Friday 19th September 2020

Well, we’ve had an interesting week, as students and staff alike have embraced the start of the new academic year with great enthusiasm and excitement, whilst at the same time a positive covid-19 test has been returned amongst our student population.  Having now run through a couple of weeks of the timetable, all students have met each of their teachers, Google Classrooms have been set up for everyone and lessons in their many guises are in full swing.

Yesterday it became necessary to ‘lock-down’ a bubble within Year 7. It is indeed human nature to be anxious about the unknown, but equally we feel it is important to keep a perspective on covid-19. The young man concerned and his immediate peers will now self-isolate for the required length of time, and then return to formal schooling, probably with even more zest for all that school life brings than ever before. We must all follow the given guidelines and protect each other and especially those who are more vulnerable, using all sensible precautions possible, but there are likely to be more cases in time and we must find a way to live and indeed enjoy life and schooling alongside this virus, for as long as it takes.

All parents / carers should now have received an email from us, provided by Public Health Wales, which details your son or daughter’s personal circumstances now a positive case has been confirmed. The email gives you essential information, including where necessary a self-isolation period to which our students must adhere in order to protect themselves and others. Please do not be alarmed by such communications – much as nobody wants them, they are necessary at present and there will probably be more over the coming weeks.

Thank you to both students and parents / carers for checking your emails (school and personal) daily and ensuring all of the contact information which we hold on you is accurate and current. Yesterday proved to us just how important this is. We will continue to contact you using the phone, email, social media and this Blog. Posted letters are less effective as it takes time for information to be shared with the necessary haste.

We will endeavour to keep school running formally and in the building as long as it is safe and viable to do so. The Senior Leadership Team meets daily to discuss such issues and we have plans in place should it become necessary to lock-down specific year groups or student bubbles. With Year 7 it is possible to lock down a section of the year group only, but this becomes increasingly difficult to the point of impossibility as students get older, due in the main to teachers needing to deliver specialist lessons across tutor groups, half year and full year bands. We are unfortunately unable to answer individual questions regarding this matter at present and will be guided by information received from Flintshire LA.

We will endeavour to provide the first class education, which all Castell Alun students deserve, whether our students are at school or at home, but would ask for your understanding if at times things don’t quite work out as we’d like. Our teachers are using Google Classroom extensively to deliver learning experiences of all kinds now and we are excited about the new opportunities that this affords us in the context of Blended Learning. Blended Learning encompasses learning using all forms of methods and inputs, including at times live stream lessons and recorded delivery presentation footage. Variety is the spice of life!

It may seem an odd thing to say, but our new Year 7s have settled down very well. Starting secondary school is an experience we can all remember and so we all appreciate that such an experience can be as daunting as it is exciting for some. With many positive reports from their teachers about how keen they have been, it is hoped that this most positive of starts will form the basis of a many successful years here at Castell Alun for all of them.

On that note, it is also important to mention just how well all the other year groups, from Year 8 to 13, have embraced the start of the new term. Having had such a prolonged absence from school, returning for the new academic year has brought a different set of challenges for some, and again students have settled in exceptionally well. Whilst in lessons and when in and around the building, students have adapted and settled into the current way of life impressively, for which they deserve both recognition and praise. These remain testing times and whilst being back and being in the classroom has brought back a sense of normality, to a degree, staff remain committed to supporting the wellbeing of all our students at this challenging time.

I would like to thank parents and carers for their support in ensuring that students are equipped with face coverings each day. As you are aware, Government guidance and consequently school policy can change quite suddenly and so it can happen that the outlay of information followed by the instigation of change may need to be swift. Staff are appreciative of how quickly students have adapted to the wearing of masks whilst moving around the inside of the building and when on the corridors, and how we are all helping to contribute to the ongoing safety of our environment and everyone in it.

Please can I also beg your indulgence with the request that you refrain from parking on the grass verges on Fagl Lane. We are keen to work with our local community and respect their wishes, and we are acutely aware of how busy the local roads are at certain times of the day. Thank you to all parents / carers who have made every effort to drop students off locally and safely. The safety of students, especially those crossing busy roads, is a concern to us. At the end of the school day, there are now a few spaces extra available on the school car park, and this should remain the case for as long as staff are able to park on the all-weather pitch. However, we are still very keen to have students exit the building at their staggered time and leave the premises before they could have a sustained contact with students from other year groups.

I am happy to say that Flintshire County Council have now signed off on the plans for our exciting new build. While there remain certain matters to be resolved, preparatory work is currently underway and the full works are now scheduled to start on October 1st. Our contractors, Wilmott Dixon, are currently laying out the site so that when work commences in full, the site will be safely blocked off from the rest of the areas in use at the back of the school, with brick walls being erected along the perimeter of the build to secure the compound.

Sorry the Blog is quite long this week! I hope the weekend brings you all rest and relaxation.