This letter contains information about:
- The Start of the Autumn Term
- Special Arrangements for the Autumn Term
- School Uniform
- School Attendance
I am writing this letter to you at what remains a highly unusual time and with our thoughts now turning to next academic year. Currently, it is the case that we are still making sense of the recently issued government guidance and planning our way forward. As you will be aware already, I will spend the term as Acting Headteacher while the recruitment process for Mr Leeming’s permanent successor is completed. At the start of my twenty-ninth year at Kings’ School, I regard leading the school for the term to be a privilege. I am determined to provide an environment for the pupils when they return to school full time that is as ‘normal’ for them as possible yet also as safe as it can be. I believe that the welfare and pastoral support provided by the school is one of its strengths and we will be doing all that we can to support our pupils through the transition back to full time education as well as teaching them interesting, challenging lessons.
Our overall aim is to give pupils as full a curriculum and as ‘normal’ an experience as we can, while keeping everyone safe by adjusting school routines.
Our plan for safety follows government advice closely and includes:
1 Making sure that people who are ill stay at home
2 Making sure everyone practises good hygiene techniques
3 Cleaning the school more intensively than we used to
4 Active engagement with NHS Test and Trace arrangements
5 Adjusting school routines to reduce contacts amongst those on site
With these points in mind, I will now tell you what I can about the detailed arrangements for September. However, I need to stress that we will not be absolutely certain about what we will do until nearer the time (because the local situation and government guidance may change). We will review the situation on Thursday 20 August and aim to contact all parents on Friday 21 August to finalise arrangements.
Our current intention is that our new Year 7 pupils will return to school on Friday 4 September and that pupils in all other years will join them on Monday 7 September. On the first of these dates, Year 7 pupils will be met by the senior team and the Year 7 Team and will spend the day working with their tutors. We are acutely aware that our new pupils have not been able to follow our usual face-to-face transition programme and we will be doing all that we can to settle them into the school as quickly as possible. We are also mindful that most of our other pupils have been physically away from school for several months so on Monday 7 September, there will be extended tutor periods including virtual assemblies both first thing in the morning and after lunch.
Our intention is to run our normal school timetable with some amendments to our current systems in order to improve safety around the school site. We have thought long and hard about having zones for particular year groups in school for teaching but have concluded that this would have a disproportionately negative impact on our pupils’ education given the number of our lessons that are taught within specialist rooms at Kings’. Our pupils have been away from school for a long time and we want them to have the best possible experience of teaching and learning on their return to school. In order to ensure that the school site is as safe for pupils as possible and their contact with (a) large numbers of other pupils and (b) others outside their own year group is minimised, however, we are currently planning for the following:
- An initial review and update of our Covid Risk Assessment (and other relevant risk assessments) will be undertaken before the end of term. These documents will then be kept under review and results of the Covid Risk Assessment will be summarised and available for parents to view on the school’s website by late August.
- We will provide hand sanitiser at numerous points around the school site so that pupils can clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive at school; when they change rooms; and before and after eating.
- We will purchase 100 new closed lid bins to maximise the effectiveness of the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach around the site.
- We have already enhanced our cleaning regime but we will do so further to ensure that rooms and, even more importantly, highly frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, and high risk areas such as toilets, are cleaned as often as possible. Pupils are welcome to bring their own cleaning wipes and small bottles of hand sanitiser for their own use if they wish to do so.
- Class rooms will be organised with desks facing forwards wherever possible.
- Adults, wherever possible, will stay 2 metres from pupils.
- The school site will be ‘zoned’ at lunchtimes in order to prevent year groups from mixing unnecessarily.
- We will arrange for different serving points / times for school lunches and all food will be served on a ‘takeaway’ basis.
- Our on-site one way system will be monitored by teachers more closely at movement times and a new requirement of our pupils will be introduced stating that, in the short term, pupils must not socialise on site with pupils from other year groups during movement and lunch times.
- Bells will be removed at movement times to lessen the density of pupils moving at the same time.
- Assemblies will be held virtually (usually via Youtube or Microsoft Teams) with pupils remaining in their tutor bases for these.
- Pupils will go straight to their period 4 lesson after lunch and register there which will result in one less movement of pupils around site per day.
- Events that involve large numbers of visitors attending school site will remain cancelled until further notice.
- We will be frequently emphasising to pupils the importance of them taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing by socially distancing; cleaning their hands more thoroughly and regularly than usual; and not entering toilet areas when these are already busy.
- We will be ensuring that materials such as text books are not shared across year groups without either cleaning or a 48 hour delay.
We are currently considering the possibilities around:
- Staggering lunchtimes and the end of the school day
- PE lessons
- Music lessons provided by Hampshire Music Service
- School transport, especially County buses from the Colden Common area – we expect that these will run, but that timetables may be adjusted
School lunches will be available for pupils who qualify for free school meals and for other pupils where this is essential but I would ask that in order to help us to ensure social distancing / avoid long queues of large numbers of pupils, parents support pupils to bring a packed lunch wherever possible.
As stated above, our aim will be for school to feel as normal as possible but to increase our safety measures in order for this experience to be as safe as possible for everyone on site.
On the theme of things feeling as normal as possible, our expectation of our Year 11 pupils will be that they continue to study the full range of subjects that they started in Year 10 when they return to school. This follows government guidance that ‘The vast majority of pupils in Year 10 and 11 are expected to continue with their examination subjects and that the discontinuation of a subject should only take place in ‘exceptional circumstances’. In order to support our Year 11 pupils, we will be holding our Year 11 mock GCSE examinations later than usual, moving them from the two weeks after the October half term to the two weeks prior to the Christmas break. Reviews of both progress and of examination entry for Year 11 pupils will take place, as usual, in the Spring Term.
I will write to you again on Friday 21 August, updating you with any changes to the content above and providing you with the most current information about (a) what to do if a member of your family develops coronavirus symptoms and (b) engagement with NHS Test and Trace where appropriate. Please also note that currently Public Health England does not recommend the use of face coverings in schools; again if this guidance changes, I will update you.
I do hope that the above information makes sense and that you will see that we are striving to balance our desire for our pupils to be taught an interesting and engaging curriculum with the necessity for safety measures to be effectively implemented. I am conscious that you may have additional questions about the complicated situation in which we find ourselves – please do feel free to ask these, but please allow me to answer most of them collectively when I write to you again in August. If you have questions that relate to your child’s individual needs/situation, please contact their Head of Year in the first instance.
So that we can focus on looking after and teaching our pupils and not spend time on issues that can be avoided, I would ask parents to resolve any issues linked to school uniform during the summer holidays. Our uniform is central to the culture of the school and our expectation is that it is worn correctly. I know that during ‘lockdown’, there have been some interesting haircuts / colours created and that pupils have grown out of items of uniform – but I would ask you to ensure that by the start of term, these, and any other issues, have been addressed. Hair styles and piercings that do not comply with the school rules (alongside things like false nails and jewellery) have sometimes taken a considerable amount of time for our Heads of Year to resolve at the start of a new year when ideally they should be focusing on our pupils’ welfare and progress. So please do support us and ensure that your child returns to school ‘Kings’-ready’ in terms of their appearance. An area where there has perhaps been uncertainty in the past has been around is what styles of shoes are considered appropriate and I would ask parents to look at the page accessed via this link to guide them when making purchases:
If any parents are at all uncertain about any aspects of the Kings’ School Uniform, I would urge you to contact the school before making purchases so that any potential issues can be avoided. We are always keen to work alongside families and to offer advice where this would be helpful.
We are now coming to the end of a period of time when the majority of school pupils have not been attending school ‘on-site’. The government has now revised its expectations around school attendance, however, and I wanted to be sure that all Kings’ parents were aware of what has recently been published. I have included it below for reference:
The government states: ‘it is vital for all children to return to school to minimise as far as possible the longer-term impact of the pandemic on children’s education, wellbeing and wider development. School attendance will therefore be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term. This means from that point, the usual rules on school attendance will apply, including:
- parents’ duty to secure that their child attends regularly at school where the child is a registered pupil at school and they are of compulsory school age;
- schools’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
- the availability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct’
As stated above, we will be doing all that we can to support our pupils’ transition back into full time education and we would urge parents to contact us in advance where they foresee that there may be issues linked to attendance so that we can work together to resolve these.
Although I have spent some time here on School Uniform and Attendance, I want to finish on one vital point that is absolutely essential and it is this: all the adults who work at Kings’ School are delighted to be welcoming our pupils – either back, or for the first time – in September. Adults who choose to work in education settings should be motivated by wanting the best for young people and I know that that is true of my colleagues at Kings’. Do please reassure your child about their return to school and share this message with them – we are really looking forward to their return and we want to work with them to ensure that they leave Kings’ School, as Mr Leeming has said many times – happy, confident, well-motivated, and well-qualified.
I am very much looking forward to working with you and your children in my term as Acting Headteacher and send you my very best wishes for the summer.
Mr R Jeckells