Update from the Head 26th February

Dear Parents,

I hope you all had a nice February half term. I must say I enjoyed it very much. I did plenty of walking, the odd run and also got stuck into some home improvements!

I was very pleased to hear the government’s announcement on the full re-opening of schools earlier this week. Even though I know we are not out of the woods I do think it is now best to get our schools back together.

In this update I will give an overview of our plans but we will publish more finer detail next week.

Plans for full re-opening

The government have informed schools that they can start bringing pupils back from March 8th. We have been instructed to put in place lateral flow testing for all students before the normal programme of lessons can re-commence.

We have decided that we will conduct this lateral flow test for the whole school on Monday March 8th.

This is an ambitious plan because it means testing 1380 students in a single day, but it will mean that we can then re-commence lessons for ALL pupils on Tuesday 9th March. Early next week we will send out a detailed programme which will include the time slot allocated for each tutor group.

In order to achieve this we will need to suspend ‘live’ lessons on Friday 5th March and Monday 8th March. Instead we will put lesson tasks on the school’s VLE. The scale of the testing operation is now such that we will need to use Friday to train more staff in the procedure of testing.

We will continue to offer provision for critical worker children on Friday 5th March and Monday 8th March but it would make our lives easier if parents could find a way to look after children at home. Of course we understand that this might not be possible. Miss McCarthy will be in touch with those parents shortly.

Friday Mindfulness will go ahead on March 5th so VLE tasks will only be set for periods 1, 2 and 3. The House teams will put some ‘mindfulness’ material on the VLE.

Beyond the initial test the government require us to do two more ‘in-school’ tests over the 10 days after March 8th. This will be slightly easier for us to arrange but will still require a huge effort on the part of the school. Once three tests have been done in school, the government’s plan is for parents to take on responsibility for testing using home testing kits that will be provided at some point in the future.

On return to school all of the measures that were in place before Christmas, such as staggered start times, split breaks/lunches and an enhanced cleaning regime will continue. Facemasks will certainly be required in communal areas and we will follow the latest guidance as to their use in classrooms. More information next week.

Consent for testing

I want to make it clear that the school cannot and will not insist that a lateral flow test is done but we highly recommend that parents do consent to this. Your child will not do a lateral flow test in school unless we have consent given by a parent/guardian.

We sent out all of the information regarding consent before Christmas and the majority of parents have filled this in. However there are still a significant number for whom we do not have consent.

We will email all parents again early next week with the information regarding this.

Information about examinations

Hot on the heels of the announcement about re-opening came the long awaited guidance on GCSE and A level accreditation which was published yesterday. For what it’s worth I think the decision reached by Ofqual and the DfE was probably the best option available in the circumstances.

All of the information is available here:

If you don’t feel inclined to read through every page of these here is my summary….

These are the crucial paragraphs:

On 6 January 2021, the government confirmed that in summer 2021, students taking GCSE, AS and A levels regulated by Ofqual, should be awarded grades based on an assessment by their teachers.

Teachers can use a range of evidence to make a judgement of the grade they are performing at. Students should only be assessed on what they have been taught, ensuring sufficient coverage of the curriculum to enable progression. When determining the grade, teachers should reflect the standard at which the student is performing now, not their potential.

Teachers should use the time remaining to balance continued teaching with any assessments they want to undertake. Work done at home can be included as evidence to support a teacher’s judgement if it cannot be produced in the school or college environment because of the pandemic, and where teachers are confident that it is a student’s own work.

We have already conducted a range of assessments and have a good grasp on the performance of our students. It is our intention to conduct a range of in lesson assessments between Monday 26th April and Friday 28th May. I don’t want students to worry about these. We will offer plenty of advice and preparation time and the assessments will only cover content that the students have been well prepared for. The students will be given plenty of notice. Mr Towers and Mr Leatherbarrow are working with the Heads of Department to develop this programme. It will be published as quickly as we can.

The results from these assessments will be combined with the information we already hold to determine final grades. I want to reassure students in Year 11 and Year 13 that we will do everything we can to ensure that you are not disadvantaged by this process and that you can progress onto the next phase of your education in much the same way as you would have done if the pandemic had not occurred.

The DfE announced on Thursday that the dates for results day have been moved to:

A Level: Tuesday 10th August

GCSE Thursday 12th August

The school has already changed its summer working routines which are set well in advance to accommodate this change.

There will be a system of appeal. More information on this will follow in due course.

This latest update is now in danger of information overload so for now I’m going to leave it there.

Please do just trust us that we will do everything in our power to support your youngsters through this process.


Your house head has already been in touch with parents about uniform. The school is very keen to be supportive to our parents but equally keen to make sure that uniform is up to our usual standard. If you need any particular support then please contact your child’s house head.

The weather looks set fair for the weekend…have a nice couple of days.

Dominic Burke