17th July 2020
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well as we come to the end of a most extraordinary year. Whilst school has not been open in the normal way over the last few months, I have been pleased to see how this crisis has brought many of us closer together and I thank you for the support you have given the school in recent weeks. Teachers and leaders have worked incredibly hard to provide home learning opportunities and I know that many of you have risen to the considerable challenge of home schooling to ensure that our students, your children, have continued to make progress. I also hope this has given you some time to reconnect as a family, to cook and eat together, read together and generally enjoy each other’s company in a way that is not always possible with such busy lives.
Throughout this period, it has been great to be able to support the vulnerable students and the children of key workers with a tailored provision running all the way through. Since lockdown restrictions were eased, we have also welcomed back our Year 10s for targeted English, Maths and Science sessions, as well as this week inviting all students in for a pastoral and wellbeing session with information for the summer. It has been fantastic to see the students; our core purpose as a school is to tackle disadvantage and support your children to become self-respecting, global citizens. We do this best when we can work directly with the students, face-to-face, role modelling our values of respect, commitment and achievement. It is for this reason that a full September return, with school functioning as close to normality as possible, is so important.
School will start with a carefully phased return for all pupils in September 2020. We will begin by inviting Year 7 initially to allow them to have the transition experience that they have missed during this lockdown. Year 11 will then join them and each year group will have a dedicated transition day, which allows them to return to school in a controlled manner, experiencing the new norms and expectations and having the dedicated pastoral care that they will need after such a long period away from school. Students will receive their timetable, planner and key expectations and information to enable them to start the school year successfully.
Here are the expected days of attendance for year groups commencing on Wednesday 3rd September. It is vital students attend on the correct days:
Further to this phased return, and in line with government advice around health and safety measures, we will be implementing a bubble system enabling each year group to be isolated from other year groups. To enable this to work effectively we are also introducing staggered start and finish times as the Department for Education guidance suggests. The school day for each year group will start and finish at the times given in the table below. Students should ensure they use the guided meeting area and will then be allowed into school through the appropriate entrance. Strictly adhering to these guidelines will enable us to keep year groups in their bubble and help to keep you and your families safe.
It is imperative that students arrive on time and to the correct area:
By keeping the students in year group bubbles, we are able to ensure that they can receive their full curriculum as quickly as possible. This will allow the detailed planning that subject leaders have undertaken to be implemented to support your child.
I understand that staggered start times will prove challenging for you with children in more than one year group, however the measures above are necessary to keep you and your families as safe as possible. Therefore, please ensure that siblings go to the correct waiting area and student entrance. We will also not be able to offer our usual full range of before and after school clubs until we have had further guidance from government officials.
All students will be expected to attend school fully in September. If your child is absent through illness, please notify the school in the normal way. If your child has the symptoms of coronavirus, (persistent cough, fever, loss of smell) please do not send them to school and seek a coronavirus test immediately. If a Ninestiles student receives a positive coronavirus test, the school must be informed immediately. Failure to do so would put all members of our community at risk.
Students should return in full uniform in September with our blazer, tie, white shirt and black trousers or skirt as appropriate. The uniform also clearly outlines expectations on footwear, which must be plain black shoes of a polishable material and with no sports logos. To help you with hygiene measures and to enable students to participate in Healthy Active Lifestyles lessons, students may wear their HAL kit on days when they would have this lesson, enabling you to wash their uniform on that day.
Our uniform policy also clearly states that there should be no false nails, nose rings or studs and the only permissible jewellery is a single ring. Make up should be minimal and natural, with no false eyelashes.
Equipment and books
To further avoid risk and keep you and your families safe it is important that students do not borrow or share equipment. Students must therefore ensure that they come to school with a pencil case including a pen, pencil, rubber and ruler as a minimum. They should also bring a suitable bag to carry their books in, as
the lockers will not be able to be used in the normal way due to them being a site of mixing between year group bubbles.
Behaviour and hygiene measures
Coronavirus is more readily spread in close proximity and with physical contact between people. This has led to the social distancing measures we have all seen in shops, restaurants and on public transport. Whilst we cannot socially distance to that extent in school, we will be expecting students to behave in an appropriate manner and to avoid all physical contact with other students. We will be amending our behaviour policy to recognise the now very serious potential consequences of any student spitting, coughing or sneezing on another person and will ensure that any instance is dealt with severely. The most important way you can ensure that your family is kept safe in this return to school is by ensuring your child follows the safety and hygiene measures.
Washing or sanitising hands on entry to school
Avoiding all physical contact with other students
Using their own hand sanitiser and washing their hands frequently during the day
Not borrowing or sharing equipment Using a tissue which is disposed of in the bin when coughing or sneezing, then washing hands
Wiping down equipment and dinner tables after use
I understand that some of you may have become accustomed to using a mask in shops and public transport but this is not currently necessary in school and students and staff will be expected not to wear masks. The advice from the government for schools is very currently very clear; if it changes, we will update our policies accordingly.
“Public Health England does not (based on current evidence) recommend the use of face coverings in schools. This evidence will be kept under review. They are not required in schools as pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups, and because misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. There may also be negative effects on communication and thus education.
Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in shops.”
Break and lunch
Students will continue to be able to have a break and use the restaurant, social space and outside facilities. To enable year groups to stay within their own bubble we have had to shorten break time to 15 minutes, although the benefit of faster service and more space will be helpful to students.
At lunchtime, the restaurant will offer a limited service of a hot food grab bag with a hot snack such as a panini, a drink and a cookie. All students eligible for free school meals will be able to purchase one with Halal and vegetarian options available. I would urge parents of students who are not eligible for free school meals to consider sending their child to school with a packed lunch to further reduce the risk of cross contamination and reduce the need for queuing in close proximity.
Parking and student pick up
The start and end of the school day is often a very busy time with many different groups mixing freely at the front of school. To avoid this, please do not park on Hartfield Crescent and allow students to walk the short distance to one of the larger roads such as Fox Hollies or Greenwood Avenue where more social distancing can take place. This time is an ideal one for you to consider encouraging your child to walk or cycle to school. We have a dedicated bike shed and the health benefits of extra exercise are considerable and will reduce the risk of illness.
This coming academic year we are making a commitment to prioritising the reading journey of every child at Ninestiles. We will be introducing our ‘Love to Read’ campaign to students in September. If you read for twenty minutes a day, you pick up 1.8 million words per year, which is equivalent to sixty extra school days per year. As well as having an academic advantage, reading is also known for reducing stress, developing empathy and deepening our understanding of literature and the world around us. We would appreciate your support over the summer in encouraging your child to read for thirty minutes every day, which will make them ready to fall in love with reading at Ninestiles in September.
During lockdown, we have seen many considerable, notable achievements. The whole school community celebrated us reaching one million completed questions on Hegarty Maths and I was delighted to see Layyah Kelly successfully represent the school at the National Debate Mate Cup Final. I have also seen many examples of the fantastic and creative work our students have undertaken in this period. Very well done to them all.
The end of the school year always sees valued staff members leaving Ninestiles to pursue the next step of their careers. I am sure you join me in wishing Lucy Routledge, Maeve McGonigle, Saima Jahangir and Ben Lewis the very best of luck in their new roles.
Finally, thank you again for your support in an incredibly eventful year, my first full one as Principal, which has seen us achieve a fantastic Ofsted inspection and come together through a global pandemic. I hope next year is a little bit quieter!
Have a great summer.
Alex Hughes Principal