31st July 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Information for the start of the new school term in August 2020 and a full-time return.
The following is a detailed summary of our response to the announcement made by the Scottish Government today on the re-opening of our school. It is based on national and local authority guidance as it currently stands and may be subject to change. We will continue to adapt and add to this as and when required throughout the term. Central to all our plans and decision-making is the safety and wellbeing of our young people and staff.
- Fife have devised a thorough risk assessment template that is mandatory for all schools to complete. Bell Baxter carried out a full risk assessment prior to summer and based on the information at the time.
- A further risk assessment, adapted in light of the most recent advice and guidance will be carried out by the Rector, Business Manager and Professional Associations on Monday 3rd August 2020 and this will be in place prior to the start of the new term.
- Below is some important detail on expectations and protocols that will be in place for our young people returning to inform and reassure parents and young people.
- There will be a clear expectation that young people will engage in frequent washing/sanitising of hands for 20 seconds and drying thoroughly. This will happen always when entering/leaving the building, before/after eating and after using the toilet
- Young people and staff will be strongly encouraged to avoid touching their faces including mouth, eyes and nose
- Tissues or an elbow should be used when coughing or sneezing and there will be bins that are emptied regularly for tissue waste
Movement Throughout the Building
- Movement of young people will be minimised wherever possible. Classes will remain consistent in the BGE (S1, S2 and S3) with clear seating plans, with the same pairings/groupings from class to class where possible
- The school will move to double periods from S3 – S6, reducing movement in S3 and the senior phase by 50% over the week
- Senior Phase class groupings necessarily change because of personalisation and choice of subjects. Again, there will be clear seating plans in place with consistent small groups established where necessary practical activities are required to meet SQA exam requirements. Where teacher demonstration can be carried out for non-essential practical work, this will be put in place to minimise movement
- Where movement cannot be avoided, the provision of appropriate cleaning supplies to enable young people and staff to wipe down their own desk/chair/surfaces before leaving and, especially, on entering the room will be provided as part of overall hygiene strategy
- Wherever it is safe to do so, doors and windows will be kept open to increase natural ventilation (this advice will be reviewed as we head into the winter months). This will also help to reduce contact with door handles. However, internal fire doors will not be held open unless assessed and provided with appropriate hold open and self-closing mechanisms which respond to the actuation of the fire alarm system)
Minimising contact between individuals and groups
- The scientific advice is that physical distancing between young people in secondary schools is not required to ensure a safe return to schools
- The evidence for this is less clear for older pupils, but at present this approach is being advised for secondary schools based on the balance of known risks, the effectiveness of mitigations and the benefits to young people of being able to attend school
- As a precautionary approach therefore, we are encouraging distancing where possible between young people particularly in the Senior Phase. This will be proportionate without introducing capacity constraints that might limit our ability to support full time education for our young people
- Young people will be encouraged to maintain distance where possible, particularly indoors – this does not have to be strict distancing of 2m if this is unachievable, but we will be encouraging young people not to crowd together or touch their peers
- We will discourage social physical contact (hand to hand greeting/hugs); use all the available space in classrooms, halls, libraries or social spaces to promote distancing where possible; adjust class space if required, and where possible, to maintain spacing between desks or between individual young people; seat young people side by side and facing forwards, rather than face to face; where young people need to move about within the classroom to perform activities (for example to access a shared resource) this will be organised to minimise congregation around the point of access to the shared resource
- For the foreseeable future we will be required to avoid assemblies and other types of large group gatherings
- Secondary schools are being asked to consider which of these possible mitigations are achievable in their establishment, bearing in mind that this distancing is an additional, precautionary step, which goes beyond what is recommended in the current scientific advice on the re-opening of schools
- Passing briefly in the corridor or playground is considered low risk, however in line with our risk assessment we have established a one way and external circulation routes in an attempt to reduce the volume of young people passing through busy corridors
- In addition, we are currently exploring the practicality of staggered lunchtimes and some year groups remaining on school grounds over lunchtimes. We plan to invite young people to a meeting next week to seek views and ideas on how best we manage this – further information to follow
- It is highly likely that in the first term at least, we will operate a ‘grab bag’ cold lunch facility or packed lunches only. Young people will be directed to various points throughout the school and at various times of the day to collect their lunch
- Any young person who goes offsite for lunch should follow the rules in place for wider society, for example wearing a face covering when entering a shop. We will be contacting local shops on our return to school to alert them to plans
- Two metre physical distancing between adults, and between adults and young people who are not from the same household should be maintained. This includes non-staff adult visitors to the school e.g. contractors, deliveries etc
- Adult visitors to schools will be strictly limited only to those that are necessary to support young people or the running of the school
- Parents should not enter school buildings unless required. Any parents wishing to speak to staff should do so over the telephone or by prior arrangement only
- For most staff in schools, PPE will not normally be required or necessary. Where it is required or necessary a separate risk assessment will apply
- Suspected COVID-19: Gloves, aprons and a fluid-resistant surgical mask will be worn by staff if a young person becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and needs direct personal care. This also applies to any cleaning of areas
- Face coverings should not be required for most children (those clinically advised to wear a covering are an exception)
- Anyone (whether young person or adult) wishing to wear a face covering in school will be enabled to do so. Evidence suggests that face coverings do not provide significant protection for the wearer, rather they primarily reduce the risk of transmission and help suppress the virus
- The impact of wearing a face covering for learners with additional support needs including any level of hearing loss is being carefully considered, as communication for many of these learners including hearing impaired young people relies in part on being able to see someone’s face clearly. This is also important for young people who are acquiring English and who rely on visual cues to enable them to be included in learning
- Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly and in accordance with current advice
- All young people and staff will be made aware of the importance of informing a member of staff or responsible person if they feel unwell with symptoms of COVID-19
- If a young person (or their parent/carer if under 16 years) or staff member is contacted by a contact tracer and told to self-isolate for fourteen days, the person should leave school to self-isolate at home straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering en route and avoid public transport
- All passengers and staff should sanitise their hands prior to boarding dedicated school transport. We will regularly reinforce the importance of this key message with all young people. Hand washing/hand sanitising should be done regularly throughout the day including on every entry/exit to the school building and prior to boarding the school bus. Good respiratory hygiene will be encouraged (“Catch it, kill it, bin it”) and young people will be encouraged to carry tissues on home to school transport. It is crucial that someone with symptoms does not enter a bus and travel. Drivers and adult passengers must book a test if they display coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. Families must get a test for children displaying symptoms
- Any parents/carers who intend to drop their child at school are asked to not to drop off in the school grounds at this time. Please find an appropriate safe alternative location nearby. Parents/carers are encouraged to not to drop off where an obstruction or blockage can be caused on main routes through Cupar
- Parents are asked to contact the School Office if their child is intending on cycling to school to ensure we have capacity to accommodate bike storage
- In the event of a local outbreak of the virus, a school or several schools may be closed temporarily to help control transmission. Contingency planning for a blended learning approach will continue and this will be a key area for development in our School Improvement & Recovery Plan for 2020/21
- If the scientific advice is that physical distancing should be introduced for young people in schools, then we will enact contingency measures developed prior to summer and operate a 30% or 50% model depending on the social distancing criteria in place
- Full school uniform should always be worn. This will help us identify who is in the building and, importantly we hope the uniform will be worn with pride and the genuine sense of belonging we are hoping to instil in our school community
- Uniform comprises a black skirt / trousers, white shirt and plain black jumper. Only plain black hoodies without large logos should be worn. Black shoes/boots or (mainly) black trainers should be worn. We are asking again that jeans are not worn at this stage to build the high standards of dress that would normally be expected in a work environment. Outdoor jackets require to be removed within the building and blazers remain an important, but at this stage not mandatory, feature of how we show we are Bell Baxter and proud to be so
Personal Belongings/ Bring Your Own Device
- The Scottish Government have asked us to consider the number of personal belongings being brought to and from school. In light if this and the fact that all young people have been using electronic devices to share their learning we are operating a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy
- Consequently, we are now allowing young people to use their mobile phones, iPads, tablets or laptops in class. The BYOD policy will be shared as part of the induction first week however it is important to note that the school cannot take responsibility for any device. Also, there is no expectation that families must go out and purchase additional devices for their children. Previously such devices had been forbidden in class and there was no access to school WiFi/broadband. This has now been lifted and we are offering this as an opportunity not a requirement
- Families who may not have access to IT through financial or other constraints have been supported through lockdown however it will be important that parents/carers contact Guidance and make us aware of any potential as soon as possible. We are here to support wherever we can
- All stationery supplies must be brought to school by young people as we will not be able to provide supplies for sharing in class
- All young people should ensure they have their own water bottle to use throughout the day. There will be access to water in some areas however we are required to restrict the use of these
Phased Return Arrangements
- Monday 10th & Tuesday 11th August 2020 - In Service Day (Staff only)
- Wednesday 12th August 2020 – S5 & S6 pupils return
- Thursday 13th August 2020 – S1 & S2 pupils including Senior Leaders return
- Friday 14th August 2020 – S3 & S4 pupils return
The information above is based on the situation as it currently stands. As we reopen and progress through the term this will inevitably be subject to change. Decisions will be taken considering local and national advice and our priority will always be the health and safety of our young people and staff. Further detailed information will be shared with each year group on their phased return day the first week back.
This has been an extensive communication thank you for your patience in reading through all this very important information. Thank you also for the tremendous support you have shown the school. It has been genuinely appreciated.
Should you have any questions at all I urge you to get in touch via your child’s guidance teacher. In the meantime, I look forward to welcoming our young people back to school from Wednesday 12th August 2020.
Carol Ann Penrose