Start of Term Arrangements

29th June 2020

Dear Parent/Carer,
As the end of the summer term approaches, I am sure you will be glad to be relieved of the pressure of supervising your children’s learning at home! May I thank you all for all you have done to help us with that over the past fourteen weeks. My staff and I are thankful for your support and encouragement and for the manner in which you have communicated with us and respected the mutual challenges. Our young people have engaged admirably in remote learning and adapted well. They have enjoyed the activities promoted through social-media and been fine ambassadors for both their families and their school and we are very proud of them, as we always are.

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting with our senior prefects for next year and appointing head and deputy boys and girls. That short time face-to-face refreshed us all as we crave a return to more normal routines. DENI has issued guidance on return to school, yet much remains unclear as we are obligated by directives from the NI Assembly and the evolving situation in response to Covid-19. You will remember from my last letter to you that we have been advancing six different workstreams to ensure we are fully prepared to support our young people whatever the realities are for the new school year; it is our desire to bring all pupils back to school safely, and as soon as possible, and I am confident we have contingency plans in place to cover all projected possibilities that might arise before the new school year begins.

It is our responsibility to judge what arrangements, within the DE parameters, are safest for our children, families and staff as a first priority and I assure you that I understand it is not easy for any of us to have an incomplete picture at this stage. You may have worries also about handling the practicalities. I will write to you in August with clearer details but here are a few for now:

– All Year 14 and all Year 12 pupils will return to school, full time, on Monday 24th August to focus for a week on consolidation of work completed to date on their GSCE and A2 courses. This week will consist primarily of scheduled blocks of time with each of their subject teachers. After that, pupils will follow their timetable on a full time basis;
– Monday 24th morning for both those year groups will be induction, during which we will cover the usual administrative tasks, outline commonly observed routines for hygiene and social distancing, and pastoral staff will launch our ‘Be MindKind’ programme which aims to enhance a focus on the importance of mental health for all year groups for the year ahead. Year 14 will also work with careers staff on UCAS and Post-18 Options;

– Year 13 Induction will be on Wednesday 26th August, 9.30-3.30pm;
– Year 11 Induction will be on Thursday 27th August, 9.30-3.30pm;
– Year 8 Induction will be on Friday 28th August, 9.30am – 12.30pm;
– On those three induction days all pupils are expected to attend and wear full school uniform;
– Term will begin on Tuesday 1st September at 9.10am, full days. Year 12 and Year 14 will be full time as said above. Social distancing will determine the number of other pupils in school at any one time and the practical arrangements. PHA advice at this stage would not permit all to return so we will likely operate one week in school, one week remote learning for Years 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 if their advice remains unchanged;

– we await guidance from EA/DENI on arrangements for PE;
– we remain in contact with Translink in regard to school transport although details are currently scant;
– we await information from the School Meals Service and could envisage pupils needing to bring packed lunches at least in the early stages of the term.

As I finish, I would like to acknowledge the difficulties some of you and your families have had to cope with during school closure. There will be many manifestations of the impact this pandemic has brought to bear on individuals, and we remain mindful that for some of you and our children those are less positive. I wish you and your loved ones well and look forward with optimism to a buoyant start to the new academic year.

Warmest regards,

Dr Michelle Rainey Principal