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09/07/2020

Letter from Mr Mirams - 9th July 2020

Dear Parents

REF:   IMPORTANT SCHOOL UPDATES

This has been the strangest of four months and as we move towards the official summer break I am writing to explain the next steps for the school as we prepare for the start of the new academic year.  The next stage will be a very difficult one for all concerned whether you are a pupil, member of staff or parent.  In fact the next part of the journey will be the greatest challenge ever in education and will definitely be a defining moment in the school`s history.  The size of the challenge with the publication of the Government advice is huge and with a school the size of ours I foresee many issues for all of us.

I am aware that the pressures of the last few months have had a huge impact on all of you and this is mirrored across all our community.  There will continue to be a growing expectation that as a school we will be able to solve every issue, accommodate every demand and make various arrangements to suit individuals.  My honest opinion is that the school will be a very different place on your return and that we will all have to get used to a different way of working and engaging.  We must try and work together to ensure that we can safely bring over 1500 children back to school safely alongside 183 staff.  In fact we should be under no illusion that until schools return in their entirety no one knows the impact on the “R” values around the land.  In fact it appears that schools will be one of very few work places returning in such great numbers and the burden of safety therefore is one that sits heavily with many of us.

For many people you have been used to our personable approach, our hands on appeal and our ability to try and accommodate as much as we can.   New guidelines and requirements mean that much of this approach is just not possible and the last few months have certainly taken their toll on many of our staff.  I will happily admit that I view the next stage as the most difficult that I have professionally dealt with and my aim as Headteacher is to get the school, its pupils and the staff through to a point whereby future generations can benefit from more normality.  It will certainly be a very challenging time and we will review regularly to see how we can continually adapt.  Some of our services will just not be able to happen due to financial constraints, lack of staff flexibility and risk assessments.

In essence we will have to reorganise the whole school to ensure that the Government “Track and Trace” system can be fully implemented in case of any outbreaks of the virus.  In order to ensure that the school can return in full we will have to organise the school into PODS and keep these apart as best we can.  In reality all groups across the school will be in Year Group PODS and will be given certain areas of the school where they will remain all day with staggered start and end times.   This will be the case at both the Primary and the Secondary school.  This places huge pressures on staffing, resourcing and procedures with such a huge school population.  It is clear that no one other than pupils or staff will be allowed on either school site without an appointment and that includes any use of our car parking facilities.  Therefore, most correspondence will be via email or telephone and there will be very limited face to face discussions or meetings.  For eighty percent of you this is no change but if you have been used to coming in and seeing us on almost a daily basis it will come as quite a shock. 

TERM DATES:

Firstly, a reminder over the new start dates for next year:

  • Wednesday 26th August 2020 – All staff in school
  • Thursday 27th August 2020 and Friday 28th August 2020 – Year R (mornings only) and Year 6 (All Day) to restart school at Primary.  Year 7 and Year 11 to restart school at Secondary.
  • Tuesday 1st September 2020 – All other pupils return to school

ORGANISATION OF THE DAY:

As I stated the Government have made it clear that PODS should be organised whereby start and end times will be staggered.   There are a number of issues and barriers around this but we will have to do what we can to ensure that there is safe entry and exit onto the site.  At present the timings are being worked through and the table below outlines our plan for the new academic year and where Year group PODS will be based at Secondary:

Year 7 Maths
Year 8 English
Year 9 Science
Year 10 Tech and RE
Year 11 Humanities
Sixth Form Art Area

At Primary children will remain strictly in their classrooms and within Year Groupings.

There will be specific entry points and timings for each year group at Secondary and at Primary children will be dropped off and collected via the main pedestrian gate at the given times.  If you are late at Primary you will have to wait until the last group is in as we just cannot meet the needs of all of you with such a busy schedule.  No pupil at either Primary or Secondary will be allowed on the school site until these times and must enter through one of our main gates.  The gates at both schools will be managed and locked and the following will therefore not be possible at the start of the academic year:

  • NO DROP OFF AT EITHER SCHOOL
  • NO USE OF EITHER CAR PARK AT ANY TIME
  • LIMITED EXTENDED DAY PROVISION
  • NO HOMEWORK CLUB
  • NO AFTER SCHOOL CLUBS

TEACHING:

We are going to run our normal timetable and staff will move to where the children are at Secondary.  There will be class movement within the Year POD area to facilitate sets and groupings.  At Primary children will mainly remain in their classroom with their teachers. We are going to attempt to continue with PE as normal under the clear guidelines set out for us.

Requirements are slightly different at the two schools but in essence most classrooms will be set up to have forward facing desks and an area that the teacher will teach from which is between 1-2 metres from pupils.  There will be slight variations with the younger Primary pupils. 

Older pupils at Primary and Secondary Pupils will need to ensure that they recognise this new routine and that there are clear staff zones.  Any deviation from this will result in sanctions.  We are protecting all and following guidance and I would ask that as parents you make it absolutely clear that behaviour that disrupts learning and puts others at risk will not be tolerated.

EQUIPMENT and UNIFORM:

At Primary all equipment will be provided and children should not bring in any stationary from home including pencil cases.  We will continue with reading books and book bags as normal.

At secondary Pupils are expected to bring their own equipment as they will be moving around their areas.  This is the responsibility of parents and children to ensure that they are organised and ready to learn.

Normal reminders that all uniform is as usual, including PE kit and there should be no issues with this across both schools.  I would like to remind parents and pupils about our rules on hair colour as I am sure there have been many experiments over the lockdown period.   You now have over 6 weeks to go more natural or to solve any nose stud issues!!

BEHAVIOUR EXPECTATIONS:

These remain the same at both schools with the added expectation that any child who does not follow clear procedures will be severely dealt with.  All sanctions and detentions remain the same and I expect these to be supported by parents in their entirety.  I am afraid that we are making it clear that if you come to our school and enter our site then you are governed by the rules we have in place.  With all the changes we will not have time to make any special arrangements for anyone and there are local options if people don`t agree with how we manage things.  One mistake could affect someone`s health and that is the responsibility of all of us.

LANYARDS AT SECONDARY:

All pupils at Secondary will be provided with a coloured lanyard which must be worn at all times around the site and is mandatory to all from Year 7 to Sixth Form.  The mixing of year groups will be kept to a minimum and no pupil is allowed out of their designated zone without permission.  If pupils do not follow these rules then they are placing all members of our community at risk and they will be dealt with severely.  We are taking no chances with any of our community.

TRANSPORT AND ATTENDANCE:

At present the Government are not advocating school children using public transport and suggest that this should be kept to an absolute minimum.  If these services are used then face coverings must be worn.  The Government have made it clear that it is the responsibility of the parent to get children to school on time and I would ask you to take note of the start and end times for particular year groups once these are published.

We are aware that there may be siblings in different year groups but we cannot accommodate pupils entering the schools at different times to their year groups.  This will also include collection of children.  This is an example of where special arrangements will not be able to be made.  What we are doing is keeping the timings as close together as we can to limit the wait.

The Government have made it clear that all children should be in school and that we should facilitate full provision.  We have also been directed that normal attendance procedures should be applied for those not coming into school.  I will be interpreting this in a way that builds the confidence of all of you as we return.

CANTEEN ARRANGEMENTS:

There will be various arrangements across both sites but in the first few weeks there will be no hot meal option at either school.  We will be providing a packed lunch if required and paid for at Primary and for all FSM pupils including all Year R to Year 2. Primary will eat lunches in classrooms. At Secondary we will be providing all other services apart from the cooked meal.  This is to allow us to have staggered lunch times and to keep year groups apart.  For payment options please see the ParentPay Section below.

We hope to be able to develop this menu and reintroduce hot meals once the guidelines are more relaxed. 

FREE SCHOOL MEALS:

You will be aware the Government will be continuing to provide the voucher scheme for pupils eligible for free school meals via the Summer Food Fund.  The order for these vouchers has been placed and you will receive your emails with your code on week beginning 20th July 2020 to the value of £90 per pupil, which covers the 6 week summer holiday period.  If you have more than one child at the school you will receive one voucher for the total amount.  The list of supermarkets that vouchers can be used in has been updated and is as follows:  Aldi, Asda, Company Shop Group, Iceland (including the Food Warehouse stores), Marks and Spencers, McColls’s, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose.

PARENTPAY ONLINE PAYMENT SYSTEM:

We will be going cashless from September for obvious reasons and I would advise all of you to join the ParentPay Online Payment System.  We will be sending information out to you all if you have not already signed up to the scheme, the letter will include a personalised activation code for your child and an explanation of how the system works.  This is the way forward over the coming weeks and reduces any transfer of money.  This scheme will pay for everything from dinner money to trips to extended day.  New Year R parents should have received the activation letter already, if you have not please let us know via admin@st-georgescofe-thanet.kent.sch.uk.  Secondary parents and new Year 7 parents will receive the activation letter over the next few weeks.  Pupils will all need to bring their swipe card each day to pay for school dinners.  New Year 7 pupils will be issued with a swipe card on the first day.  If any current pupils have lost their card, a new one can be purchased on ParentPay and will be issued to them on their first day in school.

PRIMARY EXTENDED DAY:

We are currently looking at options but guidelines, risk assessments and staffing mean that this will be limited and timings will vary.  We are doing our utmost to provide a skeletal service but this also has to take place in PODS and to be honest we are already stretched with what we have to implement.  I would advise that you make provision for alternative arrangements in case our service does not meet your requirements.  The limited places will be on a first come first served basis and will have limited numbers available.  I can only apologise for this but as I said earlier we just cannot do it all.  When a decision has been made, primary parents will be informed of the sessions available and the time bookings and payment can be made on ParentPay.

SECONDARY HOMEWORK CLUB:

This will not be taking place in Term One.

RESULTS DAYS:

I have made the decision that these will take place and pupils will be able to come in and collect results on both results days.  We will organise entry and exit in a “supermarket style” arrangement and pupils will also be able to register for the Sixth From as well.  We will send more details out via our Exams team in the next week.  I will allow one parent to accompany each child but will be enforcing strict social distancing rules.  Please wait to hear from us about arrangements and alternative ways of getting results.

FACE COVERINGS:

The Government have informed us that Face Coverings are not required in school BUT must be worn on public transport.  There remains much debate over the practicality, use and impact of these, however I am informing staff that if they feel that they wish to use Face Coverings then then this is up to them.  The same rules will apply to pupils and I would like to emphasise that the correct use of these should be followed.

COMMUNICATION DURING THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS:

Our communication during the summer holidays will revert back to the normal email address admin@st-georgescofe-thanet.kent.sch.uk.  The other email addresses that have been used during school closure will no longer be in use, apart from safeguardingenquiries@st-georgescofe-thanet.kent.sch.uk for any safeguarding concerns.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This will be a huge change for all of us and I suspect that there will be much debate across the land about the implications of schools returning for the new academic year.  In support of all educational establishments we are all different, have massively varied intakes and have all range of pressures.  We are the largest institution in East Kent that covers the age range from 4-19, based across two sites and with over 1500 children and 183 staff.  It is not surprising that there will be so many opinions on how schools like ours should operate and there will be a need to constantly review and adapt to changing circumstances.

The burden of the last four months has had a huge impact  on many of us at the school and with the constantly changing guidance we have found ourselves having to make some pretty tough decisions.  My aim as Headteacher is to simply get the school community through this very difficult period to the best of my ability, keep everyone healthy and to ensure that the leaders of the future have the foundations to continue to build on the history that has gone before us.

I am overwhelmed by the support that you have given us as a school over the last two terms and would like to assure all of you that we will be preparing the school over the summer break for the start of the new academic year.  We will do our utmost to minimise risks and to provide an education for all with our normal timetable.  The staff are committed to your children and we are proud that you have the confidence to place them in our care.

You will just have to accept that in many ways we are preparing for the unknown, we won`t get it all right and once again you will have to accept us for what we are and what we do.  I must share with you all something that a parent wrote to me this week about our school:

“Thank you for your example of commitment, endurance, hard work, love towards your students and your Christian Faith…………….I encourage you to stand firm and immovable and to take God`s side in every decision you make.”

We will do our best!

God Bless You All

Mr Mirams