News Update - Headteacher 27.08.20

27th August 2020

Dear Parents and Carers

From 7th September we will be bringing back all classes as quickly but as safely as possible. This is a long letter so that you can be confident in the steps we have taken to keep your child and your family as safe as possible. This letter updates my previous one of 24 July.

How safe will it be?

We have taken a whole range of steps to keep the environment safe whilst bringing all children back into full-time education. We will start off with classes being taught in their own class rather than moving around the school and we will keep Years 7, 8 and 9 separate from Years 10, 11 and 12 at breaks.  Early in the new term we will make our revised risk assessment available to parents/carers on the school website so you can see all the additional steps we have taken to reduce risk.  

However, ‘reduced risk’ is not the same as ‘no risk’ and we all need to keep taking steps at home, when we go out, while travelling and at school/work so that we keep the chances low of catching the virus and passing it on.  My understanding at present is that just 2 confirmed cases at school in a short period of time would mean that we immediately have to return to online learning for two weeks.  We want to avoid that but will also be improving our online learning capacity just in case.

How will my child catch up with their learning?

We recognise that although over three quarters of our students attended school for reconnection or transition days in June and July, most students will have had little experience in the classroom since March. Our ‘recovery’ curriculum will first of all focus on getting all students back into the routines of learning, identifying and addressing barriers to learning. For older students in particular, we will need to identify gaps in learning compared to exam requirements and plan our teaching to close them as soon as possible.

Exactly when will each class return?

Although we plan to bring each class back as quickly as possible, they will all need to learn the new ways we will be doing things so that we are all as safe as possible.

  • There will be 2 days of staff CPD/ planning on 3 &4 September, so the first day of term for Year 11 and 12 students will be Monday 7 September.  
  • We have sent an additional letter to parents/ carers of incoming Year 7s to explain the transition arrangements.
  • For Year 12, we expect BSix and ELATT to start week commencing 21 September, with NCC and CONEL starting w/c 28 September. We are awaiting confirmation of the start dates for their external providers and will update you as soon as we have these (usually Further Education settings start back slightly later than schools).

Responding to government guidance for full opening: special schools

We have reviewed our risk assessments in preparation for the return of all students in September and will place these on our website so that you can see them. We are mindful that our families need to know several points of information in readiness. This information is written using the current government guidelines and if any details change due to updated government directives, then we will let you know accordingly. While this is not our full operational plan, we feel this is necessary information to assist your family with planning around work commitments and also for preparing your child for returning to the school environment.

As a school, we are mindful that all families have had different experiences and faced many challenges during the pandemic. Consequently, this will bring anxieties for some parents/carers and some students on returning. As educators, many of whom have families of their own to consider, we are aware of these anxieties, but also of the benefits to children and young people in attending school regularly. We have already overcome many challenges, introduced a range of protective measures and adjusted many practices already to make our school environment safe for both our students and our staff. 

The safety of our students and our staff continues to be the priority behind every decision made. Although it is not possible to completely remove risk, it is possible to reduce it in each area of the school’s working.

Section 1 Health and Safety

1.1.   Updated risk assessment

A thorough risk assessment was carried out for the return of students in Summer 2020, this directly addressed the risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19). Sensible and practical measures have been put into place to control those risks for children and staff. All school stakeholders were informed of Health and Safety measures and protocols that have been put into place for their protection. This risk assessment has been updated to include all students returning in September 2020 and it will be regularly reviewed daily.


1.2.   Systems of Control

This is the set of actions all schools must take. They are grouped into ‘prevention’ and ‘response to any infection’ and are outlined below. Each point is practically incorporated in our safer working practices.


1)     Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend school.

2)     Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual.

3)     Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ approach.

4)     Introduce enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents and bleach. Numbers 1 to 4 must be in place in all schools, all the time.

5)     Minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible.  Number 5 must be properly considered and schools must put in place measures that suit their particular circumstances.

6)     Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Number 6 applies in specific circumstances only.

Response to any infection:

7)     Engage with the NHS Test and Trace process.

8)     Manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst the school community.

9)     Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice.

Numbers 7 to 9 must be followed in every case where they are relevant.


1.3.   Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) –

Guidance from the Department for Education remains that the majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work. However, given the increased general requirements to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces we will keep this under close review.

PPE is currently only needed in a very small number of cases, including:

  • Where an individual child or young person becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms while at school, and only then if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.
  • Where a child or young person already has routine intimate care needs that involves the use of PPE, in which case the same PPE should continue to be used.
  • If we have clear advice that PPE would reduce risk/ provide reassurance in particular cases


Section 2 Organisation of the School Day

2.1 Hours of the day

Initially the school will open from 9.00-3.00, with a shortened lunch break so that lesson time is not lost.  We will review extending this once all classes are settled safely back and safety routines are well established. After school clubs will not run for the time being.

2.2 Arriving at school

  • If your child is eligible for transport provided by the Local authority, they should be in touch to confirm arrangements. Students on transport will be brought in via the front doors of the school by allocated staff.
  • Students who travel independently will enter school by the side gate into the playground from Hackney Downs.  
  • If you bring your child to school, please bring them to the side gate into the playground from Hackney Downs.  If you are facing the main entrance, the side gate is down the left-hand side of the school building.

2.3 Collecting from school

Unfortunately, to minimise risk, we have been advised that parents/ carers and other visitors should only come into the school building by prior arrangement. Unfortunately, this means that we cannot let parents/carers in to wait if they are collecting children. Please let us know in advance if you need to drop something off. Speaking with reception is best done by phone at present.

2.4 Bubbles and distancing

The government advises that we should minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible. The small size of the school means that the ‘bubble’ is the whole school, but within that we will reduce contact between students as far as reasonably possible by

  • staggering break and lunch time,
  • reducing the number of times they need to move around the building,
  • seating them at individual tables facing forwards in class
  • emphasising the need for social distancing wherever possible

2.5 Reporting Absences

School attendance is mandatory again from the beginning of the Autumn term. We therefore ask that you immediately let us know why your child/children will not be attending school by calling Reception as usual on 020 8985 4245. Please also let Reception know immediately if there have been any changes to the emergency contact telephone numbers for your child/children.

2.6 Communication with the school

Please use 020 8985 4245 or to contact the school, as we are not permitted to admit visitors without prior agreement. Reception will forward your message to the appropriate person.

2.7 ‘Meeting’ teachers and other staff

Following the success in recent months of meetings via Zoom and Teams, we are reviewing the ways that parents/carers can safely ‘meet’ with staff once the building is back into full use.  Some meetings such as Annual Reviews must still take place in the Autumn term, especially Years 11 and 12, so we will come back to you with arrangements for this.

2.8 One-way systems

There is a marked one-way system in the school corridors, staircases, dining room etc. Students who were in school this half term got used to it very quickly, and we will keep it going.

2.9 Travel to and from school

Please think carefully about your journey into school and if possible avoid using public transport. For further advice see Students can still bring their scooters or bikes to school, at their own risk.


Section 3 Curriculum, Wellbeing and Behaviour

3.1 Curriculum and Wellbeing

As all students return to school, we are aware that every child will have different emotions. We intend to support all children as they adjust back into a school routine. There will be an emphasis on responding to the children’s emotional needs and wellbeing as well as on getting them back into regular routines of learning.

3.2 Behaviour

We introduced a Covid-19 annexe to our behaviour policy and students responded to it very positively. We are updating this to take into account changes for September.  All changes/additions will be discussed with your child on their first day. If your child repeatedly does not adhere to this policy and puts their fellow students and/or staff members at risk, we will need to contact you as there is the risk that we could not safely maintain them in school.

3.3 Hand Hygiene

  • A ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ approach will be used with students.
  • Staff will remind students to avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes.
  • On arriving at school all staff and children must cleanse their hands for 20 seconds with sanitiser or using soap and water.
  • Staff and children must cleanse their hands on leaving for breaks and before re-entering the classroom again.
  • Any children going to the toilets at any time must wash their hands for 20 seconds using soap and water

3.4 Classroom Organisation and Resources

  • Classrooms doors and windows will be left open for air flow, where appropriate.
  • The students will have a set place in the classroom which does not change, and they will sit there for every session in the opening phase.
  • Any movement around the classroom and interaction between the students will be carefully planned and monitored by the class teacher.
  • The students will have their own set of equipment kept on their table in a suitable container e.g. pens, pencils and ruler.
  • Additional equipment/resources can be brought from home to school, but not shared with other students
  • Movement around the school buildings will be strictly monitored, and reduced wherever possible
  • Movement around any corridor or stairwell is ‘Keep to the Left’, as signed on the floor
  • P.E. lessons will be introduced carefully and take place outside as far as possible.
  • There will be no whole school or key stage assemblies until further notice.
  • We will carefully risk assess the use of practical rooms before bringing them into use

3.5 Homework

We are reviewing ways that we can set meaningful homework in a safe way and will update this section when this is clear. Web-based homework such as Mathletics should still be possible from early in the term.

Section 4 Break and Lunch Times

4.1 Breaks and Lunch Time

  • Key Stage 3 (Years 7,8,9) break and lunch times will be kept separate from Key Stages 4 &5 (Years 10,11,12) staggered.
  • In the playground, there will be only approximately 60-70 students at a time.
  • During the CPD days at the start of term, staff will agree what non-contact games they will set up that will engage students but minimise contact between them.
  • Students will need to cleanse their hands before eating
  • In the dining room, there will be 60-70 students, who will be sitting closer together for this short period than they are in classrooms. To reduce risk, students will sit at tables in consistent class-based groups.


4.2 Water fountains and named bottles

  • Water fountains will be brought back into use, but only to fill bottles from the tap part of the fountain.
  • Please send your child in with a named water bottle that they can use throughout the day. It is perfectly fine for this to be a ‘single-use’ bottle that they have written their name on.

4.3 Breaktime fruit snacks.

We are reviewing how we can make fruit snacks available safely to students that want them.

Section 5 Uniform and Equipment

5.1 Uniform

  • All students should return to school in their regular uniform and school shoes.
  • All items should have the student’s name on them
  • Additionally, all hair shoulder length or longer must be tied back.

5.2 P.E. Bags/Kits

Students should bring their P.E. kit in a bag. All kit should have their name on it.

5.3 School bags

  • Under the latest government guidance, students are able to bring in their schoolbook bags only.
  • Students can bring in small amount of additional equipment from home and leave it at school.


5.4 Hand gel/hand lotion

  • We will continue to practise good hand hygiene at frequent stages throughout the day
  • However, you may wish for your child to bring in a hand gel to have on your child’s table and hand lotion if your child is prone to dry skin after frequent washing.
  • Additional sanitising hand gel is not needed as we have sufficient supplies of gel and soap.
  • However, as a parent this may be a comforting measure. We ask that the gel/lotion stays at school and remains on your child’s table.

5.5 Mobile phones

  • Usually any mobile phones are put in an individual wallet at Reception, where it can be kept safely.
  • To reduce risk, we would encourage parents/carers to consider keeping their child’s mobile phone at home.
  • Any phone or electronic device brought into school is at the owner’s risk and the school cannot be responsible for any loss or damage, however caused.
  • For the time being, mobile phones can be kept switched off in students school bags, at their own risk. If a phone is seen or heard in school it may be confiscated by the school until such time as it is safe to return it.

Section 6 After-School Clubs

There is no external provider for after-school clubs and these will not run for the time being.

The situation will be reviewed when all classes are safely settled back into learning and the local situation regarding the virus is more clearly understood.

A final word

I appreciate that this is a lot of detail but know you will understand the importance of information sharing at this and all times.

As soon as there are any changes or updates to this information, we will update you as soon as possible.

Again, I thank you whole-heartedly for your support and patience throughout this period.

With my best wishes to you and yours

Kevin McDonnell