Dear Parent/Carer,

I wish to start this letter by thanking all in our community for their continued support. Particular thanks to Year 11 parents who attended our Year 11 Information Evening and to parents/carers who attended the Forum for Parents of BAME Children. Your active participation is very much welcomed, and it is by working closely with you, that we will yield the best of outcomes for our young people. I hope these events allow you to gain a better understanding of matters related to the curriculum and school routines, so you may better support your son/daughter.

Yesterday, the Core Senior Leadership Team and our Diversity Lead, Anna Gluckstein, had the privilege of working with Professor Paul Miller (Educational Equity Services) on the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. Paul is the first Black Professor of Educational Leadership and Management in the UK and I am pleased to say he will be working closely with us this academic year. A key aspect of this work includes community and parental engagement. I look forward to involving you all in our efforts to becoming a more equitable and inclusive school.

I know that as we hear about local and national confirmed cases increasing, this will cause understandable cause for concern. However, I must remind you that the school has taken measures to keep our community as safe as we are able at this uncertain time. These include; adapting the building and classrooms to support social distancing as far as possible, reducing mixing and movement around the school and promoting regular hand washing and sanitising.

I am conscious not to repeat too much of the general detail offered in my previous letters, and so want to take this opportunity to explain some general principles around how we make decisions and to remind you about a few things we need to do when we learn of a confirmed case.

What happens if there is a case of Covid-19 in my child’s year group?

Our priority is to identify and communicate as quickly as we can with the parents, students and staff who have been in potential close contact with the student who has tested positive. In conjunction with the overarching guidance of our local Health Protection Team (HPT), we ask those students to self-isolate to reduce any possible spread of Covid-19 within their group and for the overall safety of others within the community.

After the potential close contacts have been notified, we ensure that all parents and pupils in the affected year are informed about the situation.

Why are we requiring self-isolation?

The requirement to self-isolate is not taken lightly and will always be made in conjunction with advice from the local Health Protection Team. We appreciate that self-isolation might present an inconvenience to some families, and it may even be frustrating for those whose children appear to be fit and well if they are asked to self-isolate, whilst others can still attend school. However, given the potential for rapid transmission of Covid-19, we are trying to do all we can to ensure the School stays open in a safe way, for as many students as possible, for as long as possible. Now we are back, we want to be on site and teaching from classrooms wherever possible.

From Thursday last week, the national guidance on which students should be advised to self-isolate has been refined. We will undertake the following to identify the close contacts of the confirmed case of Covid-19:

  • Look at the student timetable to identify classes during the infectious period (48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms)
  • Look at seating plans. Identify contacts as children who sat within 2 metres of the case during their infectious period in school.
  • Check friendship groups. Identify contacts as children who are known to have had definite face to face contact with them during their infectious period. This information has been collated by the School in readiness from our students.
  • Check if there are any staff members who report that they have had close contact with the case during the infectious period. Use the standard contact definitions for this and only ask staff to self-isolate if they have had definite contact with the case
  • Check if there are any other people who they have had definite face to face contact with at break times or in other group activities such as sport or music lessons. This should be specific identifiable individuals (rather than whole groups where contact cannot be ruled out.)
  • If the case is a teacher then social distancing is assumed to be possible. Ask if the teacher can identify all the other members of staff and students who they had close contact with during their infectious period (The infectious period is from 48 hours prior to symptom onset to 10 days after, or 48hrs prior to the date of the test if asymptomatic)

From today, I will not be sending all-parent emails to advise you about new Covid-19 cases unless advised to do so by the local Health Protection Team. We will of course keep you updated on any significant matters or changes that affect the whole community, or those that have an impact on our response or any policies in this area.

A reminder that as the numbers of students needing to self-isolate grows, we are committed to ensuring that pupils who are at home continue to experience the full academic programme. Where practical, teachers will now use Microsoft Teams to share and distribute work to absent pupils during lesson time, and Classcharts to set homework. If appropriate, they will share their audio and screen with pupils at home. When only a few pupils are absent, the lessons will be primarily directed at those in school - for example, the absent pupils will not be able to take part in group work and class discussion.

In the event of a partial or short-term closure (e.g. a Lower School tutor group or year group being sent home to self-isolate for two weeks), we will continue to deliver the full timetable of lessons via Teams in real time. This is to maintain academic momentum and routines.

The School remains open and your child should continue to attend if they remain well. If your child is unwell and unable to attend school, please state the nature of their illness, including symptoms. This will help us to gain a better understanding of the situation and inform our conversations with the Department for Education and local authority.

Should you have any queries related to the above please do not hesitate to contact your child’s form tutor or Head of Year.

Stay well.

Zehra Jaffer