Review of our COVID response

Overview

The principles governing our COVID response are:

  • to keep the School open safely
  • to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID
  • to maximise educational opportunities across the curriculum and co-curriculum whilst taking appropriate precautions
  • to maintain the highest standards of pastoral care

Information

Regional data collected by the government shows that, despite a recent spike in our local district, Waverley, the School is in one of the lowest-risk areas in the UK. Nevertheless, we expect all members of the community to pay renewed attention to the same basic three precautions and messages:

  • adhere to essential public hygiene messages (wash hands and wear face coverings)
  • maintain social distancing
  • keep to the rule of six and minimise contact with others outside your household or grouping

The School has been fortunate (and/or has made sensible, effective precautions) that there have not been any COVID cases in the broader school community. However, we have dealt with many cases of cold- or ‘flu-like symptoms’ which have obliged some 100 pupils to go into precautionary isolation either at home or in School, in six separate incidents. As a result, we have altered our communication protocols with parents to reduce the potential for alarm and confusion.

If your child does need to isolate, the requirements are that if they are symptomatic, they must isolate for 10 days from the date of first symptoms; if they are isolating because they live in the same corridor as another pupil in their House, they must isolate for 14 days from the same date. A negative diagnostic test for COVID will release them from isolation as soon as it is received, however. We will not usually require isolation for pupils who are ‘merely’ in the same year group.

Every visitor to the School, every member of staff and pupil, has their temperature taken by one of our temperature scanners each day. We have picked up a few raised temperatures but, so far, no resultant COVID cases.

Pupils eat breakfast and lunch, and attend lessons, in their year groups. Different year groups are allocated separate areas of the School for lessons. They eat dinner in House groups. For sports, some year groups have been paired, to allow meaningful practice.

What we have changed

We have set up a COVID working group, chaired by the Deputy Head, and comprising staff from all aspects of the School.

This week, we required all members of the community to wear face coverings

  1. while queuing for meals in the Dining Hall
  2. in corridors during lesson changeovers
  3. when presenting at the IT Helpdesk

We have also adapted the meal rota and timings to allow every year group enough time to enjoy their meal, without having to cut it short to attend a lesson.

We have taken delivery of a ‘fogging machine’ for rapid disinfection of any room or space.

Mr Harrison heads up the meals provision for pupils having to isolate in Old Ridley and St Bridget’s, leading the team of graduate assistants in donning PPE to distribute food for each meal.

We have made arrangements with a company called Oncologica for COVID testing, following extended delays with the public health test system. Our experience is now that results come back 48-60 hours after the swab has been sent out. We will contact you to request permission in advance, when possible to conduct a diagnostic test on your child should they show potential COVID symptoms.

Please see our separate COVID Charter below for parents, pupils, and staff.

The high number of precautionary isolation cases has obliged us to change our procedures. If the isolation House is full, pupils will self-isolate in their own House.

Some guardians and parents have queried our recommendation for boarders to isolate at home rather than in School. We are aware of all guidance on this and, having considered all aspects of a complicated question, our view remains that it is in pupils’ best interests, for practical and pastoral reasons, to go home or to a family environment for precautionary isolation. However, we do not insist on this and, when it is not practical to do so, we undertake to look after the pupils in School.

Emails from School about precautionary isolation in future will be simpler and will clearly advise parents either “information only”, or “your child will have to isolate as a precaution against COVID”.

We will allow boarders to gather in year groups for limited periods during the weekends, to enable them to socialise with friends in different Houses.

We have employed more cleaners, increased the cleaning hours in each House, and enhanced all our disinfection and cleaning protocols so that each classroom and high-traffic area is cleaned several times each day.

The Sports Department have added sports sessions in the mornings, lunchtimes, afternoons and at specific times during the weekends to encourage pupils to spend as much time outside as possible.

We have been able to relax our routines to allow day pupils to eat dinner in School and to do their prep in House, by express advance permission from their Housemaster/ Housemistress.

What we will do next

We are energetically searching for rapid turn-round diagnostic COVID testing in order to minimise precautionary isolation.

Find ways to return safely to greater normality: sports fixtures, music and drama rehearsals, socialising.

Covid Charter

Read More

Message from Mr Corran

27th August 2020
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