End of term Covid challenge
Friday 22 October 2021. After a relatively calm start to the new school year, we have recently had to review our COVID-19 outbreak management plan and, over the last two weeks as confirmed cases of COVID-19 have risen, we have reintroduced some of our preventative measures. These include:
- Asking all pupils with symptoms or a positive Lateral Flow Test to self-isolate;
- Reminding pupils about good hand and respiratory hygiene;
- Reinstating effective wipe down routines at the beginning of each lesson;
- Increasing ventilation and beginning to install CO2 monitors;
- Encouraging teachers to remain socially distant at the front of their classrooms while teaching;
- Suspending assemblies and postponing events with audiences;
- Wearing face coverings in all indoor areas, including classrooms.
The number of COVID cases across the South West region has increased significantly and figures in Gloucestershire remain among the highest.
Cirencester Deer Park School is not alone in experiencing a spike in positive tests (both LFDs and PCRs) across all year groups. Other secondary schools are experiencing similar patterns and have taken comparable actions. Fortunately, the incidence of COVID-19 among our staff remains low and we have not had to close our provision for any year group. Pupils required to self-isolate have been able to access lesson materials through MS Teams and, where appropriate, pupils have been invited to join their peers in the classroom from home. This is in keeping with our remote learning plan.
We are hoping the half term break will provide a ‘firebreak’ and some respite for pupils and staff who are all deserving of a good rest. Everyone has been working very hard with a shared determination to get things as closely back to normal as possible. We were disappointed that both our Young Musician of the Year Competition, which was scheduled to take place on Wednesday 20 October, and our GCSE Drama performances on Thursday 21 October, had to be postponed following COVID risk assessments and diminishing participant numbers. Similarly, and with considerable regret, we have taken the decision to move our annual Key Stage 4 Celebration of Achievement Evening online on Thursday 4 November. We are, however looking forward to catching up with our Class of 2021 virtually.
All schools have received new guidance for next term from the Government and the South West Regional Schools Commissioner, South West UK Health Security Agency (formerly PHE) and the South West Directors of Public Health. We had anticipated this and their recommendations include many of the steps we have already taken.
TESTING ON RETURN SCHOOL
To minimise the risk of transmission in November, we will be re-opening our test centre in school. We plan to test all pupils for whom we have consent twice on their return to school in the week beginning Monday 1 November. We will not be testing those pupils who have tested positive in the last 90 days. We encourage all families to continue to test using LFD tests twice weekly.
We have not yet received notification of when the NHS will come into our school to offer COVID vaccines. However, on Wednesday 20 October 2021, the Government announced that the NHS England would be offering 12 to 15 year olds the opportunity to get their COVID-19 vaccine out-of-school, such as through vaccination centres. We understand this offer will run in parallel to the in-school vaccination programme and that parents of children aged 12 to 15 will receive a letter from the NHS with more information on the vaccination programme shortly, including information about how to book an appointment out-of-school, if this option is preferred. See National Booking Service.
We recognise parents may have different perspectives on vaccines for 12-15 year olds. The information available should enable everyone to make informed choices.
Next term we will continue to monitor the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in school. We ask all parents to continue to advise us if their children test positive on LFDs and/or PCRs at the earliest opportunity.
In the short term, from 1 November, we expect all pupils and staff to continue to wear face coverings in all indoor areas, including classrooms. All pupils should provide their own face coverings and wear them appropriately. They should also take good care of them to ensure they are hygienic and should dispose of them safely. To help us, a local company has very generously provided us with supplies of good quality disposable face coverings for free and we were able to distribute these on their behalf to other schools locally. We are now making these available to pupils who do not have their own.
We will keep the wearing of face coverings alongside our other measures (as mentioned at the top of this piece) under review and we will incrementally withdraw each measure as the incidence of COVID-19 drops to more manageable levels.
We hope that you are able to have a good half term. We continue to remind everyone that social distancing, ventilation of indoor spaces and the wearing of face coverings seem to be key to keeping numbers lower. If you or members of your family will be self-isolating, we hope that you recover quickly and can make the most of the enforced time staying in at home. We are back to school on Monday 1 November, which is a Week 2.