Dear Parent / Carer
The last eight weeks have been challenging for the TPS community, but we have been able to work through this due to the excellent work of my colleagues, the continued support from our parent body and the maturity of the vast majority of our students.
We have a strong reputation for excellent attendance at The Priory School. It had been thought by many that students after the lockdown would struggle to come back to school. Our attendance this half term has been 95%, which is above the national and Hertfordshire average. To me this is a reflection of our students wanting to learn and being keen to be in school because they are supported by a parent body that values the life chances that education provides.
Open evening / Post 16 evening / Parents’ evenings
One of the positive outcomes of the COVID pandemic for education has been the impact it has had on the use of technology in schools. We are blessed with some outstanding colleagues and students who have the technical knowledge to run events that in normal times would have been conducted face to face. The feedback from parents has been very positive about how the school has shared key information. All our parent consultation evenings next half term will be conducted online and more information about how this will happen will follow in early November.
Despite an international conspiracy (President Trump’s trade war with China) to prevent TPS securing our Chromebooks, Year 7 and Year 11 have both had their devices rolled out to them. The Governing Board has approved the next stage of the Chromebook rollout to Year 9 from early next year. A more detailed communication to Year 9 parents will be coming out shortly explaining everything to do with our Chromebook strategy. If you have a spare 10 minutes please go to our website and look at the Blended Learning section: https://www.priory.herts.sch.uk/information/curriculum/chromebooks/.
The aim is to have all students at The Priory School equipped with Chromebooks by September 2021.
The COVID restrictions have placed obstacles in the way of our extra-curricular provision. However, lunchtime and after-school sports clubs are running, along with a reduced music provision. Year 11 students have a programme of additional support during lunchtime and after school. The Silver and Bronze Duke of Edinburgh students were able to complete their expedition stages over the last couple of weekends; no camping overnight but lots of walking and map reading. We will continually review what we can offer our students beyond the classroom next half term.
Changes to the school calendar
As we approach November we all know that there will be an increase in the number of colds that we will experience. This half term is normally the worst for student and staff illness. In light of the current COVID situation I am expecting there to be an increase in colleagues and students off school after half term. When we started this academic year we started earlier than planned to get students back into school. We took one day off the summer holidays and did not use two of our planned INSET days. I am re-allocating these days to the end of this term meaning that the school will be finishing on Tuesday 15th December at 12.30pm.
Last week we had our first case of a student testing positive for COVID-19; that student and one other are now self-isolating. Today we had our second case which has resulted in five students self-isolating. We were the last school in North Herts to have a confirmed case of Covid-19. We will undoubtedly have more positive COVID cases after half term; it is not if, but when this will happen. We have rigorous tracking protocols in school and all relevant COVID information can be accessed on the COVID tab on our school website. The school will always inform you when we have a COVID case, but not of the finer details as these are confidential and medically sensitive. Sadly, there have been reported cases nationally where information about students and staff who have tested positive has resulted in malicious social media postings and even physical threats.
Positive cases of COVID-19 over half term
Over the half term period if you child tests positive for COVID-19 then please notify the school using the following
e-mail address: COVID19@priory.herts.sch.uk.
There are a few scenarios that you will need to be aware of:
- If your child has a positive result on 24th, 25th or 26th October then the school will need to complete our track and trace protocols and contact parents of students who will have been in ‘close contact’ with the confirmed case. These students will then need to self-isolate for 14 days from their last contact with the positive case.
- If your child displays COVID symptoms on 24th, 25th or 26th October please notify the school and you will be sent a Track and Trace document. If your child subsequently tests positive then those students who have been identified as ‘close contact’ will be contacted to self-isolate.
- If your child displays COVID symptoms from 27th October you need to inform the school but your child will not have been in contact with fellow students in the last 48 hours. Your child will need to self-isolate according to government guidance.
Remember as soon as your child or any member of your household develops symptoms, they must start self-isolating immediately and book a test.
Main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a high 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 sense of smell or taste – this means they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
If you are not sure whether symptoms suggest that they have coronavirus or an everyday cough or cold, you can consult this online NHS symptom checker: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/.
Please do not send children back to school if any of the following apply:
- they have symptoms of COVID-19
- they, any members of your household, or any close contacts (including extended family or friends they have seen and bubbles at half-term activities and sports clubs) have tested positive for COVID-19
- they haven’t completed the full 14 day isolation period requested
If you or your family are affected by COVID-19 and need support locally with things like shopping, getting medication or financial advice, visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Limiting the spread of COVID within the community
Not wishing to sound like the ‘Grinch’ there is a need for families to reflect on how best they can minimise the risk of community transmission within families. Examples where community transmission between teenagers has been found include:
- parties with multiple young people attending;
- large family gatherings;
- large groups of teenagers gathering at recreational facilities.
We are coming up to Halloween and Bonfire Night, which in normal times are great social occasions for many people. However, with the ‘rule of 6’ there does need to be some thought given to how or if these traditional events are celebrated.
The Local Resilience Forum made up of councils, health, social care and community protection partners in Hertfordshire are promoting safe activities that families can take part in this autumn half term. You can read the press release at: https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/about-the-council/news/news-archive/herts-leaders-advise-stay-safe-for-halloween-2020.
A number of families may be looking to travel in the UK (restrictions permitting) or abroad. If you are travelling abroad please take note of any quarantine requirement on returning to the UK. Where we will look to support students in self-isolation because we have asked them to do so, we will not be providing work to those students who are in quarantine following a trip abroad.
The list of countries with exemption is continuously changing. You can check the latest travel exemption list at:
Any staff or students who travel to a location outside of the approved travel corridor will need to self-isolate at home for 14 days on their arrival back into the UK:
COVID-19 re-boot after half term
We are making some changes to our expectations regarding the wearing of masks / face coverings. Our student body have been brilliant in taking on the responsibility to wear their masks / face coverings. However, in the battle to keep the school open we are introducing the following;
- All students will be given a school face mask to supplement what they already have. The advice is that the mask should be washed daily.
- The school will continue to have doors and windows open to improve ventilation in the buildings. It will be cold in classrooms so students will be allowed to wear coats indoors.
- Students will need to wear masks / face coverings in practical DT & Science lessons as there is a need to move around to ensure key elements of the curriculum are delivered.
- Although we have strived to have a 2-metre gap between the teacher and students when teaching from the front, this is problematic in some rooms. Students sitting in the front rows of some classrooms will therefore be asked to wear a mask / face covering. Those students who are exempt from wearing a mask / face covering will be seated away from the font of the class.
As large areas of the UK are going into various categories of enhanced restrictions, we in Hertfordshire are in a better position than most. The key to keeping schools open is ensuring that we all take responsibility and follow the national guidance on limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Take care and I look forward to welcoming you back after half term.