The roots to grow, the wings to fly...
Dear Parents and Carers
Well what a year it's been....
With a day and a bit to go, again I would like to reiterate a heartfelt thank you for all your support towards the school, your trust in allowing us to have your children back and your participation in home learning which has been a learning curve for us all. Beyond any doubt it has been challenging. On the positive side, it has also been a unique opportunity for you to see your child fully as a learner and the standard at which lessons are set. Your children have been a credit to you. Well done children - the discipline it takes to continue the learning at home is in no way easy - you have done brilliantly. We have missed you so much and it has been fantastic to see more of you again this week. Thank you for your kindness and cake!
I am enormously proud that as a school, we have been able to fully fulfil the Government's wish that every child who wanted to return in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 was able to do so, full time, whilst running a key worker/vulnerable children's bubble. The children who have returned have really enjoyed their time and have adapted well. The Google Classroom was set up within days before lock down for families to access (a feat I must admit I didn't think we would pull off but happily I was proved wrong). Since then, all families who have been able to homeschool have done so and children had daily contact with their classmates and teachers. I know of many schools who were not able to achieve this. We have provided meals for our children on Free School Meals throughout, either as a packed lunch offer or meal vouchers. Against this backdrop, we have suffered normal staff illness and cleaning staff have resigned. Three staff members, two children and their parents to date have been tested for Covid19 during this time; all results were negative. The results are now coming back within 18 hours which is much more efficient when booked through a testing centre.
The staff team, as ever, have risen to the challenge and have provided much support, I know, to families at home whilst supporting their own families and working on days they are not contracted on. Some members of staff have been working from home but supporting the school through their management of Google Classroom or other projects or managing and running the Office and others have made the decision to return to school early from shielding, at their own risk. Thank you to everyone in every capacity for tackling everything that has been thrown at you with pragmatism, kindness and understanding although not without understandable anxiety against the shifting sands of the Department For Education's expectations, union advice and guidance and media pressure. I have never been prouder to work alongside such a fantastic group of professionals who have done their best for the children - that's all I could ever ask. Our biggest concern has always been to keep everyone safe.
We have been able to welcome back children into Years 2,3,4 and 5 for three days each before the end of the year - it has been lovely to see them and I hope very much that they enjoyed their time in school. There were lots of smiling faces!
You have received your child's end of year report and the children know which classes they will be in, in September. Most children, who have been in school, have been able to spend some time with their new teacher.
Our new Reception pupils will start school on the 7th September, part time for a week, as originally planned. We are very much looking forward to welcoming them.
You have also received the school's operating plan for September. Please ensure you have read it carefully.
Looking forward, we all hope that life will return to normal soon but realistically this situation is here to stay for a while and there are things that we must continue doing to keep safe. We may well be looking at local cases of Covid 19 in the future and it is vital that we continue to be alert in terms of symptoms and act promptly to be tested etc so that we can keep our community safe. It is going to be difficult for you (and us) to distinguish between symptoms of Covid19 and seasonal coughs, colds and other illnesses, etc and whilst we all want the children to be attending school every day, the need to stay away from school with these symptoms and get a test will be vital. We cannot be dosing up with Calpol and sending children in with any of the four symptoms present. These are government regulations and we expect all of our families and staff to abide by them.
It is important that we, as a school, continue to focus on regular hand washing, give hygiene advice and clean regularly throughout the day and after school which in turn, puts more pressure on staff time and capacity. We won't be able to ventilate the classrooms as well or spend as much time outside as the days turn colder as we have been doing now.
We have learnt a lot through this process and some of the systems we have introduced we will keep for the foreseeable future, for example the one way system. Over the summer we will be looking to create a path from the gate by the village hall to the existing path to avoid parents walking across the grass which will become muddy and slippery. We think Google Classroom is an excellent tool for homework, particularly in Key Stage Two so plan to keep using it for this purpose. We will continue to use White Rose Maths for our maths curriculum next year to provide continuity, to recap on basic calculation and to close any gaps in learning so that children who have fallen behind quickly catch up. We have to change the way we teach certain subjects, ie phonics, as we cannot mix bubbles. Currently the government is considering asking schools to implement for Year 1 phonics screening test for next year's Year 2 pupils so there will be a need for those pupils to do some intensive catch up potentially.
The Local Authority has been planning some summer activities for eligible children (if this is your child, you will be contacted). The staff will be taking a break during the summer (apart from their usual planning and preparation activities for the new year) and I will be focusing on the usual maintenance of buildings, safeguarding and preparation for the new year. Staff will not be expected to set home learning or respond to queries as I'm sure you can appreciate everyone needs to re-energise before September. I will communicate with you any changes to starting school in September as a result of any further government advice so please check your emails however I too, will be taking a break and will not be responding to emails daily.
Apologies if I don't get the opportunity to say goodbye tomorrow - my own son has his last day in Year 6 and Mum wants to pick him up from school. He was 18 months old when I joined the school as Headteacher - seems like yesterday. This was my ten year anniversary and one I won't forget! Take care and I very much look forward to having all the children back at St Mary's and operating as close to normal as we can manage in September.