Following the recent Government announcements, we thought we should contact you for a final 2020 update with the limited amount of additional information that we are able to share.
Olympus Primary Settings
The arrangements we communicated previously for the start of term in January still apply to primary learners so Monday, 4th January, 2021 is a staff training day and children are expected in school at the usual start time on Tuesday, 5th January. This includes Bradley Stoke Community School Primary Phase. The rest of this update applies to secondary learners only.
Olympus Secondary Settings
For secondary schools, the arrangements for the start of term in January have changed. You will probably have heard or read in the last few days about the introduction of rapid testing for Covid-19 in secondary schools across the country from 4th January, 2021, and about remote learning for most students for the first week of term so we thought it would be useful to provide some details applicable to all Olympus settings. Schools will make contact about the arrangements within their own settings.
There will still be a staff training day on Monday, 4th January, 2021 so term will start for students on Tuesday, 5th January. For the remainder of that week, i.e. Tuesday, 5th January, to Friday, 8th January, Years 11 and 13 will be in school as usual. In addition, places will be available in school for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers – if you think this applies to you, please check the Government guidance here. However, if there is any way your child can be supported to learn from home during that week (other than Years 11 and 13), this would be much appreciated as we will need as much staffing capacity as possible to support rapid testing for Covid-19. All other students will be provided with remote learning for that week and schools will provide the details.
The government has set out its rationale for this approach at the start of January and there are three main reasons: –
- Firstly, it is anticipated that there will be an increase in infection rates in the community after Christmas so an additional week at home for most will help prevent the virus spreading in schools and the wider community
- Secondly, it will create the capacity needed to prepare and train for rapid testing for Covid-19 to take place in secondary schools. Hopefully, we will also start a programme of testing for all.
- Thirdly, the introduction of rapid testing for Covid-19 will make schools safer places to be and will allow us to operate without having to isolate bubbles every time there is a positive case, providing daily testing as an alternative.
Support for Families eligible for income-based Free School Meals
We will make a payment to all families currently in receipt of income-based Free School Meals to cover week beginning 4th January for any children who will be at home for the week. Unfortunately, the payment is unlikely to reach bank accounts until the end of that week due to the Christmas closure and not yet knowing who will and will not be in school.
At this stage, we have not received the test kits, we have had limited information, staff have not been trained, we are awaiting further guidance from the Government and there are logistical aspects still to be resolved for each school. Therefore, you will not receive additional information related to testing from us until the New Year. I would be grateful if you could resist the urge to e-mail questions or requests for information to schools in the meantime, not least because senior leaders have been on call 7 days a week for months on end and need to have a proper break for a few days over the Christmas period. We will be doing preparations in the background and will share more information with you as soon as we are ready to do so but all our school sites will be closed from Christmas Eve until 4th January.
It is likely that schools will be in touch to invite all students learning from home to come into school for a test no earlier than 6th January onwards. Staff and students already in school for that week will be the first to be tested. Schools will provide more information, a consent form to complete and an appointment time before this can happen. All students who are under 16 will need parental consent for testing. We strongly urge you to support the testing programme as this has the potential to be very significant for our schools and the wider community.
I hope that 2021 will be more straightforward for all of us and that it will not be long before I will be able to write about matters other than global pandemic and its implications for us. In the meantime, I wish you a safe and peaceful festive period, wherever you are and whomever you are able to be with. Thank you for your support throughout 2020.
With very best wishes,
Chief Executive Officer
The Olympus Academy Trust