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Alness Academy head teacher tells pupils what to expect following return after Easter break and thanks parents for 'kindess, understanding and support' during Covid-19 pandemic; Questions on face coverings, school transport and contingency plans addressed ahead of return


By Hector MacKenzie

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Alness Academy. Picture: Callum Mackay
Alness Academy. Picture: Callum Mackay

EASTER Ross pupils preparing to return to a secondary school next week following the latest lockdown have been told what to expect as they get back into classrooms.

While primary school pupils returned before the Easter break, there was a phased return to most secondary schools with only a proportion of students in at any one time.

All secondary students are due to return to full-time schooling next week.

The Scottish Government has confirmed this will involve the removal of strict 2m physical distancing between pupils. However, 2m distancing between staff must be maintained and there should be 2m distancing between adults and children whenever possible.

Alness Academy head teacher Craig Paterson has shared the latest guidance in a letter to parents and asked: "When you are having a conversation with your son/daughter about the expectations around returning to school I would be grateful if you would remind them of this."

What else to expect:

Face coverings

Face coverings must be worn at all times by staff and young people in secondary school. This includes classrooms. Face coverings should also be worn by parents and other visitors to the school site, whether entering the building or otherwise, and this includes parents at drop-off and pick-up.

Mr Paterson said: "We do understand how difficult this is for young people and will continue to emphasise this expectation with kindness and understanding. It would be hugely helpful if you could also discuss with your son daughter at home the vital nature of this measure in keeping everyone safe."

There are situations where some young people are unable to, or it would be inappropriate for them, to wear a face covering. The reasons why someone might be exempt are explained on the NHS Scotland face covering exemptions page.

Schools have been asked to consider how they can strengthen other mitigations in the light of the removal of the expectation to socially distance for young people. At Alness Academy this will include, where practical, possible use of outdoor learning areas and avoiding gatherings such as assemblies.

The letter makes clear that ventilation of classrooms "will also be a key part of this strategy" and that while existing uniform expectations at Alness Academy will resume at the start of term, with students expected to attend school in blazers, shirts and ties as usual, "due to the need for us to keep warm in draughty classrooms students will be permitted to wear jackets or other outdoor clothing in classes at the discretion of the class teacher".

Contingency plans for interruptions to learning

Although Alness Academy will fully reopen after Easter, plans for remote learning in the event of either a temporary school closure on the advice of the health protection team or a further area or national lockdown will continue to be in place "and will be updated to fit the fluid and fast moving situation we find ourselves in"

The Alness Academy risk assessment will continue to be updated and available through the school website.

School transport

Maintaining distance between young people on dedicated school transport "is not necessary", the letter states. If the Highland Council transport unit makes the decision to put in place any additional mitigations, "these will be clearly communicated to schools and parents via the transport unit". In addition, students traveling via school transport should note that the consumption and sharing of food and drink on school transport is not allowed.

Testing for Covid-19

The use of lateral flow device home testing by secondary pupils and all school staff "is an additional measure in place at Alness Academy to help manage risk". After the Easter break, testing is available to all secondary pupils. At-home testing using lateral flow devices will identify asymptomatic individuals in school so that they and their close contacts can self-isolate, minimising the likelihood of passing on the virus. Any testing is voluntary and nobody is required to test in order to access the school. Test kits are available from the school office.

Anyone with questions is asked to get in touch with the school.

Mr Paterson stated: "We are greatly looking forward to young people returning to learning at Alness Academy on a full-time basis and would like to thank you again for your kindness, understanding and support for the school through what have been, and continue to be challenging times."

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