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Dear Parents

COVID-19 - 17th July Update

As we reach the end of a challenging academic year, I would like to thank you for the support and patience that you have demonstrated during the last four months.  I appreciate that in writing one letter to parents and students from Year 6 to Year 13, I am addressing families who have had a complete range of experiences during the COVID shut down.  Tragically, within the Highams Park community we are aware that some of you have suffered bereavements as a result of the virus and I am certain that I speak for everyone when I say that we extend our condolences to you. You and your family remain firmly in my prayers.

The return of our Year 10 and 12 students, as well as a visit from our new Year 7 students has presented the opportunity to speak with the students, and to stress to them the importance of respecting every individual’s experiences during this pandemic.  I have to say how proud I am of the response from every student.  Not only have we had high levels of attendance to the sessions that we have been able to run, some classes having over 90% attendance, but the attitude and cooperation of the students has been outstanding.  Their full compliance with the measures that we have put in place to minimise the risks associated with returning to school, have helped inform the plans that are now well under way, for the full return of the school in September.

As you will be aware, the Government has recently released their guidance for the re-opening of schools and we have been using this to inform our plans for Highams Park School.  During the summer months, we will update our existing risk assessment to reflect the further measures that we will put in place to drive the level of risk associated with attending school, as low as possible.  The risk assessment is available for you to view via the links on the Coronavirus Updates section of our website www.highamsparkschool.co.uk  and this will continue to be updated during the summer.  The Government has explained that they will provide a further update to the guidance in mid-August and we shall obviously review all of our measures in light of this, once it is published.

I would love to be able to provide exact details of how every aspect of school life will be managed in September but at present, this is just not possible.  My Senior Team and I will continue to map out the precise nature of arrangements during the summer break, and I will continue to update you all via email and publishing details on our website, as the finer details are confirmed.

I would however, like to set out some points for you, so that you can start to picture what will be required in September 2020.

Staggered return for each Year Group from the 7th September 2020.  As you can imagine, having been absent from school for some five months, it will be necessary for returning students to be fully briefed and guided through the new structures and systems that will be in place.  In order for us to do this, it will be necessary to stagger the return of each Year Group throughout the week.  Monday, 7th September 2020, will see only Years 7 and 12 return to school, details of when other Year Groups will return to school will be released during the summer.  All Year Groups will be back in lessons before the end of the first week.

School Uniform.  All students will be expected to wear full school uniform on their return, details of this can be found on our website.

Daily arrival time at school.  In order to help students in each Year Group maintain distance between each other, the starting times for each Year Group will be staggered so that each group of students can make their way to their first classroom, before the next Year Group arrives.  Priority will be given to the new Year 7 students who are also adapting to a whole new school!  Additionally, we will make use of the different entrances to the school, stipulating which Year Group should enter via either the main school gate, the 6th Form entrance or the Beverley Road gate.  Confirmation of all of these arrangements will be sent to you during the summer.

Registration and Tutor time: Perhaps the most significant change for students in Years 8 and 9 will be the movement of their tutor time from the start of the day to the end of the day.  This will help with staggering the schools arrival and departure with students in these two Year Groups, arriving when all other Year Groups are settled into their classrooms and leaving, once other Year Groups have left the site.  This temporary arrangement will not result in any loss of teaching or tutoring time for Years 8 or 9.

Lunch times: The normal structure of the school day will be amended for staff and students.  Rather than the whole school sharing a 20-minute break and a 50-minute lunch, the day will be restructured so that there are two 30-minute breaks for each Year Group spread out during the day.  Each Year Group will have exclusive use of the school canteen during one of their breaks, again helping each Year Group to remain separated from one another.  To aid the smooth running of this system, please could I ask all students to ensure they bring their own reusable water bottle, every day.  I would also suggest that they bring a simple snack or piece of fruit that they can have during their second break, as they will not have access to the canteen for more than once in each day.  Again, precise times and arrangements for each Year Group will be circulated separately to you all during the summer.

Staggered departure times:  I have been able to share with our new Year 7 students who attended Highams Park School in small groups this week, that they will leave school 10 minutes earlier than everyone else.  This is the only sacrifice that we are making to our curriculum within the school.  As already, mentioned Years 8 and 9 will depart 15 minutes later than all other Year Groups, as they will conclude their day with tutor time.  Period 5 will be extended by 5 minutes for our two - Year Groups sitting GCSE and A Levels this year, Years 11 & 13.  As with the arrival to school, each Year Group will also have a specified exit by which they must depart.  The final arrangements will be sent to you all and published on our website in due course.

As we have seen with the children of key workers and our current Years 10 and 12 students, they have been quick to adapt to the additional responsibilities that the new COVID arrangements have placed upon them.  The success of a safe re-opening of the school depends upon everyone taking seriously their individual responsibilities and appreciating the impact that their actions have upon the whole school system.  Further reminders will be issued about each of the following but I would like to stress how essential the following matters are:

  • Adhere to the one-way systems in school.
  • Ensure you have your own stationary and books.  Sharing of resources will be kept to a minimum.
  • Have your own small container of hand sanitiser with you, at all times.  There are stations placed frequently around the school but each person having their own hand sanitiser will alleviate the demand for these areas.
  • Have your drink and snack with you to help keep you hydrated and nourished during the day.  Please note, students will not be permitted to bring energy drinks into school.
  • Use the social distancing markers that are placed around the school to help remain physically separate from others.
  • If you are at all unwell, do not come to school but immediately book a test via the Governments track and trace system
  • Respect the marked “no go zone” that will be in place within each classroom and at various points around the school.  These will be used to provide adults working in the school with a suitable space to work within, confident that they are separated from others.

GCSE and A Level Examination results:  Separate communication has already been sent to students and parents in each of these Year Groups.  Please be assured that although we are trying to reduce the necessity for students to attend school on these days, staff will be on hand to assist with confirming the results and supporting all students with progressing to their next stage of education.  It may take longer than normal but we will be available for you.  Please refer to the detailed plans for these days available on our website.

Despite the challenges that this year has brought, it has remained an absolute privilege to serve the Highams Park community.  Can I thank those of you who have sent in your messages of support; your understanding and appreciation of the challenges that we have faced have been very gratefully received.  Your empathy whilst juggling your own family matters and COVID restrictions, that have affected every area of employment, has been wonderful.

I hope that you are all able to have some sort of rest over the summer holiday, perhaps not as planned but I would encourage all students to ensure they recharge their batteries in some way.  For me it will be running, cycling, swimming and reading for a few weeks before returning to confirm all of the plans for September.  Do please keep an eye out for the emails that will make their way to you during the break, all of which will also be posted on our school website.

I look forward to welcoming all students back to school in September, stay safe, and remain vigilant. Never have our core behaviours of respect, responsibility and resilience been more relevant!

Yours faithfully

Phil Grundy

Principal

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