4 August 2020

This is the second part of the guidance for parents/carers about opening in September - this one focuses on safety and the ways in which we are bringing the school together as a safe, happy community once again.  As before, if you prefer to read the update, rather than watch it, then the transcript is at the end of this page.

Best wishes and take care.

James Harris


Good afternoon,

No-one complained too much about getting the update as a video last time so I will try another one!  As I said last time I have written a lot since the pandemic started so at least the video version is a bit of a change!  My last update looked at the general principles for opening our school to everyone again and it is worth saying those again - we want our school to be a happy, safe community with things as normal as possible taking account of all the guidance that you would expect us to follow.  ASPIRE is the acronym that we use for the key characteristics of our school community - Achieving, Self-Motivated, Positive, Imaginative, Respectful and having Empathy.  These characteristics are going to be vitally important to each of us as we return in September and going forward.   

There is a lot of talk in the media about the upturn in cases of the virus, particularly in our area of the country, and so this second update about September focuses on ensuring the safety of everyone as we return.  Every one of us is going to play some part in ensuring that Walton-le-Dale is a safe and secure place for everyone.  Formally, everyone can read the national guidance to secondary schools and our comprehensive risk assessment - they are available through the coronavirus page on our website.  Informally, though, everyone wants to understand how school is going to function!  

Firstly, the key element is going to be much increased focus on hygiene and cleaning - we are all getting used to that in our homes and when going into shops.  We have employed additional cleaners and redeployed some existing staff so that we have a continual and much enhanced cycle of cleaning of all areas throughout the day followed by additional intensive cleaning after the school day.  Hand sanitiser, tissues and other cleaning products will be available in all rooms with plenty of soap available wherever there are taps and sinks.  Every member of the school community will be washing or sanitising their hands on entry to, and exit from, every room.  We are requiring each student to have their own pack of wipes so that they can be confident and secure in their own environment, wiping any surfaces that they wish to on arrival in a classroom in addition to the cleaning that we will be doing.  We have reorganised some of our rooms so that there is appropriate space and, as required, that all desks face the front. Every space in school has been carefully considered.  With that in mind I need to say something about PE - as you can imagine that is a tricky area of the curriculum at this time.  The PE lessons themselves are relatively straightforward to secure - there is good guidance about that - it is the thorough cleaning of the changing rooms between each group that is an issue.  So, to start off with, GCSE PE groups in Years 10 and 11 will have practical lessons as normal and all other year groups will put on trainers, but will not get fully changed to participate in appropriate PE lessons.  We will review this within the first half-term as we understand that isn't quite normal - it is a sensible necessity at this time.    

As you know we are blessed with a very large amount of outdoor space and our school is laid out mainly as separate low blocks - something that I sometimes regret when it is raining, but which is very useful now - so we have very few congested areas - students will know that the corridors in A Block are the main areas where congestion occurs.  Students are allowed to mix with their own year group, but contact with other year groups has to be minimised, so we will be moving students around school in a carefully planned way so that they don't interact with other year groups.  We will turn the bells off and move students in a carefully planned way.  I strongly suggest that all students bring a coat with them to wear over their uniform as they may be waiting outside blocks for few minutes before starting a lesson! We are temporarily removing registration time, beginning the day with lesson 1, to give us more time between lessons for hygiene and controlled movement around school.  The new Year 7 will see their form tutors as we have arranged for them to teach them.  Other students have individual mentors as you know and we will be working on that provision as we return in September - our vertical form groups can't work under the current restrictions.  Breaks and lunchtimes will be re-organised so that students have lunch only with their year groups.  I have always enjoyed supervising the dining room at break, talking to lots of students from different year groups, but that will have to change for the time being.  That brings me onto food - we strongly encourage students to bring their own food to start off with.  We will, of course, be providing food for those students on free school meals and we will have a pre-ordering system for food that can be be provided in a grab bag at lunchtime for those who wish to.  We will not be providing food at breaktime to start off with.  The rules, regulations and risk assessments around provision of food make this a particularly difficult area for all schools.  Toilets are another area of school life where a great deal of care and organisation is required.

Masks are a subject of great debate nationally at the moment - the current guidance from the government is that masks do not have to be worn in schools.  We will adopt a sensible and pragmatic approach - any student or member of staff who wishes to wear personal protective equipment such as a face mask may do so.  Face masks must be worn on school and public transport and we will be having a very clear seating plan on school transport so that different year groups are separated as far as possible.  I will be sending out a message nearer to the start of Sept asking all families to say which bus their son or daughter will be travelling on so that we can sort out designated seats. 

I come back to where I started, we are aiming to create our usual happy, safe community under these necessary restrictions.  It is going to require a focus on the R and E of our ASPIRE ethos - Respect and having Empathy.  Students are going to be closely supervised and directed, in our usual calm, friendly and positive way and they are going to have to take responsibility for following instructions and thinking about the needs of others.  We will carry on talking to and listening to students and parents and carers as we always do and working together to bring our community back together.

Best wishes to everyone as we look forward to returning in September - please promote our Virtual Open Evening on 14th Sept to anyone who may be interested - the details are on our website, Facebook page and Twitter.

Take care.

Posted by James Harris

Category: WLD Updates