16th April in School
Dear Parent / Carer (please share with your child) and colleagues,
I hope this letter finds you and your family all safe and well again. I also hope that you are having a
lovely holiday. Although it remains cold, at least the sun has been out most days.
May I begin by thanking the many staff who have been in school carrying out cleaning, painting,
construction, admin duties and general maintenance on the building and IT infrastructure. Thanks also
to all the teachers and support staff who have been supporting our pupils both pastorally and
academically. As you are all aware we have provided a comprehensive Easter Study resource across
the holidays and I am sure this will have provided support and comfort to many.
As I noted in my last letter, we were awaiting confirmation from the Scottish Government that all pupils,
in all schools, could return after Easter. This instruction and supplementary guidance on how to achieve
this aim safely has now been published, and all our pupils will return fully on Monday 19th April at 9 am
in full uniform, and with a face covering. This guidance can be found in full here:
First Minister’s statement of 6th April announcing all pupils are to return post Easter.
Subsequent guidance for schools
In summary, we shall return to school with all the same safeguards as we had before the most recent
Lockdown began but also with the added precaution of wearing face coverings when in all classrooms,
communal areas or when walking around the school. We will also continue to offer asymptomatic tests
for all those who wish them.
A reminder that we are only able to return in full if schools ensure other mitigating factors, which are all
based on Scottish Government advice, are in place to keep us all safe. In our case:
We continue to work with Education Transport to ensure our pupils travel safely to school.
Parents are not allowed in school and are advised to drop off their children at a safe distance and safe
location away from the school to ensure children arrive staggered and that parents don’t mix in school.
OHS has a single entry point. Staff are at each of the doorways ensuring every person who enters gets
hand sanitiser. This has also proven popular as a way of saying hello to everyone as they come to
school. Sanitiser is also in every room and has to be used on entry and exit, everywhere they go. Our
day cleaner does an excellent job going around the school wiping every handle and banister constantly.
This occurs roughly each hour.
The new school has air vents in every external window. They are kept open constantly, as is each door,
to create a natural air flow through the rooms / school. We have external air vents for internal rooms. In
fact we have just finished installing more air conditioning during Easter.
Last year we wrote a timetable that blocked classes and reduced movement across the school. We
also split lunches to reduce mixing and that created staggered ends to the day.
Year groups are not allowed to mix and have separate canteen areas and outside recreation zones (we
use the gyms to achieve this) Pre-ordered lunches are delivered to classes, in individual bags, to avoid
queues. All orders are paid for online to avoid cash handling.
Many subjects have restrictions on them, even with this return. Therefore we have more outside learning
to ensure we can deliver as many practical subjects as possible. We built an outside gym to cater for
our senior PE students doing performance and strength and conditioning classes and bought a massive
marquee and built a dance floor to allow our School of Dance to continue. This can now also be used
for piping and wind instruments on our return, with more subject changes being introduced. In addition,
we have all the equipment and outside facilities to allow engineering and construction type subjects to
be taught outside.
The pandemic has brought significant stresses to families. OHS is divided into four clans, each with a pastoral team.
DHTs, Guidance Teachers, Family Liaison Officers, Pupil Support and IT support staff
have all been allocated to each clan and we use this broad team to support whatever need we can.
This has proven invaluable as families reach out to us with a multitude of concerns about families coping
with Lockdown and anxiety about returning. These are often family / work / money concerns, not always
just how a child is engaging. Please continue to contact us.
All the plans made and all actions taken are done so following the advice provided by the Scottish
Government, from discussions and strategies arising from the Local Authority Recovery Group and
from shared experiences between Head Teachers and schools across Scotland, where we look for best
practice. In this case, we are a week behind other schools returning after Easter and we’ve been
following the lessons learned from other schools this week.
Face coverings is the key difference for us, given we already enforced all the other mitigating factors,
and everyone will have to wear face coverings when in classes, communal areas and when moving
around the building; and we will continue to offer asymptomatic testing to all adults and children.
As you are aware, there are no exams again this year. This link shows how pupils will be assessed,
leading to an SQA award. In summary, schools are able to use assessments of progress from across
the year. Some of these assessments will have already been done as it is entirely natural for teachers
to test progress as we go along. If a pupil met the SQA success criteria in a previous test, then there is
no need to assess that criteria again. Of course, pupils take time to complete courses and some parts
of the courses will not yet have been assessed. After Easter, we have built in an “assessment window”
where we will continue to teach pupils across the course but where a pupil is ready to sit an assessment
to determine if they have passed an element of an SQA course, then they will: when they are ready.
This link explains what all the changes are, and how schools are expected to carry out these
assessments on behalf of the SQA.
As noted above, our Pastoral Teams have been providing a wealth of support to families. Please
continue to contact us to let us know the support you require. Please use the “Contact Us” page on the
website or call your Clan Guidance Teacher if in Oban or PT Primary / PT Secondary if in Tiree.
I am very much looking forward to seeing all our pupils and colleagues back in school next week. Enjoy
the rest of the weekend everyone.
P A Bain
Executive Head Teacher
Oban High School, Tiree High School & Tiree Primary School