Dear Parents and carers
This is not the sort of letter we hoped to be sending to you on New Year's Eve but, as you will already be aware, the government have announced big changes to its plan for the return of pupils to schools in January. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has announced these changes in response to a new strain of Coronavirus and rising case numbers.
Regrettably, Stoke is now in Tier 4 and we know that, like us, you will be worried about the safety of your child when they return to Merit.
Mass Testing in schools
The government plans for mass Coronavirus testing to be rolled out by schools and, to give schools time to prepare, have delayed when schools reopen. For mainstream schools this means exam groups will return on January 11 and everybody else back by January 18 at the earliest.
As Merit is a pupil referral service it follows different government guidance and this means that it will be able to reopen this week. We will be offering a staggered start to year groups to enable us to test all staff and pupils so we can open as safely as possible.
Monday 4th January
Merit is closed to pupils to allow the testing of all staff and to organise testing for pupils. Remote learning is available in the students' section of the school website.
Tuesday 5th January
Year 11 return to school for 9am. Students will be shown how to test themselves using the new lateral flow tests that give a result in 30 minutes. All children with a negative test result will attend lessons as normal.
Wednesday 6th January
Year 10 and Key stage 3 return to school for 9am and will be shown how to test themselves. They will then attend lessons as normal assuming they receive a negative result.
Consenting to tests
At the end of term we sent home consent forms for testing pupils. Although there is no legal requirement for you to consent to testing we would strongly urge you to allow the regular testing of your child.
The new strain of the virus is extremely concerning and is known to be much more efficient as spreading through school populations. As Merit operates as one social bubble, the only way we can protect everyone is to test regularly, it only takes one case to infect the whole school.
Why consenting to testing is so important
We have vulnerable children who attend Merit with chronic medical conditions and compromised immune systems and we all need to do our bit to keep everyone safe from this horrible virus. We would ask you to please think very carefully before witholding consent for testing as this can have serious consequences, not just for pupils and staff but for your familes and the wider community.
If you have lost the consent form we sent home we will accept a handwritten note, worded as follows:
I (parent/carer name) give consent for (pupil name) to be tested for Coronavirus on a weekly basis by Merit. Signed (add signature).
The government plan to review arrangements for schools in 2 weeks time and we will keep you updated if anything changes.
Merit recommend the wearing of face coverings for staff and pupils as the layout of the school makes it particularly difficult to maintain social distancing when staff and pupils are moving around the premises. We cannot guarantee at least a 1 metre distance from others. The use of face coverings will provide additional confidence to parents to support a full return of children to school. It is vital that face coverings are worn correctly to avoid inadvertently increasing the risks of transmission, school have a small contingency supply available where anybody struggles to access a face covering or have forgotten to bring one.
We still very much hope that Merit will continue with minimal disruption to learning and we would like to thank you in advance for your support - we cannot do this without you. We have only just found out about the changes and are working very hard beind the scenes to get everything in place, thankyou in advance for your patience and understanding whilst we try to implement these major changes.
We understand you will be worried and are happy to discuss any concerns with you personally. You will be able to contact us through the school office on Monday 4th January or email any of our Senior leadership team.
Teacher in Charge