24th February 2021
You will no doubt be aware of the excellent news that all pupils will begin to return to school from the 8th March. School is the best place for pupils to learn and for teachers to teach. However good remote education may be, there is no substitute for the classroom. It is also best for pupils' mental health and development of social skills. We are very excited about returning to being a gathered school community again, albeit in a safe and controlled way.
We are still digesting the guidance we received last night on what the return to school may look like, but I thought I would give you some early thoughts to help prepare you and your families for the return.
Although the date of the 8th March has dominated headlines, the expectation is that schools use the first week back for a phased return of students. We are still working through what this phased return would look like, but we are prioritising exam classes and vulnerable pupils first. Our aim is to get everyone in as promptly as is safe to do so. A few extra days of remote education is better than coming in quickly, and then having to self-isolate for 10 days straight away due to being a close contact to a positive case.
You will have heard in the news about the LFD testing that schools are being sent. These are the swab-in-the-throat tests. We are in the fortunate position of being part of the vanguard for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight saliva testing programme which is shown to be a more sensitive and reliable test. It is also much more pleasant to be subjected to! Students who have been onsite over the last half term have been taking part in this testing to good effect. Our aim is to use this test as much as possible rather than the LFD tests if we can. However, we need to sort through the logistics of that as the national guidance is dominated by the LFD testing. This will impact our phased return, as we would like students to have had the chance to have the results of any test before coming back on site.
For this reason, I want to alert you now to the fact that we may offer some year groups the chance to pop in to school in the week beginning the 1st March. This will allow students to pick up the testing kits and maybe even take drop off saliva samples next week. This way, they can get a negative test and come back onsite as close to the 8th March itself. We have yet to have confirmation from the saliva testing programme planning team about what is possible, and we will provide more details of this as soon as we have it.
Face coverings in classrooms
The national news has been mentioning that the new guidance to schools is that face coverings are worn in classrooms as well as in communal spaces. For the avoidance of confusion, we have been doing that already at St Anne's since the November lockdown, and so are well accustomed to this way of working.
Onsite building work
You may remember that I have previously told you about the £1.3M programme of work that we successfully bid for to improve the windows and exteriors of the school. This work has started, and so the building is covered in scaffolding at the moment. This will have little impact on the pupils, but may come as a bit of a surprise when they return. With all these things, it will inevitably look worse before it looks better. The end result, though, will be a more beautiful and environmentally-friendly building.
Look out for much more information over the next fortnight as we develop our plans. Any thoughts or comments are always welcome. Email email@example.com and put the heading "March Return".
All the best
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