The start of a new academic year is always a busy one and this one has certainly been no exception. From Monday we welcomed back all our students, here at Castell Alun. For both those returning students and those new to the school, there were many changes for everyone to adapt to. As we are all too aware, current circumstances have meant significant changes, on many different levels, and life here at Castell Alun is no exception. However, we now have our new normal!
Throughout the summer staff here have been busily readying the school for the start of the new term and on Monday, after having successfully welcoming back Years 7 and 12 the previous week, Castell Alun gave a much anticipated and long awaited welcomed return to all our students and staff.
The first morning of the new term is traditionally spent in tutor bases, with group tutors providing students with all the information they need for the start of the new year. This year, the morning session also included taking students through all the measures and procedures that have been put in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. The new one way system, the compulsory sanitising of hands at every opportunity and the new format of the school day to accommodate the staggering of bubbles between lessons and at break and lunch, was undoubtedly a lot to take in, but as students started to move their way across the school and lessons began, it was clear that they were beginning to do just that! Though adjustments have meant changing the way that some things are done, it is evident, that as the week has progressed, that students have adapted commendably to the current ‘new way of life’ here at Castell Alun.
We all appreciate that the changes will take some getting used to, however students have done themselves and the school proud in the way they have adhered to the measures in place, and it is hoped that this will continue to get easier with increased familiarity. Whilst we are all proud of the way our students have adapted, we still appreciate that for some this remains a worrying and, in some cases, an anxious time. I would like to reiterate that we encourage anyone who is at all worried or anxious to speak to someone about this, as the well-being of our students, as well as their continued safety, remains a priority.
Working to Welsh Government guidelines has meant that we have been able to open the school once more, in the safest way possible. Whilst extensive and careful planning and preparation has gone into ensuring this, we fully appreciate that we can not necessarily get everything right first time. Please may I reassure you that a review of current measures takes place daily, as we closely monitor the situation and take feedback from both staff and students. As with any plans, it is only once put into practice that certain issues come to light and only then that they can be addressed. Consequently, and as expected, there has been the need for some adjustments and additions to existing measures and as the term progresses, and the national picture continues to evolve, we would expect that this will continue to be the case.
May I please remind everyone of the following points to ensure that we are doing all which is reasonably possible to mitigate against risk:-
- Lunch – students should bring a packed lunch if possible. However, students can pay money in using the School Gateway App or by cheque into the boxes provided next to the payment machines, should purchases need to be made from our current restricted menu. Students are not able to pay money in using the fingerprint facility at present.
- Coming into School – if a student forgets their lunch, you will be able to drop it off at Main Reception and we will ensure it is passed on. However, for safety reasons we cannot currently offer this service for other items which have been forgotten. Teaching staff will show understanding as necessary.
- Water bottles – students should bring a drink with them but bottles cannot currently be re-filled in school.
- Distance learning – if a student is unable to attend school but is well enough to do their schoolwork, please check all relevant Google Classroom classes for suggested tasks.
- Drop off – please do not drop your child off before 8.30am. Before this time students in Years 7-11 will need to wait outside the building until staff are available to supervise the allocated entrances and ensure hygiene procedures are followed.
- Masks – we stagger all releases from lessons, breaks, lunchtimes and the end of school as much as we are able, whilst still providing the full curriculum and specialist teaching as required. Students move around the corridors in Year Group bubbles but, despite the one way system, may come into brief contact with students from other Year Groups. May I please remind all parents / carers that we now expect that all students and staff will wear a face covering on the corridors during the time between lessons. Students should therefore bring a face mask to school with them, but a stock will be held in school also and can be used where necessary. We will remind all students to do this from next week, although parents / carers may write to the Group Tutor if you have good reason for your son / daughter not wearing a face covering. Your child will then show staff this note when challenged. We will continue to impress upon our students the altruistic nature of face coverings. I feel it is vitally important that students continue to be educated in how best to look after both themselves and each other.
Thank you so much for your understanding in these matters.
As we remain committed to ensuring the on-going safety and well-being of all our students and staff, there may well be the need for further additions and changes to current practice and we are poised and ready to act upon this as and when needed. Our latest Risk Assessment is published on the school website and the Senior Leadership Team reviews procedures on a daily basis at present.
This week also saw the start of the works on the new school build. Situated at the back of the school, the markings for the new build, which will house a new Technology and Expressive Arts area, as well as new classrooms to replace the mobile rooms, have been laid out and the area fenced off for works to commence. The initial phase will involve the lay out of the new drainage so that the actual building works can take place.
In close liaison with the contractors, Wilmot Dixon, minimal disruption will be caused during the school day and access to the site will only take place when students are safely away from the area. Over the coming weeks and months, we will endeavour to keep you posted on the progress being made, which we anticipate will be swift and hopefully go according to plan!
At this point great thanks must go to all staff, who are also adjusting to the many changes now in place, and providing wonderful support and instruction for our students. Whilst many changes can be seen physically in and around the building, teaching staff have also worked extensively to adapt teaching and learning practices. Thanks must also go in particular to the caretaking and cleaning staff who work tirelessly throughout the day to ensure that the school remains clean and safe for all of us, from ensuring that all rooms and corridors are stocked with sanitiser to the continuous wiping down of surfaces across the whole building. This truly is, and will continue to be, a team effort here at Castell Alun.
I hope you all have a lovely weekend.