COVID-19 update following Government announcements
Dear Students, Parents and Carers,
I hope you and your families are safe and well. I am sure that most of you will be aware of the government announcements over the weekend regarding the newly identified Omicron variant of the Coronavirus. I wanted to update you on the key points and changes required which will take effect at Sewell Park Academy, in order to continue to keep our students, staff and community safe. These changes will fully take effect from tomorrow, Tuesday 30th November.
Face coverings and hygiene
The guidance from the government and the Department for Education is for the reintroduction of the wearing of face coverings in communal areas. Face coverings offer the second best defence against COVID-19 after effective vaccination. Consequently, all students, staff and visitors to Sewell Park Academy will be required to wear a face covering in all indoor areas.
Given the small size of many of our classrooms and the limited ventilation all students will be expected to wear face coverings in all indoor areas and classrooms from Tuesday 29th November. Staff will do the same when supporting students directly, and when they are unable to social distance at the front of the room. We will keep this policy regarding the wearing of face-coverings under constant review.
Students will be expected to bring a face covering to school each day as a core part of their uniform. Where a student has a medical exemption for wearing a facemask, the reasoning for this must be communicated by the parent or carer to a member of our pastoral team. They will then be issued with a yellow lanyard which must be worn at all times.
Students will be expected to have washed their hands, or have them santitized, on the entrance and exit to each lesson. Where they work in a ‘shared’ space, for example an IT suite, this will be cleaned with antibacterial wipes at the end of the lesson.
Site arrangements and year group bubbles
Although we have continued to have year group ‘zones’ at break and lunch, we will be reintroducing year group bubbles. This means that students must continue to enter and exit the site through their respective gates only, with no mixing between year groups permitted..
The year group gates are below:
Year 7 - St Clements Hill gate at the front of the school
Year 8 - St Clements Hill middle gate (by the Chestnut nursery)
Year 9 - Constitution Hill gate opposite the sports centre
Year 10 - St Clements Hill gate on the playing field
Year 11 - Constitution Hill gate opposite the Sewell Barn
Year groups must remain in their ‘bubble’ zones of the school for breaks and lunch. Classes will continue to be escorted to and from lessons as they pass through other year group areas. Students are not permitted to leave their bubble area without prior arrangement or when not escorted by a staff member.
Ventilation and outdoor clothing
The daytime temperature is dropping - it is winter afterall. With the need to ensure full ventilation in the school and in particular within classrooms, there will be a knock-on impact with our outdoor break and lunchtime arrangements, and of course the temperature of classrooms during lessons. Therefore, students need to wear appropriate, warm outdoor coats to school, and warm plain black waterproof boots or shoes. If a classroom is deemed too cold by a classroom teacher, due to the need for ventilation, they will allow students to wear outdoor coats in the classroom. This is at the discretion of the teacher in the room.
Please be advised that ‘hoodies’ are not acceptable as outdoor coats and will be confiscated if seen. If any parent requires additional support in regards to outdoor coats, please do not hesitate to contact our pastoral team.
Twice weekly home testing of students and close contacts of Omicron cases
In order to support the safety of all, we strongly encourage all students to continue to undertake home testing twice per week. The government expectation is that these will be completed by students and staff alike, on a Sunday and Wednesday. This includes testing throughout the Christmas Holidays.
To support this we will be issuing students with test kits to cover the holidays during the final week of term. Please note that the test kits issued by the school are for students only. Further test kits for family members can be obtained free of charge via the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests or from a pharmacy.
Should a student or family member receive a positive result following a Covid test and the Omicron variant is identified then more strict quarantine arrangements are required.
Close contacts will be identified as earlier in the pandemic, based on distance from a known positive case and the amount of time spent near them. Close contacts of this new variant will have to self-isolate for a full 10 days.
Remote Learning maps
Throughout the pandemic, our Heads of Departments have ensured that there are remote learning maps in place for students absent from school. These maps run parallel to the curriculum taught within the school, and provide access to online lessons and activities that cover the same content being taught within a classroom. By following the remote learning map, absent students can keep up to date with subject content and can avoid falling behind.. Class teachers will ensure that, in the event of absence or self-isolation, students are directed to the correct content on Google Classroom.
Return to school testing in January
The government has announced that all students should be tested once on their return to school in January, through our onsite testing facility. Once we have received further guidance from the Department of Education regarding how and when this will take place we will update you with our arrangements for the first week back after the Christmas break.
Year 11 Examinations and results
I am very aware that these announced changes by the government will be worrying for all students and families, but may alarm in particular our Year 11 students preparing and working towards their summer examinations. At present, the government has been clear that the examinations in May and June will be going ahead as planned. If there are any changes we will update students immediately. In the meantime it is vital that all students continue to work hard and demonstrate the positive attitudes as they have since returning in September. This approach will best support their performance in future summer exams, or in the production of work for teacher assessment in the unlikely event of this last year’s GCSE arrangements being repeated in whole or in part.
I know for many in our community, students, staff and families, the announcements at the weekend were worrying. As a school and a community we will continue to do all we can to ensure that all remain as safe as possible. By doing all we can to limit transmission of any strain of coronavirus we can ensure that our young people avoid missing out on valuable education that has importance for them for their future lives.
Finally, it seems as though the situation concerning the Omicron variant is changing every 24 hours. As soon as we have further information on how the government requires schools to respond we will update you immediately.
If you have any questions, or require support during these times, please do not hesitate to contact the school