Important update regarding school opening
I hope that you are all well and keeping safe in these difficult times.
I am sure that you are aware that in addition to places already available for children, including those of key-workers, new Government guidance asks us to plan for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children (in that order) to be phased back into school life from the 1st June if feasible with the longer term vision of the whole school back in July in some form.
As Headteacher I want nothing more than to be able to welcome children back to school but with the best intentions of managing safety, wellbeing and academic achievement. At present the reality of what the school faces brings barriers which prevent us being able to deliver everything the Government would like us to. We will endeavour to overcome these barriers and provide for the children in the best way we can. We are asking for your support, understanding and patience during this difficult period for everybody. I hope you can understand that one of the main problems we are facing as leaders is the overwhelming pace of change; no sooner have we read and interpreted a set of guidelines then they are changed or public opinion is swayed towards the media interpretation of the guidance. In an online meeting yesterday I had with the diocesan director of education, she highlighted that this current situation we find ourselves in has never happened to any of us currently working in education (or any other sector) before and therefore we cannot draw from previous experience or learn from mistakes which have been made before. Every new step we take is into the unknown, this is why we need to carefully plan and consider each step we take before making it.
Our governing body made the decision not to extend our opening criteria to those groups suggested by the government on 8th June (after the holiday), this is because they did not feel that we were able to reduce the risks to a level we would deem to be acceptable for our children, our staff and their families before that date. This decision is fully supported by LCC and the diocese and I know other schools and authorities have made similar decisions for similar reasons. Although we cannot ensure that school is 100% safe (as any other place at present) we do want you to be assured that we have made every measure possible to mitigate the risks. We want nothing more to open the school when the time scale is appropriate to minimize risk for pupils, staff and families. Please be assured that for myself and the governors priority is given to the safety and wellbeing of all pupils and staff. The governors have agreed to meet again on 8th June to reassess the situation. We will endeavour to keep you informed of any changes as soon as possible after the meeting.
Following the guidance received by the Department for Education (DFE), we are currently creating a provisional plan for school partly re-opening from the Government’s proposed date of 1st June (this is not a date that schools will be re-opening ‘normally’) including detailed risk assessments. It is crucial that parents understand that this is a provisional and conditional plan which will follow DFE guidance and scientific recommendations as they are received.
Please be aware that if you do not wish for your child to return in the summer term, we will continue to provide online learning support and you will not receive a fine for non-attendance. We completely respect and understand any parents’ decisions to do this given the current continuing guidance on social distancing.
Decisions have had to be made around the re-opening of school based upon the guidance, staffing and school context. We acknowledge that some of these decisions will be as challenging for families as it is for school to deliver educational needs safely for pupils and staff.
If you are a key worker and require a place from 8th June please email me directly (email@example.com) with your job role, name of child (children) the days and dates you require you require ASAP . As we have had a increase in numbers and may require another group bubble and staffing will have to be arranged and if we have any further capacity, we may start to bring back another year group on a rota basis but we will keep you informed on this. These bubbles will be kept separate should school be able to provide this. A list of the key-worker roles can be found here:
Careful consideration needs to be made by parents when asking to access the key worker provision. This will continue to be childcare. This group should be kept to the minimum number of children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response.
Prior to returning to school, you will receive an email informing you if your child has been allocated a place. If two groups are required then different drop off times and pick up times will be arranged. You need to check and the times to see when your child is in school, their starting time and end of day time. It is essential to ensure that you arrive on time for drop off and pick up to keep bubbles as separate as possible. We will stagger these times to ensure groups are not congregating at the school gates if necessary. Pupils and parents will wait 2 metres apart on the school path at the front of the building until their start time. A member of staff will then open the school main door and let pupils only into school. We ask that parents do not gather to talk and make the drop off and collection of their children as swift as possible to ensure everyone’s safety. We ask that only one parent brings their child to school and where possible this is through walking. At present, we will not be able to open our breakfast club and after school club.
Due to the prolonged absence from school, the children will have grown in many ways therefore for parental ease the children may come to school in their own clothes. The children do not need to wear uniform but can do if they wish. However, we are requesting that as per the DFE guidance that children come to school in freshly washed clean clothes each day. Please ensure that your child wears sensible footwear and appropriate clothing for the weather.
A range of infection control measures throughout the day will be implemented. These will include enhanced handwashing, cleaning routines, good respiratory hygiene, minimising contact between social bubbles, class room layout, emptying bins and well ventilated classrooms. PPE will be used for changing children, dealing with bodily fluids, first aid and if a child displays symptoms of coronavirus they will be looked after by staff wearing PPE. Before your child returns to school, it is essential for you to prepare them by having discussions with them around social distancing, good personal hygiene and hand-washing. The government have produced this document which supports this: https://e-bug.eu/
What to do If COVID is confirmed in school?
Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms. If you have identified as a key worker, you will receive a message with your child’s keyworker group identified.
Remote Learning for Children not in school.
Thank-you to all parents who have supported their children with their home learning. I would urge parents to continue and for those children who have not engaged fully to daily complete the tasks set by their teacher. Please note no home learning will be sent over the two weeks of half term.
A Final Note
There is nothing more than we all want than to have our school family reunited. However, we are not at the end of this crisis, and thus I would be remiss in my overarching responsibility to our children, parents, my team and our wider community if I did not carefully consider every single issue and option in order to safely admit children back into school. All through this time I have lived by the idea – where lives are at stake, there is no such thing as being too cautious. I care too much about the children, staff ands families to take my responsibilities lightly. I hope that you understand that this is the basis for any decisions that St John with St Michael CE Primary school makes now and in the future.
I thank you all in advance for your co-operation and I wish you all health and happiness. Please look after one another and stay safe.
Mrs Kate Garner