RETURN TO SCHOOL INFORMATION

We hope you and your families have enjoyed the summer break, and that your children are looking forward to the start of a new school year at Bryntirion. We are very much looking forward to welcoming back everyone on Tuesday 7th September. We wrote to you in July to provide you with some details about arrangements for the start of term. Our intention now is provide you with updated information on these plans.

On Friday 27th August the Welsh Government published a ‘Local COVID-19 Infection Control Decision Framework’ for implementation from September 1st 2021. Its objective is to enable schools to tailor some measures to reflect the level of risk identified locally. Schools will not be expected to make decisions in isolation, and will continue to be supported by public health officials and the local authority to ensure measures are appropriate to local circumstances. A transition period has been agreed for the introduction of this framework so that the measures are operational by Monday 20th September.

A – Start of Term Arrangements

The first day of term for all pupils in Years 7 to 13 will therefore be Tuesday 7th September. Pupils in Years 8 to 13 will go directly to their form classrooms for registration at 8.40 a.m. All pupils in Year 7 will assemble in the Sports Hall for registration at 8.40 a.m. We will revert to the normal school day.

B - What measures will remain in place at the start of term?

In July 2021, the First Minister published the updated Coronavirus Control Plan for Wales, which sets out arrangements to move to “alert level zero” – a new phase which is designed to ensure a proportionate approach to COVID-19, reflecting the impact of vaccination and the balance of risks and harms. The control plan signals the expectation that schools should operate as normally as possible at alert level zero. Baseline measures including risk assessments, improved hygiene and ventilation, and preventing attendance by individuals with COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be in place, but other measures are being relaxed as part of a proportionate system of controls. The Welsh Government Framework states that at alert level zero:

  • the most effective way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in our schools is to stop infection being brought into the school.
  • the best way to manage personal risks is to take up the offer of vaccination, and the Welsh Government encourages those eligible for vaccination to take up this offer.
  • If anyone tests positive for COVID-19 they must self-isolate and not attend school.

     

These are therefore the ‘CORE’ measures we will implement at the start of term:

  • All staff and pupils will be reminded to follow the Welsh Government guidance for self-isolation. They should not attend school if they have any COVID-19 symptoms (new persistent cough, fever and/or loss of taste or smell). If a pupil becomes symptomatic they should get a test as soon as possible, and self-isolate until the outcome of the test; if the test is negative they can leave self-isolation. Further guidance is available.
  • Regular handwashing, and respiratory etiquette (Catch it, Bin it, Kill it) are key interventions and will continue to be encouraged in school. We will ensure that we have enough tissues and bins available in the school to support learners and staff to follow this routine.
  • Adequate ventilation will be encouraged by opening windows or adjusting ventilation systems.
  • Maintain appropriate levels of cleaning in line with other communicable diseases. If there is a confirmed cluster associated with one class in the school a deep clean of the immediate area will continue to be undertaken.

 

Schools are still required, wherever possible to:

C - What will classrooms look like?

Welsh Government Guidance states:

“It is strong public health advice that staff in secondary schools maintain distance from their learners, staying at the front of the class, and away from their colleagues where possible. Ideally, adults should maintain a 2-metre distance from each other, and from learners…. Schools should make small adaptations to the classroom to support distancing where possible. That should include seating learners side by side and facing forwards, rather than face to face or side on, and might include moving unnecessary furniture out of classrooms to make more space.”

At Bryntirion, this means that:

  • all students will need to sanitise, or wash hands prior to entry to classrooms and exit from classrooms;
  • whilst in classrooms the teacher will, wherever possible, maintain a 2 metre distance from students.

 

D – What measures are there elsewhere on the school site?

Contact groups or bubbles will no longer have a role to play at the start of the autumn term.  Contact groups will be replaced by a stronger focus on contact tracing. The TTP (Track, Trace and Protect) system will identify close contacts of pupils who have tested positive rather than the school.

Whilst we will be obliged to minimise interactions between pupils where possible, we are also keen to enable the school to operate as normally as possible for our pupils. Please note that we would like to hold full year group assemblies in our sports hall at the start of term. We also intend to offer a full range of extra-curricular activities, and will write to you with details of these next week.

E - Should I wear a face covering?

From the start of the new term, we will no longer recommend the wearing of face coverings in the classroom for staff or pupils. However, we continue to encourage their use in indoor communal areas, such as the queues in canteens, where social distancing cannot be maintained.

If anyone wishes to wear a face covering for personal reasons anywhere in the school they will be permitted to do so. This may help support their wider well-being, reduce anxiety and provide additional reassurance for some individuals alongside other mitigating measures.

Visitors to the school setting should use a face covering, including parents/carers when dropping off and picking up pupils. Face coverings should continue to be worn by pupils when travelling on dedicated school transport.

F - What equipment will I need and can I share it?

For individual and very frequently used equipment, such as pencils and pens, it is recommended that students have their own items that are not shared. Classroom based resources, such as books and games, can be used and shared. In line with Welsh Government guidance, students and staff can take books and other shared resources home, although unnecessary sharing should be avoided. Pupils should limit the amount of equipment they bring into school each day, to essentials such as lunch boxes, bags, hats, coats, books, stationery, mobile phones (kept in bags) The basic equipment needed each day is as follows:

  • Pens and pencil case
  • Geometry set
  • Notebook
  • Calculator
  • Planner
  • Bag

Exercise books and pupils’ work can be taken home by teachers to mark and assess.

 

G - What about catering facilities in school?

Catering provision will now revert to its pre-COVID arrangements. Learners who are eligible for free school meals will be provided with a free meal on each day they attend. Other learners will still be expected to pay for their meals.  Children will be permitted to bring a packed lunch to school.

Pupils in Years 7 and 8 will use the ‘Junior Canteen’ in D Block; those in Years 9, 10 and 11 will use the Senior Hall in E Block. Students in Years 12 and 13 are permitted to use either canteen, and can leave the school site should they wish to do so.

Cashless payment systems will be in operation as usual from September. However, parents/carers will need to ensure there is sufficient balance on their child’s account.  If you have not received a recent email with your child’s account balance, please contact the school to ask for this information. It is unlikely that cash machines in school will be accessible, initially, and parents/carers are advised of the need to credit school meal accounts via the ‘Pay it’ function on the Bridgend County Borough Council website. This is the usual method for adding credits to accounts for school meals.

H - Will visitors be allowed onto the school site?

We are still required to encourage parents/carers not to remain on the premises/at the gates longer than necessary especially when dropping off/collecting children. 

Please note that parents will only be able to come onto the school site for a pre-arranged appointment. Social distancing and hand sanitising will be in place in our reception area and all meetings will take place in the school’s conference room or meeting rooms in E Block. A record will be kept of all visitors as this may be needed at a future point to assist with contact tracing processes.

We will not permit any other visitors onto the school site without a pre-booked appointment.

I - What are the expectations on school uniform for the autumn term?

As we return to the normal routine of school life, we will also be returning to high standards in terms of uniform.  We would be grateful for the support of parents in ensuring that children are correctly attired, including appropriate footwear and hair colour as outlined in our school policy, when we return after the summer holiday. Pupils be expected to wear our Autumn/Spring school uniform upon restarting in September (shirts and ties, rather than polo shirts.) Pupils will be able to use the changing rooms during PE lessons, and we will continue to use existing safety measures.

J – Will my child be advised to take part in LFD testing in September?

Ahead of the start of the new school year, the Welsh Government is asking families and learners to continue to follow guidance on isolating, testing and vaccination, to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in education settings. In secondary schools, pupils not showing symptoms are still advised to take regular rapid lateral flow tests twice a week, and report the results online. Please use any LFTs you have at home first, or order tests online for free, or collect them from community collection points or pharmacies. School will provide LFTs during term time. Please follow this link to access a statement from the Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles:

https://gov.wales/take-steps-needed-keep-learners-safe-and-learning

The above information may change from time to time as the situation is still so fluid. This may be in relation to new advice that is shared with us. It is so often the case that we receive late or last minute guidance and information to digest.  We have to try to be as patient, flexible and positive as possible and hope for a settled and purposeful school year.

You can be assured that at Bryntirion we will be doing our very best to make the return to school as positive, safe and as smooth as possible, with an emphasis on high quality education and learning experiences for all our pupils.

We will write to you with updated information as soon as it becomes available. We look forward to welcoming your children back to school and to working in partnership with you once again in September.

In conclusion, we are very grateful for your support in ensuring your child is fully prepared for a return to school in September.  Please use the information above to speak with them and settle any queries that they may have and impress upon them the need for cooperation and good behaviour. We want them all to be Ready, Respectful and Safe!