Headteacher Update

Update - 29th September 2020


Update - 9th September 2020

Face Coverings on School Transport

As you have been made aware previously, it is expected that all pupils travelling on school buses wear a face covering as they get on and off the bus and throughout the journey. We are pleased to report that the vast majority of pupils are complying with these expectations very well. However, the bus companies have told us that a very small number of pupils, in low single figures, are not meeting expectations. Those pupils have been spoken to by bus drivers. Should there be any further incidents, their names will be passed to the school.


While we accept that pupils are still getting used to the new rules, the indications are that these particular pupils were deliberately choosing not to follow the rules. We regard this as such a potentially serious concern that, although we are dealing with very few incidents, we must make sure that they do not happen again.


To be clear, any pupil who does not meet the expectations (except any with exemptions approved by the school), risks the following consequences:


  • The bus company may refuse to allow the pupil to travel on the buses in order to protect the health and safety of the drivers.

  • The school will regard the situation as a disciplinary matter.

  • An individual risk assessment of the pupil may be required to help promote the health and safety of the school community.

As ever, may we thank you in advance for your support on this matter.


Arrangements for September 2020

Please CLICK HERE to read important updates regarding returning to Dyffryn Taf in September.

Update from the Headteacher on arrangements for September 2020

Dear parents and carers


You will no doubt be aware that on Friday the Minister For Education outlined the aims of Welsh Government with regard to the return of more pupils to school in September. There is a lot of detail to come in the form of practical guidance which we expect to be published this week. However, essentially Welsh Government is asking that schools gradually increase the numbers of pupils on site so that all pupils return to school by Monday September 14th 2020. Pupils should be in groups of up to 30 where possible and maintain thorough hand-washing and hygiene routines rather than social distancing. Social distancing is to be maintained between adults and between adults and children.


As you can imagine, this will mean that schools will operate in a very different way than they did before the pandemic. There are many questions which we anticipate will be answered in the guidance being issued this week. We can also say with near certainty that there will be changes which emerge over the summer and even once term has started. Allowing for that, we would like to share with you our initial thinking about next term, to help in your planning for your son or daughter's return.


  • The Autumn 2020 term begins on September 1st 2020. At the request of the Local Authority, Tuesday September 1st and Wednesday September 2nd will be staff training days with no pupils on site.

  • Thursday September 3rd will be for Year 7 pupils only, to complete the transition programme.

  • Friday September 4th will be for Year 7 pupils and Year 12 students only, again with a focus on transition.

  • Monday September 7th will be for Years 7, 11, 12 and 13 only.

  • Tuesday September 8th will be for Years 7, 10, 11, 12 and 13 only.

  • On Wednesday September 9th, all pupils will be expected to return to school. This will mean that all Dyffryn Taf's pupils will have returned on site ahead of Welsh Government's target date of Monday September 14th.

As we have said earlier, this is our initial thinking. We hope to avoid making any changes. However, if the guidance requires us to make changes then we will have to do so. We will confirm these arrangements as soon as we can.


In line with the expectations for the 'new normal' in schools, there will be many changes to how the school operates. The detail on those changes will be developed after the guidance is published this week. There will be updates across the summer via the school website. At this stage though we can say that:


  • Our 'Bring Your Own Device' policy will be extended to all year groups on a trial basis. Nobody needs to buy any new equipment, but if a pupils wish to bring their own laptop or Chromebook, they will be welcome to do so.

  • We expect to be able to offer a canteen service for all year groups, subject to discussions with our caterers.

  • All pupils will be expected to be in full uniform from their first day back, including shirts and ties. Please follow the uniform guidance on the website. In particular, please pay attention to the rules on footwear. These were changed last year in response to requests from pupils and families. Whilst the new rules were typically observed very well, a small number of pupils continued to wear trainers which did not meet the guidance developed by pupils. Please do not buy trainers or other footwear which does not meet the expectations covered in our uniform guidance. Staff will also be returning to their usual dress code.

  • We expect school transport to return to the normal service. However, that is yet to be confirmed and is in the control of the Local Authority rather than the school.

  • It is highly likely that the school will operate in a much different way to how it did before the pandemic. This could affect things such as break arrangements, signage, one-way systems etc. Most of the planning for this will take place over the summer, with updates issued via the website and training for pupils when they return to school.

  • Schools have been asked to prepare for the possibility of an immediate return to distance learning in the case of, for example, a local outbreak of Covid-19 or similar health concern.

The return of pupils on site in the last fortnight has been a big success. I would like to thank you all for the support and patience you have shown to help make that happen. As we now enter an accelerated phase of the return to something approaching normality, I would again ask for your patience and support. Please be assured that we will do everything in our power to make sure that Dyffryn Taf remains a safe, happy and caring learning community for everyone.


Mr. J.G.Kennedy

Headteacher / Prifathro

Ysgol Dyffryn Taf


Update - 22/06/20

We will be publishing a full guide to the return to school at Dyffryn Taf on the website in the next couple of days. Please check for updates. The Local Authority has confirmed that no school in Carmarthenshire will be open in the additional week of the summer term proposed by the Minister For Education. Whilst we at Dyffryn Taf did support the additional week, we also work closely with the Local Authority. We will thus respect that decision and term will end for all pupils on Friday July 17th. Please see the Carmarthenshire County Council website for further details.

Update regarding school re-opening

As you are aware from our previous updates, the staff of the school are busy preparing the building for welcoming back pupils from June 29th. This is an incredibly complex operation. A lot of the work involved includes trying to respond to decisions which are not in the school's control. Full details will be shared over the next few days as preparations are finalised. However, there are important issues which you need to be aware of, and in some cases need to act on, right now. These include:


Attendance rota

Our Heads of Year have picked up that some families think that all pupils in all year groups will be returning to school on June 29th. That is not the case in Dyffryn Taf, or in any school in Wales.


Because of the restrictions imposed by social distancing, such as only being able to fit 6 pupils into a classroom, we will not be able to bring all pupils in at the same time. Dyffryn Taf will be operating a Year group model. For each week that the school is open for the remainder of this term, pupils will be asked to attend as follows:


Please remember that this will be very different to normal schooling. Pupils will be in small groups and will not be able to mix freely. A detailed guide to how the school will operate will be published at the start of next week.


For safeguarding and planning purposes, families will be expected to book a place for their child to attend school. To book a place, please follow the link below. Please note only pupils who have booked a place will be able to attend school from June 29th onwards. Bookings must be completed by 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday June 24th. We have been advised that the Local Authority will have issued final advice on school transport before that point. Please see the link below to book a place for your child:


Welsh Government announcement regarding an extended term this year

Many of you will be aware that Welsh Government has announced that a decision on the additional week of the summer term this year will now be left to schools and Local Authorities. We expect that Carmarthenshire County Council will implement a county-wide policy on this issue and will update you as soon as we are able to.


Year 7 Care Hub

The policy of the Local Authority is that secondary schools should operate a child care hub from June 29th, for a very limited group of pupils. If there is demand in Dyffryn Taf, the care hub would operate each day between 8.30 am and 3.30 pm. Capacity would be capped at a maximum of 12 pupils per day. There are very strict criteria to be eligible to use the care hub:


  • It is only available to pupils in Year 7.

  • Pupils are only eligible to attend if they have previously attended the care hub at Griffith Jones school or if both parents / carers (or one in the case of single parent / carer living arrangements) is returning to work for the first time since lockdown (typically, although not exclusively those involved in education).


We will also be making arrangements for vulnerable pupils. However, those vulnerable pupils will not be referred by families but by other agencies or by the school itself.


If you would like to enquire about the availability of child care for a pupil in Year 7, please follow the link below:


Please keep checking our website for updates.

UPDATE - 15/06/20

15.06.2020 Update from Headteacher.pdf

Transport

Dear Parents and Carers,

Ahead of the reopening of schools to pupils on 29th June, it would be fair to say that organising school transport has been one of the biggest challenges for the Local Authority.

To help with this process, they have asked us to survey those parents and carers who have indicated that they would like to use school transport.


Please see below a letter from the Local Authority which contains a link to a survey. The Local Authority is asking that this be completed by 5pm on Wednesday, 17th June. Please can all parents and carers be aware that this is the Local Authority's letter and survey which we are simply hosting on their behalf.


Transport Letter for Parentsf2.sec (1).pdf

Update 11/06/20

Headteacher Update 11.06.20.pdf

Update 08/06/20

Dear parents and carers,

As you will be aware, we are awaiting Welsh Government and Local Authority guidance before we can complete detailed planning for the return of pupils to school. In the meantime, we would like to gain a broad idea of roughly how many pupils we might be working with. We appreciate that many of you will want to know more details of the social distancing arrangements etc before making a final decision. All we can say at this point is that we will be fully compliant with whatever guidance is issued.


We would be grateful if you could complete the survey below to help us with our planning.


To complete the survey, please click here.


Update 03/06/20

I am sure that most of you will be aware of the Education Minister's announcement at lunchtime today that schools in Wales will begin the process of re-opening to pupils on Monday June 29th. You will also have noted the one week extension to the current Summer term. The exact nature of this re-opening to pupils will vary from school to school and even from week to week. What is clear is that the prime focus will be on ensuring pupil wellbeing and on preparing pupils for the likelihood of a very different experience, 'the new normal', in the Autumn term.


At Dyffryn Taf we welcome the opportunity to bring pupils back on site and to begin the process of meeting up again with staff and their friends. There is a lot of planning and preparation to do before we can give you the detail on things like timing, transport and activities. Please be assured though that this planning will be thorough and timely and will give you plenty of time to prepare as families. Please also be assured that the health and wellbeing of all members of the school community will be our highest priority. Further details will be provided as soon as is possible.


As a part of this process, the Local Authority is keen to collate your views on home learning. If you would like to take part, please follow the link below to complete Carmarthenshire County Council's survey for parents and carers.


Over the next few weeks, it would be wise for you to begin the process of preparing your sons and daughters for a return to school and to share all updates with them. As we have said many times before, this is a new experience for everyone. There are bound to be concerns and worries about all aspects of the re-opening. We will ensure that there are ways for you to share those concerns, and to gain reassurance, as part of our planning. I would ask politely that you wait until we publish our plans for re-opening before getting in touch. I look forward to sharing more detail with you in the near future.


Update 01/05/20

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the work of the school over the last few weeks and offer some guidance on how learning will be coordinated for the foreseeable future. Dr Thomas and the Directors of Learning, Mrs Chucas and Mrs Holmes, have worked to put together a package which responds to Welsh Government's 'Cadw'n Ddiogel. Dal ati i Ddysgu / Stay Safe. Stay Learning' guidance, to help you support your child's learning while schools remain closed. Further details below.


Before considering that, I would like to reflect on the work of the school as a food hub. This unique part of the school's long history comes to an end today. The Local Authority is moving to a direct payment system for families eligible for free school meals. Since the closure of schools, Dyffryn Taf has supported families through the distribution of hundreds of packages of food in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. With the remoteness of some of our families and the size of our catchment area, this has been a challenging but also highly rewarding operation. We have also played our part in reducing 'period poverty', distributing sanitary products where needed. All of this was done with staff volunteers at all levels. The positive feedback we have been given shows the need that is out there at this difficult time. When we talk about schools being at the heart of their communities, this is what it looks like. I would like to publicly thank everyone who played a part, from the staff in school, those in our partner primaries and at the Local Authority and the individuals in Whitland and beyond who alerted us to families who had suddenly found themselves in need. Thank you all for all you did.


If you are eligible for free school meal support, or have had a change in circumstances and think you may know be eligible, or if you know a family in need, please get in touch with the Local Authority via their online newsroom at:


Cadw'n Ddiogel. Dal ati i Ddysgu / Stay Safe. Stay Learning

As you will be aware from earlier updates, Welsh Government has asked schools to move to a new model of learning while school sites remain closed to pupils. We do not know how long that will be for, or how schools will operate afterwards. So our challenge is to maintain pupil wellbeing and the joy of learning, whilst making sure that no child is left at a disadvantage when we return to some kind of normality.


The link below will take you to the curriculum plan devised by Dr Thomas and the Directors of Learning. You will see that we have streamlined the school timetable for pupils in Years 7 to 9. There is also information for students in Year 10. Mr Smith has contacted students in Years 11-13. May I thank all staff for the work that has gone into this new approach. We are also working with the Local Authority to support families struggling to access broadband and/or ICT equipment.



Please remember too that this is not normal schooling. It is a different model of learning, for exceptional circumstances. We will make sure that, when we do return to normal schooling, no one is left behind. Nothing matters more than your family's wellbeing at this point.

If you or your child does wish to access additional support beyond what we can offer as a school, Welsh Government has published a support package online, which can be found at:


Transition

Obviously we will not be able to offer our Year 6 into 7 transition package in the traditional way this year. Mrs Lisa Glyn-Thomas, Head of Year 7, is planning some online activities and will be in touch with partner primaries. I am also confident that we will be able to dedicate school time to this important area when we do begin to have pupils back on site. Further updates to follow.


Letter from Director of Education

Please see letter below to parents and carers from Mr Gareth Morgans, Director of Education sharing the Local Authority's thanks and guidance.

Director of Education Letter - English

Director of Eduction Letter - Welsh

Staff news

May I put on record my thanks to Mr. Stewart Kelly, teacher of Welsh, who is leaving Dyffryn Taf to take up a position at Swansea University. Diolch and dymuniadau gorau for the future.


Finally, may I thank all of you as pupils, parents and carers for your ongoing work and support. I was very taken recently with the words of Terry Waite, held hostage for a long time in the Lebanon. He said, 'Remember that you are not stuck at home, you are safe at home.' We do not know when we will get through this, but we know that we will.


Best wishes, cofion gorau.


Mr. J. G. Kennedy