Coronavirus Update 18/03/2020

Dear Parent / Carers

To date The Priory School has been able to operate at nearly full capacity. However, with the changes in government advice on self-isolating we are approaching the strong possibility of introducing partial closure of the school starting from Monday 23rd March.

You will be aware of the latest government advice that states:

  • If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.
  • Anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms needs to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.
  • If you have coronavirus symptoms:
    • Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
    • You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
    • Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.

Communication with the school

Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to thank parents and carers for the overwhelming amount of positive support the school has received in the last week or so. This is a demanding and anxious time for the whole community and we appreciate the support we have been given. My Pastoral and Administrative colleagues are working at capacity and to aid them can you please act on the points below:

  1. On the school website (home page) there is a Virtual Learning tab. This is where you will be able to find supporting documentation, which will be updated regularly. Please make this your first port of call. This will be going live on Thursday 19th March.
  2. Please do not telephone the school to ask for advice on whether you should send your child in to school or not. That must be your decision.
  3. If you are self-isolating your child, please inform the school by sending an email to rather than phoning.

Students self-isolating: Attendance and home learning 

There has been an increase in the number of students self-isolating over the last three days and this will increase as the week draws to a close. Please note the following points:

  1. Students who are self-isolating will have their absence authorised and this will be recorded as ‘Exceptional circumstances’.
  2. All letters relating to attendance issues, attendance support programmes and the risk of fines have been suspended for the duration of this outbreak.
  3. The school will endeavour to provide suitable work for your child whilst they are self-isolating. However, as the number of students who are off school increases, the school’s ability to continue to support home learning will become more problematic. There will be times where work set will become more generic based on access to online resources. Once the school has fully closed, the school can focus on our virtual learning strategy.
  4. A detailed list of online curriculum resources will be made available by Thursday 19th March to support independent study.

Exams: Internal and external

Following on from my previous letter dated Friday 13th March, there has been no official decision made on how the GCSE and A Level exams will be conducted. We are expecting confirmation from Ofqual by the end of this week about what is going to happen. All internal exams have been postponed until May half term at the earliest.

Extra-curricular activities

All extra-curricular activities have been cancelled or postponed until the end of May. The school will review what can take place once we are back to normal.

Partial school closure from Monday 23rd March

The school has been working hard to prepare students for partial and then full closure as outlined in my letter dated 13th March. In addition:

  1. Students will be supplied with additional exercise books and pens to support home learning. The aim is to distribute these to the students on Friday 20th March.
  2. Those students who do not have ‘electronic devices’ at home to work on have been loaned a school Chromebook and where necessary online capacity has been funded.

Based on current staffing numbers and projected cases of self-isolation, the school will be operating a partial closure from Monday 23rd March.

  1. Year 12 will not be in school and will home study with work supplied by their teachers. Our consortium colleagues are aware of this arrangement. Students should not go to their consortium lesson unless specifically directed to by their subject teacher at Hitchin Girls’ School or Hitchin Boys’ School.
  2. Year 9 and Year 10 will have a reduced timetable meaning they leave school at 1.30pm each day. This will allow all students to continue to have a free breakfast in the morning and a school lunch. The school is currently liaising with transport providers on how best to support students in getting home. More details about this will follow on Friday 20th March. To support our parents / carers who are NHS staff and other key workers (emergency services, schools, nurseries, childminders) in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak we will keep their Year 9 and Year 10 children at school until the end of the school day if requested to do so. Please can such requests be made by following this link: Key Worker Request
  3. Years 7, 8, 11 and 13 will continue on a full timetable.

Supporting families when the school is closed

At The Priory School we have 19% of our intake on free school meals, with about another 10% who should be or are close to being eligible. We have parents who work in the hospitality, entertainment and other sectors that will be directly hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. We are currently looking at how best to support our students and families in relation to their wellbeing.

An update will be sent out on Friday 20th March.

Kind regards

Geraint Edwards