Headteachers Letter – 10th December 2020

Dear Parents and carers,

After a week of relative stability, the Department for Education have sent out some further guidance on a number of matters which have required some fairly rapid decision making.  Full details are below and whilst I know that we have a wide range of viewpoints from across our school community, I have continued to make decisions based on the imperative to provide the best education possible in the safest way possible.


End of Term Arrangements

On Tuesday evening we received guidance from the Department for Education regarding end of term arrangements.  After previously stating that schools would not be allowed to amend their terms dates in any way possible – they have now decided that Friday the 18th December can be a closure day for students and a professional development day for school staff. It is slightly unclear whether this is a recommendation or a flexibility and ultimate decisions have been left with Headteachers.

I have therefore taken the decision to close the school to students on the 18th December 2020 and the final day of term will now be Thursday 17th December 2020.  The 18th December will now become a professional development day for all staff in line with the Government position.

There are a number of reasons why I believe that this is the correct decision for Wollaston School.

  • Schools are expected to undertake contact tracing (more information below) for 6 days following the end of term. This avoids the need for school staff to work on Christmas eve, or for families to worry about contact from school on Christmas Eve regarding potential coronavirus exposure.
  • There is the potential for a substantially reduced workforce if we were to open as usual on the 18th December. Many staff have young children and their own children’s schools may close on the 18th December, leading to a need for childcare and absence from Wollaston School.
  • I know that many parents are also worried about potential exposure to Covid-19 prior to Christmas and meeting with family members, this closure does allow an additional day of no contact in advance of Christmas.
  • We already had a staff professional development day “in hand” as we relinquished a day in September to help students return to school as quickly as possible. This means that there are no changes to future term dates or calendars required for the rest of this academic year.

I am sorry that we have needed to inform you of this at such short notice and I do understand there may be some inconvenience for some families. I share the frustration at constantly shifting positions from the Department for Education, but I also recognise that, as for all of us, behind the institution, there are good people trying to do their best in impossible circumstances.

I also know that some students and parents may want some school work to undertake on the 18th December, and we will be providing some resources for students in all year groups on Go4Schools.  For students in exam groups, this may take the form of Christmas homework and revision, for other year groups, this may be reading to prepare for the content to be studied in January.

As ever, we appreciate all of your support and I do recognise that in my decision making I am never going to please every viewpoint all of the time!


Contact Tracing over the Christmas Holidays

As parents will be aware, schools have taken on the role of contact tracing and issuing isolation advice in the event of a positive test result for a member of the school community.  The Government have made it clear that this is a service they expect schools to continue provide until the 6th day after students last attend the school (hence the suggestion of closing to students on the 18th December.)

I will not waste time discussing as to whether or not this is a reasonable position, but we will of course support the NHS and our school community and fulfil this service as we have done throughout.  I will therefore be available via email each morning (until 11.30am) up to and including the 23rd December 2020. If you need to report a positive coronavirus test result for a student of Wollaston School, please do ensure that the entire household is isolating and contact us via email at headteacher@wollaston-school.net providing the following information.

Date the student was last in school:

Date that coronavirus symptoms began:

Date of the Covid-19 test:

Date the positive test result was received:

I will then be in touch to advise on next steps and begin the contact tracing process.  If we need to contact students or families with advice to self -isolate I will do so via email and will also try to call, but this may not be possible in all circumstances.

Please also do note below, the   Government’s advice on contacting schools during the Christmas break – but I also know that this is not amazingly clear, so if you are in any doubt or uncertainty – please do just email and I will happily support.

  • Where a pupil or staff member tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), having developed symptoms more than 48 hours since being in school, the school should not be contacted. Parents and carers should follow contact tracing instructions provided by NHS Test and Trace.
  • For the first 6 days after teaching ends, if a pupil or staff member tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), having developed symptoms within 48 hours of being in school, the school is asked to assist in identifying close contacts and advising self-isolation, as the individual may have been infectious whilst in school.


Coronavirus Preventative Measures

I know that we all want to ensure as good a Christmas as possible under the current restrictions, and I have stressed to students in assembly the importance of following all relevant safety measures with particular care in the final days of term.  I would be grateful for your support in re-enforcing this message at home and also ensuring that all restrictions and protections are followed outside of school. If we are all able to do this effectively, we will reduce the risk of transmission.

I would also be grateful if parents could be cautious when making judgements on their child’s suitability to attend school and ensuring that if they have any of the covid-19 symptoms, that they self isolate and book a test. The 3 symptoms are a high temperature, a continuous cough and a loss or change of taste /smell.  Please note that the temperature does not need to be diagnosed with a thermometer, the NHS advice is that this can just be feeling hot or hot to the touch.


What to do if you are worried about Covid-19

As the pandemic wears on, we know that there are more and more individuals coping with living in a heightened state of anxiety. This can affect children, parents and staff alike. If you do find yourself negatively affected by anxiety about the pandemic and the safety of yourself and those that you love, please do be aware that there is support available. The NHS have a dedicated website https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips/ which contains helpful advice on how to manage these feelings and links towards further support.


Progress Reports

All students and parents will receive assessment information on both current grades and their engagement with learning. This is a significant moment in the year (particularly in the light of last year’s disruption. ) These grades will be used to inform all future planning and teaching, and faculties have worked hard to ensure that grades awarded give a meaningful indication of current progress. The crucial element is of course to identify the next steps in learning, both at an individual and group level.

Now that we are fully familiar with working in a bubbled system, 2021 will be about securing excellent standards of learning and achievement, across the curriculum and with every single student in every year group. Following the progress check, please do contact subject teachers for any subject specific feedback, heads of year for more general questions and Mr Stevenson (Assistant Headteacher Exams, Data and Assessment) for any questions about the assessment system.


Free School Meals Provision during the Christmas Holidays

We are pleased to have had confirmation from Northamptonshire County Council that they will continue to support the provision of free school meals during the holidays.  They have changed the system again, although provision remains in this form of supermarket vouchers for use.

We have sent through all relevant email addresses and contact details to Northamptonshire County Council and the process should be automatic during the Christmas break. If you do have any questions, please contact Wayne Taylor for further information.


Staff Changes

Mr Bevan is leaving Wollaston School after 9 years of dedicated service. He is moving to another local school to focus on teaching PE and football in particular. Mr Bevan has been a great inspiration to many during his time at the school and I know that he will be missed by students, parents and colleagues alike. We have recruited a PE teacher from a high performing school in Islington to take over Mr Bevan’s teaching commitments and Mr Stevenson and Mrs Lydon will lead the Year team in the interim period.  We wish Mr Bevan every success in his new role.

We also say good bye to Lynn Sturgess who has been serving food from the canteen hatches, to the students of Wollaston School for the last 22.5 years! We wish her a very happy and well-earned retirement.

Thank you as always for your continued support, I will write again briefly next Thursday to conclude the 2020 Autumn Term with all hopes for a far more positive 2021!

Have a restful weekend

Yours sincerely

Mr James Birkett