Letter from Mr Edwards (19/04/22)

Dear Parents / Carers

Welcome to the start of the summer term and I hope that you were able to enjoy the Easter holidays. I am not sure where the last term went, but this particular half term is the one that always seems to fly by; maybe something to do with the better weather!

The school sends out numerous communications from different departments and colleagues. We have been piloting sending out key communications on Fridays. There have been some technical glitches, but we will continue to run this pilot scheme for the next half term. I would encourage you to follow us on Twitter as this will give you a good flavour of what is going on in school.

Hosting Ukrainian families

As a Hitchin resident I am aware of some families who are in the process of hosting families from Ukraine. If you are hosting or are aware of others who are, I am happy to give advice on getting secondary-aged young people into schools.

Structure improvement and building work

3G pitch

The 3G pitch has been opened and is a great asset for the school and wider community. Plans are afoot to build a sports pavilion in the space between the pitch and the current sports hall; the aim is to have this completed by September 2022.

On a less positive note, we have had young people access the 3G pitch without permission after school hours. Of immediate concern is the risk that these young people have put themselves in, as they have climbed the perimeter fences which are over 15 foot. If they fall or even injure themselves whilst playing on the 3G pitch, we will not know. Further, the school is private property and using the 3G pitch without permission is breaking and entering. We have enhanced our CCTV coverage, and conversations with identified young people have already taken place. If current TPS students are identified as being on the 3G pitch without permission then they will be subject to our Behaviour for Learning policy and sanctioned accordingly.

Energy efficiency work

The new windows and cladding of the Science and current 6th Form blocks have been completed, which has not only improved the energy efficiency of these two buildings but their aesthetics also. The removal of our existing heating system continues and we are 20 weeks into the 36-week project.

New 6th Form block

Building work will start in early May on our new 6th Form block, which will be built on the area that runs parallel to the St George V Playing Fields. This is potentially a 9-month project and there will be some disruption caused in the car park area. More details about this will be provided in the next couple of weeks.

COVID-19 and respiratory infections

The direction of travel from the Government is that we learn to live with COVID-19. Free testing kits have been removed for all but a few, and testing in educational settings is no longer required.

Respiratory infections are common in young people. The symptoms of COVID-19 can include those on the following list, but are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses such as colds and flu:

  • a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • 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 your sense of smell or taste, shortness of breath, feeling tired or exhausted, an aching body
  • a headache, a sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick

When young people with symptoms should stay at home and when they can return to education

  • It is not recommended that children and young people are tested for COVID-19 unless directed to by a health professional.
  • Young people with mild symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, or slight cough, who are otherwise well, can continue to attend their education setting.
  • Young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can. They can go back to school and resume normal activities when they no longer have a high temperature and they are well enough to attend.
  • Young people with respiratory symptoms should be encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing and/or sneezing and to wash their hands after using or disposing of tissues.

Young people aged 18 years and under who have a positive test result

  • If a young person has a positive COVID-19 test result they should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 full days after the day they took the test, if they can. The day they took the test is day 0.
  • After 3 full days, if they feel well and do not have a high temperature they can come back to school. The risk of children and young people passing the infection on to others is much lower because they tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults.
  • If a student is aged 19 then the recommendation is the same as the above but they should stay off for 5 full days.

Someone who a young person lives with has tested positive

  • If someone in the household has tested positive then the young person can continue to come to school.

Recording attendance for pupils with symptoms of COVID-19

  • The school has very high expectations regarding attendance with a minimum expectation of 96% for all students.
  • The DfE has told schools that they no longer need to use Code X to record pupils who do not attend for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • This is because pupils with symptoms of COVID-19 are no longer advised to get a test, and most of the scenarios that this category was brought in to record no longer apply.
  • Where a pupil is not attending because they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had a positive test, schools should record this using Code I (illness) unless another more appropriate absence code applies.
  • Schools can continue to use the sub-code I02 to record illness due to suspected Covid-19, although they are not required to.
  • Young people off due to illness (once confirmed) will be recorded as an authorised absence.

Summer exam season (Year 11 and Year 13)

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has published its guidance to the special consideration process for exams this summer. The key points of the guidance are:

  • Students will not be given free COVID-19 tests during the series and will not be asked to provide tests to authenticate absence.
  • The exam timetable has already allowed for there to be a 10-day gap between subject papers ensuring that a student will not miss all the papers for a specific subject.
  • In applying for special consideration on the grounds of absence, there is a slight relaxation of the rules this year meaning that students can still get a grade if they have completed one unit/exam rather than the previous requirement of 25%.
  • Students who are unwell and have a high temperature should be advised not to attend exams until they feel better and no longer have a temperature.
  • Students who test positive for COVID-19 (if they have chosen to take a test or have been directed to do so by a medical professional) should be advised not to attend exams for 3 days if they are aged 18 or under or for 5 days if they are 19 or over.
  • In all of the above situations, centres can apply for special consideration on the grounds of ‘absent from exam’.
  • The centre will ask students to complete a revised version of JCQ Form 14 on which they self-authenticate and sign to say they are not committing exam malpractice.
  • Special consideration will not be applied to students solely because they have suffered significant learning loss during their study due to COVID-19, either due to their own absence or their teachers’ absence.

The examination rooms will be as ventilated as possible, with a balance struck regarding external noise. Students wishing to wear a face mask are more than welcome to do so. There will be more information about the examination season shared in the coming weeks. We talk a lot about taking responsibility, respect and resilience, but to achieve these attributes you need to have courage.

‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.’  –  Maya Angelou

Kind regards

Geraint Edwards