Latest from the Head Master

LATEST UPDATE: Friday 4 September 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We are very conscious that the start of this year will be an unusual one, and one which follows some challenging months. Throughout this time our current pupils have made me phenomenally proud: their resilience, care for each other, sense of purpose and keen sense of community has been manifest at every turn. I know that this will be shared with our incoming students and it is a particular pleasure that we already know those joining the Lower Sixth a little through their participation in the enrichment and transition programme last term.

We have made adjustments to some of the ways we need to do things in order to mitigate all possible risks, but the spirit of the place remains as lively as ever and our routines and patterns of working will be very familiar to those who are returning. 

Guidance from the Department for Education
Our actions and plans follow the Department for Education guidance for the full opening of schools: 

This document focuses on:
• The requirement that those who are ill stay at home (staff and pupils) and that where there are relevant symptoms a COVID-19 test is taken as swiftly as possible
• Robust measures for hand and respiratory hygiene
• Enhanced cleaning arrangements
• Active engagement with the Test and Trace scheme
• Reducing contacts between groups and maximising distance

Pastoral, curricular and co-curricular actions

• We are placing pupils in two essential groups – that of the House (pastoral) and that of the Year (academic and organisational). Within these larger groups, each pupil will be in a smaller ‘household’ of c 8-15 others – that of their year group in their House. This will be the group which can interact most closely.
• In order to remind pupils and to help staff in guiding them, we will ask each pupil to wear a coloured wrist band, which will show at a glance which year they are in. We will divide access to particular areas and facilities in recreation time by year groups.
• In order to maintain pupils within their particular groups there can be no inter-House visiting initially, but Housemasters and Housemistresses will do all they can to ensure a sense of community remains strong and an inventive co-curricular programme will enable the continuity of a dynamic range of activities.
The range of measures put in place in the House risk assessments are designed to alleviate the risk of infection as far as possible within the residential areas of the school. They are ideals, in the context of inevitable and necessary social interaction between teenagers, and HMMs and their House staff teams will ensure their application with discretion according to the various local conditions of each House and its occupants.

Face coverings
• We will provide pupils with two face coverings (masks) and they are encouraged to bring in additional masks. We will also have a stock available for purchase in the school shop. We are following the changing government guidance and there will be accordingly:
a) times and places where face coverings are required for pupils;
b) times and places where they are recommended for pupils;
c) other occasions where this will be at individual discretion.
• We ask that parents visiting the College wear a mask at any point where they are in proximity to those beyond their immediate family.

Daily Health Questionnaire
• We will ask all pupils and staff to answer a brief daily health questionnaire. This will take a matter of seconds, but in the event that the answer to any question is ‘yes’ (e.g. ‘do you have a new, continuous cough; do you have a raised temperature; has there been a change to your sense of taste or smell’?) then we will require them to report to parents (if at home) and to their Housemaster/Housemistress or Matron (if at school) and not to attend school that day. Arrangements will then be put in place for a COVID-19 test.
• Parents should not come into the College if they are unwell or any member of their family is unwell.

Movement on site and off it
• In terms of movement around the site, this is essentially ‘left hand drive’, with one-way systems being put in place in areas where thoroughfares are narrow. We have instituted a 10-minute movement break between lessons and put in place large gathering spaces for each House in order to enable whole-House meetings and assemblies.
• There will be some differences from the norm for us all to adapt to. Initially there will not be leave out from school during the course of a weekend for those remaining on campus; Day pupils will be able to go home (by arrangement) once they have completed their commitments for the day, and likewise those with study periods on Saturday morning may go home once taught lessons have concluded (as long as they have no afternoon sporting commitments).
• We ask that parents dropping off and collecting their children at the start and the end of the day do so from the front of school and do not exit the car.

Investment in resources
We have made significant investment in specific additional resources. This has included the provision of additional rooms which can be deployed for quarantine should they be required and two large temporary buildings, Neptunus 1 and Neptunus 2 (a competition will be launched early in the term to find more exciting names…) These have been placed on the Lower Quad and serve as additional spaces for meeting, dining and teaching in order to optimise the use of space.
All pupil meals will be staggered by year, eating in House groups, and taken in both the Dining Hall and Neptunus 1; a simplified but excellent range of menus are in place for the first half of term to enable the safest service.
We will also be undertaking enhanced cleaning and have invested in both equipment and personnel to enable this.
Our continued investment in technology ensures that lessons, meetings and communications can be hybrid – either face-to-face or via Microsoft Teams. In this manner whilst whole-school gathering will not be possible initially, Head Master’s Assembly (for instance) can be delivered face-to-face to a year group or a couple of Houses and followed by the rest of the school via Teams.

In order to minimise any sharing of devices we will ensure that each new pupil has their own electronic device (iPad) from the first days of term. Work will generally be submitted and marked electronically. We actively encourage students to bring with them supplementary portable electronic devices such as laptops should they wish to do so.

Useful equipment / what to bring
We ask that all pupils bring into school the following, to minimise the sharing of equipment:
• A water bottle
• A cup, knife, fork, spoon, plate and bowl – for snacks in House
• A bag in which to carry books and equipment, so they are not left in public spaces
• Sufficient additional face-coverings (masks) to enable them to be hygienically worn
• Hand-sanitiser (to supplement that individually supplied by the school)
We also ask that pupils bring in the minimum of additional items. This will help to keep areas tidy and assist cleaning and laundry regimes, and in the event that we need to move pupils into different areas of the House or school.
We ask that parents are in contact with Housemaster/Housemistress in advance if wishing to drop off items for their children. Whilst we aim to be as welcoming as possible, we know that you will understand the need to minimise contact between groups.

Dominic Oliver