Dear Parents and carers,
Thank you for supporting another productive week at Wollaston School and despite the restrictions of the second national lockdown, we are working hard to deliver the best education possible in the safest way possible. As the weeks progress, we are increasingly focused on securing high levels of progress and academic achievement for every student. The success of this is perhaps most evident in our attendance data, which despite Covid, has compared well with levels before the start of the pandemic. Our cumulative attendance is currently at a rate of 94.8%, which compares against 87% for secondary schools nationally. Thank you for your support in this and in ensuring that our students are able to benefit from their continuing education in such uncertain times. We recognise the sacrifice that has been made to allow schools to open at the current time and we want to ensure that we make every day and every lesson count More to follow below on formal assessments, as we wish to ensure that students across every year group are able to test themselves across the curriculum before Christmas. Results of these assessments will of course be available to parents as per the published schedule on 18th December 2020, with exception of Year 13 parents, who will receive these prior to parents evening.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Wollaston School paused as is now traditional for us, on Wednesday, the 11th day of the 11th month. We paused in order to remember all of those who have died and suffered so that we might live the lives that we have today. We held a two minute silence across the school and Mr Mills has also led assemblies this week to encourage us to recognise the importance of remembrance and the sacrifices made by so many in times of conflict and war.
Positive Covid-19 Cases
We have been notified that there has been a positive coronavirus test result for a student at Wollaston School in the sixth form bubble.
The student is recovering well and we have sent best wishes to them and their family. We have consulted Public Health England, and do not consider that this was likely to be a school based transmission.
Thanks to the quick action of the family we were alerted to the test result at around 4am this morning and were able to instruct all affected students to self-isolate prior to school opening this morning.
The school remains open to all students who have not been required to isolate and your child should continue to attend as normal if they remain well.
Full information from PHE regarding Coronavirus can be found at the end of this letter.
Decision Making in Response to Positive Covid-19 Cases
Thank you for the positive feedback we have received regarding our systems of control, our communication of positive cases, and also regarding how quickly and efficiently we have contacted students and families regarding self-isolation. Twelve months ago this was not a function we could ever have imagined that we would have to deliver. It is of course incredibly time consuming, as we consult with the Department of Education / Public Health on each and every case to ensure that our response is correct and in line with best practice. It is greatly valued to know how appreciated by students, staff and parents this work is.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to outline the decision making process which we go through with Department for Education and public health, particularly relating to circumstances in which we would consider closing a bubble.
Firstly, there is no set number of cases which would prompt a bubble closure – the decision would depend upon a number of contextual factors. We would only close bubbles if we had evidence of likely school based transmission, in which positive cases were linked through contact in school. For example, if there were a number of cases within a bubble and it was deemed by Public Health to be likely that the virus had been transmitted in school, there may then be a decision to close a bubble to prevent further spread. If however, a number of cases occurred within a bubble and there was no link between the students and a more likely source of transmission was identified (for example a family member or close contact from outside of school had symptoms or tested positive previously), this is unlikely to prompt a bubble closure as there would not be deemed to be a high likelihood of school based transmission. In the current cases within the VI form bubble – the view is that it is unlikely that these have arisen from school based transmission, although it is of course impossible to have 100% certainty.
Public Health also look at data for the local area and compare this to the number of positive test results within a school setting to determine if there seems to be an increased risk regarding being at school. The current advice is that the number of positive test results that we have had at Wollaston School are reflective of the prevalence of the virus in the local community. Put simply – given the rates of infection locally, we would expect to see a certain number of positive tests results within our student and staff population. The trigger for further action and possible bubble closure would be if we were to have far more positive test results amongst students and staff than would be expected from the local data in the wider population.
Of course, the aim of the second national lockdown is to reduce transmission both at school and more widely and we will of course monitor this carefully alongside public health and the department for education. Please also note that there will be a slight time lag here. The positive tests received during the last week are likely to have arisen from transmission pre-lockdown.
As a result of receiving the news of the Covid-19 cases in the VI form bubble, we have taken the precaution of ensuring that all areas of this bubble have been thoroughly sanitised. We now have capacity to use a “fogging” machine which disinfects all areas.
A reminder also to all students that regularly sanitising hands is the best way to ensure personally reduce risk. We have well over 100 hand sanitiser stations in school, including one in every classroom. We have a good stock of replacements and a daytime cleaner who is able to replenish stock on demand. Please do remind students that if they find a hand sanitiser empty, please alert a member of staff as we can act quickly to re-stock these.
We would also be grateful if you could remind students that avoiding physical contact with each other, and with each other’s possessions where possible is also an important control measure.
As parents will know, we have welcomed the clarity from the DFE regarding the use of face coverings at school and on the school bus and I would like to thank the entire school community for how quickly everyone has adapted to these rules. We are active in enforcing these rules and have been heartened by how well students and staff have adapted to the new requirements. As you may remember, these new rules were launched by the Government with virtually no notice, so the fact that we were able to facilitate this change so quickly is a real testament to the way in which we are able to work together in partnership. In light of the speed of the change, there are a couple of clarifications to be made regarding expectations here:
- To ensure that we are able to enforce the rules properly, we have an increased presence at the front of school to ensure that every student who enters our school has with them and is wearing a face covering. Equally, we instruct students to wear face coverings at the end of the day when leaving their lessons and making their way to the school gates. For the purposes of compliance – our rules apply inside of the school gates. Prior to arrival and once students leave the gates – all national rules and guidance then applies.
- Wearing face coverings is now mandatory on school transport. Drivers, bus companies, NCC school transport and Wollaston School are working together to ensure compliance and we have been very pleased with how students have responded overall. We ensure that all students who board transport at the end of the day are wearing face coverings. We would also be grateful if you could remind your son or daughter that any student who removes their face covering during transit can be reported and would face a transport ban from NCC.
- We have had confirmation that students do not need to wear a face covering when in outside areas at break and lunchtime. We have informed students of this and of course reminded them that face coverings must be worn when re-entering the building.
Thanks again for your support with this and also for ensuring that students are well stocked with supplies. Face coverings can break and having a spare at all times is obviously very useful and avoids parents needing to be called in the middle of the day to bring in a replacement. As a school, we do have a small stock of masks for emergency situations, but of course we are unable to provide masks on request across the school population.
When events are moving so quickly and there is so much concern about the current situation, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the good that is around us and take time to recognise the acts of positivity and kindness which so characterise life at Wollaston School. We take great strength as a school community from your positive parental feedback and also from our students who do occasionally speak positively of the benefits of being at school! Most recently, it was brought to my attention that following a minor collision on one of the buses, two of our Sixth formers were able to offer practical help and reassurance to two younger students who were sitting closest to where a window had smashed. I know that this help was recognised personally, but it is also worth celebrating as a concrete example of what it means to be a part of a caring and kind school community. We will also be encouraging an even greater focus on care and kindness in the weeks to come as we approach Christmas. Although circumstances are likely to be different for us all this year, we are seeking to promote a range of planned for and random acts of kindness in the weeks ahead, and to find ways to work together as an entire school community, even though we are currently forced to work apart in individual bubbles.
Children in Need
Thanks to everyone who took part in our non-uniform day today in order to raise money for Children in Need. We do not yet have a total, as we are quarantining cash donations before counting. I will of course reveal the total amount raised next week. Thank you to all of our students and staff for their generosity and we are proud to support this national campaign.
Anti Bullying Week
It is odd socks day on Monday to mark the start of anti-bullying week, students are more than welcome to wear odd socks to raise awareness of anti-bullying. We will be sending resources and guidance out over the course of the next week. There are also some great resources available on https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/anti-bullying-week We will be delivering a range of pastoral work with students on this theme in order to encourage the respect and care for one another which is such an important part of being a member of the Wollaston School Community.
Mock Exams and Formal Assessments
Although Coronavirus seems to dominate all aspects of life at the moment, we remain absolutely committed to ensuring excellent levels of student achievement across every year group. Our Year 13 students have been engaging well in their mock exams, with even self-isolations proving no barrier to sitting exams! We are emailing papers to be conducted at home, with designated return times to ensure exam timings are being adhered to. We would use a similar approach for Year 11 Mock exams if conditions dictated that we needed to. Good luck to everyone who is sitting their exams and it is really refreshing to focus on the liberating power of a great education which will be of such importance to our young people for the rest of their lives, with coronavirus hopefully receding in its impact upon us all.
Students in all other year groups will also have assessments across the curriculum and we will be ensuring that lessons and are focused towards ensuring success in these. Both class and homework are now being uploaded to Go4schools, so if you want to know what your child is learning or wish to encourage some extra work prior to the end of term assessments, please do check Go4Schools.
Public Health Information
What to do if your child develops symptoms of COVID 19
If your child develops symptoms of COVID-19, they must not come to school and should remain at home for at least 10 days from the date when their symptoms appeared. Anyone with symptoms will be eligible for testing and this can be arranged via https://www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test or by calling 119.
All other household members who remain well, must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. This includes anyone in your ‘Support Bubble’.
The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.
Household members should not go to work, school or public areas and exercise should be taken within the home.
If you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, or walking a dog, you should ask friends or family. Alternatively, you can order your shopping online and medication by phone or online.
Household members staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community
If you are able, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period.
The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.
If your child does develop symptoms, you can seek advice from the nhs.uk website at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/. If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms, or they are worsening you can seek advice from NHS 111 at https://111.nhs.uk/ or by phoning 111.
How to stop COVID-19 spreading
There are things you can do to help reduce the risk of you and anyone you live with getting ill with COVID-19
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- wash your hands as soon as you get home
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
Further information is available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Thank you for all that you are doing to support your son/daughters education during this second lockdown. We appreciate your support and if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via email on Fitzhughj@wollaston-school.net
Mr James Birkett