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Starting back at school

Starting back at school – some helpful guidance

COVID 19 is sadly still with us but it is time for us to be looking to the future and not dwelling on the past. We are committed to starting back fully on Thursday 3rd September (with an induction for our new boys on Wednesday 2nd September). We are, of course, taking all precautions to ensure that we have a safe environment for the boys and for the staff and so I would like to spend some time setting out what this looks like.

A great benefit of being in a small school is that we will be able to deliver the full curriculum to the boys without any compromise. We are a school with small year groups and therefore we are able to have three distinct bubbles within the school, each consisting of 70-90 pupils.


The Lower School (Reception to Year 5)

The boys will have all of their lessons in the Lower School (formerly the Pre-Prep) and will only be coming up to the main site for lunch and their swimming lessons. These will be at different times to pupils from other sections of the school enabling us to properly clean the areas between use.

When the boys arrive at school in the morning, they will go directly to their Form rooms. Where applicable, their subject teachers will be going to them rather than the boys having to move around to other classrooms. During break times, we will divide the bubble into two smaller groups of Reception to Year 2 and Year 3 to Year 5.

Lunch will be in the school dining room as usual but at a time that keeps the bubble completely isolated from the rest of the school.


The Middle School (Year 6-8)

The Middle School boys are all in designated areas and will be kept separate from the Upper School Year groups. Years 7 and 8 will be based in Heywood House throughout the day but will still have their Science lessons in the Junior Lab. Year 6 will be based in their Form Rooms (Rooms 3 and 4) and will likewise use the Junior Science Lab.

The Year 6-8 boys will have a separate play area to the Upper School boys and this will entail half of the playground area in the main school as well as the area to the back of Heywood House.

The Middle School will still have lessons in the new DT rooms, the Swimming Pool and PE lessons in Griffin Hall but the rooms will be thoroughly cleaned between use by different bubbles. We have tried, as far as possible to schedule bubbles in these areas on different days. Drama lessons will take place in the Lower School Hall.

The boys in Years 6-8 will be called into lunch in their year groups and will sit in their own year group, separated away from boys in the other Middle School years as far as possible. Cleaning of the dining room takes place between each bubble’s lunch sitting.


The Upper School (Years 9-11)

The Upper School boys will form a bubble on the main site and all of their lessons will take place within this area. Only the Upper School pupils will be using the Senior Science Labs. Lunch is again done as per the other bubbles.

Planning for boys who will have a later lunch

The breaking up of lunchtime into several sittings regrettably elongates the turnaround for lunch; either the Middle School or Upper School pupils will be having a late lunch and it is difficult to get around this. We are alternating the later lunch each day. What we are putting in place to ensure that the boys are not going hungry, is the opportunity at 11am for the last lunch sitting to buy a 50 pence snack from the new dining servery. The snacks will be different each day and will all be freshly made on site and will include such items as muffins, brownies, flapjacks and pizza. It will be a different snack each day (not a multiple choice). The boys will need to go to Mrs Bevan with their 50p to get a ticket which they will pass over to the snack bar. It will always be 50p.


Movement around the school

Where there is movement through the school, most specifically through the playground area of the main school site, there will be a one-way system in place around the circumference of the playground and this will be clearly marked.

It helps that the majority of our classrooms do not require access through corridors. Where pupils have to go upstairs to reach a classroom, the pupils will be asked to remain downstairs until taken up by their teacher.


Toilet facilities and general hygiene

There are designated toilet facilities for the different bubbles.

In the Lower School, there will be a shared facility for Reception and Year 1 and likewise Years 2 and 3. Years 4 and 5 will have their own toilet facility.  

In the Middle School, there are designated toilets for Years 6-8 in Heywood House.

The Upper School will use the toilet facilities in the main building.

The toilets will be cleaned during the day and will also have a deep clean at the end of each day.

There are hand sanitisers throughout the school and every classroom will also have hand sanitiser in the rooms. We will also be regularly reinforcing the importance of washing hands and good hygiene during Form times and assemblies.


Arrival at school

Boys coming to breakfast club can arrive between 7.30am and 8am and they should go directly to the side entrance to the dining servery which is to the right of the main entrance to the main school. The boys will then have designated areas for each bubble.

All other pupils should arrive between 8.20am and 8.30am when registration takes place in their form rooms. Reception to Year 5 all go directly to the Lower School, Years 7 and 8 to Heywood House and Y6 to rooms 3 and 4. Years 9-11 all go directly to their form rooms in the main school. I know this is far from ideal but can I ask whilst circumstances are as they are that if you do arrive between 8am and 8.20am please can the boys remain with you in your car. Equally, between 8.20am and 8.30am, please do drop off quickly if you have had to come in by car so that we can avoid congestion in Oval Way.

At the end of the day, it is easier to stagger the conclusion to the school day. Reception to Year 2 will come out at 3.30pm, Years 3-5 at 3.45pm and the Middle and Upper School will be dismissed from their respective areas at 4.15pm.

It would be helpful if parents, particularly of the older boys, did not congregate at the school exits when collecting your sons and made arrangements for them to meet you or come directly to your car. If the boys are able to make their own way to and from school that is strongly encouraged.


Breakfast Club and After School facilities

Breakfast club is running from day one and we will keep boys from each bubble separated on their arrival at school. Those coming to Breakfast Club should follow the guidance provided above (Arrival at School).

Clubs will take place for the Lower School until 4.20pm. These will begin from the second week.

There is also an after school care facility for boys in Reception to Year 5 which runs from 3.30pm to 6pm. The wrap around care is based in the Lower School library and collection of the boys is directly from this location which is the old nursery facility. This begins on Thursday 3rd September.

Some after school clubs are running for the Middle and Upper School boys from the second week of term onwards, details of which will be sent out to you on Wednesday. The clubs will all finish by 5.10pm and there is no further wrap around care beyond this time for Year 6 and above.


Other clubs and activities

With regards to music lessons, LAMDA, clubs and activities, details of all of these will be coming out to you next week as we just finalise them. It is our aim to still hold many of the individual music lessons within the bubbles but we are just ironing out some of the logistical challenges, likewise with LAMDA. There will be a good range of lunchtime clubs, again being run within bubbles. There will be some after school clubs but we are not, at this time bringing in outside agents so the clubs that are running are those done by our own staff. Participation in clubs is strongly encouraged because it will obviously reduce numbers together in any given area so I would ask you to also encourage your sons to take full benefit of the clubs on offer.



I do expect all the boys to be coming in to school in their full school uniform unless it is on a day when they have PE or Games in which case they are to come in their appropriate kit. If the weather is cool/inclement, I would encourage the boys to wear their tracksuits to keep warm. I know that some have asked if a more relaxed approach could be taken to uniform so if I may I will just explain my rationale for full uniform. I do believe that the start of the year is where we set our standards and I believe uniform is one of those key areas. If the boys get up in the morning and take the time to make their bed and dress themselves smartly so that they are set for the day, they have achieved something positive before they even get to school; it sets the tone for the day ahead. If boys look smart they stand taller and they have greater pride in themselves and this is then reflected in their work. If they take a casual approach in their appearance, too often there is a correlation with poor quality work. That is not what I want from our boys. We will set high standards from the outset and we want the boys to not only live up to them but seek to always be better day on day. I say to the boys all the time that our approach to life should be one where we seek to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today.

To clarify arrangements for days on which there is Games or PE, we are asking the boys to come into school in their Games/PE kit. This is what we already did last term. The rationale is that it reduces congestion in changing rooms and also facilitates washing of clothes between days as is deemed necessary. If the weather is cool we would suggest the boys wear their school tracksuit over their Games kits. The boys should still come in their full school uniform on days when they have swimming or days when they do not have Games/PE. Games and PE lessons take place as follows:




















I would also remind you to ensure that the boys have all had a haircut before we start back. Hair should be above the collar and should not have any designs cut into it. I am a firm believer in the importance of taking pride in one’s appearance. If we get this right, the expectations of what can be achieved in written work and discipline within the school shoot up.



At this point I would like to address the issue of masks. It is very much at parental discretion if your sons wish to wear a mask to school. Once in school, the current expectation is that the boys will not wear masks. That being said, we have no objection to the boys wearing plain masks during break times and when in communal areas. If there are particular cases where shielding at home remains an issue, I will consider on a case by case baasis whether it is suitable for a mask to be worn by a pupil in lessons. It would need to be a justifiable position. I would like you to know that staff will all be wearing a visor in lessons where it is not possible to maintain a two metre distance and staff may also choose to wear masks when in communal areas.


Ongoing Google Meets with the Headmaster

I consider the boys at Thorpe to be pioneers in unprecedented times and I believe we have set a standard of which we should all be very proud. Uncertainty continues in the media but I am eager that the school should provide families with reassurance, a haven of relative normality and security. For the past few months I have held a Google Meet with parents on a regular basis and I intend to continue with this during the Christmas Term in the hope that it provides a forum for me to give you an update on what is happening at the school and for you to ask any questions.


Final considerations

I think it is important that we all bear in mind the possibility that there could be a further spike and lockdown of schools. We are already planning for such an eventuality though we obviously hope it will not happen. It is however best to be ready and I would wish to reassure you that we are prepared.

In the meantime, it is a statutory requirement from the government that all children return to school. I understand the anxiety that many of you may feel about this but I hope it offers you some reassurance that I have my own two boys here at Thorpe and I am confident in the provisions we have in place. If there is a statutory reason as to why a child cannot attend, we will equally support the child and parents in that situation and please do speak to us further about your circumstances.


Trigger Popup

Open Day – Autumn Term 2020

We are delighted to introduce small group tours at our Autumn Open Mornings. Please make sure you book your place in advance here

Saturday 10th October - Whole School 10am - 1pm

Tuesday 13th October- Whole School 9am- 11am

Tuesday 10th November - Lower School with Reception focus 9am-11am