WEEK 36 - Friday 2 July 2021
Earlier this week, we sat down to finalise our plans for the usual phased return to school in September. No sooner had we done that than we received a letter from the DfE informing us that they want schools to “be prepared for all scenarios, including testing on return after summer holidays.” Great.
It went on, “Given the uncertainties around the Covid situation we will face in the autumn, we want to help schools and colleges to be prepared for all scenarios, including testing on return after the summer holidays.” And so the PPE and test kits have begun to arrive.
What hasn’t arrived yet is any further guidance or information, such as: when are these tests to take place? How many are we expected to do? Will this replace the need for bubbles?
Despite it being blindingly obvious to everyone that these questions need to be answered, so far there has been no response from the Secretary of State or his department. With just fifteen working days to go before the end of term, we now face the real possibility of significant disruption to the start of the new term when it is essential we make a running start in order to help students get back into normal routines. Schools are good at logistics and problem-solving but we can only do that when we have the information we need to formulate our plans.
As a school, we will put together a number of plans so that we are prepared for whatever is thrown at us. For the time being, I can only confirm that students will return to school during the week commencing 6 September and that we hope as many students as possible will be able to return on the 7th. Once I know more about what we are expected to do, I will provide you with more information.
There has been some really productive discussion following the information I shared with you about uniforms last week. Students have engaged maturely with the information and have asked some very pertinent questions. We have made it clear that we are not actually changing our policy; we are making it more straightforward for students to comply with, and obtain the items needed to comply with, the policy. Given the enthusiastic response from students regarding this issue, I have committed to a student survey on school uniform next year. This will not bring into question whether we have uniform (that will not be changing) but will allow us to hear student views on some elements of it. I will keep you informed.
Today I have ‘signed-off’ on a number of capital improvements that will improve the facilities across the school with work taking place in the summer mainly. Two of our computer rooms will have new PCs installed as will many of our staff work rooms and offices, the Photography room will be equipped with air-conditioning, an external canopy will be erected around the leisure centre to provide shelter and a large office will be split into to provide more space for external agencies and specialist support for students and parents. This is in addition to substantial works at Penshurst which includes a new dining room roof and a new playground.
Yesterday was also our new staff induction day where we were delighted to bring together for the first time the new colleagues who will be teaching your children next year. There are seven new recruits in total across a range of subjects each bringing subject specialism and, in some cases, some extensive experience of working in outstanding schools in the area. These have been recruited, in the main, due to the rising number of students that we are admitting. It is always great to see fresh ideas and new enthusiasm joining our team and I look forward to seeing them prosper in their new roles.
Have a lovely weekend.
Mr V Groak