Head Teacher Update - Letter and Video 54

17th September in School

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17th September 2021

Dear Parent / Carer (please share with your child)

I hope this letter finds you and your family all safe and well again.

We have now settled into the groove of learning and teaching across all our classes, which is
wonderful news. The initial flurry of activity that all schools face on their return to school
following the summer recess, more so with ourselves, given the immediacy of the Oban Games
and our own Highland Games, has receded. All our efforts are entirely on taking forward each
of the courses, developing the wider interests of the school (clubs, teams, events etc.) and
supporting all our youngsters socially and emotionally, as well as academically and
vocationally. So, we are settled but still very busy.

I noted in my last letter that during the first few weeks we saw relatively few confirmed cases
of Covid in the school. Indeed there was no more than a handful each week. Sadly, alongside
the rest of the country, cases have notably risen and working with the NHS Health Protection
Team, we have increasingly been sending out more warning letters on behalf of the NHS.
There are over a thousand souls in Oban High School and although the numbers of confirmed
Covid cases can still be counted on my fingers and toes, any rise is of concern. Of particular
concern is the significant numbers of adults and pupils who have to self-isolate whilst awaiting
the results of PCR tests or because they have not been vaccinated. It is this number that
creates the most difficulty for the running of our school when we face a reduction of teaching
and support staff and a reduction in the size of our classes. Both scenarios inhibit the natural
development of lessons. I am pleased to note that this issue has improved throughout this
week, with less adults and pupils missing school but, nonetheless, I remain cautious and am
determined to keep all our precautionary measures in place.

It is important to note that Oban High School is far from alone in facing such concerns and the
Scottish Government has issued updated guidance to all schools, and Jason Leitch, the
national Clinical Director, has written to all parents and carers. You can find the guidance from
both in these links:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-reducing-the-risks-inschools/

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-managing-cases-in-schools-andchildcare-settings/

Covid Guidance

The NHS guidance on Covid and the option to ask questions of the NHS can be accessed
here:

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronaviruscovid-19

In summary, any adult or child who develops a high temperature, new continuous cough or a
loss or change to sense of smell or taste must self-isolate immediately, in line with NHS
Guidance. Those aged 5 and over who are living in the same household must also isolate while
awaiting the outcome of the PCR test result for the unwell household member.

It is also important to remember that any pupil who is unwell (whether that’s with symptoms of
Covid-19 or with symptoms of other infections) should not attend.

As has been the case since we returned in August, all fully vaccinated staff and pupils who are
identified as a high-risk close contact will be asked by NHS Test and Protect teams to self-
isolate until they have returned a negative PCR test. For children and young people, a high-
risk close contact is most likely to be household members, or anybody who they have stayed
overnight with. All other contacts are considered to be low-risk; this may include classmates,
for example, but wouldn’t typically extend as far as year groups or whole schools.

For low-risk close contacts, we know that you will also want to remain informed and so we will
issue a targeted Information letter with appropriate advice on behalf of the NHS. These letters,
although highlighting concerns of cases, will basically advise that your child should continue to
attend school if they are well, and that parents can support children to take an LFD test before
returning if they and their child wish to do so.

Free at-home LFD test kits are available for you and your children by collection from COVID
test centres or pharmacies, or delivery by ordering online. Parents may wish to ensure they
have a pack of test kits available in case of positive cases in their child’s class or childcare
cohort. However, there continues to be no need to test regularly as part of attending childcare
or primary school.

Secondary school pupils should also continue to attend if feeling well, but the warn and protect
letter advises that they take a lateral flow test before they next return to school wherever
possible, and continue with twice-weekly lateral flow testing and reporting of all results
(positive, negative or void) thereafter. Free test kits are available to all our high school children.

SQA

I met online with the Parent Council this week and covered many of the above concerns, as
well as more positive items such as their enthusiasm to work with the school on a number of
support developments for parents and pupils. Within that discussion however was the concern
over SQA related matters. Since that meeting earlier in the week, the SQA have issued
guidance to schools that I feel parents should be aware of:

https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/99158.html

In short, the SQA are clearly aware of the disruption to learning caused nationally by the
significant levels of absence amongst teachers and pupils and have advised schools of three
scenarios for moving forward with exams:

  1. If safe to do so, proceed with the exams as planned.
  2. If there are increased levels of disruption then hold the exams but with modifications to
    the exams and/or additional measures to help reduce exam stress.
  3. If public health advice leads to the exams being cancelled again, then schools should
    be using guidance (still to be issued in October) to gather evidence to support teacher
    estimates of attainment.

It is important to note that these are welcomed precautionary measures and that our focus
remains on teaching our children as planned. Teachers continually need to gather evidence
through day-to-day lessons and the completion of homework that informs next steps for our
children as they work their way through courses naturally. As long as children attend school,
attend timeously and show commitment to their learning both in school and at home (when
appropriate) then regardless if they sit an exam or receive an evidenced estimate by their
teacher, then, I have no doubt, they will do well.

We have put in a place a programme of support for learning, memory and revision, etc, and
this will be for our young people and parents/carers. We will announce this with plenty of
advance notice. Live n’ Learn will also be running workshops for S4, 5 and 6 after the October
break.

Blended Learning

As well as preparing for a worst case scenario for exams, we have also prepared for a worst
case scenario in the event we have to isolate significantly more children or cater for increased
staff absence. That preparation has already been issued to you and involves us using our
extensive IT facilities and experience in delivering online learning. Obviously we do not wish or
expect to enact either the exam or the blended learning preparations and I only advise you of
these measures to re-assure you that everything is well planned. I would re-iterate that these
measures are not imminent, merely planned for.

Kind volunteers

I mentioned earlier that we are back on track with the more normal aspects of running the
school. Clubs are up and running and I am pleased to see the youngsters running about playing
football, rugby, shinty, badminton etc. The pipe band and traditional musicians are all
entertaining us on practice evenings and we have new clubs on the go, like the Sewing Club
which saw its first keen batch of kids meeting this week. Duke of Edinburgh is back as
previously advertised in my recent letters and the Eco kids are all back on the trail of keeping
our environment clean and tidy and on educating our community of the benefits of renewables
and recycling. My thanks to all the staff and senior pupils who give up an immense amount of
free time in the evenings and weekends to ensure all these clubs provide a wealth of wider
interest and enjoyment for our children.

My thanks too to the SPLT who this week led an eco-assembly. All the SPLT come together
and agree themes for the assemblies each week, then the pairs of clan leaders deliver online
assemblies directly to their own Clan classes. Most of our assembly videos can be found on
the school YouTube channel. These assembly videos and the video version of this letter will
appear tonight and over the weekend when I have time to produce and upload them.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqVauXoUp5efv8sm1zBk0ig

Respect for our community

Finally, as litter is a particular cause of concern for us, both in and out of school, my thanks to
all the pupils and staff out picking up litter in the streets, the wee park and the burn in particular.
Our regular Eco-group, Learning Centre Groups and civic minded pupils and staff are all worthy
of our thanks for their efforts. As well as these planned opportunities, my deputes, pastoral
staff and/or I take a daily walk at lunchtimes, whenever possible, around the streets close to
the school, checking all is well… but we can’t spend the whole of lunchtime patrolling the
streets as we have a rather large school to supervise when the teachers are all having lunch,
and around a thousand youngsters need supervised on the school estate.

So, Police Scotland advise that if you witness the crime of littering being perpetrated (a breach
of Section 87 EPA 1990), then you should call 101 immediately. Please call 101 in the first
instance so the Police can respond quickly and quite rightly catch and if necessary fine (if
deemed appropriate by the Police) those adults or children responsible. Of course if you do not
witness such littering in person, the advice is not to call 101 but report the matter to Argyll and
Bute Council. Here’s the link if required:

https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/rubbish-and-recycling/looking-after-your-streets

The school continues to educate our youngsters about the issue of respect, for oneself, others
and our community. We do this in assemblies, in PSEd. classes, in Clan Class activities and
with individual pupils or groups we catch displaying unacceptable behaviour, in or out of the
school. Together with instruction from parents and from our Police colleagues I am positive
that the very small number of those who show a lack of respect for our community will modify
their behaviour for the benefit of all. Thanks for re-enforcing our message with your children
when you can.

As well as our education programme we continue to work in partnership with our Police
Scotland colleagues, the Community Planning Partnership Community and the Oban
Community Council whenever necessary.

Support

Should you have any questions, ideas or even concerns please contact your child’s Guidance
Teacher or use the “Contact Us” page on the website. Our clan pastoral teams are here to
support you and the Guidance staff, Family Liaison Officers, Youth Worker, IT support staff,
careers staff and the Clan Deputes will all ensure we work together to help you and our
children.

Yours faithfully,

P A Bain
Executive Head Teacher
Oban High School, Tiree High School & Tiree Primary School


Mr Bain’s update 17th September

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