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COVID–19 – An Overview for Parents/Carers of plans for a safe return to school in September 2020 16.07.20

16th July 2020


COVID–19 – An Overview for Parents/Carers of plans for a safe return to school in September 2020



Dear Parent/Carer

The school was welcoming of the Minister’s announcement at the end of last week that, given the current state of the pandemic in Wales, we should finalise our planning for a return to school for all pupils by the start of the third week of school in September 2020. Torfaen has decided that all schools will have two preparation and planning days on Tuesday 1st September and Wednesday 2nd for staff to prepare for a safe return and, in line with the guidance, we shall then determine for our own situation how best to coordinate a gradual return for all pupils at the school prioritising in particular the new Year 7 pupils and exam classes in Year 11.

This document outlines the school’s current thinking about how best to organise in the short and medium term based on the latest advice from the Government and the specific circumstances of our school to ensure a safe environment for both pupils and staff. The past three weeks have been an opportunity to trial particular working practices in this regard and many of them inform our current thinking.  We would like to thank you all for your patience during this time and hope that you will continue to show understanding as we work through the detail of the situation and attempt to react rapidly and appropriately to the latest advice (some of which may change between now and proposed reopening dates).

Wherever possible we are trying to create a familiar environment for pupils to return to, as we recognise that lockdown has often been a difficult period for them and some will not have been in school for the best part of six months by the time we return. We must, however, respond to the current need to try and reduce the transmission rate of the virus and this requires us to make significant modifications to our operating procedures to try to ensure the safety of all members of the school community.  It is inevitable that school will feel quite different for all Year Groups for probably the majority of the Autumn term (and perhaps even beyond).

The current plans for the first two weeks of the Autumn term are as follows. The return day for each Year Group is when we will specify how and at what time they come to school. Once a year group has returned it will be with us full time every day:


First days back

Tuesday 1st September – staff preparation/training day

Wednesday 2nd September – staff preparation/training day

Thursday 3rd September – Year 7 return to school

Friday 4th September – Year 11 return to school

Monday 7th September – Year 8 return to school

Tuesday 8th September – Year 10 return to school

Thursday 10th September – Year 9 return to school



Timings of the school day

In order to ensure a staggered start to the day and facilitate separate lunch and break times, the school day will be organised as follows:

Years 7-9 Years 10 & 11
8.35 am – Tutorial/Registration
Session 1 – 8.50 am – 10.50 am

(including a 15 min. break)

Session 1 – 8.50 am – 10.50 am

(including a 15 min. break)

Session 2 – 10.50 am – 12.50 pm

(including a 20 min lunch)

Session 2 – 10.50 am – 12.50 pm

(including a 15 min. break)

Session 3 – 12.50 pm – 2.50 pm

(including a 15 min break)

Session 3 – 12.50 pm – 2.50 pm

(including a 20 min. lunch)

2.50 pm end of school 2.50 pm – Tutorial/Registration
3.05 pm end of school


At this stage (but subject to change) the major changes pupils can expect for September can be summarised as follows:


As these announcements have come so late in the term and therefore to allow parents more time to purchase uniform, the uniform requirement will continue to be relaxed for at least the first two weeks of September. We anticipate that the requirement for uniform will be reinstated from Monday 14th September 2020.


Zoning and ‘Bubbles’

The use of consistent contact groups (or ‘bubbles’) of students helps to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. This is the approach which has been used by the school during the first phase of reopening in the summer term. These distinct ‘bubbles’ do not mix with other groups, making it quicker and easier in the event of a positive case to identify those who may need to self-isolate. The practicalities of managing this process from September is far more complex and challenging in a full secondary school because of the demands of delivering examination courses at GCSE level, where students follow a broad range of options. In line with Welsh Government guidance, the school will create larger ‘bubbles’ in order to deliver the full range of curriculum subjects and enable students to receive the appropriate specialist teaching.


Where practicable, the school will seek to maintain class ‘bubbles’ for Key Stage 3 (Years 7 – 9) students through delivery which will be based largely in form groups. As part of the planning for a full return, the school has identified how student and staff contact will be reduced, as much as is reasonably practicable and possible, to include:


  • grouping students together in ‘bubbles’ by individual Year Groups;
  • allocating Year Group ‘bubbles’ to designated areas of the school site to avoid contact with other ‘bubbles’; and
  • wherever possible, limiting the number of people students and staff come into contact with during lessons through Form Group teaching. Teaching and support staff will be able to operate across different classes and Year Group ‘bubbles’. However, insofar as is reasonably practicable, the school will seek to minimise this.


The school will make use of the following zones for each ‘bubble’ to limit social mixing:

Year 7 – Lower school (specific rooms)

Year 8 – Lower school (specific rooms)

Year 9 – Current Maths corridors

Year 10 – Current English/Music corridors

Year 11 – Current Upper school corridor and Science Block

Each zone will have an allocated Pastoral Team, its own handwashing facilities (required on entry) and a designated ‘Break out’ area of the campus for breaks (the number of which have been increased to recognise their significance when pupils are spending larger amounts of time in one classroom). There will also be a specified entry point to each zone and you will be advised of the detail of these closer to your son/daughter’s specified return date once appropriate risk assessments have been conducted by the council).

Contact groups or ‘bubbles’ should remain separate to lower the risk of transmission. As a result of this zoning, movement around the school site will be kept to a minimum. Large gatherings, such as collective worship and assemblies will not take place until a time when Welsh Government and the Local Authority advice suggests otherwise. These activities will continue to be delivered virtually. The school will stagger break and lunch times between the different ‘bubbles’


The classroom experience

In addition to limiting the movement of pupils around the school and trying to maintain classes as ‘Bubbles’ wherever possible, there will also be changes to the way classrooms operate. Chairs and desks are likely now to be forward facing and teachers will be socially distanced from classes at the front of the room to limit the potential for close contact and therefore any transmission of the virus.  We await further guidance as to how ‘specialised’ rooms like catering, design technology and PE changing rooms will be required to operate. All pupils will be expected to bring their own equipment to lessons and this should include for Years 7 – 9 their own reading book.



We await further guidance from Torfaen as to how the canteen will be able to operate in September but, at this stage, we anticipate that catering facilities will be available for each Year Group when they return to school and that a full hot menu will be available for all by the third week of the Autumn term. We do not anticipate being able to serve food at break times but the staggered lunchtime for each Year Group should allow us to cater for one Year Group at a time in the canteen by the time the school is fully operational again.

As the public health situation in Wales continues to develop throughout the summer break we do anticipate that some of the current guidance for schools in Wales may change. As a result, we shall update you with further detailed arrangements during the first week of the Autumn term and amend our guide for keeping your child safe in school as a result of our updated risk assessments which shall be undertaken under the guidance of the Council in the next six weeks.

Thank you once again for your patience and understanding during what has been an extremely turbulent Summer term and we look forward to welcoming your children back to Cwmbran High as soon as we can safely do so in September. It would be really helpful if you could find the time to talk to your child about these arrangements over the summer holidays.  Meanwhile, I wish you and your families a very restful summer!


Mr J Hicks BA (Hons) MA (Ed)

Interim Headteacher