Learning Continuity PlansPlease find the Cowbridge Comprehensive School Pupil Absence and Learning Continuity Plan September 2020 here.
2nd October 2020
Update re. Measures to Ensure Continuity of Learning and Wellbeing of All.
As you will be aware, the Vale of Glamorgan Local Authority has been placed in local lockdown as a result of a rise in transmission rates of Covid-19. We are contacting you to remind you of the measures we have taken to date, and will continue to take, to minimise the transmission of Covid-19. We also wish to update you of key facts surrounding events that have taken place this week to ensure transparency and avoid misconceptions.
This week, we have had an increasing number of pupils who are self-isolating for 14 days because of family members having tested positive for Covid-19. Additionally, we have had 1 pupil and 1 staff member, to date, testing positive. The staff member is not pupil facing and no pupils or staff are required to self-isolate. The pupil testing positive was tested because a family member had a positive result. This pupil is asymptomatic and is well.
After receiving the information regarding the staff member and pupil, we worked with the PHW Track, Test and Protect Service. This involved conducting a thorough test and trace procedure to establish those who were 'close contacts' and inform them of the legal requirement to self-isolate. We completed a series of risk assessments with external services and we completed our own internal risk assessment, which informed the final outcome for self-isolation.
As a result of the measures in place at the school, the number of pupils who are required to self-isolate is limited to 35 in the Year 8 cohort. Additionally, 30 pupils who travelled on the same bus at the time identified as the potential infectious period, were also identified as needing to self-isolate. It is a fact that no teacher is required to self-isolate because teachers have maintained social distancing.
With the exception of the support member of staff testing positive, no other staff have been required to self-isolate to date as we have established teams within the school to restrict contact, unless absolutely necessary - and only if other methods e.g. phone call, email, virtual meetings, etc. do not facilitate effective business operations. All staff within teams are operating strict social distancing. This provides staff with maximum protection in a very populated environment and also ensures the continuity of school business, as far as practically possible.
The above decisions were taken in accordance with the PHW Track, Test and Protect Service, the Health and Safety and Transport Departments in this Local Authority. You will be aware that in some schools whole year groups have been required to self-isolate. The reasons that we have been able to avoid this are as follows:
1. Strict hygiene measures are in place at the school. These include hand gel at all main building entrances and cleaners working throughout the school day to disinfect all touch areas, toilets, etc. Additionally, we have disinfectant wipes on all desks in all classrooms, for all pupils to clean their desks on arrival and departure to/from their lessons.
2. All staff are required to maintain 2m (at least) distance, in classrooms, from pupils and from all other staff, unless there is an exceptional reason, e.g a child needing first aid; however, PPE is required for this. This means that no member of staff is now needing to self-isolate and teaching can continue for timetabled lessons.
3. Pupils have split breaks and lunches and, as far as practically possible, they are not classified as 'close contacts' even if they are on the same break.
4. Pupils are in the same seating plans consistently across the school and these are held centrally to enable senior leaders to establish those deemed as close contacts in the event of an outbreak.
5. Classroom areas are well ventilated as windows are kept open to ensure reasonable circulation of air. As the winter months will bring colder weather, we will open windows regularly, between lessons, to circulate the air and to ventilate the rooms and children and staff will be able to wear garments to keep themselves warm, but still facilitate good air circulation, as far as reasonably possible.
For the purposes of identification of 'close contacts' associated with the track and trace, a close contact is defined as:
1. having skin to skin contact;
2. travelling in the same vehicle as another/others, even with a face covering;
3. being within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes; and/or,
4. being within 1 metre for 1 minute (face to face conversation).
Close contacts are not:
1. Pupils in the same classroom, sitting in a consistent seating plan, where they are more than 2 metres away from the identified 'case' of Covid-19.
2. The classroom teacher who is required, at all times, to be at least 2m away from pupils. This is in place primarily to protect staff as they are more at risk than pupils of developing more severe symptoms. All pupils of whom we are aware, within and outside of this school, have been asymptomatic or have had very mild symptoms. These symptoms have been similar to other mild bacterial/viral infections.
By teachers keeping at least 2m away from each other and pupils, they will not only protect themselves, but also maintain the continuity of face-to-face teaching and learning. This is because they do not have to self-isolate if a pupil tests positive for Covid-19, if they teach that pupil.
3. Pupils who have been in corridors or other communal areas and have passed each other, unless there has been direct skin-to-skin contact or they have lingered face-to-face, for more than 1 minute, within 1 metre. This is because they are moving and, as long as they have no skin-to-skin contact, they are not classed as close contacts. CCTV is used to quality assure the thoroughfare of corridors, when there is a pupil with a positive test, to establish whether they have had skin-to-skin contact in a communal area. Staff are supervising corridor areas to keep pupils moving and to prevent lingering. All corridors are one way for pupils to reduce face-to-face contact.
4. Pupils who have been outdoors together in the yard, have not had skin-to-skin contact and have not been within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes. It is recognised that being outdoors poses far lower risk than indoor areas.
5. Pupils sharing the dining hall with a pupil who later tests positive, and who do not meet the definition, as stated above, of being a close contact.
With regards to social distancing of pupils in a large secondary school, we remind all parents that it is impossible for students to maintain social distancing. This is because the number of students (almost 1600) cannot socially distance as the physical space does not allow this. This was possible prior to the summer term when a maximum of 1/3 of the school cohort was in the school at any given time. Class sizes, at that stage, contained a maximum of 10 pupils. This easily facilitated social distancing.
Now that secondary schools are expected to provide education for all pupils, social distancing for pupils within the classroom, and outside of the classroom, is impossible and other measures are now in place (as stated above) to minimise and contain the transmission, to as few pupils as possible.
We are mindful of and empathetic to the fact that, within some families, there are people with underlying health conditions and other factors which put them at higher risk of developing more serious conditions if they contract this virus. We know that you will be making adjustments at home to account for the fact that pupils are unable to socially distance in school.
From our conversations with external agencies, it is clear that many pupils of secondary age are asymptomatic. This means that at any given time, we are aware that there are probably pupils, and in some cases adults, within the school setting who may have Covid-19. These people will be unaware as they are not displaying any symptoms and they are not unwell.
Behaviour of Secondary Age Pupils in the School Environment
Please note that, with the exception of staff maintaining social distancing, we aim to provide as much of a normal day and experience for pupils as possible. We recognise that socialising with peers, playing games, etc. during break and lunch is highly important in maintaining healthy mental and physical wellbeing. It is impossible and unreasonable to expect young children and teenagers to socially distance and avoid the usual way that they interact with each other in large social settings, such as secondary schools. Given the very low risk of secondary age children becoming seriously unwell from Covid-19, we acknowledge that we are unable to insist that pupils keep 2m away from each other. As already stated, the physical space renders this impossible and our strategies, all of which follow the Welsh Government Operational Guidance (Version 3), are designed to minimise transmission amongst the whole of the school population. During break and lunch periods, for example, we have 500 pupils rather than the full school population of 1600. It is not possible for social distancing to take place with this number of pupils and neither do we have sufficient numbers of staff to supervise and insist upon pupils keeping robotically apart. This would be damaging to their mental, physiological and social development, even if it were physically possible.
With regards to practical and physical education lessons, we are aiming to have these fully operational, with hygiene measures in place, by half term or soon after half term. This will ensure that all pupils have access to the full range of activities with appropriate risk assessments in place.
Transport to School and Face Coverings
You will be aware that the Local Authority has mandated face coverings on all school transport. This mirrors the law required on public transport. The exercise completed by the school this week, with PHW Track, Test and Protect Service and the LA Transport Department, determined that a face covering, when worn on school transport, does not exclude those pupils travelling, from self-isolating if a pupil later tests positive for Covid-19. This has been determined because:
face coverings do not provide sufficient protection from potential Covid-19 transmission when pupils are in an enclosed and close environment such as on a school bus;
it cannot be guaranteed that all pupils wore face coverings correctly and that those coverings were free of the virus;
it is impossible to operate 2m social distancing on any of the Cowbridge Comprehensive School buses as they contain high numbers of pupils.
We recommend that pupils wear face coverings where they are able to use them safely, and are aware of their correct use. We recommend that pupils wear face coverings in all communal locations inside the school, where they are unable to socially distance from other pupils of a different age or other class groups of pupils. Even if they do wear face coverings, within or external to a classroom, pupils will be required to self-isolate, should they be identified as a close contact in the event of a Covid-19 case, being identified.
It is not mandatory for staff to wear face coverings as we require all staff to adhere to social distancing at all times. Staff can wear face coverings should they wish, internal and external to, the classroom setting. Where staff are required to deal with first aid or support pupils more closely, they are required to wear PPE.
Continuity of Learning
Our overview ‘Continuity Learning Plan’ here is designed to provide a graduated plan for learning in the event of individual pupils being away from school, in the short term and, for up to 14 days of self-isolation. This enables pupils with mild illness to continue to work and learn from home to ensure progression in nearly all subjects that they study. Should the school need to partially or fully close, we will operate blended learning as per the school policy.
On each occasion when a pupil tests positive and other children are required to self-isolate, we will establish the numbers and ages of those required to self-isolate and we will operate a flexible and bespoke plan. This plan will be agile and will change depending upon the number of pupils, the available staff and resources, etc. We recognise that our plan for one set of circumstances will vary for another. Different plans, for more sophisticated and bespoke learning continuity, will need to develop accordingly. For example, this week all senior pupils (Y13, Y12, Y11) who travelled on the bus and are requiring self-isolation are receiving a combination of interventions so that they are able to continue their learning remotely. The bespoke teaching on this occasion includes:
phone contact from the designated subject teacher to provide over the phone support;
Google ‘Hangouts’ lessons (we only provide these when staff are in school and to small numbers of Upper School students);
online learning via Google Classroom;
paper-based copies of resources, where appropriate; and,
pre-recorded video clips, where appropriate and relevant.
We are now working on the next stages of our teaching, learning and wellbeing strategic plans. These plans include:
developing blended learning techniques, using research and trialling approaches in the classroom and remotely;
analysing qualitative and quantitative data to establish which pupils need intervention and identifying interventions to match any identified deficits in learning and wellbeing;
planning catchup programmes for individuals and groups of pupils, especially disadvantaged learners;
identifying bespoke learning continuity plans to assist any pupils requiring 14 days of self-isolation; and,
one to one and small group based tuition, for pupils of all abilities, to ensure that they have opportunities to meet their potential, especially in light of the examination situation for next year remaining uncertain and subject to change.
We will continue to enhance our teaching and learning plans and details will be provided to you and made available on the school’s website, as per all other communication throughout the past 6 months.
Thank you for your support in highly challenging times.
Mrs Thomas, Headteacher and
The Senior Leadership Team