12th March 2021
Dear Parents and Carers,
Important update for the wide reopening of schools March 2021
I hope I find you well and that you are getting back to some degree of normal schooling since we reopened in a phased way in line with Government guidance on March 8th. The purpose of this letter is to provide some more detail around getting back into more normal routines and a return to the standards and expectations that are important to any successful school.
I think we can agree, that we are all appreciative of the fact that the days are getting longer and the small taste of Spring that we have seen in recent days that has allowed us to see a light at the end of the tunnel. This third lockdown has been a challenge for all of us, and when I say all of us, I include the students, staff and the wider community that we serve in that.
It is vital that, whilst we are all keen to get back to some form of normal, in the final few weeks we continue to implement the hands, face, space principles we have used before.
It is not often that I put a personal element to these letters, however I must stress that the next few weeks and how we all behave will be what makes the difference. Throughout this lockdown period, the safety of my students, staff and the wider community has always been at the forefront of my mind in every decision that has been made and continues to be so. In the words of Professor Van Tam “The train has slowed down safely, it has stopped in the station and the doors have opened” but we now need to manage how we get off that train!
I recognise that some of our expectations will be uncomfortable for some and I ask that you reflect on how you communicate with the academy around this and recognise that we are implementing government expectations. This is a time that now more than ever, we need to work together to ensure that Covid-19 cases continue to reduce and that the end of lockdown on June 21st is an actual reality.
Where are we now?
This week has seen consenting students successfully take part in the onsite asymptomatic Covid testing programme. I have never been prouder to be a Principal; the students’ behaviour and willingness to engage with this process has been exemplary. We cannot deny, that there have been some anxieties around this, both from staff, parents and students but we have all worked to overcome these and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you as parents and carers for all you have done to support both our online learning programme and the onsite testing schedule in our drive to open the school in line with government expectations from the 8th March.
Week beginning 15th March
After an initial programme of 3 rapid Covid-19 tests in school, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home. There is no charge for these tests. We will provide further detail of how to send these results into the academy and how and when these tests should be carried out.
Students will continue to arrive and leave as per the times shown below. This provides a stagger to the numbers of students on site at any one time and complies with our risk assessment. Students will continue to have separate entrance and exit locations and bubble blocked classrooms within the academy for their learning. Where students need to move to specialist classrooms they will be escorted by the member of staff concerned. Students will continue to have separate break and lunch areas in their bubbles.
Enrichment activities, after school clubs and detentions will be conducted in Year Group bubbles and finish 1 hour after the end of school
It is important to encourage your child to discuss their feelings about returning to school. This may require a difficult conversation about the pandemic, especially in light of the debate around the safety of schools reopening and the fears and concerns they may have associated with this.
If they feel anxious or worried, help them understand this is perfectly normal, and that you and their teachers are there to support them. Also bear in mind your child may be returning to a pre-existing issue from before lockdown that may add to their anxiety and concern. We are here to help. If you need to discuss any of this with your child’s bubble lead or Learning manager please get in touch using the academy email address email@example.com in order that we can direct and respond to your enquiry.
Equally, they may be anxious about coping with school work after such a long time out of the classroom. Reassure them that teachers understand the difficulties and they can expect plenty of revision and support, particularly in the first few weeks.
Students are expected to return in full school uniform. We have a very clear policy about the items that are acceptable and those that are not. Wherever possible, we make reasonable adjustments, provide uniform to those in hardship and support parents and students in their endeavours to comply. Just recently as a result of some relaxation of rules in order to comply with our Covid-19 risk assessment, some of the students have decided to interpret these expectations to suit their own ends and this cannot continue. Students are only permitted to wear straight skirts that are tailored and not jersey or elasticated material. School trousers should also be tailored – denim materials, elasticated and tight-fitting trousers are not considered as acceptable. If you are unsure about our uniform expectations, you should check the relevant section on the academy website at: https://www.ashhillacademy.org.uk/uniform
Consequently, students with unsuitable uniform or footwear will be challenged by staff. If you do need to communicate with the academy in relation to any temporary uniform infringement, a note should be placed in the student planner that can be shown to the learning manager or senior staff.
We do appreciate that in these times where finances can be tight, getting the right items can be a stretch for some homes, if this does apply to you, please contact the academy where your enquiry will be supported and treated with discretion.
The new guidance from the DFE also states that face coverings should be worn in all areas including classrooms and during activities where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Face coverings are not PPE; face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
Further detail can be found here:
Students will be expected to wear face coverings at all times in the academy other than when they are sat down eating and drinking or engaged in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE or Dance lessons. This is a temporary measure in place until Easter and applies to both staff and students. We are in the process of ordering another batch of face covering for all students to ensure they have one.
In order to support our students with their management of the expectation of wearing face coverings, we would actively encourage students to bring a drinking bottle of water with them that they can sip throughout the day as needed. Students will not be able to use drinks bottles in workshops, IT rooms or food technology rooms in line with health and safety. Drinking water dispensers can be accessed in each bubble for students to have a drink and rehydrate.
If your child meets one of the exemption criteria for face coverings a mask pass may be issued after consultation with relevant staff. Please get in touch using the academy email address firstname.lastname@example.org
As a reminder, listed below is a series of updated bullet points that sum up what the academy will look like as of March 15th:
- Attendance: the usual rules on school attendance will apply, including:
- parents’ duty to secure that their child attends regularly at school where the child is a registered pupil at school and they are of compulsory school age;
- schools’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
- the availability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct
- You should note however that: No one with symptoms should attend for any reason.
- No visitors are allowed on to site, including parents/carers, without an appointment. Any necessary meetings will take place via telephone, email or video conferencing. In extraordinary and rare circumstances where this cannot happen, strict social distancing guidelines must be followed and meetings may be moved to a bigger venue in order to allow this to happen.
- Parents dropping their children off in a car, must remain in their vehicles at all times
- Students who will be using public transport to and from school, are required to wear a face covering in line with government guidance.
- Students will participate in practical PE wherever possible, although some activities cannot go ahead under current restrictions.
- Please remind your child or ward that they should be socially distancing on the way to and when outside the Academy.
- Students are expected to be in full Delta Academies Trust uniform (all previous expectations re: mobile phones, which cannot be used in the Academy, footwear, jewellery, piercings and make-up still apply). Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more often than usual, nor do they need to be cleaned using methods which are different from normal.
- Students are not permitted to share or loan equipment between each other.
- Students will receive a full and broad curriculum with all subjects being delivered again.
- Our cleaning staff will remain on site during the day, cleaning all areas on an on-going basis.
- All students will have a break and lunch time as normal, but will remain with students within their year/bubble in separate locations monitored by staff.
- Once students enter their bubble group location, students are not to move from this location without direct permission and teachers will come to the students in their classrooms. Students are not permitted to wander around the academy.
- All classrooms throughout the academy comply with government guidance re: layout. Chairs and tables must not be moved and students will be sat in a seating plan and allocated individual work spaces.
- Once students leave at their designated time, they cannot remain on site and must make their way home immediately. Staff will be on duty to reinforce these expectations.
- Learning Managers and members of the Senior Leadership Team will meet and greet all students at their points of entry each day.
I am sure we all agree that whilst we have done everything we can to provide the very best possible remote learning experience for our students, there is no substitute for face-to-face classroom teaching. I genuinely look forward to getting back to a near-normal day.
It has been quite an uplifting experience welcoming all our students back after a very busy testing schedule and I would again like to thank all of our teachers, support staff and families for their patience, commitment and support through these difficult times and we will update you as soon as we can, as more information is provided by the government that relates to the wider reopening of schools.
Mr G Moffatt