CV&CC Update 13.10.20; more questions than answers
CV&CC Update 13th October
Student attendance is currently still 91%, which is above the current national figure of 87%. We have been fortunate that staff absence remains very low, mostly unrelated to covid, and therefore single-day or short absences. There have been a handful of suspected cases among student and staff families, without any signs of this increasing (without wishing to tempt fate) but no positive tests. We are therefore continuing to provide a broad curriculum within a clear daily routine, and are beginning to explore how we can safely and cautiously build on this provision. Nationally, more than one in five schools is closed, part-closed or with students self-isolating because of covid.
The news reports increasing rates of covid cases nationally, and this is true locally with the university area of Exeter identified as a national hotspot. Local public health advice is that there is no reason to increase restrictions at present; Devon is at the “Medium” (ie the lowest) level of the new Three Tier response. Locally to us, according to the NEU covid map East Devon has risen to 35 cases per 100,000; Broadclyst, Cranbrook, Stoke Canon and area is 313/100,000 which is just over 30 actual cases. The BBC, with slightly different dates, has 50 cases for East Devon. These are below the levels at which we would need to introduce further restrictions, but you will appreciate that we are keeping a very close watch.
Steve Brown, Deputy Director for Public Health Devon commented “We are seeing cases in Devon rise generally as elsewhere in the country, but we are still lower than the national average for England though. In Exeter, the number of positive cases among the student population is going up significantly, but the number of cases among non-students are still fairly low, and is certainly below the England average.”
Face Masks on School Transport.
These become compulsory from 2nd November (if we’re not in a mini-lockdown, see below). In fairness, most of our students have been excellent at wearing masks and keeping them on. The announcement was made on Friday, and full details will be sent separately to families whose children use School Transport.
There was an announcement from Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, on Monday which confirmed that GCSE and A-level exams for 2021 will go ahead with a 3-week delay to the start date. Exams will run from 7th June to 2nd July. This is clear enough, and means that students and teachers know what to prepare for. However, there are many unanswered or new questions: there is still no Plan B in the event of significant national or local lockdowns between now and June; there will need to be a new exams timetable issued, and squashing six weeks of exams into four will inevitably have implications for students, and for schools logistically.
Two-Week “Circuit Break”
There is mounting pressure for a two (or three) week “circuit break” to halt the spread of the virus. Again, many questions are raised. Will there even be a circuit break ? Two weeks or three ? What will the dates be ? (Devon’s half-term is earlier than most) What will be the expectations on schools to set remote learning, given that all parents and families would be at home at the same time ? There is media talk of a decision by the end of next week, but that would be very short notice for Devon schools and families.