Reopening September 2020 – Information for parents and students

10 July 2020

Dear Parent

This has not been the year we expected it to be!  Last Monday we would have been gathering at Gateshead Stadium for our annual Sports Day and on Wednesday next week we would have met as a whole college to celebrate the achievements of the year at Sage Gateshead.  I do, however, believe we have achieved so much these last few months.  I want to pay tribute to our staff who have, in my view, stood out in leading the way through this time, working throughout, often juggling competing demands, learning to use new technology and proactively engaging with our plans to return.  I want to recognise as well the tireless commitment of parents and the maturity and energy of our students.  We will, for so many reasons, look back on this time not only as a challenging period in our history but also a time when we saw genuine strength in our community and saw amplified the professionalism of our staff, the character of our students and the dedication of our parents.

It will be important now for all parents and students to have some understanding of how school will look in September, before we break now for a well-deserved rest.  To that end, I have put together this presentation which is intended to provide a helpful overview of our plans as they stand at this stage.  A transcript of the presentation is also available to read here.

College will be open next week to children of keyworkers who have requested access to our provision and for those with appointments to either return or collect items from reception.  As is our normal pattern, the school will then ‘shut down’ for the following three weeks, with senior staff and many support staff returning on Monday 10 August.  Enquiries about September opening or any other matter may not be responded to until that time.  Please, however, do not hesitate to get in touch should you need to after this time.  May I take this further opportunity to wish you and your family all the very best for the weeks ahead.

Yours sincerely

Matthew Waterfield

Principal

A transcript of a presentation given by the Principal on 10 July 2020

We are delighted to be welcoming all students back into College in September full-time.  To be able to do this safely, we’ve had to make some changes to how we do things.  The major changes are set out here in this presentation for your information.

At the outset, I want to reassure parents that there is much that is not changing.  When we welcome students back in September, we will be doing so in anticipation of ensuring that all students grow in character and are able to achieve their personal best in the examined curriculum.  We are committed to ensuring that Emmanuel College is a safe and also nurturing space in which all young people are valued whatever their background.  The curriculum will remain largely unchanged and, although there will have to be some adjustments made in practical subjects, a student’s experience of Emmanuel from September will continue to be rich, purposeful and transformative.

In this presentation we’re going to cover the following:

  1. Our aims
  2. Health and safety
  3. The school day
  4. Staggered start and end times
  5. Delivering the curriculum
  6. Expectations

Our aims

The government has stated that it is their plan that “all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term”.

Because they believe that the risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school, it is time to return in full.

Our aim is to ensure the expert delivery of a high-quality, broad curriculum in a safe, supportive environment.

Health and Safety

We need to ensure that we follow government guidance carefully so that students and staff are always as safe as possible.  There are many specific measures that we are taking as a school to ensure that this is the case, and these are detailed in an extensive risk assessment which has been put together in collaboration with our independent health and safety consultants and approved by trustees.

It is really important that students who have Covid-19 symptoms remain at home, follow the guidance on self-isolation and then engage with the Test and Trace programme.  Students who arrive at school with symptoms will not be allowed to remain in school and will have to remain at home until they receive a clear test result.

Perhaps the most major response to risks presented by coronavirus is our decision to organise the school into zones to ensure that students do not come into contact with those in year groups other than their own when in school.  This approach will mean that, in a change to usual arrangements, staff will move around the site to teach their classes as opposed to students moving as they usually would.  Students will have their own dedicated entrance, their own toilets, their own classroom area and will eat lunch as a year group.

The school day

We intend to slightly reorganise the school day and reduce each lesson by five minutes.  This will allow time for a staggered start and finish.

The staggered start and finish will allow for a safer and more orderly start and end to the day as well as providing more flexibility to support parents with travel arrangements.

There will be no morning break.  The removal of break time will result in less movement on site, reduce the need for staff supervision and reduce pressure on toilet facilities.  The removal of afternoon registration will also help with the overall simplification of the day and will reduce student movement.

The start and end of the day

Students will arrive at a time each day between 8:00am and 9:00am.  We will agree these times in August with parents and seek to ensure that they are the most convenient they can be for parents and students.  Students who arrive before 8:20am will make their way to their allocated outside area but from approximately 8:20am they will begin to make their way inside and be met by their tutor.  Students will then engage in independent study and/or reading until 9:00am by which time all students will have arrived and assembly will begin, being live streamed each day into each room.  At the end of the day, students will return to their tutor room at 3:15pm and will be dismissed by the tutor at the time they have agreed to leave.  Again, this time will be agreed in advance with parents and will be informed by parental preference.  Students will leave using their dedicated route and must leave the site immediately.

Parents will not be able to use the main car park to collect students.  Instead, parents should use the Watergate Park car park.  We are in discussions with the council at present about how we can improve this facility and about our use of a pedestrian gate between the car park and the College.  In addition, students, staff and parents should not park in the public car park on Consett Road.  From September there will be no access from this car park into College.  Parents are asked not to park in the streets nearby College as this causes frustration to our neighbours.

Delivery of the curriculum

We will be delivering as full and as stretching a curriculum as possible with very few changes.  In most subjects and for most students the only change will be the rooming approach we outlined earlier.  Some subjects will have to be more creative about how they deliver the curriculum to ensure that students and staff are safe at all times.  This will impact practical subjects, and PE in particular.  We will be sharing more detailed information about subject-specific changes towards the end of the summer.  We will be slightly reducing the number of teaching groups in Years 7-9 but the upper school and sixth form timetable remains largely unchanged.

I am, like you, deeply saddened by the impact of coronavirus on our society and our nation and not least on the young people in our community.  We are all in agreement, I know, that this is not over yet and just as in society we will continue to see the impact of coronavirus for months if not years, the same is true in school.  One of the sad features of the year ahead is that we will not be running any residential visits and during the first term there will be no co-curricular activities.  I do want to reassure both parents and students that when we do re-launch our co-curriculum and our educational visits programme it will be exciting, enriching and inclusive.  We are already planning to run some additional visits in the academic year 2021-22 for those students who have missed out on so much this year and will miss out even more next year.

We have been learning throughout this time about how best to use IT to support learning and communication.  We don’t want to lose what we’ve learnt and will, therefore, continue to develop the use of digital technology within the school.  We are very excited to announce that all students in Year 10 and Year 11 next year will be provided will a school laptop, free of charge, that they will be expected to use at home and bring into school.

Students in the sixth form are strongly encouraged to obtain a laptop that they will be able to bring into school each day and use at home.  While we recognise that this is a significant financial outlay for parents, we believe purchasing a device at this stage will be of great value to students in the sixth form and as they start university in two years’ time.

Expectations

The final part of this presentation relates to expectations.  It is important that all students realise that when we return to school in September it will be, in many respects, business as usual.  This means that students must return to school in full College uniform and must ensure that they are compliant with every aspect of the dress code, including the rules that relate to hair and makeup.  We are aware that some students will need to start planning for this now.

There will be an expectation that students pay particular attention to the rules designed to keep the community safe from coronavirus and an expectation that students respond responsibly to the changes they will experience as a result of our response to the situation.

Concluding remarks

As I have said, we are very much looking forward to September and to rebuilding our College community.  It will be necessary to share further information with you towards the end of the summer and we will, of course, let you know if any of our plans change.

For now, allow me to wish you all the very best for the weeks ahead and let me encourage students to enjoy this time of rest.  Many students have worked exceptionally hard over the last few months and deserve some space, time with friends and rest.  I very much look forward to seeing you soon.

Thank you