Released On 25th Sep 2020
Parent Update 25 September
25 September 2020
As we approach October and month 8 of Covid we have seen restrictions tighten once more across the country. The rise in Covid cases across the country and in Somerset is naturally forcing us to evaluate once more all we are doing. Whilst as a school we continue to provide education to the best of our ability, run as many of our ‘normal’ activities within the guidelines we are set and ensure we do not simply ‘tread water’ during this year, we do of course have to respond to the increasing number of positive cases and act accordingly. This update will explain some of the processes we are going through currently and how we are responding to the changing situation.
It is important that you, as parents, understand the process we have to go through should a Stanchester student or member of staff test positive for Covid. You will be aware there have been a number of positive cases in young people across Somerset. Through my Heads meetings and local authority meetings we are sharing the processes and ensuring we are all continually learning how to manage these new circumstances, the likes of which we have never experienced before.
Once a positive case is confirmed we would immediately be in contact with the local public health team. We are asked a series of questions to establish the next steps we are told to take. A key question is “Can you guarantee the close contacts the child (or staff member) has had”. The challenge with this question is that within our bubble systems we can, to an extent and this is why you will have seen whole year groups self-isolating. However, we cannot guarantee the contacts of our students with other students outside of their bubble when they are not in school.
A key consideration for you as parents, of all year groups, needs to be whether you could confidently track all the children your child may have been in close contact with should they contract Covid? The challenge for us in school is to ensure the safety of our students is significant but the challenge is even greater when we are aware that many of our students are not being encouraged to follow Government guidelines outside of schools, indeed in some cases parents do not know the whereabouts of their children outside of school or who they are with.
As a leader within the community I urge those who do not already consider this, to think carefully about how well you are supporting the community efforts to ensure South Somerset continues to see low numbers of cases and transmission. Neighbouring areas, such as Mendip have seen a sudden increase in positive cases resulting in hundreds of children once again being out of school and self-isolating with their whole families. We can all imagine the significant impact this will be having not only on the health of those affected but on the wellbeing, education and ability to work of those hundreds of other families affected by the self-isolation.
Work for Absent Students
Although our absent rate related to self-isolation remains low, we have set up processes within school and through the Trust should students be away from school due to authorised self-isolation but where they are well enough to complete their school work. In the first instance for short term Covid related absence of 2 days or more the class teacher will email work to the child’s school email account. Should the absence become longer term this will continue unless we see a significant rise in absence. Should the number of students requiring work at home exceed capacity for teaching staff the Trust have an online learning system set up which will provide work to ensure students can continue to learn – this is likely to be core subjects of Maths and English only. Although we do not envisage having to use this service currently it may be reassuring for you to know it exists and is ready for us should we see a dramatic increase in authorised Covid related absence.
A reminder that mobile phones are not permitted in school unless they are handed to tutors at the start of the day. In this instance they are labelled and handed back at the end of the day. Phones are not allowed in school because they pose a significant safeguarding risk to children. Should a member of staff see a child with a phone the member of staff will request that the child hands the phone to them, it will be stored with the pastoral coordinator who will return the phone to the child at the end of the day. Continual refusal to do so could result in the parent being called to collect the phone.
Phase 2 Timetable
When we originally set out our whole school re-opening plans we explained the phased approach we were taking to enable us to return to a ‘normal’ timetable. It is now clear that we will not be progressing towards a ‘normal’ timetable but instead be looking again at bubbles to assure ourselves that a) we have reduced movement as much as we possibly can and b) we have a long term sustainable model. We are now working on the assumption that restrictions, which have recently been re-imposed in terms of socialising outside of school, mean we will not expect to move away from the bubble system in the near future. We aim to have plans in place for phase two by Friday 16 October. These plans will include our ‘catch up’ intervention planning which will utilise the Government funds allocated to all schools to address the gaps in youngsters learning due to the closure of schools between March and September. Over the next few weeks in the lead up to half term we will be carrying out some assessments to identify those students who are not making the gains we would expect them to have made since the return to classroom teaching.
Visitors on Site
As from Monday 28 September all visitors to site will have their temperature taken before they are admitted. This only applies to those coming on to the site and not if a parent is simply dropping something off or collecting a child.
Social Media Platforms
A new social media platform has been brought to our attention that some of our students are using. Omegle is a free online chat website that allows users to socialise with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously. It has a 13+ rating as long as parental consent is given, though we know in reality that many parents do not fully understand what they may be consenting to. Users of the platform are sharing very high volumes of images that are inappropriate for children and young people. A guide for parents has been added to the website (under the news section) and provides helpful information about how the website enables the sharing of a variety of media and the risks associated with children using Omegle without supervision.
County Lines Update
There has been a significant escalation of County Lines activity in Yeovil over recent weeks, with an increased targeting of young people. A particular current concern across the town is the targeting of girls through online conversations via social media which escalate to girls going on a ‘trip’ where they are then ‘sold’ for sexual exploitation. Please be extra vigilant of your child’s whereabouts and movements out of school and inform the police and the school of any serious concerns that could potentially be County Lines related.
Friday 9 October is World Mental health Day. At Stanchester Academy we will be holding the first of this year’s six Community Learning Days. In the past some of you will remember citizenship days where students follow a different timetable to enable them to access skills and learning that are incredibly valuable to their ongoing lives but which may not be covered through the formal curriculum. The Community Learning Days are an opportunity for the whole school community to learn about topics that are relevant to ‘life’ and potentially impact on student success beyond the classroom. On 9 October all students will follow a timetable focused around understanding the science of mental health and wellbeing and the history of it as well as learning about how to look after themselves and manage difficult situations. We look forward to sharing more detail with you next week.
Finally, I would like to wish you all well and thank you for your ongoing support. Your contacts through our website with queries and suggestions are as valuable as ever in enabling us to continue to improve our provision for you. Thank you.
Mrs A Joynes