Headteachers Letter – 4th December 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

The only constant in the current situation is the fact that change continues apace – and as some situations are resolved, others emerge. There is a fair amount of detail below, both in terms of updates from Wollaston School and also in reference to some recently released national guidance.


Positive Covid-19 Cases

We have unfortunately had 4 positive cases reported from students in the last 48 hours (three of which have been previously notified) and one from a member of staff.  All affected are displaying some symptoms but are recovering well. I have sent best wishes to all families on behalf of the Wollaston School community. Full details are below and transmission sources are uncertain in three of these cases.  We continue to follow all Health Protection advice in every case and thank you to all those who have actioned subsequent self-isolations and evacuation from school in such a speedy, calm and supportive manner.  I do understand that it can be upsetting to receive contact at such short notice, so your help and stoicism is greatly valued. As always, our ability to work together so effectively in such challenging circumstances is a credit to the school and wider community.

  • There are two cases in the Year 10 bubble. Both students were last in school on the 30th November 2020. A number of Year 10 students have been required to self-isolate and all self-isolating students will return before the end of the school term.
  • There is one case in the Year 7 bubble. The student was last in school on Monday 23rd November and was self-isolating from this date after a younger sibling (outside of Wollaston School) developed symptoms.  This is certainly a household transmission and there is no need for contact tracing or further action.
  • There is one case in the 6th Form bubble. The student was last in school on Wednesday 2nd December 2020 and we were notified of the test result last night. We have undertaken contact tracing overnight and thank you to the 6th Form team for their rapid and hard work to achieve this.
  • There is one case for a member of staff, who was last in school on the 30th November 2020. No close contacts have been identified and there are no requirements for anyone else to self-isolate.

Full advice from Health Protection can be found at the bottom of this letter.


Contact Tracing

You will be aware that we will never name individuals who have contracted coronavirus – and we follow all Department for Education guidance on how we identify close contacts and students & staff who should self -isolate. This involves both dialogue with individuals who have tested positive as well as looking at our own records of seating plans and contact.  As is the case nationally, there is not a mechanism to “self- nominate” as a close contact because of the confidentiality of positive test results, but if parents or students do have particular concerns about potential contact, they can of course contact the relevant year team for further advice.  I have also included a link to close contact definitions here, which underpins both school and test and trace functions HERE


Reminders of Key Protective Measures

Whilst we are pleased that the overwhelming majority of students comply with all safety measures, all of the time, we would be grateful if you could remind your son or daughter of the following requirements.

  • Wearing of face coverings is mandatory on school and public transport for the entirety of the journey. Whilst we carefully monitor compliance at the school gates, we rely on students adhering to these requirements whilst in transit. We will support the Local Authority in issuing transport bans for any student found to be deliberately breaking these rules.
  • Face coverings also must be worn in all communal indoor areas of the school and whilst moving around the premises. We continue to staff the entrance gates to ensure every individual who attends has a face covering in their possession (or an exemption card). We do of course remind students who occasionally forget, to put these on.  However, we reserve the right to sanction students who require continual reminders.
  • Regular hand washing and sanitisation is vital in preventing transmission and in killing the virus. We do have sanitiser stations in every room and we encourage students and staff to use these at the start and end of every lesson.
  • In order to facilitate contact tracing it is vital that students sit in their designated seat for each lesson – and do not move (even if spare seats are available). This is particularly important in cover lessons or when the usual teacher is not present.

Thanks for discussing these points with your son or daughter and for emphasising the importance of compliance with these requirements. No -one has the power to stop the virus, but we can all minimise risks and reduce the opportunities for transmission.


Zoom School

Thank you for the support of remote learning for the early part of this week. The feedback has been very positive overall and I have also received some great emails from staff regarding how positive they found the experience and students’ engagement and enthusiasm. Attendance was significantly above similar provision in the summer term and thank you to parents for making this work so effectively and being so helpful in setting up and supporting your child’s learning.

Whilst of course, a move to remote provision is an action of last resort, this did enable us to cope with reduced capacity effectively and preserve the quality of education for students working both at home and in school. It was a difficult call to make, but I am absolutely certain that this was the correct one – and one which we had planned for in our COVID-19 Contingency Plan. I am hugely grateful to student, parents and staff for ensuring that we made the best of an immensely challenging situation.


DFE and Government Guidance from 2nd December 2020

On Wednesday we moved from national restrictions to those in place for Tier 2 areas. In the short term, there will be little consequence of this for Wollaston, as for schools, tier 2 restrictions are pretty well aligned with the national restrictions. We therefore have no operational changes to announce as a result of this. If we were to change to Tier 1 or Tier 3, that would necessitate some amendments, and obviously I will be planning draft guidance in case either eventuality occurs.

There is however a significant shift in DfE / Government approach to allowing Trust CEOs & Headteachers the autonomy to take their own decisions in relation to school closures and operating arrangements.    Any closure must now be approved by the Secretary of State. Trusts and Schools are also no longer allowed to vary their published term dates or use rota systems in the event of reduced staff capacity.  The DfE can use Schedule 17 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 to enforce this, an act which allows the Government to legally direct schools to open.

Whilst I hope that we will not need to come into conflict with any of the above – I did want to make all parents aware of the ever changing national picture and the legislative constraints around decision making.  Headteachers and CEOs (individually and collectively) are pressing Government for a re-think on this.  My personal view, for what it is worth,  is that school leaders are best placed to judge the right decisions on behalf of our school communities, based on the specific context and circumstances.


Exams and Qualifications 2021

You are likely to have seen in the media, headlines regarding changes to the exam arrangements in 2021, in an attempt to ensure a fair approach for all students.  I will not go through every measure individually, but fundamentally the proposals include:

  • A commitment to running the exam series as planned.
  • Advance notice of some areas of study to be tested in the exam.
  • Provision of additional helpful resources on the day (e.g. formula sheets)
  • Broad parity with 2020 outcomes (rather than 2019).
  • Contingency plans for those who don’t sit exams because of self isolation or illness. ( Reserve papers / exams as well as a special consideration style process).
  • Some assessment / mitigation of regional disadvantage.

I do feel that as a package, these measures are likely to be helpful for staff and students in preparing for the summer exams series. However, this announcement is just the broad principles at the moment and there is not a huge amount of detail provided in most areas. Ofqual, exam boards and our academic staff will have to do the hard work now to ensure that we have the detail as early as possible in order to effectively plan the remainder of our courses. In the meantime – the advice to students, parents and staff is to continue with all curricular arrangements as planned, and prepare for a really successful examinations series n 2021. We are very proud of how our Year 11 and Year 13 students are working, and whatever the changes, we will be ready to achieve success together.

Full details of the announcement can be found HERE


Students Walking Home from School

We have had a report of an individual in a car acting suspiciously towards a student who was walking home alone. As the dark night draw in, please do be advised that we recommend students walking home in pairs or small groups where possible – and to have contact arrangements set up to notify parents of their whereabouts if parents are out at work.

Please do also note that of any student is worried about getting home – they can call in to reception and we will assist with contacting parents and making appropriate arrangements.


Goodwill and Kindness

We hope to focus on these values in the final two weeks of term, and a couple of examples below of where Wollaston School has benefitted from the kindness of others.

Scott Bader have awarded us just under £10,000 for the provision of laptops for disadvantaged children and families. Thanks to Simon Anderson and Sara Austin (our Vice Chair of Governors) for their hard work and achievement in writing a successful bid to  Scott Bader’s charitable foundation.

In addition to our usual festive decorations, we also have a  wonderful Christmas Tree in the foyer of the Main Hall which has been generously donated by John Lewis along with accompanying  decorations. This donation was kindly arranged for us by a Year 7 parent. Although the tree is currently sited in the Year 11 bubble, I am sure that this tree will last for many, many years; to be enjoyed by  the entire school community. Hopefully in a world in which the pandemic can be spoken of in the past tense – that’s my Christmas wish at least!

Have a good weekend and we look forward to seeing off the final two weeks of term in 2020 with as much good cheer as possible!


Full advice from Health Protection

What to do if you develop symptoms of COVID 19

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should remain at home for at least 10 days from the date when your 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 .

People who do not have symptoms should not request a test unless this has been specifically requested by Public Health England or the local authority.

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 to, please 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

Please see the link to the PHE ‘Stay at Home’ Guidance:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection


Symptoms of COVID 19

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature and/or
  • a loss of, or change in, 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/

Yours sincerely

Mr James Birkett