Headteacher Update - Friday 10th October 2020
Thank you for all of your support over the last few weeks as we have adapted school life to a new way of working in these unusual times. Despite these challenges our students and staff at Benfield have responded fantastically to these changes and should be a source of pride for everyone in our local community in the way they have started this academic year.
As you are aware, we have put significant measures in place since the start of the school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We continue to review our risk assessments every week and ensure these reflect the latest advice and guidance.
To date we have had a small number of cases of pupils testing positive for COVID-19 in separate year groups. In each case this has resulted in small groups of pupils and staff who had been in close contact with those individuals having to remain at home and self-isolate as a precautionary measure. I can assure you that whenever a case occurs we closely follow the protocols from the City Council and Public Health to ensure that we act responsibly to keep our students and staff safe.
None of these cases has identified any shortfalls in our current procedures. Many schools are finding themselves in a similar position as infection rates across Newcastle and surrounding local authorities have risen in recent weeks. Unfortunately, I cannot rule out further cases being reported in the weeks ahead but I would like to stress that Benfield will continue to follow our current line of approach in line with the requirements of schools from the Department of Education.
I appreciate this is a concerning time for parents and we will continue to keep you informed if we have any more confirmed cases so that you’re aware of whether or not your child needs to self-isolate.
As we head towards the end of this half-term - and as some of our school systems which were new in September are now becoming more routine and familiar - I thought this would be a good opportunity to write to you and ask for your further support in reminding students of the social distancing requirements which will help us all to remain safe while in school. Although none of the steps below are problems in school at the moment, we feel they will be appropriate precautionary steps to take given the recent news reports about the status of the virus within our region and the possibility of further local and national restrictions.
To help us ensure all students and staff within school, we must all remember to:
o walking to school, on public transport and waiting at gates on Benfield Road.
o Standing or sitting with friends in social areas.
o Walking along corridors, or waiting briefly to enter classrooms
Our aim here at Benfield is to provide all of our students with an uninterrupted education so they can make up for time we have lost already, but to do that in as safe an environment as possible. Our systems at school have proven to be effective so far, and believe that with a reminder to students about these basic measures, that we can continue to provide reassurance and support for our students.
We will be asking to staff to help remind students of the importance of social distancing throughout the school, and appreciate your support in reinforcing the importance of this message in partnership with us. It would also be appreciated if students could bring their own mask with them to school as several students are now expecting to be issued with a fresh mask every day from our supply of spares, which is obviously starting to cause problems.
Thank you again for your support, and we should all be incredibly proud with how our school community continues to respond to these challenging times.
Headteacher Weekly Update – Friday 2nd October 2020
We have now arrived at the end of our fourth week of term here in school and again we have continued to have a feeling of calmness around the school site. Students are still maintaining safe social distancing and are following our expectations around handwashing and sanitising very well. Teaching and learning in classrooms has also been good this week with levels of student engagement on our ‘Recovery Curriculum’ being very high and impressive.
I am also pleased to inform you that school remains safe and secure as we continue to enforce our Risk Assessment document.
Teaching, Learning and the Recovery curriculum
Over the past three weeks in lessons, we have been revisiting the themes and topics within our schemes of learning from last year. This week in school, students in year’s 8-13 have been sitting assessments on this work. This has been specifically designed so that teaching staff can identify the personalised gaps in learning for each and every student. As we move towards the October half-term break, future lessons from next week will be targeted at addressing these gaps and supporting students in their learning and progress.
Virtual Parent Evening – Tuesday 13th October 2020 3.30-6.30pm
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, our usual school events at present are having to operate differently to our normal approach to ensure the health and safety of everyone on the school premises.
With this in mind, our first Parent Evening event will be taking place virtually on Tuesday 13th October (between 3:30-6:30pm) with form tutors making contact with parents/carers by telephone. No appointments will be taking place on the school premises. This telephone appointment will allow discussions to take place about how your child has settled in to school under our new ways of working since September, and how they have adapted to our ‘Recovery Curriculum’. Pastoral issues will also be discussed if required. Form tutors will also take any questions which you may have about current arrangements in school.
Letters were posted home today from school to all parents/carers containing all of the information relating to this event, including an appointment sheet for parents/carers to indicate preferred times for appointments which needs to be returned to form tutors in school. Copies of this letter are also available on the school website.
School Catering and Student Social Times
I am pleased to inform you that the initial problems with the external computer system used in school which affected a number of student accounts at the beginning of term has now been addressed. We have conducted some student voice group work in school this week to seek feedback from students about social times and the quality, cost and range of catering on offer to students in school. Students are very positive and particularly pleased that hot food is now available to all year groups. They are also feeding back that this week the range of meals available to purchase has expanded even further. We are now in the process of installing additional till service points to certain locations in order to increase the number of access points to food for students.
Additional seating is also awaiting delivery to school to increase the number of seats which students can use across the site during this time. In-door facilities are also in place for days when the weather is unsuitable to allow students to socialise outdoors.
Year 5 & Year 6 Virtual Open Evening 2020
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 and the current restrictions linked to mitigating risk and promoting good health and safety for everyone, we are unable to conduct our usual style of Open Evening where prospective parents/carers would visit the school with their child, experience all of our curriculum departments and also sample the food available to students.
Our Open Evening for all Year 5 and 6 parents and students will now be a virtual experience, which launched yesterday in the Year 5 and Year 6 Open Evening section of the Benfield School website homepage.
All of the information that you need about our fantastic school is located in the links on the left-hand side of this page.
Please use these links where you can:
- watch a series of short videos that will inform you about school, school life and also all of the curriculum department areas at Benfield. You will have an opportunity to see many of our teaching staff here too
- Read key information about Benfield School by selecting the documents tab
In addition to this, we will also be holding a Facebook LIVE chat event with our governors, members of the senior leadership team and other key members of staff. This is a chance to have a live chat and ask the questions that you would have asked if you visited the school. It is designed to provide answers and key information to you first-hand.
We can now confirm the timing for this Facebook LIVE event will be Thursday 8th October 5.00pm - 6.30pm.
Should you have any further questions, please contact the following email address:
Applications for places at secondary schools open on 10th September and end on the 31st October 2020. The application form can be form at:
Student School Uniform
A reminder for parents/carers of the school expectations in relation to school uniform during the current COVID-19 pandemic:
- Students can wear Benfield PE kit to school all day if they have a PE lesson. Non Benfield PE kit must not be worn (students must change into this prior to the lesson – PE staff will direct students to correct changing areas)
- Skirts must be fitted and knee length. Skin tight skirts are not permitted.
- Trousers must not be skin tight e.g. leggings and sports tights
- Black shoes must be worn. Trainers can only be worn to and from school and for sports activities in lessons and at lunch.
Year 7 - International Smile Day Fundraising Efforts
Congratulations to our new Year 7 students who have worked together to raise funds on International Smile Day for the charity Smile Train. Students attended school in hoodies yesterday and today and made donations to this cause. It was good to see our students raising the profile of a national initiative here in school this week and it also helped to see so many smiles in what are difficult and challenging times for many in the current climate.
Benfield Cycling Scheme and Extra-curricular Activities
If you are a Facebook user and follow the school, as many of you already do, you will have seen a range of initiatives being promoted and showcased this week on the school Facebook page highlighting students both accessing and excelling in a wide range of both curricular and extra-curricular activities. I have been very pleased this week to watch the PE department engage students in key stage 3 with our new cycling scheme and I also spent time yesterday afternoon with all three year groups (7-9) of students who are part of our talented Benfield ELITE Football Academy, along with their highly experienced coaches monitoring their progress.
Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.
Friday 25th September 2020
Welcome to my weekly Headteacher update for parents/carers.
The calm start to the new term continues
We have been back at school under our new ways of working for three weeks in to term now and I would like to assure you that our systems and processes remain effective and robust in reducing risk around COVID-19 as much as possible in school, in line with government and Department for Education guidance.
We have continued this week with our the very settled start on site and all students are familiar with daily hygiene routines and how their individual bubble groups move around the site safely, avoiding contact with other bubbles. Students are now very efficient in handwashing and sanitising and are adhering to our risk assessment document and following the requirements in school for face coverings to be worn in all communal areas on-site well. We also have a clear system in place to support those students who are exempt from wearing face coverings.
In particular, I would like to congratulate our new Year 7 students who have continued their excellent start to the term and life in their new school. All of our students across all year groups are coping well with very unusual and challenging circumstances and we are also supporting all students with their well-being through our strong pastoral system
COVID-19 Control Plan
I contacted you earlier in the week after Benfield had its first and only confirmed COVID-19 case in Year 11. Myself and other senior staff followed our COVID Control Plan effectively and worked with Public Health England closely to ensure that our tracking and tracing in school identified all close contacts to the carrier. This small group of students have been instructed to follow NHS and PHE guidance in relation to self-isolation where they have/are being provided with remote learning to complete at home and support them in their learning until they return back to school. If any further confirmed cases occur within the school then the same process will be followed and parents/carers will receive a text message as soon as possible, linked to a personalised letter, which will provide you with all of the information you require indicating if your child/children has/have been identified as a close contact or confirming that they are not a close contact.
School catering update
I thanked you all last week for your patience and understanding in relation to some early initial issues we were experiencing with our catering provision during break and lunch at school for students. I am pleased to say that these issues have been addressed now and this week students have been able to purchase a range of hot food products. I am pleased to tell you that this offer will increase and vary in both choice and range over coming weeks.
The finger print system which has experienced technical issue at times, in particular for our Year 7 students, has also now been addressed and today a problem free lunch service ran smoothly. Hot food was also available for Year 7 students as well as all other year groups. Moving forward, we will also be increasing the number of till service points in catering areas in order to reduce the need for queuing.
I am still aware that the new ‘Fusion’ app which has been introduced is receiving some comments from parents/carers that it is still causing some difficulties and I am also aware that some parents/carers are experiencing technical issues with their Parent Pay accounts. Please contact school in the event of this and we will help and support you to address these issues swiftly.
Responding to student feedback
We are working hard to respond to feedback from students in Year 9 who are based on the science corridor and who work in science classrooms within their Year group bubble. Some students reported that the stools in use in the rooms were not comfortable for them and so last week an order was placed to replace every stool in every science classroom with a new style of chair which provides better comfort and support for every student. We are currently awaiting delivery of these here in school. In addition to this, there will be significant construction work taking place over this weekend to adapt some current fencing within the Year 9 social space. This will more than double the current space for Year 9 students to be able to access in this area and this will be accompanied by new external furniture and additional seating to better meet student need and improve their experience during social times. Additional outdoor coverage will also be installed to this area.
Virtual Year 5 and 6 Open Evening
I would like to confirm that this year’s Year 5 and Year 6 Open Evening event will be taking place in a virtual format. Please see the Benfield School website for further details of the range of activities that will be taking place and supporting resources.
Parents’ Evening – All Year groups
Similarly, in line with our approach to Open Evening, our first Parent Evening event of the year is calendared to take place on Tuesday 13th October 2020. This will be COVID-19 safe and will also be operating differently this year with staff contacting parents/carers at home via telephone to conduct appointments, reducing the need for access to the school site for parents/carers.
Listening and responding to the views of parents/carers to further build on communication systems
Finally, I have been speaking to many parents/carers this week to listen to and also seek their views on how Benfield has previously, and currently, responds to requests from parents/carers and communicates key information throughout the school year to yourselves at home.
Continuing to work to improve these areas remains a key priority for myself and the senior leadership team here in school and I will be providing you with further updates as to how we will be doing this throughout the academic year.
Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.
18th September 2020
I am writing what I intend to be a weekly update for parents and carers to provide you with essential information about the school and our students as we continue to experience changes in local and national circumstances in relation to COVID-19. I hope that this weekly information will give you the key information which you will want to know, as well as reassure at this challenging time. From next week this update will be posted on the Benfield School website.
From today, Friday 18th September, the North East has entered a stage of local restrictions as a preventative measure to help stem a further increase in infection rates. The updated government guidance outlines that school settings will continue to remain open and therefore the current situation in Benfield remains that we expect all pupils who are well to continue to attend school every day for classroom based delivery of the curriculum.
I am delighted to inform you all that the start to the year has been very calm and positive with pupils quickly settling back into school life and meeting the high expectations we have of them. Attendance in the first week was very high and we hope to see this continue as we deliver our ‘recovery curriculum’ across all key stages here in school this half-term to help students catch up on missed learning and to support each individual student in specific and personalised areas of their own learning.
The whole School COVID-19 Risk Assessment document has been published on the school website since the summer holidays for all parents/carers to see and read through and this is fully reviewed and updated every week in response to government and Public Health England changes. While our additional Covid-19 procedures are working well, we will of course continue to develop them in accordance with government guidance, feedback from families and our own experiences within school. With the vast amount of changes for everyone to become familiar with here in school and our new ways of working it is natural that there will be issues that we have and l will become aware of. Thank you for your feedback so far regarding seating in social spaces, and in particular, for your patience and understanding with some technical issues that we have experienced due to an outside ICT software contractor with our new catering ordering arrangements which have caused some levels of disruption to the lunch experience for some students here in school. I assure you that we are working very hard daily with this company to ensure that we get things running as was intended and as they should be, as soon as possible.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you and your children for how well you have adapted to new routines, expectations and ways of working. I am very proud as Headteacher of how our pupils and staff have risen to the challenge of making sure that our school site remains the safe for everyone who enters.
Safety in school
It is clear that the number of cases of Covid-19 in the local area is rising. Benfield School has not yet had any confirmed cases in school. It is possible that there will be a confirmed case on-site at some point in time. I would like to assure you that Benfield already has robust plans in place through our COVID Control Plan which are prepared in the event of a confirmed case. Parents and carers will quickly be provided with all of the information which you require. It is therefore important that you continue to support the school and local community through following the guidelines below if your child displays Covid-19 symptoms.
- You must not send your child to school
- You should inform us by calling the Benfield School telephone number and select the report student absence option.
- If a member of the household (or support bubble) has symptoms of Covid-19, the whole household (or support bubble) must self-isolate, and children should not attend school.
Please find a guide for parents/carers explaining what to do should you think your child has symptoms
The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
Mandatory use of Face coverings in communal areas in school settings in local lockdown restrictions
The new updated government guidance linked to the local lockdown restrictions is clear on the need for use of face coverings in all communal areas within the school:
‘Unless exempt, in education settings where students in Year 7 and above are educated, including middle schools, face coverings should be worn by staff, visitors and students when moving around in corridors and communal areas.’
Please ensure that you work with your child to ensure that they have a mask to wear in the communal areas of school. Benfield is a COVID secure site and we insist that every member of staff and student not exempt from wearing a face covering for medical reasons is required to wear one in communal areas in order to conform to the school risk assessment and health and safety expectations.
Avoiding close contact
It is important that we do all we can to keep ourselves and other people safe.
Close contact is defined as:
- Direct close contact – face-to-face contact with an individual for any length of time within 1 metre, including a face-to-face conversation, or physical contact (skin-to-skin)
- Proximity contact – extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an individual
- Travelling in a small vehicle, like a car, with another person
Appointments & School Events
In order to continue to keep our school site COVID secure and to mitigate risk as much as possible, I would like to remind you that parents and carers must not come into the school reception if they have not previously made an appointment to see a member of staff.
To support the need to reduce the number of people on the school premises we are currently exploring holding parents’/carers’ evenings and other information events in different ways to normal. More details will be provided as they are confirmed. Our Year 5 and 6 Open Evening events will take place virtually this year which is different from our normal approach.
Home/remote learning if a Benfield student is absent through self-isolation
In the event of your child having to isolate, their work will be set for them remotely to complete off-site at home. All instructions will be issued to students in relation to our re-imagined/remote learning curriculum. Please ensure that your child is able to log in and is familiar with accessing the school website from home so that there are no delays to them accessing their work. We have ensured that all pupils self-isolating will be set work from every curriculum area to support their learning and progress. This will also include opportunities for assessment and receiving feedback from subject staff.
Thank you for your on-going support of the school during these current circumstances.