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4 January 2022

Posted on: 4th Jan 2022

MTHPrincipal's Blog

M.P.Thomas, BSc(Hons), PGCE (Cantab)

Principal

 

 

 

Happy New Year to you and your families. I am looking forward to welcoming our students back to the academy on Wednesday 5 January at the usual time. Lessons start promptly at 08:30 and students are expected on site by 08:20 to ensure that they arrive to class on time.

I would like to provide you with an update on the measures we have in place to keep people safe and the school open.  As always, there is a lot of unavoidable detail here, so please take the time to read it carefully to ensure you are complying with the law and public health requirements. 

Testing on our return this term   
Testing is our first line of defence. Please ensure that your child carries out LFD tests twice a week - and especially today before they return to school.  As previously communicated, we will also be carrying out on-site covid testing this week for those students where consent has been given.

If you have not previously given consent and now wish to, access to the form along with further information can be found on our website.

We are asking Sixth Form students to register for themselves, so they will need to register for a NHS account, ahead of taking the tests, although many will have done so in September during the first round of testing. The registration can be carried out using this link, the additional details regarding barcodes will be completed on the day.

The ‘Orient Gene’ test kits will be used which only require a nasal swab.

As before, these tests are on a voluntary basis. If your child does not take them, they will still be allowed to start the term as normal. 

Tests will be carried out as follows:

  • Wednesday 5 January            Years 11,12 and 13
  • Thursday 6 January                Years 9 and 10
  • Friday 7 January                     Years 7 and 8

Students are strongly encouraged to continue testing twice weekly at home and to report all results to NHS Test and Trace and to the academy.

Face coverings

As I am sure you are aware, the government wrote to school leaders on 2 January recommending the wearing of face coverings in classrooms. TLA students are already required to wear facemasks in indoor communal areas but this will now be mandatory in classrooms, too. 

Whilst this is not an ideal situation, it is a necessary one in order to protect members of our community and to maintain continuity of service: you will have seen considerable press coverage about staff shortages in education and I’m sorry to say that TLA is no exception to this.  It is our absolute aim to keep the school fully open to all students. However, if there comes a point where we have too many staff absences due to covid infections, I will need to consider alternatives such as combined classes, remote learning and keeping specific year groups at home.

Face coverings will also be required in the forthcoming Y11 and Y13 exams. 

Please continue to ensure that your child attends school with a face covering unless they are medically exempt.  Last half term we issued more than 6000 face coverings to students who did not have one and as I am sure you can appreciate this is a significant drain on our limited resources.  

Ventilation and outdoor breaks

Although the use of air purifiers has been discussed in the news we have not yet seen any at TLA. As such we are relying on keeping windows open as much as possible.  We are also expecting students to be outside at social time wherever possible.  Keeping a very large number of young people from different year groups in constant close contact in the atrium presents an unacceptable risk at the moment.  We are trying to get the right balance between allowing students time to eat and encouraging them outdoors. 

At break time: students will not be allowed to remain indoors and should take advantage of the recently completed outdoor shelters and seating areas once they have visited the canteen. This is a good opportunity to get fresh air and exercise and remove face coverings. They will, of course, be allowed to use the toilets.

At lunchtime: students may use the tables and take a seat whilst they are eating. As soon as they have finished eating, they will be asked to head outside for fresh air and exercise. 

We have tried this before and it was successful: I hope you agree that asking students to spend a short period of time outdoors during the school day is well worth it in terms of their own health and well-being as well as reducing infection risk as fast as possible.  It would be most helpful if you would discuss this with your child before they return to school so that they are aware of expectations. 

For this reason, it is extremely important that students arrive at school wearing coats (not hoodies) at this time of year.  Naturally, when the weather is particularly poor we will run ‘wet breaks’ in the designated areas, but otherwise coats will provide sufficient protection against the elements for a short period of time at break!

Winter uniform still applies: students may choose to wear a black v-neck jumper or their TLA sweatshirt as well as their blazers, but not instead of blazers.

Self-isolation - official requirements

COVID-19 infection rates are very high and the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly. It is important that we all take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection in the community to save lives and protect the NHS.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms you should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. You should arrange to have a PCR test as soon as possible. If this PCR test result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate.

If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but you have a positive PCR test result, you must stay at home and self-isolate.

If you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 you are at significantly higher risk of becoming infected yourself.

If you have been vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine, you are less likely to become severely ill if you catch COVID-19. You are also less likely to spread COVID-19 to other people, but it is still possible for this to happen. Therefore:

  • if you are aged 18 years 6 months or over and you are not fully vaccinated*, and you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, you are legally required to stay at home and self-isolate.
  • if you are fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and 6 months, and you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, you are not legally required to self-isolate. However, you are strongly advised to take an LFD test every day for 7 days, and to self-isolate if any of these test results is positive.

*You are fully vaccinated 14 days after having received 2 doses of an approved vaccine (such as Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Moderna/Spikevax) or one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.

LFD tests are very good at identifying people who have high levels of coronavirus and are most likely to pass on infection to others, even if you do not have symptoms.

Self isolation lasts for 10 days, although you may be able to end it after seven days in some circumstances. In order to do this, you would need to take an LFD test on day six and day seven of your isolation period, at least 24 hours apart. If both tests are negative your self-isolation period can end on day seven.  The table below illustrates how this works. Please ensure that you read the full guidance from the government here if you have any questions about this.

Self isolation diagram

Many thanks for your continued support in keeping the academy safe and open. 

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