26th August 2020
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well and that you have had an enjoyable summer break. The staff and I are looking forward to welcoming our students, your children, back to school in September and a return to something a little closer to normal. We do recognise however, that there will be many challenges ahead, which require your support to adapt to unfamiliar routines and practices, which allow us to deliver a high quality curriculum and learning experience whilst keeping your families and staff safe. It is therefore important that you read this letter carefully and ensure you are familiar with everything we will ask of you and your child in September to allow school to be as safe and productive as possible, and that you discuss carefully with your child how they can return ready to follow new procedures in September.
School will return with a carefully phased return for all pupils in September 2020. We will begin by inviting Year 7 initially to allow them to have a transition experience that they have missed during this lockdown. There is a separate Year 7 specific letter available on the website. Year 11 will then join them and each year group will have a dedicated transition day, allowing 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.
Here are the expected days of attendance for year groups commencing on Thursday 3 rd September:
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 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 also ensure they use the guided meeting area and will then be allowed
into the 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, your family and staff as safe as possible.
There have been some minor changes to this since the letter I sent to you at the end of last school year so please check carefully:
By keeping the students in year group bubbles, we are able to ensure that they can receive their full curriculum entitlement 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 those of 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. Students should therefore not arrive at school more than 10 – 15 minutes before their allotted start time as they will not be permitted to enter the building until shortly before their tutor time period.
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 without the need to change in close proximity to each other, students should 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. Please ensure your child is aware of this and following these expectations.
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 (such as a sturdy rucksack) 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 student 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 and then sanitizing hands
Wiping down equipment and dinner tables after use
Classrooms have been set up with all desks facing forward, enhanced cleaning routines and a clearly marked space around the teacher area. Students must bring their own equipment and should have their own hand sanitiser to support safe practices.
You may well have seen that Birmingham is now subject to enhanced measures due to a slight rise in Covid cases. However, the rate has now dropped again to around 20 per 100,000. This does not affect school opening and we therefore do not currently fit into the Department for Education criteria for compulsory wearing of masks. However, we have agreed that face coverings should be worn by all adults and students in corridors and communal areas. It will not be necessary to wear face coverings in classrooms where protective measures already mean that the risks are lower and where they will significantly inhibit learning and communication. Face coverings should be removed at the start of each lesson once students are seated. Where individual students have a particular, valid reason not to wear a mask, please inform your child’s form tutor so as to avoid inappropriate challenge.
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 from 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.
Safeguarding and wellbeing
This period has been an incredibly challenging one on many fronts and I recognise the role that school plays in supporting the families in our community. Our safeguarding page has a wealth of resources and information on a wide variety of issues as well as links to external agencies that can provide vital support in difficult times. It can be found at https://ninestiles.org.uk/safeguarding/
Our new Year 7 students have had a very different transition experience from our normal welcome and I understand that many of them will be feeling anxious about joining us. Our dedicated transition website can be found at https://ninestiles.org.uk/transition-2020/
Finally, I wanted to say a very big well done to all of our departing Year 11 students for their examination outcomes. This year, the process was an incredibly challenging one for students and staff alike but I have an enormous sense of pride for the professional integrity shown by staff and the perseverance, effort and dedication that so many of our students show. These results are hard won indeed and I look forward to the chance to celebrate them with our students at an appropriate time. I look forward to welcoming students back – they’ve been missed!