29th June Onwards: Wider Opening – COVID-19: A Guide for students, staff and families
Category : Events
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has presented a great number of challenges to us and the whole education community. As part of national social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), limited numbers of children and young people have attended educational and childcare settings, to ensure that students and staff attending could do so safely. That is why, since 23rd March 2020, education and childcare settings have only been open to priority groups. As well as offering face-to-face provision for those able to attend, the school has provided a significant amount to support the remote education of those who have remained at home via Google Classrooms, MyMaths and paper based work packs.
On Wednesday 3 June, the Education Minister announced her intention for schools in Wales to increase operations following the period of forced school closure. The “Check in; Catch up; Prepare” phase will take effect from Monday 29 June.
For the remainder of the academic year, the school will provide some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education for all students, especially those who are due to take key examinations next year, alongside the provision currently being offered to children of essential key workers, vulnerable students and those students within our specialist resource base. This increased face-to-face provision will supplement their remote education, which is likely to remain the predominant mode of education for some time.
It is recognised that a return to the physical school site, will be difficult for some students and staff who will have experienced a range of challenges during the last few months. These challenges may have presented themselves as a result of ‘lockdown’; social distancing; illness; and, in some cases, bereavement.
The approach is underpinned by the latest understanding of the science available to Welsh Government, which indicates the need for a phased approach to limit the risk of increasing the rate of transmission (often referred to as the R ‘reproduction’ value) above 1. The increased operation of the school is based on a stabilisation of the R-value. Therefore, should this worsen then the school will adapt accordingly, in line with local authority and Welsh Government advice.
It is anticipated that students, parents/carers and staff may feel apprehensive about the risks. However, the provision can be made far safer through adherence to the published government guidelines. These include social distancing, hygiene and self-isolation of those showing symptoms, or living with someone showing symptoms. This will minimise the risk of transmission of infection.
The decisions we have taken at school are based on what we feel is safe, practicable and directly linked to the existing scientific and medical information available. We will be working with our students and staff to reinforce the key messages of frequent handwashing and good personal hygiene; maintaining social distancing, as far as is reasonable, as approaches to reducing the risk of infection. Following an analysis of the school site, we have established the class size capacity. As a result, while the 2m social distancing expectation remains in place, class sizes will be capped at a maximum of 12 students per class. To reduce social mixing, each class will form a ‘group’. These ‘groups’ will be situated in a designated form zones of the school. In other words, there will be a collection of ‘groups’ in each specified zone. However, each ‘group’ will not mix during their time on site; they will have staggered breaks and, regrettably, there will be limited contact with other students to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.
The purpose of the guide is to explain how school will operate in the period between 29th June and 17th July. It may not address every question but it is designed to provide clarity on how and why school will operate in the way it will from the end of the month. I anticipate that we will need to review this in readiness for September and we will continue to reflect changes as Welsh Government assessments are made.
These changes are designed for the safety of all. Naturally, I trust families will appreciate that where a student is unable to follow these safety measures then the school will have to assess suitability of provision. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that everyone follows the guidelines at school. This includes staff, who will need to model these behaviours. It will be tough, I am certain. However, collectively I am sure we can do it.
Thank you for your support and cooperation to date, and for the coming weeks and months.