Here we go again

The flurry of major announcements from HM Government last week will have spurred schools into action countrywide. Here I have just written out to parents to chart the way forward for the next couple of weeks, a letter that had a complicated and intensive gestation as you might imagine. The challenge presented by having to carry out around 3,500 lateral flow tests in school over the first two week back in considerable. As I write this sitting in glorious Spring sunshine at my PC I am still am not sure whether the arrangements that I have sketched out will work, but we will do our very best! The sixth form are the first to engage as they will travel in to school on Friday of the coming week for a test and nothing else; their lessons will evaporate for the day as it would be just too complicated for everyone if teachers and students had to worry about remote lessons as well as testing all at the same time. A day to clear their heads will do the students good too - they can get their ducks in a row ready for Monday 8 March when their face-to-face lessons will begin.

Between Monday 8 - Wednesday 10 March we will be bringing the rest of the students back to the school site, most of them for the first time in over two months. The Sports Hall should be transformed into a full-blown medical testing facility with a daily staff of around 20, testing, processing, recording, martialling the troops and then supervising them before they eventually can join their first face to face lessons since Christmas. I know that the staff are really looking forward to getting stuck in, and I suspect that our students feel the same way. Then, once we are all back in the classroom there will be 2 more tests to be done for every one of our 1054 students. All of the testing needs to be complete by 15 March.

Will things be 'back to normal'? Sadly, the answer has to be 'no', at least for the moment. Because of the persistent risk of transmission both within wider society and therefore within school, all of the control measures will be in place - and in fact we are strengthening the rules on the wearing of face masks so that our students will be asked to all wear them in normal classroom environments; the only exceptions will be in specific areas or subjects (eg PE or Drama) where sanctioned by their teachers. Bubbles and bubble spaces will still be a fact of life, extra-curricular activities will still be restricted in many areas and school trips will be restricted to day excursions only. Sports fixtures and music performances will still be largely off-limits or severely curtailed, but even so there is (for me) the feeling that the thaw is on its way.

The coming two weeks present a mountain that has to be scaled then; I thought that I had experienced most things in quite a lengthy teaching career, but mass testing on such a scale is a novel experience. We'll get through it - and the prospect of the reinstatement of routine in school life beckons from mid-March onwards.