IMPORTANT: Click here - COVID testing and start of term arrangements
Guidance, Advice & Updates for Parents & Students
Please see further guidance documents relating to COVID testing below.
If your child is at home self-isolating, please read Remote Education/Home Learning guidance.
Update 05 January 2021
I hope you and your family continue to remain safe and in good health. As you will have heard last night, the Government announced a national lockdown which has serious implications for your child and schools across the UK. Firstly, I would like to say how difficult I know these last minute announcements must be for you as parents. As a school we are working hard to now adapt the planning completed over the Christmas period and offer the best possible remote learning offer for every child we serve. This letter is to give you some important information about the changes announced and implications for your child.
Yesterday the following changes were announced by the Government at 8pm:
- Face to face education will only be available for vulnerable students and those whose parents are key workers. A survey was sent to parents last half term asking whether you believe your child falls into one of these groups and whether you would like to apply for a place at school. Thank you to parents who completed this survey. If you feel you have not received this and believe your child/children should be given a place, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (Vice Principal in charge of Behaviour and Attitudes) as soon as possible.
- Remote learning will be offered for all other students in years 7-13 who do not fall into the vulnerable/key worker group. The school has designed an exceptional remote education offer. If you are facing any issues or have any questions about this please contact email@example.com so we can support you. Remote learning through Teams will be offered from Wednesday 6th January and requires your child to work for 5 hours a day.
- Public vocational exams and assessments scheduled to take place in January will go ahead as planned.
- Summer Exams will not go ahead as planned. The Secretary of State will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements and more details will be published in due course.
- BTEC exams will go ahead this week and next as planned.
- Nurseries will remain open
- Changes will remain in place until at least February half term. Half term runs from Monday 15 to Friday 19 February. Therefore, the earliest date in which students could potentially return to school is Monday 22 February 2021. It is imperative to note however, that this subject to review. We will of course keep you fully updated as further Government guidance is received.
What if my child is sitting exams?
- If your child is going through the UCAS process and have any questions ahead of the 15th January deadline please ask them to email Mr Foster on firstname.lastname@example.org (Director of English and Sixth Form) as soon as possible and he will provide all the support they require at this important time.
- Exams will not go ahead in the same way however it is hugely important that students in Year 11, 12 and 13 engage with home learning because we will need to use all available evidence to accurately assess them. We will communicate more information about exams with parents as soon as we have it but please make sure your child is fully engaged with their Teams work.
- Parents who have children in Year 11 and require further guidance or support with developing their child’s revision and work ethic should contact email@example.com (Vice Principal in charge of Curriculum Intent) Similarly, parents who have children in Year 13 and require further guidance or support with developing their child’s revision and work ethic should contact firstname.lastname@example.org (Director of Science and Sixth Form)
- Please expect a letter over the coming week which will communicate the guidance around exams with you as parents.
- Students should continue to follow their normal school timetable each day.
- Students will receive coaching time resources and resources for the 6 lessons they would have had in school.
- These lessons will be shortened and simplified to 30 minutes each to ensure students are not overloaded
- However, independent stretch activities will be provided for each lesson, meaning students can work for 5-6 hours per day if they are able
- Each lesson will have a PowerPoint, usually with teacher audio on Microsoft Stream
- Students should look at this lesson carefully and complete activities in a note book or on paper
- Each lesson will end in a quiz to check students’ understanding. These quizzes should only be completed once the lesson has been completed, and care shout be taken over them
- Students should aim to complete their lessons within 24-48 hours of the lesson being set
- Teachers will also be working to provide students with written feedback on their work, through the assignments function
- Please be aware that when some staff are absent or unwell, there might be a slight delay to work being posted
- As with per our usual systems, teachers will be awarding points on Sims for complete and incomplete work. This will enable us to celebrate success and track where students need more support
What will happen with mass testing for students who are on site?
- The LFD testing programme will begin tomorrow where students who have been offered a face to face place and staff will be tested using LFD tests.
- Please remember that if your child attends our Sixth Form and has exams this week and next they can consent for themselves and should be encouraged to complete the forms emailed. Year 12 and 13 students who have BTEC exams will be contacted directly if they need to come in for the earlier testing on Thursday 7th January.
- If your child is receiving on site, face to face education and receives a positive LFT test, they will need to go home and isolate and take a PCR test to confirm their infection status.
- If your child is receiving remote education and you previously consented to mass testing, this process is now on hold until we have a clearer picture from the Government regarding the re-opening of schools. We believe that mass testing will happen after half term to support a safe return, however this has not been confirmed by the Government.
Free School Meals
- During this period of national lockdown, St Mark’s will continue to provide meal options for all pupils who are in school. Please ensure that your child’s dinner account is topped up. Meals are also available for those entitled to free school meals.
- St Mark’s will also provide meal provisions for pupils who are eligible for free school meals.
Important Parent Events
Following the success of our Year 7 and year 11 Information Evenings, I am pleased to share with you our plans for our Remote Education Information Evenings for you as parents. We recognise how much you want to support your children to work from home and want to give you carefully designed training to develop your ability to do this.
Remote Education Information Evening Dates:
- Tuesday 12 January (Year 8)
- Tuesday 19 January (Year 9)
- Tuesday 26 January (Year 10)
As well as this we will be holding virtual parents’ evenings when we return in the Spring term. Parents’ evenings are an important part of academy life and we will be hosting these events online this year, connecting parents and teachers by video call. These will provide us with an opportunity to engage in conversations about your child’s attainment and progress and engagement with home learning. We will be using School Cloud, which allows parents to choose appointment times with all their child’s individual teachers, accessible by mobile, laptop or a desktop computer.
Our first dates are for:
- Y11- Thursday 14th January 2021
- Y13- Thursday 28th January 2021
Please can I remind parents that the school is working according to Government guidance which is updated regularly with short notice at present. As a school we would never want to give you such last-minute communication and I can only send my best wishes and prayers that you are managing to cope under these difficult set of circumstances.
We know you will have some questions that you still want answered. If this letter does not answer your questions, please email email@example.com where emails will be picked up and passed onto the relevant colleague.
Please can I thank all parents for your support as we begin to drive remote learning together this half term. We are planning to run Teams Information Evenings over the coming weeks for parents and will be in touch regarding the date for the year group your child is in. Please can I urge you all to attend these so you have the training and tools to support your child’s home learning. The Academy will remain a place where your child continues to learn and thrive this academic year and you have my word that we will continue to transform the lives of every young person who studies with us.
Update 01 January 2021
I hope you and your family are well and have managed to enjoy the Christmas break together so far. This letter is to inform you about the announcement made by the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson on Wednesday 30 December 2020 and discuss the arrangements for the beginning of the Spring Term for your child. This letter will cover information about mass testing at St Mark’s and clarify the educational offer for your child.
We know you will have many questions and I am confident you will find the answers here. If this letter does not answer your questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org where emails will be picked from Tuesday 5th January.
Is St Mark’s taking part in mass testing of students?
We are working to keep St Mark’s as safe as possible. You may have heard that testing for secondary age pupils is beginning across the country using new, quicker Covid-19 Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs), and St Mark’s will be starting this from 6th January following a robust training programme on Tuesday 5th January for staff. We require staff to volunteer to support because we believe they know students best. The process will involve:
- Testing all staff without a negative PCR test on their return to the Academy.
- Testing staff once a week who want to participate thereafter.
- Testing students twice between 6th January and 22nd January.
- Helping pupils to stay in education, by enabling those who are close contacts of someone who tests positive to stay in school if they do a daily test for seven days, known as ‘serial testing’.
What do I need to do as a parent to support mass testing?
- We texted and sent all parents and carers a consent form via Parentmail. This needs to be completed by all parents and carers to allow us to start mass testing students.
- If your child is over 16, they do not require parental consent.
- It is completely your choice as parents whether to consent, however I would urge you to consider what a positive impact it will have on the safety of our community.
When will my child be tested?
We have created the following provisional timeline:
- Staff, vulnerable and key worker students and those in Year 11, 12 and 13 will be tested between 6th January and 15th January.
- Students in Year 7, 8, 9 and 10 will be tested between 11th January and 22nd January
- Students will be given a day and time to come in twice for a test between the dates above. Each time they are tested students will need to wait 30 minute for the result. If the result is negative, they will go home and continue to access remote education on Teams until they begin face to face education (details of these dates are below).
- If the result is positive, the young person will need to go home, book a PCR test and isolate until that result comes back.
When will my child return to St Mark’s?
- The Government have announced that there is to be a staggered return which will limit face-to-face education to specific groups of pupils in the first two weeks of term.
- From the beginning of term (Wednesday 6th January), St Mark’s will provide remote education for examination groups (Years 11 and 13). This means students in these years must log onto Teams and complete the work set by teachers every day.
- Vulnerable children or the children of key workers will return on Wednesday 6 January.
- From 11th January we will provide remote education for all students in Years 7-13 and will begin to welcome Year 11 and 13 back for face to face learning. A specific day will be provided to parents with children in those years once we roll out mass testing and begin to understand how quickly tests can be administered.
- We will begin to welcome back students in Years 7-10 from 18th January and will communicate a specific day with you once we begin to trial the mass testing programme.
- Whether your child is being tested or not, all in one year group will return on the same day.
- It is important to note that this information is subject to review of the Contingency Framework which will happen prior to 18th January. This is something we will communicate with parents when the review takes place
Finally, I wanted to confirm that scheduled BTEC examinations tests will continue to take place in early January with appropriate controls and social-distancing.
Please can I thank you once again for your support as parents as we take on this new challenge to welcome all students and staff back safely. The Academy will remain a safe place for your child to learn and thrive this academic year and you have my word that we will continue to transform the lives of every young person who studies with us.
Update 23 December 2020
NHS Test and Trace: Covid-19 Testing for Staff and Pupils
We are working to keep our Academy as safe as possible. You may have heard that testing for those without coronavirus symptoms is beginning across the country using new, quicker Covid-19 tests, and our Academy will be starting this in January on our return. The NHS Test and Trace team will be testing staff once a week who want to participate. In addition, the programme will help pupils to stay in education, by enabling close contacts of someone who tests positive to stay in school if they do a daily test for seven days. This is known as ‘serial testing’. Along with the other measures we are taking, these tests will help staff and pupils to work safely. Up to one third of people who have coronavirus have no symptoms, so by supporting them to self-isolate we will save lives and help keep our school open and as safe as possible. The test is voluntary, but I would encourage everyone to take it.
What if a close contact at school tests positive?
A close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be able to return to school if they agree to be tested once a day for 7 days, and the test is negative. If not, they will need to self-isolate as per the national guidelines. This does not apply to household members or close contacts outside of the Academy who will still need to self-isolate. Further details will be provided at the time, but if you would prefer to self-isolate instead of doing daily testing, you can.
Please complete the online form and consent statement here https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=pGcNtDFve0GB0B6WvxpVXCoZrmg0WCVFt4feHiC1jH1UNE5GUEJBQ1lXWENLWkw3WFNaMDE3SkhYWS4u (one per pupil/student). Online form must be completed by 1 January 2021. The test will be supervised by trained staff and there will be minimal disruption to lessons. The ‘lateral flow’ tests are quick and easy using a swab of your nose and throat. For under 18s, staff can assist with taking the swab. Results will be shared directly with staff and pupils participating. Where participants are under 16, parents/legal guardians will also be informed. To reach this stage, the test has been tested at Public Health England’s research laboratories in partnership with Oxford University and is totally safe, with a 99.8% specificity. Testing is free and provided by NHS Test and Trace.
What if a pupil tests positive?
Results will be shared directly with staff and pupils participating. Where participants are under 16, parents/legal guardians will also be notified. Pupils will need to take a further ‘PCR test’ (similar to those done in testing sites) to confirm the positive result, they will be able to do this at school or take a test kit home. During this time while they wait for the PCR result (via text / email) they will need to self-isolate until they get their result. If it is negative, the pupils can return to school.
If the result of this secondary test is positive, the pupil and household members will need to self-isolate for 10 days following Government guidelines. Please inform the Academy as soon as you receive this test result.
We will continue to support pupils with their education remotely. We recognise this may be disruptive for your family but it is really important to isolate to prevent the spread of the virus, and there is financial support available via the NHS app. Pupils might need collecting from school, so please discuss this with them. There is more advice on self-isolation and home learning on Gov.uk.
What if a pupil tests negative?
They will be able to stay in school and resume their activities as normal. A pupil will only be told if they test positive in the first ‘lateral flow’ test, so if you do not hear you can assume it was negative.
What if my child develops symptoms?
This testing programme at the Academy is for people with no symptoms. If your child develops symptoms at any time (such as a high temperature; a new, continuous cough; or a loss of change to your sense of smell or taste) they must immediately self-isolate, and book a test by calling 119 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 0300 303 2713 (Scotland) or visiting https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
We will support staff and pupils throughout, but please contact us if you need this information in any other language or format or if you have any questions. You can call the office on 0208 648 6627 or email email@example.com
Update 18 December 2020
Reporting COVID Cases during the Holiday
From Friday 18 December to Wednesday 23 December, please report confirmed positive Covid cases to firstname.lastname@example.org. A member of the SLT team will be checking for reported cases between 9am and 11am during this time. Please provide your details in your email notification:
- Childs full name
- Coaching Group
- Date your child last attended school
- Date the Covid symptoms first started
- Contact telephone number
Parents do not need to contact the school if a student tests positive and has not been in school for 48 hours before the test or symptoms developed. In these circumstances the normal NHS Test and Trace processes will apply. - After the 6-day period you will not be expected to email the school.
Arrangements for week beginning 4 January 2021 including mass testing
Yesterday afternoon the Government indicated that secondary schools were going to have a staggered start to the new academic year. This is to allow schools to set up a COVID mass testing scheme. At the moment we are waiting for further guidance on how this will operate. There will be further guidance during the holiday about what it will mean for us. The arrangements for lessons from week beginning 4th January are as follows:
- Year 11 and 13 will return to school on Wednesday 6 January 2021 for a day of testing. Due to the late announcement from the Government about mass testing in schools we will provide you with further details about the time of your child’s slot nearer the start of term. Staggering starts will allow us to roll out mass testing.
- Children of critical workers and vulnerable children will return on Wednesday 6 January. You can find a list of what the government term as a critical worker here .
- Years 7 to 10 and Year 12 will continue with remote education at home during the first week back. Again, a more detailed plan to support testing in these years will be released when we return.
We are expecting the school to reopen for everyone on site on Monday 11th January at your daughter/son’s normal time. Further details of the return arrangements will be sent before the beginning of term. Our staff INSET days will be held on:
- Monday 4 January 2021
- Tuesday 5 January 2021
- Friday 23 July 2021
PLEASE NOTE THAT PARENTS NEED TO PROVIDE CONSENT FOR THEIR CHILD TO BE TESTED. A CONSENT FORM WILL BE SENT TO YOU NEXT WEEK. PLEASE COMPLETE THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Update 9 December 2020
On Tuesday 8 December, the Department for Education (DfE) gave its guidance on End of term planning. The DfE have encouraged schools to take Friday 18th December as an additional INSET day to support with managing any cases of Covid 19 over the holiday. St Mark’s Academy will be asking students to remain at home on Friday 18th December like almost all schools across the country. We ask you not to send your child into school on this day.
The guidance also sets out the expectation for contact tracing over the Christmas holidays. I have summarised the key points for you below:
- Schools will have to be on call for the first 6 days of the holiday to respond to any staff or pupils/students that test positive.
- This means that leaders at St Mark’s will set aside some time each day between Friday 18th December and Wednesday 23rd December to receive notifications from you about positive Covid cases.
- We would ask you as parents to email the school on email@example.com if your child receives a positive result between 9am-11am each morning between Friday 18th December and Wednesday 23rd December.
- A member of SLT will pick up any cases from the previous 24 hours during that time slot each day.
- Parents do not need to contact the school if a student tests positive and has not been in school for 48 hours before the test or symptoms developed. In these circumstances the normal NHS Test and Trace processes will apply.
- After the 6-day period you will not be expected to email the school.
We thank you for your understanding at this time and for the constant support you provide from home.
Update 24 November 2020
Dear Parent/Carers of Year 8 and Year 9
This message is informing you that your child needs to stay at home and isolate until Friday 4 December, returning on Monday 7 December 2020. A member of staff has tested positive for COVID who we believe may have been in close contact with your child. We are taking this matter very seriously and upholding the strictest safety measures to keep you and your family safe. A letter with further details will follow tomorrow but please do not send your child to school. Please see guidance for remote education.