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UPDATE FROM PRINCIPAL – 3RD JULY
In my last update, I shared my opinion that a full opening of schools from the start of September, with 100% of students in school 5 days per week, was still a possibility…but was unlikely! Therefore, imagine my surprise when it was leaked and then confirmed that the government was going for an “all students back, 5 days per week” approach from the very start of the new academic year. And at this point I feel the need to apologise for my crystal ball being a bit foggy during my previous update!
The Guidance for full reopening – schools was published yesterday and it has already been read multiple times by every member of our Senior Leadership Team. As Mr. Walklate communicated yesterday, we still need to digest the full details of the guidance, but our leadership team now feel that we have enough of a flavour of the document to start the planning process. Therefore, we will all be meeting later today in order to do so.
There is not much I can share at the moment regarding the guidance or our formal response to it. However, I would like to highlight the two key areas of focus, from the document, that all of our planning needs to address, in order to keep everyone as safe as possible:
- Preventing infection and the spread of infection.
- Responding to any infection.
How we eventually decide to address these key areas of focus might be different than other secondary schools, because we have to work with the size, shape and layout of our school site, our curriculum model and our pastoral structure in our context. However, we will seek to be as vigilant as possible, to ensure that our students and staff are as safe as possible, as we seek to deliver an educational experience that is as broad and ambitious as possible.
It would have been nice to have had more than two weeks to plan effectively, but I won’t use this forum to make any politically charged statements. Now is not a time for blame or ‘what ifs’ or retrospect. Rather, it is a time for calm heads, proper teamwork and practical, common-sense planning.
We will not rush our planning because it is too important to do that. However, we will endeavour to share our plans as soon as we can. At this point, we cannot give an exact timeframe but Mr. Walklate and I will continue to keep you informed of developments over the next two weeks.
Take care – and huge thanks in anticipation of your continued support, understanding and patience.
UPDATE FROM PRINCIPAL: JUNE 15TH
Today, we were overjoyed to welcome our Y10s and Y12s back onsite for their face-to-face taught sessions, although it was definitely not ‘business as usual’ with the school site a very different environment to the one they left behind on March 20th. Hazard tape, perspex screens, hand sanitizer dispensers, social distancing and a regimented approach to movement around the site are all now an integral part of their daily educational experience. However, the sensible way in which they followed the new COVID-secure rules and protocols reinforced just how mature EDA students are and just how determined they are to make the most of this improved educational provision.
The return of Y10s and Y12s is the culmination of weeks and weeks of military-style planning by EDA staff, led and co-ordinated by our Senior Leadership Team. As a parent myself, I would have no hesitation in sending my child into school to access this provision because it has been planned so meticulously, carefully and intelligently and it often goes above and beyond official government safety guidelines. And I am delighted that EDA parents and students are demonstrating a similarly high level of trust and confidence, with virtually all eligible students (well over 90%) attending the familiarisation sessions last week and being expected to attend school this week.
Now that the phased re-opening has begun, the big challenge is to start planning for the start of the new academic year. However, school leaders around the country are still waiting with bated breath for government guidance about this crucial next phase of re-opening. There is so much conjecture, rumour and hear-say that it is impossible to say for certain what will happen in September. Furthermore, it does not look as if secondary schools will get any clear, official government guidance until the start of July at the earliest.
However, there are some thoughts that I am prepared to share at this time:
1. The full re-opening of secondary schools from the start of September is still a possibility, especially if there is a significant downturn in death rates and infection rates in the next two weeks. However, although this is possible, this this appears to be the least likely scenario.
2.The most likely scenario is that there will be a phased re-opening from September, with schools being given a maximum percentage of the school population that are allowed onsite on any given day, for first term or half-term for example.
3. At the moment, working to a 2-metre social distancing rule, we are allowed to accommodate a maximum of 25% of the total student body. Therefore, if social distancing is reduced from 2 metres to 1 metre, schools may be allowed to have 50% of the student body onsite.
4.There appears to be a determination in government circles to make sure that GCSE and A Level examinations go ahead next year, so that we avoid another estimated/calculated grade scenario like this year. This may mean having a later examination season and more flexible examination papers, whilst being mindful not to compromise the academic rigour or standard of the qualifications.
As aforementioned, the above 4 points are simply my thoughts, as I attempt to make sense of the vast amount of information that continues to swirl around with regards to education. However, I felt it appropriate to share these thoughts with you, as it could be another 3 weeks until we hear any official guidance about September and beyond. (I apologise in advance if my analysis turns out to be way off the mark!)
As always, Mr. Walklate and I will endeavour to keep you informed as soon as we feel that there is important information to share with you. And, as always, I am immensely grateful for the patience, understanding and support of EDA parents and students as we work together to navigate through these immensely challenging times.