families as we progress through this half-term and will offer a weekly update that outlines what we are doing to support assessments, what our next steps are and guidance for students and families about how to plan and prepare. You can read the first update at this link.

 

We are also thinking very carefully about providing additional opportunities for our students. Meeting people from different countries and cultures is enormously enriching and we want all of our students to engage with others positively. We are keen to maintain the strong relationships that we have with schools in Europe and to build stronger links with those on different continents over time too. As an example of that, Mr Wright has established a new link with a school in the Netherlands and there is an opportunity for Year 9 students to make contact with their Dutch counterparts. Additional information can be found in the letter below:

 

Virtual Exchange Letter

 

This year has also made clear the importance of public service and helping others. We will share additional information this half-term about the National Citizen Service and Duke of Edinburgh awards. We are also keen for our students to work with others, to solve problems and to increase their confidence and sense of self-worth. These are vital qualities for personal development and have been exemplified recently by one of year 7 students, Harry Harkness. Harry volunteered to run 15K to raise money for a Parkinson’s charity, to commemorate his Grandfather. Harry ended up actually running a half marathon – he kept on running – and ended up raising £1250 for his chosen charity. In writing to Harry I explained how proud we were of him, a sentiment that will clearly be echoed by his family. It has been a difficult year, but Harry offers a good example of how hard work and commitment can be vital in supporting and helping others. Well done Harry, you have set an example that we can all follow.

 

Thank you for your ongoing support and welcome back.

 

Mr O’Sullivan