I am writing to give you an update on the progress we have made this week in getting each of our year groups back to school. As of Thursday, 27 August, all young people will now have been in school and have spent time with their tutors and/or Head of Year/Assistant Head of Year. I very much hope they are feeling confident about the return to school.
The steps the school has taken are summarised below and I trust this short update serves as a reassurance to you as parents.
- The school has increased cleaning hours and has cleaners working throughout the school day. There is a focus on cleaning ‘touch points’ around the school.
- 35 hand sanitisers are fixed on walls around the school, at main entry and exit points.
- Soap dispensers in bathrooms are being checked regularly to ensure stocks are sufficient.
- An enhanced one-way system is now in place and is mandatory. The one-way system is clearly marked and all students have had the opportunity to walk around the one-way system to familiarise themselves with it.
- The Pastoral Team has asked any parent of a vulnerable young person or a young person with an underlying medical condition who was shielding, to get in contact. Our School Nurses have spoken to a range of parents. Additionally, a small number of young people and their parents have visited school to see the enhanced protections in place prior to our full return of all students.
If you are a parent who has concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your son’s/daughter’s Head of Year in the first instance. We are trying our very best to alleviate any concerns a parent or young person has.
- All staff have been supplied with a visor to protect your young person, the wider family and to protect themselves and their wider family.
- Following a change in policy announced by the NI Education Minister on Tuesday, 25 August, the wearing of face coverings for students is now required in school corridors and communal areas. The school interprets ‘communal areas’ as all internal areas which are not classrooms. It is essential that masks are worn and removed safely. Young people should each bring a bag in which to store their masks (navy, black, white or maroon masks). An information video on safe wearing and removal is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMSqc9SpbJc
- The school will discontinue the use of bells between classes to reduce simultaneous movement and try to facilitate more social distancing as students move between classes.
- The Canteen and Assembly Hall area has been fully opened up, more than doubling the size of the canteen seating area. New one-way queuing systems, clearly marked, have been introduced.
- A reduced Canteen menu is available only at lunchtime. For the first month the choice will be a sandwich meal deal, a salad box meal deal or a sandwich/salad with a range of wrapped snack items and drinks only. This will reduce waiting times at the servery and allow for Mount Charles staff to ensure enhanced cleaning. A review will be taken in September of breaktime provision and the range of food available at lunchtime.
- Perspex screens have been erected at various offices to protect our young people, the staff as well as each of our families and our wider community.
- To avoid crowding in the mornings before first classes begin, our teachers have volunteered to supervise tutor rooms for young people in Years 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 from 8.30am every day. For those students in Years 8-12 who arrive in school before 8.30am, they should go directly to the Canteen and remain in this area. All young people in these year groups must then make their way to their Tutor Group Room at 8.30am or as soon thereafter as they arrive in school. We are not requiring that everyone arrives in school at 8.30am. Our normal staggered arrivals, some students on bikes, some on foot, others by public transport, others by private car should continue. This helps reduce crowding.
Separate arrangements are in place for Sixth Form which have been explained to the students.
- Tidy and appropriately worn school uniform remains an expectation in school. As you will know we have made some adjustments to alleviate concerns. Importantly, and most significantly, on Games days and days in which they have after school sport, students should come to school in school tracksuits. Our student changing rooms remain closed currently in line with DENI advice.
- All classrooms have a bottle of antibacterial spray and a roll of paper towel. Our ICT suites have fixed alcohol gel hand sanitisers installed in the room to facilitate additional hygiene measures on keyboards.
- Our students are required to remain and socialise in their class sets during the day and at break and lunchtime. Students are not permitted to gather in groups of more than 6 when seated in the Canteen and Link Areas.
- We have and will encourage students to get outdoors at break and lunchtimes as much as possible. All Public Health Agency advice suggests that risks of transmission of Covid-19 are lower outside.
- On a wet breaktime, students have been directed to go to particular communal areas to try to facilitate social distancing, as far as possible. These are as follows:
Year 8: Link
Year 9: Gym
Year 10: Assembly Hall/Canteen
Year 11: Sports Hall
Year 12: Sports Hall
Additional signage has been erected in these venues to direct class sets to socialise together and space out. We are fortunate in Wallace to have a range of large communal spaces.
- The staff will continue to emphasise, with our young people, the importance of following the guidance we are giving. Here is a video we have created which reinforces these messages: https://vimeo.com/451988147
I trust this list gives you a sense of the extent to which we continue to try to make adjustments in school to protect everyone. Wallace is a large community of 1,160 students in our grammar school and we have a staff of around 150. This is, and will be, a steep learning curve for all of us.
The staff and I are committed to making every reasonable adjustment we can to protect everyone. Like many of you as parents, our staff have their own worries or concerns, they too may have been shielding or a member of their family may have been. But they are back in school, looking forward to seeing your sons and daughters. We are here for you all, for your families, but please be kind and gentle with us. We shall be kind and gentle with your sons/daughters and with you as parents. Together, with good communication and mutual respect, we can overcome any worries or concerns. We are all in this together. Our staff will focus daily on our CORE values of commitment, opportunity, respect and excellence. We shall always follow PHA advice and I am committed to an agile leadership of this community as we move forward into our academic year of 2020-21.
Mrs D O’Hare
Last modified: August 28, 2020