24 March 2022   J Wilson

Dear Parents and Carers

Despite high case rates in the wider community and in schools, we are responding to government advice to move to more normality during spring and summer.

Aspects of school life are being adjusted accordingly, including uniform and school bells. Access to the school during break and lunchtime is under consideration. How we are coping with high staff absences is also addressed here.

School Bells

Since August we have trialled using minimal school bells. The main aim has been to reduce high numbers of students being caught in bottlenecks in corridors during class changeover times. Almost 1200 young people moving at the same time was not conducive to free flow and avoidance of Covid transmission when risk levels were high.

However, we will be bringing back the full suite of bells from Monday 28th March. The main aim will be to reintroduce more structure and more ‘normality’ to the school day. It will also help to reinforce the importance of punctuality, which is an important skill for life and work. Please speak to your child / young person about this in advance of next week.

Uniform

For the best part of two years the school has not prioritised the wearing of school uniform. We have focused much more on adherence to mask wearing and allowing students to wear several non-uniform layers in class in order to keep warm. With the advent of spring and lower levels of risk, we are now turning our attention back to uniform compliance.

It would be unrealistic to expect all students to wear 100% school uniform from Monday 28th March. However, it is reasonable to expect all students to make an effort. If full school uniform is not available at home, all students should at least come to school wearing the school colours of

  • black trousers/skirt,
  • black or white top and
  • black shoes.

o A red top is appropriate for practical PE lessons.

While we will show some leniency over the next couple of weeks, I would expect all students to be wearing school uniform or school colours once we return after the Easter break. In cases of repeated non-compliance our guidance leaders and senior staff will contact home and discuss solutions.

Please note that we do not insist on parents purchasing uniform from particular retailers. Standard white shirts and plain black clothing is perfectly good. Indeed, it is probably less expensive than many of the branded clothes that young people have been wearing to school in recent months. Our Parent Council provides a school tie to all S1 pupils, as a way of alleviating financial pressures. Please

bear in mind that if any family is finding it hard to comply for financial reasons, the school will be happy to help in any way we can. Just contact us and ask to speak to your child’s guidance teacher.

Access to the School Building

Around our community, some concerns have been raised by local retailers about the behaviours of a number of young people. Litter and disrespect to shop staff and customers have been cited as unwelcome. It spoils the image of our school, which is a great pity as almost all of our students are fine, respectful young people. The senior leadership team continue to patrol the local area at lunchtime as best we can, but clearly five people cannot cover the Stockbridge and Comely Bank areas while simultaneously ensuring good order and discipline on school grounds. We do work with community police, but they too are working with overstretched resources. Again, thank you if you are encouraging your own child to be good neighbours while they are outwith school grounds.

I had hoped to relax restrictions to school access during breaks and lunchtimes by now. The high community rates and staff absences force a bit more caution at this point. Currently, access is permitted but seats at not provided during lunchtime. This encourages young people to make good use of our outdoor spaces. As I shared with our students at assemblies recently, even 15 minutes of outdoor natural light can help our mental and emotional heath. When seats are eventually reintroduced, my hope is that our students continue to spend as much time outdoors as possible

Staff Absences and Actions

During the past two weeks, Covid-related staff absences have been higher than at any time since the start of the pandemic. I have thanked our students for their forbearance with this. Some classes have been combined for lessons, and in a few cases we have accommodated several S1-S3 classes in our Assembly Hall. Many more classes than normal are being taught by supply teachers. Last week and this week, in addition to our supply teachers, officers from CEC education and some primary specialists have bolstered our staff numbers. This all helps us to avoid the need to ask year groups to stay home and learn through Teams. While that is an option, it is a ‘last resort’ solution to keeping our school open.

None of this helps with progress in learning. None of it is conducive to young people feeling like normality is returning. Nonetheless, while Covid is forcing staff to self-isolate we are taking the ‘least worst’ option available to us. Thank you for your own understanding during this time.

National clinicians indicate that the current upsurge of Omicron cases is slowing down and case numbers should be decreasing within two weeks.

In the meantime, we continue to follow the mitigations recommended for schools as practically as we can, and thank you and our students for doing the same.

My hope is that the next update will be much more about normal school topics, celebrating the achievements of our students.

John Wilson

Headteacher

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