Week 17: ‘The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up.’ – Robert Tew

Last week was a difficult one for many people. Even though the evidence was clear that cases and deaths attributed to COVID-19 were on the rise, the announcement on Monday evening that we were going into another lockdown still came as a bit of a personal shock. Thankfully, we were already prepared to deliver live lessons to all year groups from Tuesday but this was only a short-term plan. Most of last week, therefore, was spent organising remote education for the rest of the half-term, in-school provision for vulnerable students/ critical worker children, setting up two different types of COVID-19 testing, and staffing for all of this. I slept in late on Saturday!

Lockdown is hard on all of us and there is a definite feeling of weariness this time around which, coupled with the heightened anxiety about the new variant of the virus, is having an impact on many people’s wellbeing. It doesn’t help that some things, such as what will happen with GCSE and BTEC exams this year, are still undecided. There have been conflicting stories in the media over the weekend about how these grades are going to be determined- hopefully, this is all resolved soon so that the children know for their own peace of mind.

The overwhelming feedback to live lessons has been very positive and I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to email in your thanks. I have made sure to pass these comments on to the staff who are very appreciative. Delivering live lessons with small children can be challenging (I’m sure all of us have seen examples of meetings being interrupted by family members) but the teaching staff have responded brilliantly and I am very happy with what I have seen so far. There have been some glitches- for example, the Class Charts website failing at one point last week- but these have been temporary and we have found a way through it.

A letter will also come out today about coronavirus testing, which we are looking to launch with staff and students from next week. There are two types of test:

 Saliva-based testsLateral flow tests
How does it work?Your child will collect a saliva sample and put it in a pot first thing in the morning. This is sealed up and brought into school. The sample is collected by Southampton University and the results will be sent by text within 24 hours (in the previous trials, results normally came back in about 12 hours).A swab is placed in the back of the throat to collect a sample from the tonsils; a sample is also taken from one nostril. The results are analysed within 25-30 minutes and a text/ email is sent to confirm the result.
How often will my child take it?Your child would take this test once a week.Your child will only be offered this test if they are identified as a ‘close contact’ to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Normally, they would have to self-isolate for 10 days; alternatively, they can stay in school if they take a lateral flow test for 7 days before school. If they test negative, they can stay in school; if they are positive then they need to go home to self-isolate.
Is it compulsory?No but we hope that students will participate to give everyone greater peace of mind.No but children will not be allowed to stay in school without participating in this serial testing.
Further informationwww.southampton.gov.uk/covid19testinghttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-54872039

Mrs Morgan and I both took a lateral flow test in school on Friday- it was a fairly simple process and took about 30 minutes, but the saliva-based test is much less invasive (our nickname for it is ‘spit in a pot’) and I’m very grateful to the Local Authority for inviting us to take part in the next phase of this trial. It also allows us to offer weekly tests, unlike the lateral flow tests which would only take place before the students came back to school. Surprisingly, taking the test on Friday and getting the desired negative result made the two of us feel a lot better about being in school. I hope that the new saliva-based tests will make students, staff (and all of our families) feel safer.

The government continues to update guidance. One of the changes is the advice about which children should be attending school. We will always look to accommodate students who need to be in school but equally I need to restrict the number of children who come into school. The latest guidance is that if you can keep your child at home you should. The more children who come into school, the more staff I need to be in and this will ultimately restrict our ability to offer live lessons. Please do not be offended if we ask for evidence of your critical worker status.

Finally, we love hearing about what the students are doing. Please continue to send examples of their work to us. We are publishing some of these in our weekly newsletter.

Keep safe.