Headteachers Letter -5th March 2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

We are looking forward to starting the phased return to school next week – and it will be wonderful to have all of our students return to our classrooms, corridors and outdoor areas. I trust that students, parents and carers are equally excited!

There are a number of important updates to mention, so please be braced for a fairly lengthy read! Mr Anderson will also today send through a full parent and student guide to the return, which will also mention some revisions to our behaviour processes to ensure that we enjoy an excellent return to both safety and learning routines from the first day back.  We will also support students with additional tutorial and well being sessions, as we all become reaccustomed to learning in person and working safely in a shared and collaborative environment.

In advance of this information, I will also highlight some key points below, particularly regarding testing, face coverings and changes from our  Autumn Term arrangements.

As part of preparations for a full return, I was invited to meet virtually with our Regional Schools Commissioner, Dame Kate Dethridge and officials from the Department for Education in order to discuss arrangements.  I was able to feedback some thoughts regarding practicalities of the full return and also take some advice on some more nuanced policy and guidance points. I also took the opportunity to explain just how effectively and cohesively  we have functioned as an entire community of students, staff, parents and the wider community, despite the challenges and tragedy we have had to meet together during the course of the pandemic.

The DfE have valued this feedback as this experience of working in partnership as a school community does not necessarily seem to have been universal. Dame Kate also asked me to extend both her personal thanks and that of the DfE to the entirety of the school community. I would also like to say thank you to parents and carers for all of your support, positivity and practical help, both for your children and for the school.   We have enjoyed very high levels of attendance and engagement (significantly above early national comparative data) in both remote and in person learning and this is testament and thanks to you for adapting to and supporting with all of the changeable arrangements. I recognise that this has been accomplished whilst managing busy households, difficult circumstances and personal challenges.  Thank you for everything that you have done to ensure that we have greeted this devastating time with positivity, resolve and practical solutions to ensure that our pastoral and educational provision has been able to endure and flourish in such challenging circumstances.


Phased Return to Full Re-Opening

A reminder of the dates for students to return next week.

  • 8th March – Year 11, 12 and 13
  • 9th March – Year 10
  • 10th March – Year 7
  • 11th March – Year 8
  • 12th March – Year 9

 Some important notes regarding the phased return.

  • Until the point of return as scheduled above, all Year groups will continue to receive live remote lessons via zoom, broadcast from their timetabled classrooms.
  • LAW School will continue to operate during the week of the 8th March, until such point as each Year group returns. Students attending LAW school will be taught within their bubble areas, attending timetabled lessons as their teacher delivers remote learning to the rest of the group.
  • From the date of return, students will be able to access the kitchen once each day (at the same time as previously) in order to buy food and drink. For students entitled to free school meals, these will provided in the usual way, by credit being placed on students’ catering card.


Mass Asymptomatic Testing of Students

A reminder to begin with, that the in school testing programme is designed to capture any positive cases which may be entirely asymptomatic. If any student or member of staff has any of the coronavirus symptoms, they should self-isolate, along with their household and arrange for a test through the NHS. Full details can be found here:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

The testing programme is also unsuitable for any individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, as a positive result may be returned, although the individual will not be infectious. Those students and adults whom this applies to should not take the LFT tests, as because of the legal status of isolation, any positive result requires immediate self-isolation, regardless of the circumstances.

You also may be aware that at home lateral flow testing will be made available to all households of school age children. This testing process is not organised through schools, but full guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/rapid-lateral-flow-testing-for-households-and-bubbles-of-school-pupils-and-staff  This includes details of the programme, and how to access and collect Lateral Flow Testing Kits in advance.

In terms of our in school testing programme, thank you to our excellent testing team, for a successful first two days of mass testing. This worked with smooth efficiency and it has been gratifying to see that the plans put into place have worked so effectively in practice. Thank you to parents of students in Years 11, 12 and 13 who have been very supportive with providing lifts and waiting for students. The testing today and on Thursday returned no positive test results.

If positive LFT results are returned, we will of course support families with further details and actions, but please note that isolation must begin immediately, and the positive test must be confirmed by a PCR test at the earliest opportunity.

Please note that for most Year groups, their first test will take place during the first day of their return to school. We will publish the testing schedule daily and slots are organised by tutor group. We are aware that different schools are organising initial testing in different ways and The Department for Education guidance encourages schools to take  decisions which best fit their own particular circumstances.  In our case, we have a particular complicating factor in that we are the largest user of bus school transport in Northamptonshire.  When we considered the feasibility of conducting pre-school appointment based testing for all year groups, we were concerned that we would potentially be exposed to large numbers of “no shows” for test slots, because of an inability to get to the school site, owing to a lack of transport or parents and carers’ other commitments and responsibilities.  We were also wary of encouraging younger children to use public transport individually, or unsafe walking routes. The scale and intensity of the testing programme also means that it would not be possible to run ad hoc catch up testing sessions for those who cannot get to school in advance, without sacrificing the boundaries of the bubble system. We have also been determined to allow all students to return to school at the earliest possible opportunity.

We prioritised Years 11, 12 and 13 for pre-attendance testing for four reasons.

  1. These are the year groups prioritised for an early return as they will be assessed for formal qualifications this year.
  2. This is the age group which has previously returned the most positive covid-19 tests.
  3. This is the school age group who are most likely to have played a continued active role in the local community, through part time work or volunteering.
  4. This is the age group who are most able to access transport to school independently for scheduled appointment slots.

I do recognise that no testing regime is perfect, and that any arrangements will involve a degree of balance. However, given our particular circumstances, I do believe that our approach is best suited to these needs. By testing most year groups on the first day back, we can ensure that all eligible students are tested by 12 noon on the day of their return.

Thank you for your support with these plans, and as ever, I recognise that there will be a range of views on testing generally and the implementation plans specifically. As I know we have all learnt throughout the pandemic, it is absolutely impossible to make decisions which please everyone all of the time, but I will always be transparent about our decision making and the rationale which lies behind these difficult choices.

Thank you also for the timely completion of the testing consent forms. For those few which are still outstanding, we would be grateful if you could complete over the weekend.


Revised Guidance:  Face Coverings

As per my previous message, you are likely to be aware of the new recommendation for adults and students to wear face coverings in all indoor areas – including in lessons – when maintaining a 2 metre distance is not possible.  We would be grateful if you could ensure that students arrive in school with an appropriate face covering and a spare. We would also be grateful if you could discuss the importance of adhering to the rules on face coverings to ensure that as individuals, we all play our part in keeping the school and each other as safe as possible.

Face coverings are not suitable to be worn by everyone for a variety of reasons, and in most cases these are not visible. We do maintain a register of exemptions, and please contact Jade Fitzhugh fitzhughj@wollaston-school.net  if you would consider your child to be exempt. Full details on reasons for an exemption can be found in the guidance document below.

We do provide exemption cards and lanyards for eligible students and staff, although please note that it is not compulsory that these are worn. Some individuals find it useful and helpful to wear these, others do not. It is a matter of personal and family choice.

Full guidance is below and also information regarding suitable materials to be worn as face coverings. Please note that visors are not included as a suitable face covering in the guidance below.



School Uniform and Equipment

As during the Autumn term, we will be encouraging all members of the school community to be as self sufficient as possible. Students will continue to maintain responsibility for their exercise books and all regularly used equipment. We would be grateful if you could ensure that your son or daughter has all the necessary stationary, equipment and school uniform ready for their return.  On days in which students have their double PE lesson, students should arrive in full Wollaston School PE kit as we will continue to avoid the use of communal changing areas.

As per the guidance below on the use of outdoor spaces at break and lunchtime, we are also advising students to bring in a pair of trainers or shoes in a plastic bag which can be changed into for outdoor use during their free time.


Break and Lunch Times

With the changes to the national guidance and regulations, alongside the new guidance on face coverings, we are changing our approach to breaks and lunchtimes. These changes will be clearly explained to students in assembly and will hopefully will be further supported by some great weather in the weeks ahead!

  • In alignment with the national approach to socialising and eating, and the revised indoor rules on face coverings, in most circumstances all students will spend break and lunchtimes outside in their specified bubble zones – for both socialising and eating/drinking.
  • Face coverings are not required at all outside, and it will be important for students to have some time in the fresh air, without the need to wear a face covering.
  • Students are encouraged to bring in a change of footwear (suitable for the outdoors and in a plastic bag) for use in breaks and lunchtimes
  • At the end of Periods 2 and 4, students will be dismissed from both the lesson and the building.
  • At 1pm, we will open 1 or 2 rooms in each bubble for individual private study for those students who wish to complete work.  Places will be booked by individual students each morning with the relevant year team, and only these students will be admitted to the rooms.
  • Face coverings must be worn in silent study rooms and these will be places for students to undertake individual work.


In the event of Wet Weather  

  •  If there is heavy rain which makes being outside unsuitable, we will sound a wet weather bell.
  • In these circumstances, students will be allowed to remain indoors, inside their bubbles. We will encourage students to use the large indoor spaces for each bubble, if these are available, but other classrooms will also remain open.
  • Students will be able to eat and drink inside in the event of wet weather.
  • The guidance will remain for the wearing of face coverings where possible when indoors during wet weather breaks. However, we will be pragmatic regarding this requirement  as students will need to remove face coverings in order to eat and drink.
  • As all national guidance (both now and it would seem in future lockdown relaxations) prioritises outdoor socialising  / meeting, we will have a reasonably high threshold to sound the wet weather bell. However, clearly it would not be right to insist students are outside in very poor weather.

We will of course keep all measures and operations under review and amend in the light of either practical experience or changed national guidance.


Qualifications 2021

Mrs Lydon, Mr Mills and Mr Stevenson will provide further detail guidance in the weeks ahead on how we will manage the detail of the grading process. Whilst these documents will address the practical issues, it will of course incorporate the following principles which I will also stress to students in examination year groups on their return.

  • Grade decisions will be arrived at as late in the Year as possible.
  • Students will have every opportunity to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and understanding from now until the submission of grades in June.
  • Students will be informed which work will be counted as part of final grading decisions.
  • Students will not be assessed on content which has not been studied.
  • Grade awards will be made on a broad range of evidence – previous mock exam results will not be decisive.
  • All teaching and assessment activity will continue as planned.


Year 10 Parent Consultation Evening & World Book Day

Thank you to Year 10 parents for another excellent virtual event. We know from your feedback just how much the chance to meet with  teaching staff has been appreciated, particularly as Year 10 students ready themselves for the return to school. I hope that the revised virtual arrangements worked well.

Thank you also to all of the students who participated, Miss Woodcock and all other staff and adults who helped create an excellent array of activities for Key Stage 3 students to enjoy as part of World Book Day.

Congratulations for reaching the end of another marathon update!

Of course it is impossible to predict the future, or for us to know of the challenges which await. However, next week does again mark a significant moment of transition. I know that within  our school community, as there is nationally, there will be a range of views on Government decision making and how education should be organised.

However, I have also learnt that our school has enjoyed such unity and  shared purpose because we have retained a collaborative,  positive and pragmatic approach throughout.  We will retain this calm and measured approach as we return to the bubble system and full re-opening. Thank you in advance to our students and parents for greeting another series of changes and challenges with such positivity, kindness, strength and resilience.


Let’s hope this truly is a one way exit route from lockdown and that we can all look forward to sunnier times ahead!


Mr James Birkett