One of the highlights of this week was my First Year English class. We were doing a lesson on descriptive and informative writing.

 

The class had to choose a ‘boring’ subject.  Subjects included porridge, the colour grey and stamps (sorry for any unintentional offence here – I quite like grey).

 

I went with stamps; as did two of the boys in my class.  I then challenged them to write something more interesting than I could about stamps. I won. Well, at least in my own mind I won. Judging was on the basis of the loudest round of applause after you had read what you had written aloud. It should have been thunderous for me but it was just a gentle smattering compared to that for the two pupils.

 

Anyway, three things occurred to me: one the joy of learning together; two, how pupils treat each other with compassion, even when it’s clear they have been overwhelmingly defeated and, three, how easy it is to see a conspiracy waged against you.

 

Which brings me back to less joyous things: how it can seem at times just now that many challenges conspire against us as a school. It is even more apparent to me with each passing day that we are meeting the challenges we face with calmness, good humour and, as ever, an unwavering commitment to the pupils. And I see that commitment reflected back from our young people.

 

I have spoken to many colleagues this week who have all commented on how impressed they have been by pupils in all years and the way they are adapting and proving their resilience in the face of a pretty much unique challenge for their generation.

 

As we prepared for the re-opening of the school and in the intervening weeks since, we’ve been clear that risk assessment and appropriate mitigations lie at the centre of our strategy to suppress transmission. The next stage comes on Monday with the introduction of face coverings. All pupils and staff (except those with exemptions) will be expected to wear masks in certain situations (in corridors; staircases; social areas etc.). We need to make sure that we are treating those not wearing a mask with sensitivity. Guidance colleagues are already distributing information about those pupils with exemptions; for those who simply forget we need to re-inforce their importance and we have a small stock of spare masks. For those who are not exempt and simply refuse to follow government advice we expect to receive further government advice in the weeks ahead.

 

Finally, we have wrestled with the issue of what we do if the weather is really bad at intervals and lunchtimes (you’ll remember that we feel it’s important to get pupils out into the fresh air as much as possible). Initially we had designated  social areas within the school to each year group but when you sit down and look at the numbers you realise that overcrowding would be unavoidable but, clearly, we have to do everything we can to avoid overcrowding. Let’s be clear: we are talking about these occasions being the exception rather than the rule (unless we get a really bad run of weather). Pupils need to be clothed appropriately as we go into the Autumn so will need jackets and any other clothing they need to keep warm outside.

 

So, talking about it with other colleagues the position we’ve reached for now is that in the event of bad weather S1 & S2 will be on the entire ground floor. S3 & S4 will have the entire 1st floor and S5 & S6 will be on the 2nd floor. This doesn’t include classrooms; we’re just talking about corridor and social spaces but it will still allow pupils to distance better (and we need to remember that some kids will still prefer to be outside, some will go home for lunch and some will go to local shops).

 

Teachers need to have their classrooms at intervals and lunchtimes to prepare lessons- particularly because we have to vacate the building at 4.10 p.m. every day to let the cleaning team work, so preparation time is limited. Staff also need to be able to take their breaks and they cannot currently do that in the Staffroom or Departmental Bases. We have a supervision rota made up of volunteers who give up their intervals and lunchtimes to supervise pupils and in bad weather they will be on each floor.

 

Please be confident that we are doing everything we can to reduce the risk to your child: too often unfounded rumours circulate that cause alarm.  A list of F.A.Q.S. created by the N.H.S. Health Protection Team has been on the school website for some time that answers many of your questions and concerns.

 

One current rumour is that we are testing pupils. We do not test pupils; we do not have the right to test pupils. The right and responsibility to test children lies with parents & carers. The reality is that the number of parents/carers taking their children to be tested since school returned has grown by up to 300%.

 

Another rumour is that we have had a positive test.  If you read the Health Protection Team F.A.Q.s on our website you will see:

 

  1. I have heard that a child who was in my child’s class at school has COVID-19. Do I need to do anything? Whenever a confirmed case is identified, NHS Highland’s contact tracing team will first contact the family of a case to provide advice and to identify their child’s contacts. If your child is then identified as a contact then you will be contacted by NHS Highland’s contact tracing team. In the event of a confirmed case in a school, the School, Education Department and NHS Highland’s Health Protection Team will meet and decide the actions required.

 

  1. I have heard that a child/teacher/staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. Can you confirm this? All information relating to a case is confidential patient information. As such, case specific details relating to individuals will not be shared.

 

All I will add is that it is probably likely that our school, like any other school, will experience a positive case at some point in the future.  At that point the N.H.S. Health Protection Team will lead the response.

 

As I’ve said we are – all of us – meeting the challenges associated with Covid-19 with compassion, calmness, good humour, commitment and resilience. And we need to continue to do this until the threat eases.

 

You’ve no doubt read the rest of this message eagerly scanning for my two interesting facts about stamps. Stand by:

 

  • The Belgian government issued a stamp that when you licked it, it tasted of chocolate
  • The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan’s best stamp could be put on a record player and played the national anthem.

 

I’m sure you’ll now go into your weekend feeling more at ease that you know those interesting facts; I’ll go into mine thinking I deserved better than third place in that lesson competition.

 

Whatever you are doing I hope you have time to relax and do something enjoyable with your family.

 

Please ensure we have up to date contact details for your child. If you have changed address or phone number recently please make the school aware of your new details. You can do this by phoning the school office or emailing ira@highland.gov.uk

Thank you.

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