Update from the Head 5th March

Dear Parents

It has been a very busy week making arrangements for the full re-opening of the school commencing from March 8th. We believe that everything is in place to ensure that we can welcome back all of our pupils next week and to do so safely.

COVID 19 Information

To make it easier for you to find information related to our response to COVID 19 we have created a page on our website.

All the information referenced below can be found here:

Mass Testing of the Student Population

We have for many weeks been testing the staff and in the first few weeks of term also tested the critical worker children. In all we have done almost 2000 lateral flow tests, all of which have been negative.

On Monday March 8th we are planning to test the whole school population. We have sent out all of the details regarding this. Each tutor group have been given a timeslot to come into school. Please see the  COIVD 19 page for this information.

School uniform need not be worn on Monday 8th March. Once students have had their test they are to go straight home. Can I ask parents to stress the importance of maintaining social distancing on the way to and from school. It is very important that students follow the national restrictions which are in place.

We will conduct two more tests in school over the ten days after March 8th.

As I said last week this testing programme is not compulsory although the school would recommend that you consent to your child taking a lateral flow test.

Between March 8th and March 16th the school will conduct around 4200 lateral flow tests. This is a huge operation and I am proud of how the school’s staff have responded to make this programme a reality. We are doing everything in our power to make sure that our students and staff are safe and by extension that the wider community is kept safe also.

I want to make it clear that the school has followed all of the guidance issued by the Department for Education and Public Health England and that everyone involved has been trained using the approved training resources.

The use of face coverings in school

As a state school Balcarras has at all times followed the guidance issued by the Department for Education.

Earlier this week the Department published updated guidance on the use of face coverings in education. You can find this document on our COVID 19 page.

The following is taken from the document:

“Where pupils and students in year 7 and above are educated, we recommend that face coverings should be worn by staff, pupils and students when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils and students when outdoors on the premises.

In addition, we now also recommend that in those settings where pupils and students in year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn in classrooms and during activities unless social distancing can be maintained. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example in PE lessons.”

Due to the limited size of our classrooms maintaining 2 metre social distancing between pupils is not possible so the recommendation above applies. We have set up our classrooms so that teachers are 2 metres away from pupils. This allows teachers the option to remove their facemasks in order to aid communication.

Of course, this is not an ideal situation, but we would ask that parents support the school so that we can get education back under way again. We are doing the best we can to ensure that this happens in very challenging circumstances.

If your child is exempt from wearing a mask or you have concerns about this then please contact your child’s house head to inform them.

The DfE have said that they will review this guidance by Easter.

School operations from Tuesday March 9th

From Tuesday next week the school will operate using broadly the same procedures that we had in place before Christmas. A summary document along with rules for pupils and a quick info guide can be found on our COVID 19 page.

The only major change to our procedures is around the use of facemasks in lessons which is explained above. Please note that we revert back to staggered start times.

As it has been a while since pupils have been in school the Houses teams have come up with the following checklist that you might wish to go through with your child on Monday evening:

  • It will be Week 1 when we return - check your timetable and the lessons you have.
  • Full uniform
  • Outdoor PE kit with trainers - if you have PE
  • Fully equipped for all lessons
  • Mask / hand sanitiser / wipes 
  • Card for the canteen - money on your account
  • All systems to remain the same - start - end of school / break / lunch / Year group specific areas

No homework will be set until Wednesday 17th March to allow pupils to ease back into the school and by which time all in school COVID testing will be completed.

GCSE and A level Grades 2021

We have now completed a plan for how the school will determine GCSE and A level grades. I will send a communication separately to the parents of children affected by this next week.

The Year 11 Parents meeting originally scheduled for January will now take place on Thursday March 25th. The Year 13 Parents Evening remains in place on Thursday 18th March.

Final thought from me

This has not been an easy time for any of us but there is now light at the end of the tunnel. I am really looking forward to next week…I can’t wait to see the school busy and vibrant again. Although we still have some restrictions in place there is now the real sense that we will be able to remove these gradually as we get back to normal. For now I would ask for your support in backing the measures we have in place.

We have done a great job as a community—parents, teachers, staff—to get through this pandemic. Let us continue to support one another through this next phase.

Kind regards,

Dominic Burke