11th October 2021
I hope this letter finds you and your family well. The main purpose of this letter is to inform you of the current situation in school, relating to the pandemic. Having met with other secondary headteachers last week it was agreed that we would send similar letters to parents/carers to help gain an understanding of potential future operations.
As you are aware, the Covid case rate has been high locally since the start of term and this has impacted adversely on staffing levels at our school as well as upon pupil absence rates.
Most schools throughout the Local Authority are now in the position where the numbers of pupils testing positive for Covid within the first couple of weeks of the term exceeded or even doubled the number that had done so across the whole of the last academic year. The same is true, in many of our schools, of the teaching and support staff. However, based on last week’s figures, for Ponatarddulais Comprehensive, we are hopeful that we are over the peak of positive cases.
It is important that we are open and transparent with you. We are currently having to assess daily whether it is safe to run the school in the normal way. While we have made and implemented plans to reduce the impact of higher staff absence than normal, the effect of Covid is considerable at the moment. This is, of course, on top of the usual reasons that might affect staffing levels, most of which cannot be anticipated or planned for, such as sudden bereavement or illness.
We have assessed the current situation and our ability to operate safely as a school and would consider contingency measures if:
- 20% or more of our teaching staff are absent at any one time, and/ or
- A large proportion of the staff who are critical to the safe running of the school are absent (e.g. site staff, fire marshalls, safeguarding staff)
In this event, we will inform you that this critical point has been reached and that it will be necessary to ask one or more year groups to remain at home. Work will be provided for pupils to complete during this period. STF pupils will be contacted individually if needed.
Please be aware that this is not a decision that will be taken lightly. All schools want to be able to run in circumstances as near to normality as possible. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that while we are moving towards ‘normality’ in many ways, the virus is very much still with us and the case rates locally reflect that. Every possible means of avoiding partial closure will be fully explored, however the availability of cover staff is a major issue as all schools are in similar positions as our own.
Secondary schools throughout our Local Authority are sending a similar letter to this one, as we are all agreed that it is important for all parents to be informed in advance of contingency planning and to be aware that our collective aim is to ensure the safety of all of the young people that we serve in our schools. Should we reach a point where this cannot be guaranteed, we will therefore implement partial closure (one or more year groups learning remotely) as outlined above and in agreement with the Local Authority. If and when we reach this point, you will receive further information on the dates, arrangements, etc., whether or not your child’s year group is one of those affected.
It would be hugely appreciated if you could ensure that your child brings a face covering (and ideally a spare face covering) to school each day. A large number of pupils are now coming to school with no face covering who are then provided with a disposable mask by the school. All pupils have been given four washable masks. I am sure you will agree that to continually provide disposable masks is environmentally and economically harmful.
The contingency scenario above is under consideration as the current reality means that many pupils, family members and staff are currently affected by Covid. We wish each of them a swift and full return to good health, and I thank you for your continuing support in these challenging times.
Mr. G. Rees