8th October 2021

I hope that you and your families remain safe and well.

I have put off writing this blog for a little while as our school community comes to terms with the sad loss of one of our own.  Our students and staff have been heavily impacted by the tragic death of Louis Watkiss, a wonderfully promising young man whose life was taken from us far too soon.  Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies have been with Louis, his family and his closest friends and their families over the last two weeks.  A flower memorial with cards, poems and messages for Louis has emerged adjacent to the Year 8 playground and every day it continues to grow.  We have worked hard to support those most affected and as we navigate the path forward we will continue to do our best to support them coping with the challenges ahead.  There will be lots of opportunities for us to jointly celebrate Louis’ life and achievements in the coming weeks and months but it has been heartwarming to see his closest friends come together.  They have demonstrated so much strength in sharing their plans for honouring their friend’s memory.  They have been truly remarkable and I am very proud of them.

The first of these planned milestones is “Wear Blue for Louis Day”.  This takes place on Friday October 15th and is a non-uniform day for staff and students with the opportunity to make a donation of at least £1, all of the proceeds will go to charities selected by Louis’ family and friends.  This will include the West Midlands Air Ambulance.  Please support this event as well as you can by making a donation through Parent Pay.  Your support is greatly appreciated.  We will of course keep you informed of future events and milestones in memory of Louis as the plans continue to develop.

It was a real pleasure this week to see our students and staff supporting one another with a whole range of events for World Mental Health Day.  The whole school building was buzzing with activity and an overwhelming feeling of collaboration and support for one another, which was incredible.  I won’t dwell on the finer details here, but there will be more information published in our half-termly newsletter, so I won’t spoil the surprise!  I will add though, that I was incredibly touched to see our community beginning to heal, so thank you to all those involved.

I am sure I don’t need to explain to any of you that we are experiencing some issues out of our control at the moment.  The shortage of HGV drivers, wider staff shortages and ongoing energy issues have impacted greatly upon supply chains.  During the last few weeks we have seen these factors affect our canteen provision.  Although the wonderful staff team that supports us has managed to maintain a service every day, it has been compromised by these issues.  I am also informed that it is not likely to get any better any time soon.  Therefore, I would encourage you all to be prepared for a further reduced offer from the canteen.  This is entirely out of theirs and our control and does place us under considerable stress in having to solve these problems.  It might be prudent, until things return to normal, for students who are able to bring a packed lunch.  We will update you if there are any further developments on this. 

On a similar note, the bus company has reduced the school bus service.  In recent years we have had three school bus routes.  This has now diminished to one service and we know it is causing a headache for some students in getting to and from school.  We have raised this with National Express, who provide the service, and are in talks to find a solution that will see a better service that supports more of our students.  Watch this space for further news.

Finally, whilst the Covid virus continues to spread through our communities it seems to be moving through Plantsbrook relatively slowly.  We have seen small-ish numbers of students having to self-isolate with positive test results at any one time.  Our attendance figures are much better than the national average as a result of this.  We would encourage families to continue testing twice weekly and to keep students off if they display any of the common symptoms.  Your support in this helps us to keep the school running as close to normal as is possible.   We have also been informed by the NHS and BCC that vaccinations for eligible students will be taking place in school after half-term.  We will ensure more detailed information is shared with you shortly, including the NHS consent forms.  Whilst I do endorse the government’s vaccination plans in principle, I would also wish to add that this is a matter of personal choice.  There will be no pressure put on any family or individual student for the choice that they decide to make.  I can assure you of that.

Stay safe, take care and thank you for your continued support.

Kind regards,

Mr Farr