16 March 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Correspondence 2
My apologises for such a long letter but there is a lot of information that I need to explain to you and I would ask that you read it carefully as it has implications for everyone in the College community. Our first priority will always be the health and safety of the students and staff in our College. Now, more than ever, this remains our primary focus.
As you will know the advice from Public Health England (PHE) continues to be for educational settings to remain open, unless advised otherwise, and we obviously continue to follow these guidelines. We continue to have no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the College, however following the government’s new advice issued on Thursday that anyone with a cough or fever stay at home for 7 days (see below), we expect that over the coming weeks and months a number of students and staff will be absent from College while they take those precautions. Today 7 staff and approximately 30 students stayed at home.
To support good hygiene in College, washrooms are being regularly checked and restocked to ensure appropriate handwashing facilities are available to all students throughout the day. Cleaning schedules have been amended to increase the frequency of cleaning of high contact areas and surfaces. Contingency plans are in place with our catering provider to ensure continuity of service and the highest hygiene standards.
We have, after considering advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care, decided to cancel the forthcoming trips to France this Easter, Italy over May half term and China in October. We have informed all parents of students who were planning to go on these trips of this decision and they have been very supportive of our actions. After discussion with our insurers, we expect to recoup and refund all amounts paid by parents to date. As you will understand, this places an increased administrative burden on our Finance Team who are working hard to process insurance claims and refund money to parents as soon as possible. However, this may take some time and I would ask parents to exercise patience and not contact the Finance Team while we work through the process.
On-site and off-site activities
I have made the decision that as from today:
- All sports fixtures and off-site trips are to be cancelled. There will be a financial cost to the College for this as there will be a need, in many cases, to reimburse parents but I trust that parents will understand the rationale for this decision and be pleased that a clear directive has been given. As mentioned above, I would ask that you bear with us whilst we deal with the backlog of refunds and associated paperwork.
- Internal activities such as the Production, Easter Revision and events that form a critical component of the curriculum will continue as normal although we will continue to assess the situation in the light of any new advice from the government.
One of our main aims in making these decisions is to ensure that we have enough staff in College to ensure there are lessons taking place. (I have had phone calls from Headteachers from 5 local schools confirming they are taking very similar actions.)
Whole College Closure procedure, if required
We continue to monitor the situation very closely and, in the event the Government does make the decision to close schools or we are required to close for any other reason, we will use the same text, e-mail and website communication systems for staff and parents as we have in the past on snow closure days.
Heads of Department are working with colleagues to ensure that, in the event of a closure, we can support all students through distance learning. Heads of Department and departmental colleagues will decide how best to do this using a range of resources which may include a combination of OneNote, revision guides and past papers for our KS4/5 students as well as a more project-based approach for KS3.
We would be grateful if parents could contact any College reception to advise us if their child does not have internet access and therefore will require alternative provision such as packs of work.
The expectation for staff working at home will be that they will be setting and monitoring work for their classes and are available to students to assist with specific issues. Of course, such communication will have to be reasonable given that some staff may not be well themselves or have child-minding commitments of their own.
In terms of public examinations, the current advice from the Exam Boards is that they are planning for exams to go ahead as published. They have stated if this changes they will ensure they are as fair as possible to all candidates in terms of any rearrangements of dates and timings. Our message to students at the moment is to assume no changes and carry on working hard and preparing for the exams.
Contingency plans for staff absence
Whilst the current government position is not to close schools, issues may arise if there are high number of staff absences through self-isolating or childcare arrangements and therefore we are making contingency plans should key support staff or teaching staff be absent.
- If on the day, without prior warning, we have a very high number of teaching staff absent then we will use all available resources to cover classes.
- If we know in advance that we are going to have a very high number of staff absent then we will prioritise key Year Groups to stay in College and rotate others to work at home.
This is current government advice to parents:
‘It is obviously important that we all do our best to ensure that children’s education is disrupted as little as possible. In line with current (13 March 2020) Government guidance students and staff should continue to attend school unless:
- They have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), a new continuous cough and/or high temperature, however mild, when they should stay at home and not leave the house for 7 days from when the symptoms started.
All other children and staff should continue to attend school, including their siblings attending the same or a different school (unless advised not to by public health officials or government guidance).’
I want to emphasise to all parents that we will, within the guidelines above, take a very flexible and supportive position on recording student absence during this period.
We would request that any parents or carers displaying symptoms, however mild, do not attempt to come onto the school premises to drop off or pick up their child. We would ask all parents, wherever possible, that if they need to contact the College, they do so via phone or email to limit the possible spread of the virus.
Students with underlying medical conditions
Although the national advice is that no specific measures are required at the current time, we recommend to parents of any students with underlying medical conditions that may place them in a higher risk category to take advice from their GP or consultant so that they can make an informed decision whether to attend College or not.
We continue to update the Parent Portal with the latest advice and guidance, including contact details of the Department for Education coronavirus helpline. Please refer to that page rather than information on social media or messaging services which can be inaccurate or misleading.
Please remember, I am only sending this information out in order to update you on the situation as well as to inform you of our plans if we do have to close in the future. We are still very much open and functioning as normal. I intend to send you a brief update each day via the Parent Portal to keep you fully informed of this rapidly changing situation
Thank you for your ongoing support.
This link details the advice for those staying at home in light of last week’s announcement:
To support the delay of the spread of the virus, the Department for Health and Social Care has asked anyone who shows certain symptoms to stay at home for 7 days, regardless of whether they have travelled to affected areas. This means people should stay at home and avoid all but essential contact with others for 7 days from the point of displaying mild symptoms, to slow the spread of infection.
The symptoms are:
- A high temperature (37.8 degrees and above)
- A new, continuous cough
You do not need to call NHS 111 to stay at home. If your symptoms worsen during your stay at home period or are no better after 7 days contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.