Tue, 24 Nov 2020
More than 50 pupils from Newbury's Trinity School were sent home last week following a coronavirus case.
A further 37 pupils from the school have been sent home since half term, councillors and health officials heard last night (Monday).
Trinity's headteacher Dr Charlotte Wilson told the Local Outbreak Engagement Board of the challenges faced by the pandemic.
Trinity forms the Newbury Academy Trust with Speenhamland Primary and Fir Tree Primary schools.
Primary pupils are bubbled into classes, whereas Trinity has bubbled its year groups and Year 7 and 8 pupils are in tutor groups. Dr Wilson said that the system had brought pros and cons ranging from curriculum impact and spreading Covid-19.
She said: "We were incredibly lucky as a school, and I think it was luck, that we didn’t have to have any children isolating until half term."
Councillors heard that after half term three coronavirus cases had been reported at Trinity and one in a primary.
The first case at Trinity was in Year 7, resulting in 12 children having to be sent home. Dr Wilson said that seven were through sitting near the child in the classroom and the other five were because of contact outside of school.
The next case was in Year 11, where pupils have a bit more movement around school into different classes, and 25 children had to be sent home.
Dr Wilson said: "Last week a case was reported in Year 12 and 55 pupils had to be sent home because they have got a lot more freedom of movement. We are treating them like adults but then in the common room they are quite close together. So you can see the effect of bubbling."
An entire primary class including teaching assistants had to be sent home after a teacher tested positive. Dr Wilson said the class bubble had been out of school for two weeks.
Dr Wilson said that Trinity had quickly assessed contact tracing for the pupils because of seating plans and parent information.
She said: "When waiting for the test result to come through the attendance officer has traced details from parents, who are the contacts, when you get the call that they’re positive... I think we turned it around in 40 minutes.
"You can see the effect of the bubbling. Although it’s been restrictive and you can see the impacts on curriculum in terms of practical activities and keeping everybody connected, it’s had a real positive impact on the fact that we only had to send 12 home, and actually it was only seven from being in that class."
Dr Wilson said that the pandemic had presented three main challenges to pupil learning and school life.
She said: "The one that hits me the most really is the challenge of keeping schools connected, the children, communities and staff, and also that sense of our culture and our ethos.
"Things like our students being able to mix with each other across year groups, peer mentors, youth health champions, pals, all those youth leadership roles have suffered in this climate because the children have not been able to mix because they have been restricted around school. The same with staff as well."
Trinity has held virtual staff meetings, staff and pupil challenges and family initiatives as well as videoing assemblies. School events have moved online and Dr Wilson said that "children are resilient and do adapt to new ways of working".
On curriculum impact Dr Wilson said there had not been too many changes needed at primary level, but curriculum enrichment had fallen foul in subjects such as music and being able to bring musicians into school.
Bubbling Year 7 and 8 pupils in one room had resulted in Trinity not being able to run as many practical lessons in dance, drama, D&T and art.
Dr Wilson said: "This had helped with transition and keeping them together in one place but now they are ready to fly and experience secondary school. We can see they have developed the knowledge in those practical subjects but now they need to apply it in skills and we will be making curriculum changes."
The social impact of not being in school was the third challenge of the pandemic.
Dr Wilson added: "For a number of children, being out of school for such a length of time without boundaries and order and the structure that school provides, those challenging behaviours. We have spent a lot of time working with those children and their families getting them ready to get back into school."
An inclusion bubble with a reduced timetable has been created for children or parents who are anxious or nervous about going back to school.
"That’s hit some of our families hard," Dr Wilson said. "It’s about reassurance, reassuring them that school is safe and is the best place for them to be, staying at home is not the answer."