A letter from Mr Habberley covering the latest situation, including changes to mask-wearing in lessons and the measures we are taking to facilitate learning in a Covid-safe environment at St George.
I hope you and your family are well and enjoyed the half term holiday. Following the prime minister’s announcement last weekend and a briefing from Public Health England to all secondary school Head Teachers in Southampton, it is clear that there is an increase in the number of regional and national cases of coronavirus. We are delighted that St George can remain open so that we can provide an education to your son/daughter and continue some normality and routine on a day-to-day basis in the hope nobody feels isolated. I am conscious that St George to date has had no positive cases of COVID- 19 in staff and only one for a student in Year 10 in half term, which had no impact on our community.
However, the rate of infections in Southampton is rising and therefore we want to do everything we can to prevent the transmission of the virus. In light of the increased risk in Southampton, we feel we should continue to review our own measures and do what we can do to reduce the risk to our students and staff. Therefore, we expect all students to wear a face covering in lessons as well as communal areas from next Monday 9th November apart from in Physical Education and Dance lessons. This will be reviewed every two weeks until the end of the national lockdown on Wednesday 2nd December but may be extended if the lockdown continues. This excludes students and staff who are exempt from wearing a face covering due to medical reasons. You may or may not be aware that a number of other Southampton secondary schools are adopting the same approach.
In addition, teaching staff, apart from those that are exempt, will continue to wear either a face visor or face covering when teaching lessons. Due to the length of time students would be wearing a face covering, students will have the opportunity to take them off for 5 minutes during lessons at the discretion of the teacher. We recommend that students bring two reusable/washable face coverings per day in order to maintain hygiene and protection. At break and lunchtimes, if students are outside and maintaining 2 metre social distancing, they do not need to wear their face covering. This is due to increased ventilation and recommended social distancing. Due to the space and ventilation in the sports hall, Year 11 students do not need to wear a face covering whilst sitting their mock exam in the sports hall. There are screens in place for students that have a reader and/or scribe which ensure both the member of staff and the pupil are well protected and meets the national guidance.
We understand this is going to be challenging for students to wear them, but our overriding priority is to ensure everyone is safe and can receive a full broad and balanced education. While the rates of transmission in our area have increased, increasing the risk to pupils and staff, it is essential we make this change to keep everyone safe and in school. We are determined to avoid any school closure for a year group bubble or group of students if we can avoid it because of the disruption it causes to students’ learning and the isolation they would feel away from a normal routine. May I also add that we have postponed all extra-curricular activities apart from Year 11 intervention for the period of national lockdown.
This has been a difficult decision but we strongly feel that this enhanced measure for a short period of time alongside our existing measures of enhanced hand washing, separate breaks and lunchtimes and robust start and end of lesson procedures we can keep the school as safe as possible, offer a full education and significantly reduce the risk of transmission as nationally it rises. If you have any questions please do get in touch.