Tuesday 4th January 2022

Updated arrangements for January 2022

Dear Parent/Carer,

I hope you and your family have been able to enjoy the festive break. We are looking forward to welcoming pupils back to school this week. Having reviewed the most recent guidance we are now able to confirm arrangements for the new term.

As explained in a letter you received, on the 16th December, from Swansea’s Director of Education, the Welsh Government have provided all schools with two planning days at the start of the new spring term. The time is being used to assess staffing capacity and put the necessary measures in place to support the return of pupils.

Key dates for return to school are below:

  • Tuesday January 4th: Staff only – Planning and preparation day.
  • Wednesday January 5th: Staff only – Planning and preparation day.
  • Thursday January 6th: All pupils return.

Staff will also be working to ensure that we have robust plans in place to move to remote learning if necessary. This could be for individual classes/year groups or for the whole school, depending on staffing pressures. Please note the INSET day that was designated for Tuesday 4th January has now been moved to Friday 18th February. The updated list of remaining INSET days is now:

  • Friday 18th February 2022
  • Monday 28th February 2022
  • Monday 6th June 2022

Please remind pupils they will be returning on a Week 1 on their timetable.

At the end of last term, due to the uncertainties around Omicron the Minister for Education asked schools to move to the ‘very high’ risk level on the schools’ infection control framework. This means that our School’s Covid-19 safeguarding should reflect this through introducing additional control measures. One of the guiding principles applied when moving to this level is to reduce interactions between pupils to the lowest practical level. To this end, from Thursday 6th January, we are reducing year group interactions, wherever possible. We want to protect pupils, staff and the wider community from the spread of the now dominant Omicron variant while maintaining a high quality learning experience for all pupils.

For these reasons, the additional safeguarding measures focus on the segregation of year groups (contact groups) as they reduce pupil interaction, which include:

  • Staggered lunch times allowing pupils to queue and sit in their year groups.
  • Staggered end of the day allowing pupils to leave school as a year group.
  • New timings of the day to allow for staggered lunch times.

End of day

If you pick up your child from school, please be mindful of the new staggered end of the day:

Year 7:             2:48 pm
Year 8:             2:51 pm
Year 9:             2:54 pm
Year 10:           2:57 pm
Year 11:           3:00 pm

Timings of the day and split lunch

To allow for these safeguarding and logistical changes the internal timings of the day have altered slightly though the start of the day remain the same, as shown below:

Pupils in Years 8,9,10 and 11 will be familiar with these arrangements as they were utilised last academic year. Year 7 pupils will be well supported to help them adjust.

Break time

To segregate year groups, we will also have to return to a carousel approach for access to break time refreshments, as we did in the summer term last year. Please note the days when your child has not got access to break refreshments as you may wish to provide your child with alternative refreshments on these days. Each cohort can access break refreshments for 2 days a week. This will allow pupils to exclusively queue, and sit, in their year groups. During break time all pupils have the option of either going to their lesson 2 classroom or using a designated outside space. For the year groups who have access to refreshments they can also use the main hall facilities.

8am breakfasts will not be available from Thursday 6th February until further notice. We shall endeavour to re-introduce the 8am breakfast as soon as we are able to.

Extra-curricular activities that include a mix of year groups will be postponed until further notice. However, single year group extra-curricular activities can continue.

Updated protocol regarding Covid-19 testing was included within the letter sent to you on 16th December, from Swansea’s Director of Education. I have included the information again below:

“It is very important that staff and learners continue regular Lateral Flow Testing in term time so we can find and isolate those who are potentially infectious to others without knowing. It is particularly important, now and in the new term, while we gather evidence and build our understanding of the Omicron variant. Moving forward, the strong expectation is that all staff and learners of secondary age and above should test three times a week using LFDs (on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) in the week before returning to school and to then continue testing regularly three times a week after the start of term in January.”

We encourage staff and pupils to test as requested above. All pupils, with parental consent, were issued with additional LFD (Lateral Flow Device) test kits during the last week of the autumn term. If you have not previously given consent and would now like to then please contact the school.

Changes to self-isolation arrangements for those identified as contacts of a positive case are shown below:

  • All over 18s who are fully vaccinated (having received two full doses of an approved vaccine) and children aged 5 to 17 are now asked to take lateral flow tests (LFTs) every day for 7 days if they are identified as a contact of a positive Covid-19 case. This is known as ‘Daily Contact Testing’ and can be used instead of self-isolation, regardless of whether they are a household or close contact.
  • Please note that contacts of a positive case are unlikely to equate to an entire class or year group.
  • We recommend those undertaking Daily Contact Testing take their test before they arrive at school each day. These individuals do not need to self-isolate for that day unless they have a positive lateral flow test or develop symptoms. In either of these cases, they should book a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test as soon as possible.

The most recent scientific models predict that the peak of this current Covid-19 wave should peak over the next few weeks. It is our intention to de-escalate these additional safeguarding measures when possible and hopefully by after half-term at the latest. However, we just cannot give a definite timeline currently due to the ongoing unpredictability of the pandemic.

Our overriding priority remains keeping pupils and staff as safe as possible whilst building on our strong tradition of excellent pupil outcomes through high quality teaching and learning. The two days planning and preparation days, at the start of term therefore are being used to achieve both these objectives. We are confident that pupils and staff will smoothly adapt to remote learning in the unfortunate scenario of a school closure, partial or otherwise. In such instances the blended learning programme will become the crucial tool for pupils’ continuity of learning. However, we hope that through applying these additional measures we can avoid the necessity to return to remote learning.

Before the Christmas break a considerable number of pupils attended school without a mask, who were then provided with a disposable mask. Pupils provided with school transport should always wear their masks during their bus journeys. I would be very grateful if you could check with your child each morning that they have at least one mask with them (ideally a spare in their bag) and reinforcing with your child the heightened importance of wearing their masks on school transport.

The three key symptoms of Covid-19 are:

  • a high temperature: this means that they feel hot to touch on their chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough: this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste: this means they have noticed they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

If your child has any of these three key symptoms, please do not send your child to school and arrange a PCR test for them immediately. You can book a PCR test online through the NHS website at gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119. Anyone else in your household with any of these three key symptoms should also isolate and take a PCR test.

Please contact the school if you have any questions. By working together, we can give every child the best opportunity to succeed and collectively keep the Covid-19 transmission rate as low as we can both in school and in our wider community. We shall continue to support you and your family as much as we can. Finally, I hope your child is looking forward to returning to school, meeting their friends and continuing to apply a growth mindset to their learning.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. G. Rees