May I start by wishing everyone a very happy new year. Christmas in 2020 has probably felt quite different for all of us, but I do hope you managed to spend some time with your families and loved ones.
Sadly the start of the spring term has been marred by the situation with the pandemic. Over the Christmas holidays we have seen the impact of the virus take hold in many parts of the country and the rates of infection increase significantly. The consequences of this are many and we find ourselves in a position where schools are now facing further disruption.
In this letter I will update you on current plans for pupils to return to school, the situation with mass testing, remote learning and some general updates. I must stress to you that plans for bringing pupils back to school are under constant review and are subject to change, often at very short notice, as we have seen over the last few days. We will continue to keep you updated and advise you to check the website regularly.
PUPILS RETURNING TO SCHOOL
At the time of writing this letter the following plans are in place:
Week commencing 4th January: only identified pupils and pupils of key worker parents/carers who need to send their children to school due to childcare issues should attend. All other year groups, including exam year groups, should remain at home.
Week commencing 11th January: Y11 and Y13 pupils will return to school. Pupils of key worker parents/carers and other identified pupils can also attend. We will write to you with details of how Y11 and Y13 will return by the end of the week, if the plan has not changed.
Week commencing 18th January: all pupils will start to return to school. Again, we will communicate the details of how this will operate nearer the time.
All scheduled public exams will take place and pupils will be informed of the arrangements for these
PUPILS OF KEY WORKER PARENTS/CARERS
If you are a key worker parent or carer and you need to send your child to school, please inform us via email or telephone so that we can plan for staffing and catering. You will need to provide evidence of key worker status, which can be emailed to email@example.com
Pupils will be kept in appropriate ‘bubbles’ and will have access to face-to-face teaching. Pupils should arrive at school by 8.40 a.m. and they will finish at 3.00 p.m. This arrangement will be in place until all pupils return to school.
Pupils will be able to buy lunch or claim their free school meal, but the menu will be more limited due to having smaller numbers of pupils on site.
Secondary schools have been asked to set up mass testing for all pupils as they return to school and for when we are notified of a positive case of Covid-19 in a bubble.
The logistical demands on setting mass testing up are significant and there have been concerns raised by school leaders on how feasible this is, especially in such a short space of time. Teaching unions have raised concerns with the government and are of the view that the current plans are inoperable and unrealistic, especially given the time frame. Whilst we welcome the concept of mass testing, we are concerned about how we will be able to make this work in school without more support.
At Archbishop Ilsley Catholic School we will be looking at plans for mass testing this week and again, will communicate all relevant information to you as and when we can. I cannot guarantee that we will have testing in place by Monday 11th January, but we will do everything we can to try and achieve this.
The plan is for pupils to self-administer a lateral flow test (pupils will swab themselves), which provides results within about 30 minutes. These results will help us to identify pupils who need to then seek a further PCR test following a positive result.
I would like to reassure you that we will not ask your child to conduct a lateral flow test without your consent. It is your right to refuse consent and this will not be challenged.
It is hoped that having testing in place in school will help to minimise the number of pupils whose education is disrupted.
As a school we have already been inspected by the Health and Safety Executive, who were satisfied that our risk management of Covid-19 was effective.
Current measures regarding sanitising, keeping pupils in year group bubbles and the wearing of face masks in communal areas remain in place. It is mandatory for pupils without an exemption to wear face coverings in communal and crowded areas and I would ask that you support us by ensuring your child brings a face covering to school every day. With the new strain of the virus being highly transmissible, it is even more important that pupils wear masks when required.
As a school our main platform for remote learning is Google Classroom. This is an easy to use, secure and accessible platform for pupils to access work that is uploaded by staff and for pupils to message their teachers and submit work.
Staff have worked incredibly hard during the last term to develop our remote learning provision and are now providing a wide range of lessons, with recorded instructions and demonstrations and links to other resources to further support learning. We will continue to develop our remote learning provision and I would like to thank those of you who have provided us with some very positive feedback.
We are not currently ‘live streaming’ lessons; there is no evidence at present to suggest the live streamed lessons are any more effective. As we develop our remote learning provision, we may look at live streaming as an option, but for the present moment we will continue to focus on using Google Classroom.
There are a number of tutorials for Google Classroom on our website. There is also a section on ‘Frequently Asked Questions.’ Should you or your child require assistance, please look at the following guidance in the first instance. Use this link to our school website https://www.ilsley.bham.sch.uk/corona-virus
The health and well-being of all students is very important to us. We realise that changes to routine and not attending school can impact some students more than others. Should you have any concerns about your child please do not hesitate to contact their Head of House in the first instance, they will be able to signpost accordingly if they are unable to help themselves.
Please also refer to the Covid page on the school website for lots of useful information regarding non screen time activities and our student guide to maintaining wellbeing whilst in social isolation.
If you are worried about a child and your concern relates to a child who is at immediate risk please call 999 and ask for the police. Alternatively contact Children’s Services on 0121 303 1888 or the out of hours duty team 0121 464 9001, or go on line to:
Forward Thinking Birmingham Access Centre (including the crisis out of hours team) for mental health concerns; 0300 3000099 or go on line to
May I thank all of you for your ongoing patience and support. We will keep you updated and inform you of any changes to current plans.
Miss H Burrows