Headteacher Update

Update from the Headteacher - Friday, 29th January 2021


As many of you will be aware, Welsh Government has announced an extension of the current lockdown restrictions in Wales. That means that pupils will not return to the school site until after February Half Term at the earliest. It seems likely that primary school pupils would return first with phased returns being considered across Wales. I would like to stress that, as of today (January 29th), there has been no date set for the return of secondary age pupils in Wales. Any decisions taken about the return of pupils to school sites will be dependent on the coronavirus situation. Schools have been advised that we will receive two weeks' notice ahead of any return. I expect to receive further information over the next couple of weeks and will issue a further update when we know more.


I know how frustrating this is for all you. It frustrates us too as staff. As I have said many times, schools are not just buildings and lessons; they are about the relationships that develop between staff, pupils and families that form a community. We will get through this and we will rebuild that community when we do. Until then it is important to keep safe, keep our spirits up and keep an eye on those who might need our help.


I will issue further updates as soon as more information becomes available.

Update letter from the Headteacher - Monday, 18th January 2021


Please see below an update for parents and carers from the Headteacher.


Update on the return of pupils on site from the Headteacher - Monday, 4th January 2021

As many of you will be aware, Welsh Government announced today that pupils in Wales will not return to on site teaching until Monday January 18th at the earliest. Instead, pupils will follow a blended learning programme supported by staff, beginning on Thursday January 7th. This is in response to the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic, especially in relation to the new mutation which emerged over the Christmas period. As previously, please support your sons and daughters to engage with online learning. Please also ensure that they are not gathering in large groups or otherwise breaching the government expectations. The sooner we can overcome this virus the better it will be for all of us.

In the next day or so, a letter will be issued by Carmarthenshire County Council. It will contain information regarding childcare support, which will be available for a small number of families working in particular professions. We will publish the letter on our website. After that, if you believe that you meet the criteria for childcare support and wish to make use of the service Dyffryn Taf can offer, please contact Mrs Catrin Cole via office@dyffryntaf.org.uk who will be happy to make arrangements with you.

Please also note that that email address will be monitored throughout this period and telephone calls to the school will be answered. Please accept our apologies for any delays in responses as the majority of staff will be working from home each day.


Urgent coronavirus update from the Headteacher - Friday, 11th December 2020

We have been informed this morning that a second pupil in Year 11 has received a positive test result for coronavirus. In line with the advice from TTP, we need to ask all Year 11 pupils to self-isolate as a precaution for a period of ten days. That self-isolation period is related to the date of the positive test. In this case, that means the period of self-isolation will continue until Thursday December 17th. Year 11 pupils will be free of that period of self-isolation on Friday December 18th. A small number of pupils who share transport with the individual concerned will also need to self-isolate. Those pupils will be contacted individually by the school. Please also se the attached letter from the Local Authority regarding TTP and self-isolation.

Carmarthenshire County Council Letter 11/12/20


Update from the Headteacher - Thursday, 10th December 2020

As many of you will be aware from media coverage, the Welsh Government has taken the decision today that all secondary schools in Wales will move to a programme of distance learning for all year groups from Monday December 14th. I will be writing to you in detail tomorrow to place emphasis on the importance of your sons and daughters remaining engaged with work next week and, very importantly, remaining at home. The school site will be open tomorrow, Friday December 11th, for Years 7 and 8 only as we complete the repairs to the heating system.


Update from the Headteacher - Wednesday, 9th December 2020

We have been notified today that two pupils have tested positive for Covid-19. One pupil is in Year 10. One pupil is in Year 11. The pupils are not related. I have discussed each case with the Local Authority TTP team. The particular circumstances of each case mean that the pupils concerned had not been on the school site during the 48 hour period prior to testing. This allows the TTP team to be confident in categorising the cases as 'no contact'. This means that no other pupils or staff will need to self-isolate as a result of these positive test results. Please also see the attached letter from Carmarthenshire County Council. I appreciate that these cases, the first positive results returned by pupils attending Dyffryn Taf, will cause concern in some quarters. Please be assured though that it is the successful operation of TTP processes which has allowed us to avoid needing to ask the Year Group bubble to self-isolate.

I very much hope to be able to welcome all pupils back on site next week but that will be determined by the emergency heating repairs taking place currently. The work is progressing very well but it is a complex job repairing very old and buried pipework. We will make a decision on Friday morning as to how we progress next week. Please continue to check the website for further updates.

Carmarthenshire County Council Letter 9/12/20


Update from the Headteacher - Thursday, 3rd December 2020

I have been notified this morning that a staff member at the school has received a positive test result for Covid-19. From our enquiries it is very clear that no pupils or staff at the school have been close contacts of the individual concerned. This has been confirmed in discussion with the Local Authority TTP team. There is no need therefore for any staff or pupils to self-isolate as a result of this case. Please also see the attached letter from the Local Authority confirming the advice provided.

Carmarthenshire County Council Letter 3/12/20


Update from the Headteacher - Thursday, 3rd December 2020

Many of you will be aware of speculation in the media recently regarding the possible early closure of schools in Carmarthenshire ahead of the Christmas holiday. The Local Authority has decided against making any changes to term dates. Please see the attached letter from the Director of Education and Children's Services, Mr Gareth Morgans, and the County Council Executive Board Member for Education, Mr. Glynog Davies, which explains their decision.

At Dyffryn Taf we had already taken the decision to hold two INSET days on Monday December 21st and Tuesday December 22nd 2020. Term will therefore end for all pupils on Friday December 18th.

Carmarthenshire County Council letter to Parents/Carers 3.12.20

Llythyr Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin i Rhieni/Gofalwyr 3.12.20


Update from the Headteacher - Sunday, 29th November 2020

We have been notified today that an adult at the school has tested positive for Covid-19. Whilst we are satisfied that there has not been a breach of social distancing, we have asked a very small number of pupils to self-isolate as a precaution. The families of those pupils have been contacted individually. There is no need for further concern at this stage. Please also see the letter from Carmarthenshire County Council.

I would ask that everyone in the school community respects the confidentiality of the individual concerned and does not speculate as to his or her identity. I look forward to seeing your sons and daughters in school tomorrow as normal.

Carmarthenshire County Council Letter 29/11/20


Update from the Headteacher - Friday, 27th November 2020

Canteen arrangements

As you know, we have had to change our arrangements for the serving of food at break time in the canteen, to eliminate queues mixing year groups. I am pleased to advise that we have worked with the canteen manager to refine the arrangements further. From Tuesday December 1st, two year groups will be able to get food from the canteen at each break time. Form Teachers will outline the new arrangements in Monday's registration. Each year group will now have a chance to but food every day at lunchtime and twice a week at break. The rota will be set up so that year groups who have the chance to buy food at break time will be later on the lunch rota that day and vice versa.

Face coverings

As you will be aware, Welsh Government this week published updated guidance on the wearing of face coverings by pupils. We have concerns regarding the wearing of face coverings by pupils in outdoor areas. These concerns are shared by a number of schools in Carmarthenshire and in other Local Authorities. We expect some further clarfication on the thinking behind this guidance next week. We will not therefore expect pupils to wear face coverings outdoors at this stage and will issue a further update next week.


Update from the Headteacher - Friday, 20th November 2020

The Local Authority has released a new version of the risk assessment for schools in Carmarthenshire which can be found below. A version of that risk assessment applied to the specific context of Dyffryn Taf will be published on the website later this week. As part of the ongoing evaluation of health and safety on the school site, we need to make changes to our arrangements for the provision of food in the canteen at break time.

'Bubbles' of pupils at Dyffryn Taf should be seen as being one whole year group in Years 7-11 and both Years 12 and 13 together for Sixth Form students. Those age range bubbles do not mix with pupils of other ages in class. They have separate times for entry and exit to the canteen at lunch. When they move between lessons they follow a one-way system and are typically moving en masse for a relatively short period of time. When they are outside at break and lunch times they are in the open air. At wet break and lunch times they may choose to go to their form rooms, but again they are with pupils from their year group 'bubble', in this case their form group. Pupils of different ages share buses to school but that cannot realistically be avoided and is beyond the control of the school.

The only time currently that pupils of different ages potentially spend an extended period of time together is queueing for food at break time. Sometimes the queue can get quite long and pupils can spend up to 10 minutes in the queue. We need to eliminate any potential risk arising from that situation. We have therefore reluctantly had to take the decision that, beginning on Wednesday November 25th 2020, the provision of food for pupils at break time will now be restricted to one year group at a time, as follows:

Mondays - Year 7 only

Tuesdays - Year 8 only

Wednesdays - Year 9 only

Thursdays - Year 10 only

Fridays - Year 11 only

The existing rota arrangements for lunchtime are not affected.

If your child regularly buys food at the canteen at break time, we would suggest that he or she brings additional snacks to school. Pupils will continue to be expected to eat and take breaks outside unless there is a wet break, when form rooms will be open.

I appreciate that this may cause some inconvenience. However, we must continue to mitigate the risks arising from Covid-19 as much as we can. May I also take the opportunity to commend pupils on their compliance with the measures that we have put in place. There have been very few deliberate breaches of the expectations around things such as face-coverings and the one-way system. In the very small number of instances where pupils have chosen not to comply we have taken significant action, including asking pupils to access learning from home until they are prepared to comply with reasonable requests. The support from you all as parents and carers has been excellent and shows how important it is that we all work together to provide the safest environment possible for your children.

Local Authority Risk Assessment


Update - 29th September 2020

Click Here

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

Update - 27/08/20

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