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Welcome to a first NFASS for 2021. I hope you have all managed to have a restful break of some sort and can see a glimmer of light in the distance. With more vaccines being made available by more companies, let’s hope these get to us all sooner rather than later. I really do think vaccines should be rolled out early to teachers working in school, because without teachers, key workers will struggle to go to work and look after their children.

Even getting the term started was full of trials and tribulations. Storm Bella blew down a huge tree by the front gates and the boilers gave up the ghost following a power surge. I must thank Mr Brown for his speedy work with a chainsaw and P.R Elford’s for never giving up on finding a solution to the plumbing problems.

Amidst the maelstrom it was wonderful to welcome Ivy and Violet to school for the very first time. That’s three sets of twins in school now!

Getting ready for the new “new” term with almost no notice has been a war of attrition, though school seems a little more settled today. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the patience and skill of those involved in home schooling on both sides of the screen. I have dropped into a number of virtual classes this morning and it really is testing, especially for those parents who are also trying to run their own businesses from home. I have received a number of emails from frustrated parents and there is a real danger of divisions being created between those in school and those at home. Rocks and hard places come to mind!

In total we have thirteen real and virtual classes operating (against our usual ten) and an increased number of children in school. Like many other Heads I chat to, I do feel that the number of children in school is too high this time round given the increased contagiousness of the new strains of Covid 19. Eileen and I have our hands tied on this at the moment as the Government have chosen not to tighten guidelines for Key Worker status, though I think this may well change if the “R” rate does not reduce.

In the true spirit of lockdown, I would ask you to carefully consider if you have the capacity to educate your children at home. My real worry is that frontline NHS staff may need the added protection of their children being in the smallest and securest of bubbles so the chances of the virus being taken home are minimised. If we don’t do this frontline staff may end up not being able to go to work and the whole system may crash around us as cases in local hospitals increase.

We have done our very best to improve our biosecurity in school. We are all just teaching in one bubble now and teaching subjects we are not normally involved with. Along with Form 5 and 6 children, we are all wearing face masks around school and we are testing all secondary age children and their staff every week, with testing quite likely to drop down to Form 5 and 6 children and their teachers. It really is a testing time!