Return to School September 2020 – Q&A

We have a range of measures in place to ensure the safety of staff and students, which fully implement government guidance and the advice of Public Health bodies and the Local Authority.  I ask you to read them carefully and to discuss them as a family so that all know what to expect in the new term.  Health and safety is as always our top priority and the duty to care for each other in the current circumstances is shared by every member of the JCoSS community.  The details of what follows will of course be explained to students on their return next week.

Are all students returning?

All students are expected to return, unless they are unwell or quarantining.  The Government has stressed that full attendance is expected in the normal way, and we will operate our usual systems for recording and checking attendance and following up unexplained or unjustified absence.  As always, we will take account of genuine reasons for non-attendance and can discuss individual cases.  We reserve our usual right to use fixed penalty notices where necessary.  If any student is not planning, or not able, to return to school at the start of term, please contact us as soon as possible.  As we reopen, there will be no online learning provided.  In cases of unavoidable and prolonged absence we will as usual send work home, but otherwise the normal expectation is that students catch up work missed through illness.

How is safety being ensured?

Students will be kept in year-group bubbles whilst in school.  Contact between year groups will be kept to a minimum, and timings and movement around the school will be managed with this in mind.  Students will be required to sanitise their hands on entry/exit to each lesson throughout the day, and before/after lunch.  To speed this process up, all students need to bring their own bottle of hand-sanitiser, labelled with their name, and keep it with them at all times. Desks, chairs and any equipment will be sprayed with anti-viral disinfectant between each lesson, and students will dry their desk with disposable tissue before they sit down.  Where possible, windows and doors will be kept open to improve ventilation.  There will be an enhanced cleaning programme covering the whole building, and additional supplies of cleaning materials are already in school.

We will expect students to observe high standards of hygiene, including handwashing, coughing into their elbows, avoiding touching their face, and keeping their distance from others.  We will remind them of these commonsense rules, and students who persistently fail to do this may face sanctions.   

Do we have to wear masks?

We have taken the decision that students and staff will be expected to wear masks whilst moving around inside the building, but not during lessons.  All students must therefore bring a masks, restrained in design, and a small sealable plastic bag to keep it in when not in use.  The evidence surrounding masks indicates that they may reduce risk if worn and handled correctly: they are not a magical forcefield, and absorb infection rather than preventing it.  We will provide teaching in safe use of masks, and students will be expected to take particular care in how to wear them and remove them safely, including sanitising their hands before and afterwards.  They must avoid touching or adjusting them.  Some members of staff may choose or need to wear face coverings at other times, and any who are providing physical care or medical attention will have appropriate PPE.

How will the school day run?

The start and finish times of the school day remain as usual.  On arrival at school, students will use designated entries for their year group and will sanitise their hands on arrival.  They will go straight to their form rooms which will be staffed from 8.10.  They will be registered as usual and then move to lessons.  At the end of the day, there will be a staggered release of year groups (with a minute between each) through their designated exits so as to avoid crowding.  There is no impact on pick-up or coach departure time

The full curriculum of subjects and form time will run for all year groups (although there will not be assemblies gathered together as Year Groups).  We are making changes to reduce the amount of movement around the school, which will involve a combination of designated teaching areas for each year group and/or greater use of double lessons.  There are some restrictions on practical activities and equipment but we will do all that is permitted to provide the range of experience and skills required, especially for those on public exam courses.

Will teaching be as normal?

Desks will face the front of the classroom, and teachers will be at the front of the room keeping a 2m distance.  Learning Support staff will offer assistance as far as possible from the side, also maintaining 2m distance as far as practical.  Seating plans will be designed to assist this.  Where a student needs closer attention than this, the Learning Support or PSRP teams will be in touch to discuss individual arrangements.  The normal expectations of work and behaviour will operate, including home learning. Teachers will make increased use of online work, but exercise books will still be used and will be taken in as required.  Teachers will ensure good hygiene when marking them.

Classrooms have already been reconfigured and there is ample signage in place around the building to remind students to maintain good hygiene habits and to keep themselves apart from others as far as possible.  While the year group bubbles help to manage risk, unnecessary and close contact will still not be permitted.  Students will be expected to remain in their seats during lessons.  Toilets will be re-designated on a year group basis and supervision will be increased to ensure good hygiene practices are followed.  The existing one-way systems in school will be reinforced to ease the flow of people around the building.

Teachers have revisited the curriculum in all subject areas and made plans to ensure that any gaps in learning as a result of closure will be identified and made good, whether for all students or where necessary for smaller groups.  We are particularly mindful of the needs of those returning to Year 11 and Year 13 who face public exams in summer 2021.  It will be a priority to ensure they are as fully prepared as usual for those exams, and that we closely follow any adjustments that are announced to the specifications and expectations.

What happens at break and lunchtime?

We will arrange break and lunchtime so that numbers are limited at all times inside and outside the building.  Morning break (including a cafeteria service) will take place at staggered times for each year group during an extended Lesson 2, and Lunch break will operate similarly during an extended Lesson 4.  A full lunch service will be offered, with a slightly reduced choice being served in pre-boxed containers to speed up the process and reduce risk.  Designated areas will still be available for those who wish to bring pack lunches following the usual rules about food brought from home. Since water fountains have been switched off, all students should bring a sealed and named reusable water bottle to school with them each day.  Face-to-face extra-curricular activities are suspended for the time being, both at lunchtime and after school.  However, detentions will still be able to take place following social distancing guidelines.  As far as possible we will expect students to be outside during break and lunchtime.

What about getting to and from school?

Students who are able to walk or cycle to school are encouraged to do so, to avoid unnecessary crowding of roads and public transport.  The full JCoSS coach service will run as normal, following the timetable already issued to those who use it.  Students will sit in designated seats within their year groups, wear masks and sanitise their hands on entering and leaving the coach. Students must also wear masks on public buses and follow the nationally published guidelines.  TfL are running additional buses on some routes (although not the 384) and in some cases alternate buses will be prioritised for school use.  The list of routes can be found here. For those coming by car the usual arrangements will apply: other than in very exceptional circumstances students will be dropped on the access road at the Castlewood Road entrance.  It is vital that parents observe the usual rules about not dropping off students in Westbrook Crescent and the roads off it, or in Armstrong Crescent.

What do students need to bring and wear?

Normal school uniform should be worn in Years 7-11, and those in Years 12 & 13 should follow the appearance code as usual.  To avoid crowding in changing rooms, if a student has a timetabled PE lesson they should come to school in their PE kit and wear it all day.  They should bring a change of trousers in case of need; we will be making increased use of the grass pitch.  There is no need for increased washing of clothes.

Students should make sure they are fully equipped for lessons without the need to borrow or share, but they should not bring anything unnecessary, to minimise the risk of infection.  They will have limited access to their lockers.

Can parents come onto the school site?

Other than in exceptional circumstances, there will be no access to the school site for the time being other than for students, staff and essential contractors.  Meetings with parents, including regular parents’ evenings, will be conducted by phone or via Teams/Zoom.  Further details will be provided as necessary.

What if a student becomes ill?

Any student who has symptoms of Covid-19 (or is unwell with other illness) should remain at home and notify the school as well as taking medical advice and arranging a test.  If they develop symptoms during the day they should report to Student Services as normal.  If we deem it necessary we will contact parents to come and collect them, and an isolation room is available if necessary.  We will follow the advice of the Track and Trace system and Public Health bodies to notify other students and families of any confirmed cases of Covid-19.

What if schools have to close again?

We will follow all national and local advice regarding school closure, whether it be of our school (or year groups within it) or of schools across  the local area or more widely.  In common with all schools, JCoSS has plan in place should we have to close to some or all students or year groups in the months ahead.  Learning will continue via Microsoft Teams, sticking as closely as possible to the usual timetable.  Further details of the plans will be announced as and when necessary.

How will you help students readjust?

We know that the last 6 months have been extraordinary ones.  We think that the simple fact of returning to school will be the greatest healer in many cases.  We will run a programme of activities in form times to acknowledge and explore the experiences of students.  Our usual provision of pastoral care and wellbeing activities will continue, including counselling and signposting to further expertise where necessary.  A small number of students have faced exceptional challenges, and we will take extra care to identify them and discuss their needs with them and their parents.

Finally…

All the arrangements above will of course be kept under review and, in a situation that continues to evolve, we should expect there to be some change over the coming weeks.  What will not change is our commitment to the safety of all at JCoSS, our determination to provide the best education for our students, both academically and in all other ways, and our solidarity as a community.  The spirit of partnership between students, parents and the school, which underpins all that we do, will be needed more than ever as we return to school.  There is lots to be excited about and lots to celebrate.  For now, I thank you in advance for your support in the coming year.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Moriarty

Headteacher, JCoSS