Principals Update – 23rd November



Dear Parents/ Carers,


I hope that you are surviving the latest lockdown ok.  School continues in the same vein as it has all term, but I would not be honest if I didn’t acknowledge that the on-going situation is tough for all.  I hope that you and your families are bearing up!

I would like to thank our staff.  Every term is crazily busy but the current situation has descended on us at a time when we were already chronically under-funded and under pressure for this reason.  The pandemic has intensified the spending pressures as we have increased supply staffing costs as well as spending over £1000 a month extra on Covid measures. Combined with this, staff are dealing with heightened anxieties and welfare issues and the need to enforce extra rules, ventilate rooms and clean surfaces and materials between every lesson.  The added burdens of the current situation mean that it has never been harder work working in school.  I know we don’t get it right all the time, but I am so grateful to the team spirit, commitment and care of our staff who continue to do some amazing things and pull together in this time.

Thank you, too, for your support.  Of course many of you are facing considerable challenges, be they with health, loss or financial difficulties.  Your positive messages and support for your own children’s education is hugely appreciated.




 One simple way that your support really counts is if you can continue to help your children to get the basics right: Getting into school and into tutor time on time, with a mask and their full equipment matters.  Likewise, wearing full uniform (and not exploiting the situation to wear ‘PE’ kit on a day when it isn’t PE, or hoodies over shirts) helps maintain standards and avoid sources of conflict.  Students should come in full uniform (including blazers for years 10 and 11, and all Year 9 from after Christmas) on days when they don’t have PE.  They must have a proper coat too.  Where rooms are cold because of the increased ventilation, we are allowing coats over uniform to be worn.  Most importantly, young people arriving with a clean and serviceable mask, and a spare one, is hugely appreciated.




Despite some gloomy headlines, Christmas is not cancelled and we will hopefully be running our Christmas concert online this year, around Thursday 10th December.  We will run Christmas jumper day on Friday 11th (please supply your sons and daughters with a pound to contribute on this day), and each year group will run a celebration period 5 where the large numbers of students who are constantly getting things right and working well in school will be recognised with a free period 5 and celebration.  We are trying to celebrate students more and better this year.  You may have notices the ‘Students of the Week’ and ‘Student Stars’ on our website, plus an increased number of postcards and letters home to acknowledge the good work of many.

As the winter closes in, we have opened separate indoor areas for each year group so that they have somewhere warm and dry in break times.  It is important that students respect the different areas designated for their year group bubble.



Devon Council has asked me to urge you to keep childhood vaccination appointments during national COVID-19 restrictions, which makes good sense.  In a recent news article, Public Health England is reminding parents that the national COVID-19 restrictions should not stop children from receiving life-saving vaccines.  Following the introduction of lockdown on 23 March 2020 and during the following 3 to 4 weeks, there was a decline in the number of children receiving vaccines.  The latest data from PHE shows a continued recovery since April, but uptake is still behind on previous years – and health experts are concerned these may fall again, leaving thousands of children vulnerable to serious illness.  Obviously, we hope that before too long we may be part of programmes to vaccinate all of your children against Covid-19.




I’d like to encourage you again to please sign up for the COVID Symptom Study to help make sure our students are as safe as possible, if you haven’t already.  You need to download the free app and take less than one minute a day to report how your child/children are feeling each day. With all parents reporting daily via the app, the app will provide a powerful tool for helping scientists to understand how this disease can affect young people and keep us safe.  The study will share any findings from their research with you.  The app is available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.  To join our school network in the app and receive personalised COVID insights about our school, go to Edit Profile for your child’s profile > School Network > enter our school’s Unique School Network Code (AX4N7ZJ) and select the ‘Bubble’ (year group) that your child belongs to.

For more information including full instructions on how to join and use the COVID Symptom Study app, please head to:  All data collected in the app is used anonymously for informing other parents in our school, and anonymously for research and for public health purposes only.  ZOE takes data security and privacy very seriously and enforces best practices to ensure all data is protected.



Finally, despite us having had a couple of cases of students having positive tests, I am glad to report that these cases do not, as things stand, seem to have spread to others.  Despite the challenges of social distancing in a school of over 1000 students, this suggests that our practices are working reasonably effectively.  Also, I’m also relieved that no-one in our immediate community has been seriously ill.  I hope that this might reassure you a little if you continue to be anxious about sending your children to school, as a few of you understandably are.


My own son in a Plymouth school is currently at home isolating after someone in his bubble had a positive test.  He is seven days in and, I’m glad to say, well, but it is a bit like coming home to a caged animal and he’s turned the living room into his personal gym.  We are having to keep the whole house well ventilated!  I was informed that I should avoid unnecessary contact with him as well as going into his room.  This is hardly a problem as I had concerns about the hygiene standards in his bedroom long before Corona!


Take care and look after yourselves.


Best wishes,

James O’Connell


Teignmouth Community School – Exeter Road