Dear Parents and carers,

It has been a great pleasure to welcome back students in all year groups throughout the course of this week. It has been wonderful to see classrooms filled with students learning and a powerful reminder of the importance of education on academic, social and personal development. We have missed our students, and some have even been brave enough to admit that they have missed  school!

Of course the Wollaston that we are welcoming students back to is quite different in some operational aspects than the school which we knew in early March 2020.  I would like to thank students, staff and parents for following all of the new guidance so carefully and taking steps to protect themselves and others through reducing the risks of transmission. We do appreciate that students and parents had  read the advice and were so well prepared to begin the new year. As I mentioned in assembly to students, this is a form of secondary education that has never been tried previously, and of course it will be a learning curve for us all. We are by necessity working with imperfection as schools were simply not planned or designed with a bubbled education in mind. However, the systems that we have in place have worked effectively, but of course there will be refinements as we welcome all students back to school and stress test the arrangements with nearly 1500 students and almost 200 staff on site!

 

Welcome to new Students and Staff

We pride ourselves on being a friendly and welcoming school and despite the requirements of social distancing, we have warmly welcomed a number of new students and staff to our school. We have been pleased to welcome a large number of external students to our excellent VI form and I know that they have enjoyed a positive first few days.

We have also welcomed some excellent new staff to the school and a reminder of their names and job titles can be found below.

Charlotte Hoarau  – Teacher of English

Debbie Thacker – Exams & Data Manager

Sarah Monsell – Head of Art & Photography

Simon Anderson – Senior Deputy Headteacher / Head of School

Kieron Dwyer – Teacher of Geography

James Brutus – Teacher of Maths

Jeff Blincow – Teacher of Maths

Emily Pearce – Teacher of English – KS3 Leader

David Jones – Teacher of Hums & i/c H&SC

Clare Codner – Asst Headteacher – Inclusion / SENCo

Natalie Carter – Cover Supervisor

Tanja Bruxmeier – Teacher of French

It has also been a great pleasure to formally welcome back Mrs Hollis-Brown and Mrs Downs from maternity leave.

 

PE and Physical Activity

In the short term, we would be grateful if students could just bring trainers to school for timetabled PE lessons. Please do be assured that students will not be undertaking full PE lessons in their school uniform as we understand that this would lead to smart new uniform becoming dirty. In the very short term, students will only do very light exercise and well being activities. We are planning for a return to full PE as soon as is safely possible – so please do ensure that students have their PE kit ready. When we do make the move to more usual PE lessons, we will issue full guidance on use of PE kit, uniform requirements as well as the control measures which will be used in lessons to limit the risk of transmission.

 

Curriculum Delivery

We have retained a full and balanced curriculum for all year groups and are operating a full timetable with a full range of subjects. However, guidance on safe working practices dictates that there will be a greater emphasis on individual written work and theoretical elements of courses than on practical work. We are confident that we can turn this necessity into an advantage, by ensuring that there is an intensity and focus to all of the work undertaken in lessons and establish effective individual and collaborative learning routines.

 

School Transport from Monday 7th September 2020

You are likely to be aware that our school site has always been busy and is particularly so at the start and end of school. The current situation and demands for social distancing make this a particularly acute issue from Monday when all students return. Northamptonshire school transport are introducing social distancing measures (ensuring that students sit in Year group bubbles) on their routes and there is some important information below which I have been asked to pass on to parents of children who travel on the school buses:

  • Northamptonshire School Transport have advised that they will write to all parents over the weekend to update on specific transport and route information.
  • They will also update the website here: https://www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/councilservices/children-families-education/schools-and-education/school-transport/Pages/home-to-school-transport-update.aspx   Please note that there is already specific information concerning Wollaston School routes available on this page.
  • In this communication they will detail changes to some route timings and arrangements.
  • In some cases there will be additional buses serving certain routes, with different year groups on each bus.
  • On some routes, there may be changes to timings, with bus operators “doubling” routes, which will involve two trips to / from school and some earlier starts / delayed times leaving school. We understand from NCC Transport that this will affect approximately 134 students who will be made aware of this over the weekend.
  • Other routes may be unaffected as there is existing capacity on the buses.

I understand that these arrangements will be inconvenient and difficult, bith for our school and for students and families. We are also unable to give out individual and specific advice or information as of course it is Northamptonshire County Council who run school transport.  However, in addition to the above, the Transport team have also asked me to make parents of those eligible for a school bus aware, that they can claim a mileage allowance of 45 pence per mile if they decide to transport their own children to school for the duration of the Covid restrictions. Students would be  immediately entitled to return to the school bus as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted. If you interested in transporting your own son or daughter to school and claiming the mileage, please email  Academictransport@northamptonshire.gov.uk who will advise of the process tomorrow.

I am sorry to pass on these messages at such short notice and the transport team appreciate just what a challenging situation this is for us as a school with such a reliance on school transport. NCC have promised that they will send a team of bus inspectors on Monday and Tuesday afternoon to supervise boarding arrangements.

 

Information from Public Health England

I have also been asked to forward details from Public Health England regarding their advice regarding testing, illness and  returning to school. Full details can be found in their letter here  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-from-phe-and-nhs-test-and-trace-to-school-and-college-leaders/letter-from-phe-and-nhs-test-and-trace-to-school-and-college-leaders

I have also included the key points below:

 

Testing 

  • Individuals should quickly get a test if they develop one or more of the main coronavirus symptoms:
    • A high temperature
    • A new or continuous cough
    • Loss or change of their sense of taste or smell or they have been recommended to get tested by their healthcare provider
  • If one person in a household or a school bubble develops symptoms, only they should be tested.  There is no need for their households to have a test, unless they are also symptomatic.
  • As schools and colleges across England return, pupils and students may feel unwell for example with a sore throat, stomach upset or a headache. These students do not need to book a test but may need to stay off school or college and seek medical advice through their GP or pharmacist as usual.

Shielding Students

  • The shielding scheme has been paused, paving a way for a full return of staff and students to school. Young people who received a shielding advisory letter early in the epidemic will be encouraged to talk through their specific circumstances with their GP or specialist at their next appointment.

Post 16 Qualifications

Good news to celebrate following the amendments to the examinations debacle over the summer. The changes to the grading system has meant that we have even more excellent results to celebrate and significant increases from the information published in the summer. We are proud of every single member of our Year 11 and year 13 cohort and please see below for some of the achievements which have now been correctly awarded following the much needed amendments to the process.

  •  Diaz Ryan, who achieved Distinction*, Distinction*,and an A grade and will read Professional Policing at Northampton University
  • Lucy Stevens, who secured A*, A*, and A grades and will read Geography at Birmingham University
  • Oliver Jeffries, who achieved A*, A*  A* grades and will read Economics at Nottingham University
  • Sam Thompson, who achieved four A levels at A*,A*,A and A  grades and will read Clinical Psychology at Exeter University.
  • Edwin Cheng, who secured A*, A* and C grades and who has been awarded a full Dance scholarship at Laine Theatre Arts School
  • Chaz Dormer, who received Distinction*, Distinction* and Distinction.
  • Morgan Harrison who secured Distinction*, Distinction* and Distinction.
  • Molly Haddon, who achieved four qualifications at Distinction*, A, B and B grades and will read Psychology and Criminology at Loughborough University
  • Simon Cook achieved A, A and B grades and will read Mechanical Engineering at Birmingham University
  • Fran Gosling who achieved A*, B and B grades and will read History at the University of Lincoln
  • Gaby Melia, who achieved A*, A* and A grades and will take a Gap year during 2020/21
  • Amelie Van der Ploeg , who achieved A*, A* and A grades and will read Economics with German at University of Nottingham
  • Emily Bowers, who achieved A, B and B grades and will read Primary Teacher Education at Oxford Brookes University.

I am sure that there will be plenty to keep us busy in the weeks and months ahead, and as we have done throughout, I will continue to keep parents, students and staff informed of national and local developments. The principle will remain that too much information is better than too little – and I beg your forgiveness for such lengthy correspondence.

I would like to thank you for all of your support over the past few months and as we approach this new future together. I spoke with students this week about meeting challenges with positivity, kindness and resilience. Those are qualities which we have demonstrated throughout and which we will draw upon for life. It is a great pleasure to once again see Wollaston’s corridors filled with smiles and learning as we work together on the best education possible, in the safest way possible. Have a restful weekend, and please do celebrate the fact that our children are now back at school!

Mr J Birkett

Headteacher