July 3, 2020, 11:53 am
Filed under: Headteacher

Government guidance for schools was published yesterday regarding planned full re-opening of schools in September:

I am sharing my initial plans with you for your information and in the spirit of inviting your participation in the process. The whole community, I think, wants the school fully open and as safe as possible: what’s good for one of us is good for all of us, so please share your thoughts with me about these plans, either by the comment tab or by email to

I fully expect further guidance from the government to arrive between now and then, and the extent of the virus in the future is unknown, and even when we open all of our practices will be subject to ongoing review; but (on the understanding that things will change) this is how I currently foresee it…

If we have another lockdown: there will be again a combination of online and paper based work offered, and the school will try to accommodate the different contexts of parents as to what works best for them- online work, text books, printed work packs and so on. From September we shall be teaching the children how to access Google Classrooms, which may open up something we haven’t used in this period. We shall also assess the value of other sources available such as National Oak Academy and so on.

Staggered arrival and collection times e.g.

8.50 a.m. those who need to drop the children off then to get to work

8.55 a.m. A>F
9.05 G > N
9.15 ) O > Z
from 3.15 p.m. collection A > F
from 3.25 p.m. collection G > N
from 3.30 p.m. the rest.

The intention here is to reduce crowding in and around school at “rush hour” times.

Only one adult to accompany the children at arrival and collection times.

Usual attendance rules will apply.

One way walking around the perimeter of the school building at arrival and collection times. This is to reduce face to face contact and so limit the spread of the virus.

Parents requested to cover their faces in the school playground e.g. with a scarf/ mask. My understanding that this does not really protect the wearer very much, but protects others. So it is an act of courtesy to others and I shall do the same when in the playground at those times.

PPE not expected to be worn by regular staff throughout the day, but masks/ face coverings will be required from peripatetic staff e.g. music centre staff/ Oldham Athletic staff as their job involves work with many communities. I shall not prevent staff from wearing PPE if they feel it would make them safer but none are currently choosing to do so except in particular circumstances e.g. when providing intimate care for the youngest children.

Outside providers (e.g. sports) will only be required to wear masks/ face coverings when working inside the building. Outside sporting activities are seen as carrying lower risk.

Masks/ face coverings required to be worn inside by all visitors including parents.

School uniform to be worn when it can be worn clean on– but when it is not possible to wear clean uniform it is entirely acceptable for the children to wear other practical and modest clothes.

Clean clothes required every day.

Staggered playtimes:

10.15 Y3/4 (all weather pitch) Reception/ Year One (other tarmac and raised bit by planters and Year Three (netball court)
10.30 Y5M (netball court) 5D (all weather pitch) and Y1/Y2 (other tarmac and grass by planters)
10.45 Y6 (all weather pitch), Y4 (netball court), Y2 (other tarmac and grass by planters)
We can switch those areas as we need over time. Maybe, maybe not use trim trail use depending on risk assessment at the time
This will reduce the frequency of individuals passing others in the corridors, and allow space between bubbles when playing out.

Regular handwashing:

as now- on arrival or very soon after, after toileting, after play times, before lunch.


Only Foundation Stage and Key Stage One to have hot lunches initially (first half term) subject to ongoing review; Key Stage 2 to have cold meals initially in their classrooms. This is to reduce over crowding in the school hall, and to avoid unnecessary risk of scalding by transporting hot meals around school.

The timetable may be as follows:
11.30 N and R eat in the hall
12.00 R/ Y1, Y1/ Y2 eat in the hall with spaces between the classes, Y2 play out
12.30 Y2 eat in the hall, Y3, Y3/4 and Y4 eat in classrooms, R/ Y1 play out on extra tarmac and planter space, and Y1/Y2 play out on 1/2 of netball court, 5D on 1/2 of netball court, 5M and Y6 on all weather pitch
1 p.m. Years 5 and 6 eat in their classrooms, Y3, Y3/Y4 and Y4 play out on all weather pitch, netball court etc

No assemblies- daily worship to take place in the classrooms. Reverend Lyn and Natalie to be invited in under the same rules as peripatetic staff i.e. wearing masks.

Parents’ evenings to take place week commencing 21st September– earlier than usual as it is a key time for settling the children into their new classes. Parents to be required to wear masks and the physical (social) distance between parents and staff will be greater than previously.

All children to have labelled plastic wallets with writing implements for sole use inside. This is to minimise use of shared resources

Classes to be arranged with children’s seating facing forward where possible. This is to minimise close face to face interaction; it is unlikely to be practised however with the youngest children.

Staggered intake for Reception will proceed as previously advised and as this year.

After school clubs to function with the regularity of previous times where possible. (There are some limitations such as Oldham Sixth Form College is unable to provide our usual Autumn term Science club, but we are requesting that they will be able to fit in extra in the Spring so that we still have three clubs in the school year.

The groups will initially only open for one “bubble” at a time although this is subject to review. I am aware, for example, that children from different bubbles may mix outside of school at sports clubs and so on, so I don’t want to damage our provision with unnecessary caution. It may be that in time we open, for example, a club to both year 5 classes or some other mix, but at this stage I think it’s preferable to adopt a safety first approach.

I stress- this is a draft which will probably change and I shall welcome input from staff, children, parents and governors. The objective is to maximise school “normality” in as safe a manner for all as can reasonably be managed.

Thank you to all who have helped in this very difficult period keep our classrooms, to my knowledge, Covid and infection free. It has never been clearer to me just how dependent on each other we all are.

School Uniform
July 3, 2020, 9:12 am
Filed under: Headteacher

I shall release further details later today about how I envisage school will look in September, when the intention is that we re-open full time for all pupils.

I was asked yesterday by a parent a very sensible question specifically about school uniform so it merits a response of its own.

In a nutshell, I ask parents to send their children in full school uniform in September if they can safely do so. By this I mean insofar as it can be clean on each day while the virus is around in Oldham.

In normal times parents have supported the school very much by sending their children in school wearing uniform in accordance with our policy which is on the website and accessible here.

Since lockdown, most pupils have not worn uniform as I have strongly urged parents and staff that on return from school we should all undress, shower and put the clothes we have worn in the wash- if the virus was to come into our homes we would want it washed off immediately.

Therefore in this period I myself have dispensed with my usual collar and tie and have been wearing easily washable clothes instead. I have simply asked that in this very unusual period clothes should be practical and modest.

The strong desire for September, though, is that we return to as near “normal” as we can.

I shall smarten myself up again, and I ask parents to send their children to school in uniform when their uniform can be freshly washed.

In truth, while we have gone from, early March, pretty much 100% of our pupils wearing uniform to, now, pretty much 0%, I envisage a daily rate of about 60-70% wearing uniform in September, growing towards 100% in time as the virus declines further.

I do not want parents to feel obliged to spend more money than usual, purchasing e.g. a full school uniform for each day. It might be that it is possible for you to send your child in uniform every day, or maybe alternate days, or just twice a week. It will depend on things such as how many school uniforms you usually buy, whether the washing machine is working and what the weather is like for drying clothes.

Hence in the first term (until Christmas) parents should not expect letters home about uniform as per the “Inappropriate uniform” section of our policy above, or sanctions issued regarding extra curricular clubs; but I do ask parents to send their children in uniform when it is feasible to do so.

Staff will wear appropriate clothing e.g. collar and tie for me, and we all want normality to return as soon as possible. But only when it is safe to do so, and I think the habit we have developed recently of having a shower and putting clothes in the wash as soon as we come home from school is a habit to continue for the Autumn term.

If the uniform cannot be ready for the next day, please don’t think twice about sending them in other (practical and modest) clothes- we shall not question what they are wearing.

July 2, 2020, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Headteacher

The government guidance for September re-opening for all children is to be released today. BBC reports:

The new rules for autumn will mean:

  • grouping children together in groups or “bubbles”
  • in primary this will be a class, in secondary a year group
  • avoiding contact between these groups during the school day
  • separate starting, finishing, lunch and break times
  • attendance compulsory with the threat of penalty fines
  • test and trace in place for schools
  • regular cleaning of hands
  • those with symptoms told to stay out of school
  • no big group events like school assemblies
  • arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
  • separate groups on school buses
  • discouraging the use of public transport
  • masks not expected for pupils or staff.

When I’ve read the full guidance and digested the ramifications for Hey with Zion I shall inform you of any relevant further details.

The government’s own press release is accessible below:

school reports
July 2, 2020, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Headteacher

End of year school reports are being sent out today. Children in school will be given them in a sealed envelope; those at home will receive them by post.

On the government’s “watch list”
July 2, 2020, 10:06 am
Filed under: Headteacher

There has been some media coverage about concern over the state of the virus in Oldham, not currently necessitating reintroduction of lockdown measures as in Leicester.

Public Health Oldham advises

  • Coronavirus is still circulating in Oldham and we continue to see new cases every day. Adherence to measures to prevent and control the spread of infection therefore remains vitally important.
  • To bring the rate of transmission (and the R number) back down we all need to  limit the number of different people we come into contact with as much as possible,  precautions such as social distancing and regular handwashing should be maintained, and anyone who has symptoms, tests positive for coronavirus, or is the contact of a case should isolate at home in line with national guidance.

There is no need to panic though:

  • The number of patients with COVID attending A&E at Royal Oldham Hospital fell substantially during April and has continued to remain stable in recent weeks.
  • Oldham has seen a consistent fall in the rate and number of deaths related to COVID, following a peak in mid-April. The average number of deaths is now less than one per day.

Testing in Oldham

The number of tests in Oldham has been high since early May. In the last week Oldham has set up a new local testing site at Southgate Street car park (next to Oldham Library). There are also regular visits to Rock Street car park from the mobile testing unit. The mobile testing unit will next be in the borough 3rd – 5th July.  This local testing capability gives us the means to offer targeted testing in response to outbreaks, and to help identify new cases.

Primary Science Quality Mark
June 30, 2020, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Headteacher
We have been awarded the Primary Science Quality Mark. We first won this in 2016 and I am delighted that we have been awarded it again.

A message to Year Six (2)
June 30, 2020, 9:48 am
Filed under: Headteacher

I said I’d announce it on 6th July, but I’m telling you now. Year Six children are all invited to a “socially distanced picnic on the pitch” from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday 9th July.

The occasion will abide by all government stipulations re social distancing- enough staff will be available- but it will at least give one last opportunity for you all to see each other and for us to see you before you leave.

We invite you to bring your own picnic (we’re not allowed currently to share food), and in the maximum sized bubbles we are allowed and that feel safe, please come and see us and see each other too.

You were always a special set of children- every member of staff who has known you has said the same. We want to tell you that face to face and to wish you well.

Returning P.E. kit, exercise books
June 30, 2020, 9:27 am
Filed under: Headteacher

Dear Parents,

It looks like this year is going to finish without many more children able to return. It is sad, but we very much hope that some kind of normality can return in September with all children back, full time.

There’ll undoubtedly be government guidance and directives to schools over the coming couple of months and I shall endeavour to follow it as makes best sense for Hey with Zion.

There are things I think we can adapt to be come more “Covid safe”-

  • we could make staggered arrivals and staggered collection times more permanent features,
  • we could stagger play times, and reduce the frequency of individuals passing others in the corridors,
  • lunchtimes could be looked at- currently the children eat cold meals in classrooms to avoid eating in too close proximity in the hall, and to avoid the dangers of transporting hot meals around school,
  • assemblies might be conducted in a new way (such as worship in the classroom and without singing),
  • outsiders could be only allowed in with masks,
  • adults in the school grounds for example parents taking/ collecting children could be requested to wear masks,
  • we could reduce face to face interaction by having the children sitting in rows (easier in older classes), and
  • staff could be asked to maintain own distance at the front of the class (easier in older classes than young), and minimise close face to face interaction.

None of these are desirable to my mind, but prices well worth paying if they can facilitate all children being back in school full time. Other practices such as temperature taking on arrival may be looked at, too, in the light of government guidance. I shall inform parents before September of what school will likely look like then; but that will be in August, when we have a clearer idea of the state of the virus then and in the light of government guidance which will arrive between now and then.

In the meantime, I would like school to be able to return items such as exercise books and P.E. kit.

I would like to invite parents to collect such items as follows, keeping at an appropriate social distance from others at all times.

From 3.30 to 4 p.m. on the following days items will be left outside the usual collection door:

Thursday 2nd July Nursery

Friday 3rd July Reception

Monday 6th July Reception/ Year One

Tuesday 7th July Year One/ Two

Wednesday 8th July Year Two

Thursday 9th July Year Six

Friday 10th July Year Three/ Year Four

Monday 13th July Year Four

Tuesday 14th July Year Five (5D and 5M)

Wednesday 15th July Year Three

If parents are unable to collect the items at that time, please could they contact the class teacher in advance of the date using the following email addresses, to arrange a more convenient time. Thank you

Health update
June 25, 2020, 9:19 am
Filed under: Headteacher

I do understand that this is a primary school, not a health facility, but I think it’s important that I share with you information I receive about the state of the virus insofar as it relates to our community: knowing as much as we can helps us to make our decisions as to how we approach this period as informed as possible.

It’s quite good news overall, I think:

1/ Public Health Oldham’s advice to schools remains: “it remains appropriate for schools to continue to progress with the gradual widening of their attendance, in accordance with DfE guidance.”

2/   The graph below shows that the rate and number of infections in Oldham has decreased substantially since mid April and we are now in line with the Greater Manchester average. The average number of Covid deaths in Oldham is now less than one per day.

The R number:

We’ll all hear less about this over the coming weeks:

The R number in Oldham

Public Health England advice is that in theory, R could be calculated at local level but the number would be largely meaningless given the uncertainty (a wider range) at this lower geography.

The advice from Public Health England on 5 June 2020 is that each local area should consider the local data on hospital admissions, deaths, Test and & Trace etc. which will give a more granular picture than a North West R value.

SAGE has recently decided that it will move away from providing weekly updates of R to instead focusing on publishing weekly growth rate values instead. Unlike the R number, growth rates are time-based and can therefore give an indication of how quickly the epidemic is changing.

The growth rate reflects how quickly the number of infections are changing day by day. If the growth rate is greater than zero (i.e. positive), then the disease will grow. If the growth rate is less than zero (i.e. negative) then the disease will shrink.

The size of the growth rate indicates the speed of change. A growth rate of +5% will grow faster than one with a growth rate of +1%. Likewise, a disease with a growth rate of -4% will be shrinking much faster than a disease with growth rate of -0.5%.

The disease appears to be shrinking in the north west

We must not become complacent.

Advice from Public Health remains:

  1. We all need to  limit the number of different people we come into contact with as much as possible,
  2.  precautions such as social distancing and regular handwashing should be maintained, and
  3. anyone who has symptoms, tests positive for coronavirus, or is the contact of a case should isolate at home in line with national guidance.

School feels safe at the moment: we had 57 children in for each of the last two days, and the good weather allows the classes to work outside as much as possible. From time to time a child gets a temperature or a cough, and we must “stay alert” to the implications, but to the best of my knowledge so far, no child or member of the teaching staff has come into contact with coronavirus at Hey with Zion.

Lockdown Museum Creative Writing Competition
June 25, 2020, 8:44 am
Filed under: Headteacher

Schools Creative Writing Competition from Oldham Libraries

From Oldham Library Service:

“Growing up during lockdown is a unique experience, and we want to capture and learn from our young people.  To do this we’re running a creative writing competition with prizes for: KS2, KS3, KS4 and post 16. Students are invited to submit a digital single A4 page (max 400 words) of any style of creative writing (poetry, story, song) which will be stored in Oldham Gallery’s Lockdown Museum. “

Please send any entries to me by 8th July; I shall select 5 commended pieces to be considered in the competition final, which will be judged w/c 20th July.

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