TPS Update 07/12/2020

Dear Parent / Carer

As we enter the last full week of this term I would like to thank you for all the support you have given the school. In these unprecedented times where we all face challenges, the strength of our school community is clear to see. Like with any large family there will sometimes be disagreements, but it is the wider bond between us that drives our commitment to do the best for our young people.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says in his book Morality:

‘We need to remember that societies are strong when they care for the weak. They are rich when they care for the poor. And they are invulnerable when they care for the vulnerable.’

Festive activities

Despite the rumour that I am actually The Grinch, there will be, to the best of our ability, some festive joy brought to the last week-and-a bit of term.

The wonderful Music Department has put their Christmas Concert online, with musical items from all 14 of our music ensembles:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-priory-school-virtual-christmas-concert-tickets-130883238289

This will be streaming at 7pm this Wednesday (9th December) and we are asking for a minimum donation of £5. All monies raised will be split between Herts Young Homeless and a charity chosen by the students.

We will still be holding a number of other Christmas-themed charity fundraising events. Christmas ‘Jumper and/or Accessory Day’ is this Friday (11th December) when Christmas jumpers and/or accessories such as hair bands, Christmas earrings, tinsel etc. can be worn in exchange for a £1 donation to Save the Children.

Although we will not be having a Christmas lunch per se this year, there will be some festive food on sale on Monday 14th December. Then on Tuesday 15th December, the last day of term, there will be our traditional Christmas assemblies conducted online. We also aim to have some form group Christmas celebrations during form time before departing for the Christmas break.

COVID cases

After the spike of COVID cases that occurred in the first two-and-half weeks of this half term, we had one new case in Year 10 last Friday (4th December) with 42 other students having to self-isolate. My staff have the unenviable task of telephoning parents to tell them that their child needs to self-isolate. The vast majority of parents fully understand the situation, which is fantastic and makes my colleagues’ work much easier. If, however, you feel you want to ‘shoot the messenger’ then email me at Geraint.Edwards@priory.herts.sch.uk  and we will work through the concerns you have.

As we approach the end of term please can you be extra vigilant with regards to following the Tier 2 rules for your child / children. Also, if your child is ill (heavy cold symptoms, headaches, body aches etc.) but does not display the main COVID symptoms, think carefully before sending them in to school. We have had occasions where these symptoms have masked actual COVID cases. We particularly want to avoid having members of our families with COVID from 11th December onwards when self-isolation periods will start impacting on Christmas more. Attendance to school this term has been outstanding, with a whole school figure of 95.2%.

Once the school has broken up for Christmas (15th December) you will still need to email the COVID email address (COVID19@priory.herts.sch.uk) if your child tests positive. If a student tests positive then the school will contact the parents of those children who have been identified as a close contact within the 48-hour infection period. Their child will be advised to self-isolate for 14 days as follows:

Date of last contact with a confirmed case (day zero) 14th day of self-isolation period (if your child is well at the end of the
14th day they will no longer need to isolate)
7th December 21st December
8th December 22nd December
9th December 23rd December
10th December 24th December
11th December 25th December
12th December 26th December
13th December 27th December
14th December 28th December
15th December 29th December


The school will only need to trace close contacts where the onset of symptoms (or a positive test result if the individual is asymptomatic) is within 48 hours of the last day of term.

IPC report

Last week I invited an IPC nurse from Hertfordshire Public Health to have a look at our protocols and procedures. I felt it was important to have a ‘fresh set of eyes’ to review what we are doing in school to mitigate the risk of COVID transmission. The outcome of the visit was very positive and reinforced that what we have been doing has been correct. The feedback sent to me by the nurse can be seen on the school website under the COVID tab.

Moving forward – January 2021

On our return to school on Monday 4th January (normal school day) all our current COVID restrictions will continue to be applied. These restrictions are likely to be in place until the end of the spring term as the roll-out of vaccines will be a long, drawn-out process. Over the last couple of weeks we have made some changes to the running of the school to tighten our COVID protocols and limit the number of contacts a positive case may have:

  1. Key Stage 3 Drama is now classroom based and not taught in the Drama Studio. When necessary Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 Drama lessons will take place in the Drama Studio, but with heightened restrictions on contact.
  2. Students at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 have five periods of PE per fortnight. To limit the number of students using the changing rooms and the limited indoor space, classes have been put on a rota of physical and theory lessons.
  3. As the weather has got worse and there is limited inside space (the school hall has been converted into a staffroom), Year 7 and Year 8 form groups will be rotated into computer rooms during lunchtime.
  4. The staggered end of the school day is changing for Years 8 and 9; Year 9 will now be leaving at 15pm and Year 8 at 3.25pm.

Behaviour for learning policy

Following a review of how C1s are issued we have clarified our expectations. The updated Behaviour for Learning policy can be found on the school website.

The COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme

The Local Authority has been allocated £2.49 million from the Government Winter Grant Scheme. Families who have children on Free School Meals will receive a supermarket voucher worth £15 for each of the two weeks of the Christmas holidays. This scheme also covers February half term. If your child is in receipt of Free School Meals then more details about how this scheme will work will be sent to you later this week or early next week. Mr Foster (School Business Manager) will be coordinating this scheme for the school (Tony.Foster@priory.herts.sch.uk).

Student wellbeing

After reviewing our protocols in the Wellbeing base, students can now access support through a blended approach of online and face-to-face meetings. If you have concerns relating to the wellbeing of your child then please use the following email address: pastoral@priory.herts.sch.uk. This email address is checked daily including during weekends and school holidays.

Chromebooks – Year 9 rollout

The rollout of our Chromebook initiative continues with Year 9 being our next year group to have the opportunity to buy into the scheme. Mr Parsons (Assistant Headteacher) will be sending a detailed document about the Chromebook scheme to Year 9 parents later this week. The aim is to have all year groups equipped with Chromebooks by September 2021.

Summer exams 2021

On Thursday 3rd December the Department for Education announced a range of measures to support students when they come to sit their summer exams.

  • Most exams have been moved back 3 weeks, with the main exam series taking place from 7th June to
    2nd July 2021.
  • One paper in GCSE English and GCSE Maths is scheduled before half term, and the timetable for the summer GCSE, AS and A Level series has been created to minimise the likelihood of a student missing all of their exams in one subject.
  • There will be advance notice of some topic areas covered in the exams. From our understanding this information will be shared in late January.
  • In some subjects, supporting materials such as formula sheets will be provided on the day of
    the exams.
  • Grading will carry forward the overall generosity of 2020.
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable students who are not able to attend school will be permitted to take their exams at home (if approved by their school).
  • If a student misses some or all papers in a subject but has sufficient non-examined assessment, they can still achieve a grade through the ‘Special Consideration’ process.
  • Students who miss exams and request ‘Special Consideration’ will need to provide evidence to support the process. (This will include evidence supporting absence related to Covid-19.)
  • If a student is unable to access the ‘Special Consideration’ process, they will be eligible to sit a single contingency paper. This will take place between 28th June and 16th July 2021. The contingency papers will be timetabled to allow at least a 10-day gap after each subject’s final paper in the main series. This timetable is currently being written.
  • It is expected that there will be one contingency paper per GCSE and A Level subject as well as for AS Maths and Further Maths. (It has not been confirmed whether there will be contingency papers in subjects that include non-examined assessment.)
  • If a student misses all of their GCSE or A Level papers in a subject during both the summer series and the contingency series with legitimate reason and does not have the required non-examined assessed elements required to access the special considerations process, a validated teacher assessment may be used to award a grade.
  • Students taking a vocational or technical qualification or other general qualification will also be able to have their qualification awarded where they have not been able to take all the assessment needed.

A detailed letter about the forthcoming January / February PPE exams for Year 11 and Year 13 will be coming out towards the end of this week from Mrs Hibbert (Assistant Headteacher) and Mrs Nearney (Deputy Headteacher). These PPE exams have an even greater significance this year and no student should underestimate the importance they play in preparing for the summer exams.

The last day of this term is Tuesday 15th December with students finishing between 12.30pm and 12.40pm.

I wish you a happy Christmas and New Year.

Take care,

Geraint Edwards