Important update re end and start of term
Please read below important information regarding the end of this term and the start of the new school year
Last September, we hoped we were opening to the experience of one or two terms of “Bubble” based learning and the associated limitations it placed on the curriculum offer we could put in place. However, as we all know, the situation worsened with an extended lockdown through the Spring Term and significant disruption on an ongoing basis for some students right through to the end of the school year.
I am immensely proud of the students, our families, and every member of staff for the way they have responded quickly and with a willingness to make the best of whatever was happening and want to thank you all once again for your support and encouragement over the last year.
I can again confirm that we are planning for a return to whole school access for students and specialist teachers in specialist classrooms from September. Amongst other safety measures, we will be keeping our enhanced cleaning routines in place, there will be access to sanitisation points throughout the school and we will continue to emphasise the importance of good personal hygiene protocols for everyone in the new year. We are not complacent that COVID has simply passed and we want to secure the safest return we can for all students and staff after the summer break. There are more details below about how we will play our part in making that happen and how you can continue to help us.
End of Term
The Summer term ends on Thu 22nd July and school will close to students at 12pm on the 22nd July. This is to allow us to carry out some pressing work to help us re-organise the school ready for September; there is a considerable amount of resetting that needs to take place and we need as many staff as possible available to support with this work before we close for a brief period to allow urgent maintenance to take place.
Despite the disruption we are currently experiencing with students and staff self-isolating, we are committed to teaching meaningful lessons through to the end of the term.
The Y13 and Y11 exam results dates have been brought forward to 10th August for Y13 and 12th August for Y11. Information about the organisation of the results days, receiving results if you cannot attend on the day, appeals processes and support for students in accessing the next steps of their education will follow in a separate letter. Please keep an eye on your email throughout the summer for any updates. However, please remember, do not attend school in person to receive your results if you are experiencing COVID symptoms or have tested positive. The results dates happen prior to the 16th August and therefore, a close contact or COVID app notification will still trigger a direction to self-isolate.
Start of the new year
I am genuinely optimistic that we can have a strong and consistent start to the school year for every student.
Key to this is the need to offer testing to every student before they return to the classroom. The purpose is to screen students as they return and is highly dependent on uptake. I would ask every family to provide consent for testing to support the safest return for everyone.
We have been given the option to phase the return to school for all students at the start of term. The practicalities of testing mean that we will need to utilise this option, but I have limited the time we need to the absolute minimum.
Testing students before they return
We need to offer a test to each student before they can return to face to face teaching in September. There will then be a second follow up test within 3-5 days. A detailed update with dates and times for testing will follow. There will also be plenty of information about how the testing takes place and how we will make sure children feel confident about testing. This is especially important for our new Y7 students who may not have experienced testing before.
What this will look like for your child is that they will be given a specific time to arrive for a test. They will be held in a socially distanced, well ventilated large space whilst they wait for their test; they will then move through our testing centre and into a second space which is again socially distanced. They will then wait for their test results with their form tutors and pastoral leads, who will have the opportunity to check in with them, make sure they feel comfortable and safe about returning and work with them on the routines and structures they will follow when they come back to school. You should anticipate that your child will be on site for around 60-90 minutes in total before returning home. If your child tests positive we will contact you directly and arrange for them to be collected from school; if they test negative, they will be released from school to travel home.
Students in Y7-11
The new term is scheduled to begin for all students on September 6th. Between the 6th and the 8th September, students will be based at home but must be available to attend school for testing. Students will be given a fixed time slot to attend testing, and it is important they are available to do so. We will be unable to offer alternative slots due to the complexity of the system and the volume of tests we need to carry out.
We be providing a remote learning package for every student to introduce them to the subjects they will be studying in the new year.
Requests for consent for Y7-11 have been sent electronically. Please respond as soon as possible.
Sixth Form Students
We are currently planning to test our post 16 students on Friday 3rd September; please be available for testing on this date. Sixth Form students will move to full remote learning between the 6th and 8th September.
Students over the age of 16 can self-consent and we will be asking Sixth Form students to consent when they arrive to be tested
We anticipate that all students will return to face to face teaching on site from September 9th. I am telling you this as early as possible to allow you to plan your child care arrangements as we will not be able to accept students on to site for any reason other than testing between the 6th and 8th September.
Students do not need to stay at home until after the second test; we will withdraw students from classes to facilitate the second test for each of them.
The intent is that we test students with accuracy and as quickly as we can to secure a full return to face to face teaching for all as quicky as possible. As I have outlined above, we are planning for all students to return to face to face teaching from 9th September.
Please remember, although there are planned changes in August to the rules on close contacts needing to self-isolate, any child who tests positive or displays symptoms should still not attend school in line with the new national guidance for September.
Teaching & Learning from September
There will be detailed updates in the Autumn term about the adjustments we are making in our approach to teaching and learning to address some of the specific issues that have arisen because of the COVID pandemic and its implications for our young people. Our fundamental curriculum design is built around the concept of revisiting knowledge and skills in increasingly complex ways over extended periods of time. In some ways, it is the ideal curriculum structure to tackle the gaps in learning that can occur after extended periods of school absence and disruption. However, the last 18 months have not been conventional in terms of education for any of our students and we've identified several unique priorities that we are already addressing. This letter is long enough without taking you through these in detail, but we will make sure you fully informed as the school year develops.
Standards & Expectations
Although the school has been operating in very different ways over the last 18 months, we have worked tirelessly to maintain the highest standards and expectations of our students. However, we have also needed to recognise that extended periods of remote learning, operating within bubbles and all the other challenges our young people faced throughout the pandemic meant we have shown a necessary degree of flexibility and understanding in recognition of what they've been experiencing.
We believe that by having the highest expectations and standards for our young people, they learn more effectively and that they will achieve more as a result. This is reflected in much that we do, from what we see as acceptable conduct around school and in the local community to our expectations for school uniform. From September, as we move back to a more conventional structure we intend to enforce our rules consistently and fairly and expect the students to respond appropriately. I recognise that there will be ongoing issues for some individuals, and we will work with them to provide meaningful support. For most students, return to clear structures, systems and boundaries within school will be the most beneficial way we can support them.
We know that you will be thinking about buying new uniform and kit for September and it seems a good time to remind you about the uniform code. Please do not allow your child to convince you that we will not enforce certain aspects of the uniform code - we will.
The Summer holidays are a time when some students express themselves in different ways, without the constraints of school standards. We ask that before the September return, hair that is dyed a vivid colour is returned to a natural look and excessive and brightly coloured nail extensions are removed. In addition, please remember that jewellery is limited to a watch and one small stud in each ear. In accordance with Health and Safety regulations no other piercings are allowed, including lip, nose, septum and eyebrow. Please ensure these are removed prior to returning to school in September, should your child have a piercing over the Summer break.
If a student attends school with incorrect uniform, additional piercings, brightly coloured hair etc, they will be challenged and we will expect it to be quickly corrected. Please support us with this and if you are unsure if an item meets the uniform standards please check the guidance on the website.
Mrs Garner has sent some information on Class Charts regarding Free Summer Holiday Activities in the county as well as sources of support for those families accessing Free School Meals. Our Wellbeing Padlet is another good source of information, advice and signposting for a range of issues from mental health, online safety and supporting young people with SEND and it can be accessed by clicking here or use the link below. As always, if you have concerns re the safety or wellbeing of a child, please contact Call Derbyshire on 01629 533190 or the police in an emergency
Finally, please keep an eye open for additional updates and communication about September. I hope you have the best of summers as restrictions ease, and you are able to enjoy more and do more with your family and loved ones. Having written over 50 letters and well over 100,000 words to you all about the pandemic, its implications for your children and how we would all continue to work together, it is with great pleasure that I bring this letter to a close with the genuine hope that September will bring the kind of school experience we all want the children to have.
Craig Yates - Headteacher