“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.”- John Steinbeck

From the routine of home learning and back to the normal school routines- it takes a bit of getting used to, even for those of us who have been in school most (if not all) days over the last 2 months.

For those of you still working from home, I’m sure this week was a lot quieter during the day, possibly bringing mixed emotions with it. On one hand, it is a lot easier to do your job without checking up on your child (and possibly having to support them with a subject that you haven’t studied for years); on the other, you may miss the company of having your children around the house during the day. My wife missed us for a day then declared that she was much happier with us all in school because it is more peaceful now!

For us at The Hamble School, it has been a much busier week. By far the best part of having all 1100 students back in school is the noise of them happily chatting (and shouting) at each other during break and lunchtimes. I’ve also spent a few hours walking around the school and dipping into lessons to see what’s going on, it has made my week!

Whilst this is all going on, our test-centre over in the Sports Hall has continued to process over 1300 lateral flow tests this week. No positive results yet, which is great, but we are not allowing ourselves to become complacent. The students’ behaviour during these tests has been absolutely incredible- they have come over to the Sports Hall during lessons, lined themselves up properly, administered the tests without fuss, and then quietly gone back to lessons. I spent 30 minutes this morning over there and couldn’t have been more proud.

You will have received my letter earlier this week explaining that saliva-based testing has been cancelled until after Easter. This news was very disappointing and has meant that we have had to run an additional 1800 lateral flow tests over the first fortnight back. I do not know exactly when saliva-based testing will resume but I will keep you informed. Miss Cambridge and her team have done an exceptional jjob of organizing and delivering all of this.

Just as a reminder, because we received some correspondence after my blog last week, coronavirus testing is optional. If you don’t want your child to participate, no one is going to force you. Similarly, if you don’t want your child to wear a face mask because of medical or anxiety-based reasons, we just issue an exemption pass and lanyard, and ask your child to keep this visible so that staff know (the lanyard means that staff can easily see the pass and it avoids children having to explain themselves multiple times throughout the day). We have been wearing face masks since November and I agree that it is a pain sometimes, but I do think it’s a sensible precaution to help prevent the virus. It also makes people feel safer and that’s a good thing when you’re in a community of approximately 1300 staff and students.

I led remote assemblies with all the year groups this week. The message was pretty simple: welcome back; we’re here to support you; but please follow our rules to help keep you safe. Year 11 had a slightly different message and I’ll cover that off in a bit. It’s a bit strange being in the middle of a bustling school community when the rest of the country is still locked down, but the roads have definitely been busier that past few weeks and I’m still ‘enjoying’ the M27 roadwork issues that I’m sure many of you are also experiencing. The key message for students is that they must still respect social distancing as much as possible to mitigate the risks of us all being on one school site during the day.

With Year 11, I addressed the 3 big questions that they all want to know:

  1. What’s happening with GCSE/ BTEC grades?
  2. When is their last day of school?
  3. Will there be a prom?

I answered all of these as best they could.

  1. Teachers will have the responsibility of determining students’ grades this year. Over the remaining nine weeks, they will be setting mini-assessments for students to complete, following a cycle of teach/ consolidate, prepare for assessment, and then assess. Teacher will create a portfolio of evidence for each student (in each separate subject), using a range of work that covers the past 2 years. They will then moderate these grades with other teachers, using some blind moderation (which is when another teacher marks the work but the student’s name is removed) to ensure there is no bias. At the end of this process, they will decide what grade should be awarded and these will be submitted to the exam boards in June. I will write to Year 11 parents/ carers separately next week as we have a Parents’ Evening on Thursday 25th March.
  2. The last day of school for most Year 11 students will be Friday 28th May (the end of half-term). This is because this will be the deadline for all work to be completed and for teachers to decide a final grade. Some Year 11 students may need to come in the first week after half-term to complete additional assessments if we feel that we don’t have enough evidence. We will also look to offer some additional teaching after half-term to help students bridge the gaps in preparation for their college courses. We will write to you about these nearer the time.
  3. Like most of the year group, I am really keen to have a Year 11 prom. If it is safe! Those are the key words really. I don’t know if it will be safe for a large group of people to socialise in late July. If it is, we will run one, whatever it takes. The problem for me (and for all of the students who are desperate to go out and buy dresses, rent suits, and organise limos, is that I can’t make that decision yet and probably won’t be able to confirm it until June at the earliest. I know this is incredibly frustrating but I wouldn’t advise you to go out and spend a lot of money on something that might not take place.

The last thing I need to keep you informed about is staffing. We have a number of staff who have received shielding letters or who are unable to come into work for different reasons. Yesterday, that totaled 11 staff. We are investing heavily in supply staff (where available) so that your children have a qualified teacher in the class, but we have also had to switch groups around or increase class sizes so that we can support Year 11s through the last nine weeks of their education. At times, it feels a little like trying to juggle with one hand tied behind your back, and our daily SLT meetings at 0800 have been focused on trying to put the right people in the right places. Hopefully, the picture will be better after Easter.

Hopefully, your children have reassimilated themselves back into school life. We have a few who are struggling, which is to be expected after two months at home, but most have readjusted quickly. The one thing I have noticed is a lot of tired faces (students and staff) and I’m sure there will be a lot of lies-ins over the weekend. Please have a good weekend and, as always, thank you for your ongoing help and support- it means a lot to us.

Keep safe.


We’re all about testing this week at The Hamble School…

We’re all about testing this week at The Hamble School, with three different sets of coronavirus tests being offered over the next few weeks. Miss Cambridge and her trusty team of helpers ran a ‘dry test’ today with our key worker children. The Sports Hall has been transformed into a testing area, with signs, screening, and 8 separate bays for children (and staff) to safely deliver Lateral Flow Tests next week. On our busiest day (Friday), we will be delivering 500 tests to Years 8 and 9 throughout the school day. Today, there was a real #teamhamble atmosphere in the Sports Hall and it’s a reminder of how lucky I am to work in a school like this. Whatever the challenge- remote learning, online preferences, a virtual World Book Day (thank you Mrs Kirby), Edenred vouchers (I still can’t mention that to Mrs Goodey without her launching into a rant about its ineffectiveness), reorganizing the school site to adjust to changing government guidance, and finally this arrary of coronavirus testing- the staff here just find a way to roll up their sleeves and get on with it.

And you thought we were just a school …

Next week, we will also be rolling out saliva-based testing, as well as giving all students a pack of home tests. That’s three different types of tests! I can understand if the information overload has been too much over the past two weeks- even myself and Miss Cambridge, who is leading on the lateral flow tests and home tests, have to keep reminding ourselves which set of tests we are talking about. In summary:

  • Lateral Flow Tests are delivered in school (a swab of the throat and nostril), with a result within 20 minutes.
  • Saliva-based tests are completed at home once a week. You collect a saliva sample in a test container, bag it up, and bring it into school. the University of Southampton collects it and a result is texted/ emailed that day.
  • Home tests are home versions of the lateral flow tests that can be completed twice weekly (or weekly if you are doing a saliva-based test) to see if you are carrying the virus.

If this was the ‘new normal’ and going on forever, I think it would probably drive us all crazy. But the roadmap announced by the PM last week, with an end date of the 21st June that some of us have been referring to as National Hugging Day, is something to be positive about. Over the next five weeks, we will be able to meet up with other people, go back to the gym, or even just go to the shops. I’ve circled the 29th March as the day I can finally go play golf again. The important one (and yes, I can concede that there are more important things than me being able to hack a ball around a field for 4 hours) will be the lifting of social restrictions and I’m sure that everyone is looking forward to meeting up with friends and family or even go on a holiday. Thinking of school, I’m looking forward to a time when we can plan in trips and visits, host music and drama events, and restart competitive sport. These are all the things I remember most vividly from my time at school and they are core fundamental experiences. I am even hopeful that we will be able to run a Year 11 prom this year, which is always the highlight of any Year 11’s social calendar.

Until that time, we have to remain cautious and continue doing all of the things we have been doing for the past year to keep people safe: practicing social distancing; washing our hands frequently; wearing face coverings; and avoiding mixing with other year groups. It’s difficult but, like I said, hopefully it will come to an end in the next few months. Your help in explaining this to your children is always appreciated.

Enjoy the weekend (the weather looks good for a second straight weekend) and I can’t wait to see the children back in school from next week. It’s been far too long!

Keep safe.