Dear Parents and Carers,

I hope that you are all safe and that this letter finds you and your family in good health.  I would also like to say another huge thank you for all of the continuing messages of support. These are difficult times, and with undoubtedly more difficult decisions to come – it is greatly appreciated to know that we have your support.  Please be braced for a lengthy read…!

Following Boris Johnson’s message of Sunday and the subsequent release of various guidance documents from the Department for Education over the course of this week, we have been considering how we will make this work for Wollaston School and indeed across our three schools of the Nene Valley Partnership. The significant change for secondary schools is to facilitate Year 10 and 12 students having some face to face contact with teachers during the summer term. Please note this is not a return to full time education or indeed to any kind of usual timetable.  The Government have published information for parents HERE

As ever, our approach is to study the guidance carefully, avoid some of the sensationalist media speculation and ensure that our decision making is well reasoned and practical. I do want to assure you that we have a team of staff who are determined to provide as full an education as possible whilst ensuring that this is delivered in as safe a way as  possible. Despite what is reported nationally, we have excellent relationships with teaching and support staff professional associations, who share our commitment to work for the benefit of our children whilst protecting staff and students.

Four caveats before I outline our provisional plans:

  • We are approaching a gradual re-opening of our school with consideration of all guidance and protective measures in order to make attendance as safe as possible. However – there is no such thing as absolute safety.  This applies to school, as much as it does when we visit the supermarket and other public facilities as society begins to re-open. We can individually and collectively take steps to reduce transmission of the virus, but no-one can guarantee that this won’t happen. What we are doing is managing the risk. It is not possible to eliminate the risk.
  • These provisional plans – are exactly that, provisional. The dates outlined below are firstly dependent on the Government advising that their timeline is supported by their specific tests. The dates are also dependent on our ability to ready the site, ensure availability and readiness of school staff and most importantly, to satisfy ourselves that we are able to put risk assessments and policy into practice as safely as possible.  We are of course planning a carefully phased programme which enables date flexibility, dependent on all of the above.
  • The in school education that we will be providing will look and feel nothing like “normal” school. The strategy and guidance is to create small “bubbles” and minimise social contact.
  • We will not pursue non-attendance at school for those who are eligible for in school provision, but would encourage them to attend.

School Opening for Children of Critical Workers, Children who Require Additional Support and Students in Years 10 and Year 12.

Under current arrangements, Students and staff should not attend our school under any circumstances if the following applies:

  • You are classified as extremely clinically vulnerable. Please see HERE
  • You share a household with an individual who is classified as extremely clinically vulnerable.
  • You are classified as clinically vulnerable. Please see Section 8 HERE
  • You show any symptoms of Covid-19, including a high temperature or a cough. In these circumstances you should isolate with your household and inform the school. Please see here: HERE

Students in Year 12

  • We will begin a programme of having small groups of Year 12 students on site from the 1st June 2020. Groups sizes will never be larger than 15 and there will be a maximum of 40 Year 12 students on site on any given day.
  • These contacts will take the form of “subject days”. A small group (no more than 15) will spend the entire day with specialist academic staff for one of their options subjects. This group will have designated rooms, toilet facilities and separated times for break and visits to the canteen. They will not mix with anyone outside of this small group bubble.
  • There will also be a pastoral & welfare session alongside the subject content.
  • We aim that every student will have at least one subject day for each of their subjects – and possible more if practicalities allow.
  • Subject days will take place on Mondays – Thursdays.
  • There will be no provision for the week of 6th July 2020. This is to allow for Year 6/7 transition activities.


Students in Year 10

  • We will begin a programme of having small groups of Year 10 students on site from the 8thJune 2020. Groups sizes will never be larger than 15 and there will be a maximum of 60 Year 10 students on site on any given day.
  • This provision will initially take the form of focusing on English, Maths and Science.  Small groups, of no more than 15, will have input from no more than three specialist teachers, in each of the core subjects. This small group will have a designated room, toilet facilities and separated times for break and visits to the canteen. They will not mix with anyone outside of this small group bubble.
  • There will also be a pastoral & welfare session alongside the subject content.
  • Each student will attend on ONE designated day each week (from Monday – Thursday).
  • There will be no provision for the week of 6th July 2020. This is to allow for Year 6/7 transition activities.
  • Whilst the initial weeks will focus on Core subjects (as every student studies these subjects – making practical “bubble” arrangements more straightforward) we are modelling how we could introduce options subject sessions before the end of the academic year.


Provision for Children of Critical Workers and Children who require Additional Support

  • This will continue to be open to eligible students, but with some different practical arrangements from how this has operated to date.
  • From 1st June 2020, in order to preserve the “bubble” approach – small groups (of no more than 15) will be accommodated in separate areas of the school. This small group will have a designated room, toilet facilities and separated times for break and visits to the canteen. They will not mix with anyone outside of this small group bubble
  • Students will continue to have 3 separate sessions each day – based in their own small group designated area. There will no longer be access to the entire school site.
  • Provision will be in place every day until the end of the summer term.


Protective Measures for Staff and Students on Site.

This is not an exhaustive list, but outlines the key areas and steps that we will be taking in the days ahead in preparation for a phased re-opening.

  • The “bubble” approach to Year 10 and 12 contact meets the core criteria of reducing the number of contacts and ensures that small group cohorts remain together with limited changes to student and teaching personnel during the day.
  • We will be modifying all classrooms to map out designated seating arrangements which enable social distancing. There will be clear signage on each door which will indicate how many students the room can cater for. Some classrooms may be temporarily decommissioned to store excess tables and chairs.
  • We will also follow this approach with workrooms, offices, communal spaces and staffrooms.
  • There will be a code of conduct for students and staff to follow which will outline how to maintain social distancing.
  • We will implement routines at the start and end of the day to allow for as much social distancing as possible during arrival / departure.
  • For those in school, there will be designated times to visit the canteen and to take breaks. These will be taken in groups of around 15 students and we will aim to avoid contact across different groups.
  • There will be floor markers and clear instructions for queuing, paying and receiving food in the canteen.
  • There will be daytime cleaning provision, focusing on high use areas including toilets, and door handles.
  • Each classroom which has been used will be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day.
  • We will order additional hand sanitiser and cleaning supplies for use in classrooms – and encourage regular hand washing.
  • PPE is not recommended for either staff or students.
  • The exception to this is the medical room, which will have necessary equipment and guidance to cope with any student or member of staff who is taken ill with suspected Covid-19 during the school day.
  • Most importantly – anyone who has the symptoms of a cough or fever needs to stay away from school, self-isolate and arrange a test. If a positive result is received, DFE and PHE will advise us on the next course of action. This is part of the Government’s track and trace strategy.


Provision for Students in Years 7, 8 and 9

It is clear that there will be no return to school this academic year for our younger year groups and I know that many parents and students will be disappointed and concerned regarding their children’s education at this time. Whilst safety of all is paramount and a phased return means that certain year groups take priority, we do wish to ensure that our Key Stage 3 students benefit from the best remote education that we can provide. In order to achieve this:

  • From the 1st June onwards we will seek to increase the quantity of interactive tasks and sessions available for students in these year groups.
  • Whilst these will be unlikely to be regular Zoom “live” lessons, we will aim for an increase in video and interactive PowerPoint content.
  • We will start to incorporate transition work for students in Year 9 to begin a focus on the subjects they have selected for GCSE study.
  • With the relaxation of rule regarding travel to workplaces, we will be using Fridays (which will be clear of Y10 and Y12 provision) for staff to produce remote resources, videos and activities for students in Years 7 -9 and to communicate with parents and children on a pastoral and academic basis.
  • As soon as we have plans for beyond this academic year, we will look carefully at how we can support and accelerate the learning of our Key Stage 3 students once a return is confirmed.

It is an unusual thing to say at the end of such a long letter – but this really does represent only the framework for our planning and we are currently working very hard on the practicalities and actions required in order to make a phased return a reality, in as safe a way as is possible.

There is an incredible amount of noise in the media regarding the return to school and I know there are a wide range of views on this. These are important conversations to have, as it looks as though we are going to have to find ways of living with this terrible virus for some time to come. On a national level, I hope that this debate does not splinter the incredible feeling of community which has so characterised our collective response to this crisis.  Locally, for our school community, I have no doubts that we will continue to work together in partnership as calmly, resolutely and positively as we have done to date.  We have taken incredible strength and inspiration from your support and I hope that you and your children have felt our care and continuing hunger to educate, even from afar.

As we plan for the future, I am clear that our role as a school is to help our students emerge from this as strong, as positive, as caring, as socially connected and as successful as possible. I know that we have seen new qualities emerge in our children and have been impressed with their resilience, their creativity, their ingenuity and their ability to help and inspire others. This may be a generation whose experiences inspire them to build a better society.

However gradually, and of course in as safe a way as possible, we are looking forward to meeting again with our students to collectively inspire, motivate and achieve.

Mr J Birkett