Mr Burke's Welcome Back
Dear Parents and students,
Welcome back to the new school year! Today all of the teachers and staff have been in the school making sure that everything is ready for the first day back tomorrow. We can’t wait to welcome Year 7 and Year 12 on Wednesday and everyone else on Thursday. We are confident that the plans we have in place will ensure that everyone is safe whilst also meaning that high quality specialist teaching can continue.
Our priority over the first two weeks is to get everyone back and in to a routine. We recognise that our young people might feel anxious and nervous—after all six months out of school (in most cases) is a long time. It is perfectly understandable that such nervousness exists and we know that you as parents will share it too. I want to stress that we will look after your children as we re-launch the school’s work and that we will do everything we can to make sure that the environment is as safe as possible.
Beyond these initial arrangements we have every intention of engineering opportunities for your child to catch up on work which was done at home, particularly for the current Year 11 and Year 13.
On the website you will see details of how we intend to keep the school safe (including all of the details about staggered times etc). We are following government guidance carefully and our strategy is underpinned by creating year group bubbles. We will limit the amount of contact between year groups. This will be done by suspending multi year group activities (or where they do occur following strict social distancing), zoning the school’s toilets, creating a one-way system, and staggering the school day. We recognise that this will not eliminate contact between students in different years but it will limit it. Allied to this strategy there will be a relentless focus on cleanliness around the school. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands, sanitise and clean their work area throughout the day. Although there will be plenty of sanitiser available in the school it would probably be best that you provide your child with their own bottle and some wipes so that they can clean their personal work areas. Again we will have wipes available as well.
If any student is feeling unwell we will send them home immediately and follow the guidelines set out by Public Health England.
We are not planning for the compulsory usage of facemasks but will at all times follow the guidance of the DfE and PHE. Were the government to change their guidance then of course Balcarras, as a state school, would follow that guidance. For now I remain confident that the situation will be safe as it is. If any parent would like to talk to the school about the wearing of facemasks please could you contact the House Head in the first instance.
Equally if you have any broader concerns, particularly if your child is especially nervous, please make contact with your child’s house head or tutor.
Preparations for Change
I am optimistic that the plans that we have in place and the wider plans for the opening of schools nationally will be successful. However, I wanted to reassure you that we are at a very advanced stage of planning for moving to Plan B should that ever be necessary. We have a range of contingencies around blended learning which will ensure continuity of provision even in the event of a further lockdown.
If you have returned from holiday and are having to quarantine we would appreciate it if you could let the school know.
Catering Arrangements this week
Only Year 7 will have access to the canteen this week. They will be provided with lunch on both Wednesday and Thursday. For break they should bring some snacks with them. For other students we will not be able to offer any catering facilities until next week.
Access to the school’s new online payments system will be open this week. Mr Cole will be in contact with details of how to access this. On Monday every student will be issued with a card that will allow them to purchase things in school, providing you have uploaded some money on to the card before hand. We will no longer accept cash payments for food in the school. We had been planning to make this change from May 2021 but during lockdown decided to speed its arrival to September. Please be patient with us while we bed the system in. It is made slightly more complicated for us due to the fact that we are moving to a new school management system this week. We wouldn’t normally coincide these two key developments but events have forced our hand.
If your child is eligible for free school meals Mr Cole will be in contact to inform you how these can be picked up in the school this week.