From the Headmaster - September 2020
Posted by MM - Friday 11 September 2020
I have often remarked that schools appear to be strange places during the long weeks of the summer holiday. While plenty happens in terms of refurbishment and preparation, they still feel unnaturally empty and far too quiet, so I am always pleased to welcome back our pupils at the start of academic year. This year, the contrast, is even more stark and it is particularly gratifying to see all pupils back in school.
It often seems that no sooner do I hit the send button on a communication than there’s a spike in daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 or a Government announcement and it’s all change once again. We will, of course, continue to keep parents and students updated fully as and when we receive Department for Education and public health guidance, but instead of focusing on a list of things we can’t do in these difficult times, I’d like to focus on things we can do.
We can rise to a challenge. I have been immensely impressed by the level-headed, can-do attitude of all of our students in this last couple of weeks. Our routines and daily lives have been massively disrupted, yet students have adapted well and got on with things, whether getting used to year group bubbles, coping with a two-week timetable or simply remembering when the staggered break times start. Our processes will evolve as we respond to changing contexts and reflect on what is working well and what could be improved, but my sincere thanks go out to students for their collective positivity and, on the whole, sensible behaviour.
We can strive for excellence. Some of you may have seen a post on the school Instagram account about Mrs Hansen’s Year 10 GCSE History set. At the end of the first week of term, Mrs Hansen remarked to me in passing how impressed she was with her new Year 10 group’s factual recall and enthusiasm in the last period of the day on Friday – getting straight into complex topics set during lockdown, discussing the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences and the development of the Atomic Bomb. Mrs Hansen felt very strongly that their independent studies had given students a strong knowledge base, and they were more than ready to tackle the demands of the GCSE curriculum. I know this has been the case across departments and year groups, and I am particularly proud of our students’ ability to hit the ground running this term demonstrating high levels of focus in lessons.
It’s also been heartening to see the playing fields and courts busy with Games lessons right from the start of term, and the lack of fixtures has certainly not dampened the enthusiasm of students. I’m pleased to report the netball courts were particularly busy this week, with a record number of netballers – 73 in total – practising their skills. Currently, extracurricular activities are unable to take place, but we are following Department for Education advice and updates closely and will update you as soon as we have any further news on this important aspect of school life.
To update you on the wearing of face coverings: having reflected on the latest Government guidance, we have made the decision not to introduce the mandatory wearing of face coverings in corridors for the time being. Shared spaces are only used by one year-group bubble at a time and are thoroughly cleaned in-between different year groups using them. We have updated our Covid-19 risk assessment, and students and staff will be moving around the school only when necessary and using more outdoor routes wherever possible. We are keeping our responses to Department for Education guidance constantly under review and of course any student or member of staff who wishes to wear a face covering may do so.
School day timings
As I’ve mentioned, behaviour in lessons has been excellent, but it’s becoming clear that the lunchtime period is a bit too long for some students, and we may need to alter timings as we go in to the colder months where spending time outside is less appealing. We have this under review and will update you when we have made a decision.
We are also aware that some students are having to wait for school coaches for a longer period of time than is desirable at the end of the day, and we are looking at ways we can address this issue.
Online safety and TikTok
If your children use TikTok and other social media platforms, you may be aware that police have been warning schools and parents about an upsetting video currently circulating. Gloucestershire Police have issued the following statement:
“Gloucestershire Police are aware of a video circulating on TikTok and other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat which shows a male taking his own life. For parents’ awareness, the still of this video is an image of a male with a beard, sat at a desk. Whilst social media platforms have removed the original video, it has been widely re-shared and some users are embedding the video within others to trick other users into watching it.
“We would like to remind parents that most social media apps, including Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, are not suitable for people under the age of 13 due to the nature of some of the content shared on these platforms, including this video. We would also urge individuals to report any harmful content they come across on social media to the provider.”
It is essential that anyone who has coronavirus symptoms, or who has someone in their household who has the symptoms, does not attend school. Please do not send your child into school if they are displaying any symptoms of Covid-19. Parents should use Parent Gateway to report absences https://parentgateway.strschool.co.uk. Selecting ‘the Covid-related’ option, or call 01452 338400 if you are unable to use Parent Gateway. You can arrange for a test at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/get-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/
I can assure you that the rich and varied life of the school continues and, despite some necessary restrictions, there is still much to celebrate. A great way to keep up-to-date is by following us on Instagram @sirthomasrichs, Facebook (search Sir Thomas Rich’s School) and Twitter @strsglos. The Politics and Geography Departments now each have their own Instagram accounts @strsgeography and @strspolitics – please do follow them.