Update from the Head 18th September

I am going to start this weekly update with some GREAT NEWS. On Wednesday it was announced that Mr Bennett has won a Life Time Achievement Award in the National Teaching Awards run by Pearson.

Mr Bennett is one of the finest teachers I have ever worked with and his award is well deserved. For more information please see a news article on our website.

Life at School

I continue to be really pleased with the atmosphere in the school and the way that staff and students have adapted to the guidelines we have put in place.

I want to reassure you that we continue to review and monitor our plans and procedures. For example, we have decided to change the staggered start to the day slightly and from Monday 21st September Year 8 and 9 will come in to school in time for registration with their tutor. The plan up until now had been for them to be registered in lesson 1 and whilst that technically works, we feel that they are missing out on pastoral contact with their tutor.

Another area that we continue to discuss is the use of facemasks in school. At the moment we do not require the mandatory use of face coverings at any point in the school day. In taking this decision we consulted DfE guidance and we considered the particular nature of our school. Balcarras is essentially a village school. We are quite unusual in that we have very few students travelling in by bus. We have put in place a one-way system, which is working well and we also benefit from having a site that is open, where much of the movement around the site is outdoors. Indeed, we are using all of the external doors to classrooms so as to minimise time in corridors.

The school is also zoned at break and lunch (which have both been staggered) so as to minimise transmission between year groups. All of this leads us to the judgement that the risks of transmission during lesson changeovers is minimal.

We are also concerned about whether the constant putting on and taking off of masks, probably at least 10 times a day, might in the end mean that their use increases the amount of face touching and therefore transmission on to doors etc.

We will keep it under constant review and keep a close eye on the DfE’s guidance.

Thursday 24th September

A reminder that Thursday 24th September is now a full school day for students in Year 7 to 11. We normally finish at lunch for open evening, but we won’t be doing that this year.

It has been agreed that for P5 on Thursday 25th, that the Sixth Form will be able to go home should they wish.

Y12 - this is a reward for making a fine start, and will also give back some time for Y12 tutors to make 'welcome' telephone calls to parents of those new to the school.  If students do want to stay and use Study to complete work they are welcome to do so.

Y13 - they too can go home after pm reg should they wish to do so, but this would also be a sensible time to use for UCAS prep - please do encourage them to use study should they wish to.  I will be in Y13 Study offering support and advice - if any of the Y13 team is also happy and willing to join that would be welcomed and appreciated!

In addition to this, to help alleviate Study pressure, as of Monday 21st and until further notice, students in both Y12 & Y13 will be permitted to leave at 3:15.

Finally, as Y12 Speaker is essentially an assembly, this will be cancelled until further notice.  We will be making Speaker materials available as films as and when we can.  However, for the remainder of this term, Y12 will be able to leave at the end of P4.  Again, should they wish to remain in Study then they are welcome to do so.

Friday 25th September

Another reminder as well that we have postponed the Annual Sposnored Walk. We will hopefully re-schedule it for later in the year.

However, we will still run a MUFTI (non uniform) day. We normally ask students for a £1 donation and the tutors collect this in cash. However, this year we will not accept cash. However, we would be keen to still receive the donation so please do this via the school’s online payment system. The money we collect is used to support charitable causes.

New Year 7 Parents Evening Thursday 8th October

This is event is definitely ON. However, we are going to trial running it via a remote application rather than having parents come into the school. If it is successful we are likely to run all of our parents evenings this way until further notice. More information to follow.

Work for Self-isolating Pupils  

If your child is absent from school while they are: self-isolating; waiting for a covid test or waiting for a family member to have a covid test, we ask that you follow the following instructions.  

  1. Contact the school as you normally would for absence. A message will then automatically be sent to Mrs Wranosky and she will notify subject teachers.  
  2. Please do not contact subject teachers or other members of staff directly.  
  3. After 24 hours of absence, check the VLE where work will have been set for your child. This work will vary but might be: a PowerPoint presentation; worksheet; video; revision task.  
  4. If after 24 hours your child cannot find their work, please e-mail  

This procedure is only for students who are self-isolating. If your child is going to be absent for a few days (perhaps due to a cold) they will need to catch up with their teachers upon their return to school. If your child will be absent for a longer period of time (perhaps for a broken bone/operation) please still contact your child’s Head of House as you normally would.

Please see our guidance for parents/guardians of children who are ill for information about what to do if your child is ill.

I wish everyone a pleasant weekend.

Dominic Burke