The roots to grow, the wings to fly...
Monday 18th May 2020
Dear Parents and Carers
POTENTIAL PHASED REOPENING FROM JUNE 1st
As you know, the Government has announced that primary schools should prepare for phased reopening for Reception, Year 1 and 6 children only from the 1st June. We are led to believe that it is still conditional on up to date information from Public Health.
Staff and governors are looking forward to welcoming our children and parents back into our lovely school community and know that we can rely on your understanding and support during this time. School has been far too quiet without you! This letter outlines how we plan to manage this process effectively and hopefully give you confidence. It is long but please take the time to read it carefully.
The school has taken the time to carefully consider the Department for Education Guidance and ensure that we can meet its brief before contacting you. However please do be aware that everything is subject to change. We absolutely want the children back in school and for them to return to a welcoming and familiar environment however a number of changes to the way the school is run have had to be made to meet the Department For Education’s health and safety expectations.
I appreciate that some of these measures are quite different and may make you feel a little uncomfortable at first but it is imperative that we meet the health and safety requirements to keep our pupils, parents and staff as safe as we can. The health and safety of our school community is of the utmost importance. We will all soon adapt as we have done thus far.
We would love to see all the Year R, 1 and 6 pupils back in school but parents do have a choice whether or not to send them back. There will be no judgement from the school – you know what is best for your child and your family. The government has made it clear that there will be no fining or any judgements on school attendance figures at this time. Year R, 1 and 6 parents: all we would ask is that if you choose not to send your child back at this time, that you commit to this decision until 22nd June (at which time you may want to review) as we cannot plan for children coming in and out and we need to keep a consistent pupil group. Please inform me as to whether you definitely will/will not be sending your child back in, in writing as soon as possible via the office email and at the latest, by Friday 22nd May at 9am (along with a meal decision) so staff can organise groups and meals appropriately.
Please note that staff teaching in Year R, 1 and 6 will not have the capacity to post work online for children whose parents/carers have made the decision not to return them to school. Staff will signpost you to websites instead in a list. This will not apply in the case that a pupil is shielding. Year 2, 3, 4 and 5 pupils will continue to have work posted for them and responded to on google classroom. I hope you understand this decision; we cannot expect staff to double their workload alongside all the additional cleaning tasks they will also have to undertake.
Unfortunately and very sadly, we are unable to hold any of our usual end of year events. This may change over the course of the next few weeks but as of now, it’s just not possible.
The school will operate from 8.45am to 3.20pm as normal however there will be no breakfast club or after school clubs. Please do not arrive on site earlier than 8.45am and children must be picked up on time please as staff will need to help clean the classrooms after school.
DROP OFF/ COLLECTION
The Government has requested that we consider pinch points and bottlenecks where people may be crossing or it may be congested. As a result, we are introducing a one way system.
Parents and children will enter school via the large farm gate down the path left of the village hall, passing the willow trees and onto the grass. Here Year R, 1 and 6 children will go to their respective classrooms. I’m afraid we are unable to let parents in through the EYFS gate as the waiting area is too small. Teaching staff will meet your children at the gate.
To exit, parents are asked to cross over the grass, go up the slope and out of the top playground ensuring you are socially distancing.
To collect children, we are asking you to enter via the village hall gate and then wait on the grassy area before walking up to the top playground to exit with 2m distance from other parents. Please collect Year R, 1 and 6 pupils first and then childcare pupils.
Parents are not allowed to enter any of the buildings at this time including the office and we will not able to buzz you in for forgotten PE kit etc although it can be left outside the gate. Please respect this. If you wish to speak to a member of staff, please email the member of staff in the morning through google classroom and arrange to speak with them outside after school adhering to the 2m rule.
Parents are expected to keep their children with them at all times and respect the distance between other people. Staff are not expected to police this. Parents are welcome to politely remind others as you might do in a supermarket or wait.
If Year 6 are able to walk home independently or meet a parent a little way away from school, then please let us know. Every little helps!
We are expected to continue to run a limited childcare facility for children of critical workers only and children that are classed as vulnerable. We cannot accept children whose parents have been asked to return to work and are not critical workers – the government have made it clear that in these cases, parents have to make sure they have made their own childcare arrangements. This will be run independently by Key Stage Two school staff in the old building.
These children will be kept in their own group and have separate breaks. They will be asked to bring sandwiches. I’m afraid school lunches cannot be provided. There will be no childcare for siblings of pupils in Year R, 1 or 6 unless parents are critical workers. Childcare is 8.45am to 3.20pm. Please do not arrive early. Entry is through the village hall gate and then up to the top playground and through the brown door.
If we have too many children we will be unable to implement correct social distancing measures due to the shape and size of the rooms and corridor and we will have to cap numbers and introduce an oversubscription policy or rota system. Please do not book in with us if someone is available to look after the children at home – we can only provide for days and times when parents are working.
If we cannot provide childcare, the Local Authority can signpost you to your nearest childcare facility. Please understand that it is not because we don’t want to help, we do not have the capacity for large numbers and we will be running a skeleton staff.
YOU WILL STILL NEED TO BOOK IN WITH ME A WEEK IN ADVANCE PLEASE BY FRIDAY AT 9AM – email firstname.lastname@example.org This is important for us to have a register of attendees and for us to staff the children appropriately. Please do not bring children without booking in.
CLASSROOM STRUCTURES AND ROUTINES
The government have asked us to split year groups into no more than 15 pupils per classroom.
We have thought carefully about this and have decided to split the Reception and Year 1 children into two equal groups based on friendships where possible– one group in Miss Langdon’s classroom and one in Miss Stuckey/Mrs Newton’s classroom. You will be informed of which room your child is in beforehand when we know which children will be attending. Please support staff with these decisions.
Both classes will have a Teaching Assistant.
The government have acknowledged that it is impossible for Key Stage One children to socially distance so this is not an expectation rather that we must implement ‘precautions’ such as regular handwashing and regular cleaning of tables and resources, etc. We will remove soft toys and furnishings that cannot be easily cleaned however there is a limit to the changes we can make.
The staff have been advised to remain 2 metres away from children if possible but we recognise in practice that with small children, this practically impossible for most of the time and not appropriate.
The two Key Stage One groups will operate completely independently and will not mix. Children will stay with the appointed adults for the whole week. They will have separate play spaces with plenty of room to learn and play. They will use separate toilets. Lunchtimes will be held in classes and will be staggered to alleviate pressure on staff and to reduce the risk of possible transmission.
We will be asking children to bring back the reading books they took home over lockdown. We would ask that book bags are left at home for a few weeks until we can review how things are working.
In year 6, the whole class can be together throughout Mrs Middleton’s building with a 2 metre distance between the pupils when sitting. Again with regards to hygiene, all of the above will be implemented. Hand washing facilities are available in the classroom. Mrs Middleton and Mrs Moriarty (Friday) will have the class all week with Miss Essex to support. Lunch will be eaten in class and they will have a separate playtime – they will enjoy having the grass all to themselves for a few weeks! Children will be using their own pencil cases.
Sadly there will be no assembly or wake and shake at this time.
We will attempt to get the children outside as much as possible so that the risk of any possible transmission is lower but this is obviously weather dependent. We are so lucky to have such lovely grounds to spread the children out and for them to enjoy the outside space!
We are unable to have any visitors in school or anyone helping with readers unfortunately.
Please note that if we are still having to split the year groups if/when Year 2, 3, 4 and 5 are phased in for the last month of the term, I should let you know now that we will not be able to have all the children in full time every day and will have to work a rota system. We don’t have the rooms or the staff to manage and neither does any other school. We assume at that point the government will think it safe for us to be back in our classes at full capacity however that is very different from the school’s view as to whether we can safely manage the situation to the best of our ability.
I will ask parents of Year 2, 3, 4 and 5 pupils nearer the time about their intentions to send children back in but please do not have a fixed idea of all children being back every day for a month at this point.
To ensure that each group understands the new way of working, we are staggering start dates back to school. There is nothing to be gained by rushing the process. We would rather get it right. We have taken the decision to use Monday 1st June for preparation of the site.
Year 6: Tuesday 2nd June
Year R/1: Wednesday 3rd June (Miss Langdon’s group)
Year R/1: Thursday 4th June (Mrs Newton’s group)
We will be focusing on a restorative curriculum to start with – attending to children’s emotional well-being before we implement any challenging academic work. This has been a really tough time for some of our children, and it would be wrong to assume that it hasn’t affected them even in a small way. Routines and concentration will be important things to develop again. However I am sure that it won’t take them long to get back into the swing and they will be learnings at full speed once again. Children are very resilient!
It is imperative that if your child shows any symptoms of COVID 19 that they stay home. Please don’t be tempted to give them Calpol and send them in -this is not the time for that!
If a child shows any symptoms in school, parents will be contacted and will be expected to collect immediately. Children will be isolated from other children until parents arrive. They will then need to stay at home for the appropriate time as do their siblings.
According to the government all Year R , 1 and 6 children in school will be eligible for a COVID 19 test if they show symptoms. This is for parents to organise. If a child is found to be positive, the whole class group and staff must stay home and quarantine for 14 days. Please don’t let this put you off getting a test – it is important for your child, your family and the school community.
If a child lives with a parent on the extremely clinically vulnerable list, it is advised that the pupil does not come to school as we are unable to guarantee strict social distancing. Please refer to the Department for Education Guidance for Parents and Carers online for more information and make a decision appropriately.
The government advise that it is not appropriate for staff or pupils to wear face masks in school, nor would we want them to, however if a child is displaying symptoms then the supervising staff member is advised to wear PPE whilst waiting for parents to collect.
Technically the children should be in summer uniform now but I think this is the least of our concerns! Winter or summer is fine just as long as they don’t wear sandals please – closed toes only – but leave the ties at home.
Usual rules apply please - we cannot apply sun cream to children. Please apply cream before school or supply it in a tube for pupils to apply themselves. We have been so lucky with the weather recently I am hoping it will stay nice for a bit longer. Children can also bring a named sun hat if it is hot.
Hopefully the catering staff at Thornford School will be back from furlough by June 1st. They will be working with a skeleton staff and will be only be offering packed lunches at first – probably a choice of ham or cheese sandwiches. Parent Pay is not yet up and running so meals will need to be booked through me at the office email.
Year 6 parents – at this moment, it looks as if you can order a packed lunch and then be invoiced directly from SAST but it might just be easier to make your child a packed lunch for June (except for pupils in receipt of Free School Meals). Please look out for an email about school lunches as I believe we will need definite numbers by the end of Thursday 21st May to pass to Thornford. We are aiming to do outdoor picnics where possible.
For those children in Year 2,3,4,5 in receipt of Free School Meals and not yet in school and those in Year R,1, and 6 that are not returning, the voucher system will continue until the end of the summer term.
All of this being said, it is important for you to know that it is still the Headteacher’s decision whether a school can open and run safely and within the law. We are running with a skeleton staff with key members at home shielding and have no spare capacity. If staff fall ill and we are unable to meet these guidelines, we may have to close classes or make adjustments. We will not be able to provide our usual range of teaching strategies and support programmes.
Our plan has to be flexible and always have the children’s and staff’s best interests and health and safety at its core. It will be reviewed weekly and in line with government guidance. We hope that we will have your understanding and full cooperation if we need to make changes or close groups at short notice. These are unprecedented times and we are all working under pressure. Our plan has the full backing of the governors and SAST.
I hope that this has answered many of your questions about how reopening will work. I’m afraid though, I cannot allay all of your fears. We can only do our best and our best we will do! Schools are social places by their nature, not prisons, and I am unable to guarantee strict social distancing for any child.
I would like to thank my staff who have worked so hard throughout to meet the children’s needs in such difficult and peculiar circumstances. They, with me, have risen to the challenge of trying to make this work and I know that they will make the school a fun and welcoming place for the children even though it will be very different.
I would also like to thank you wholeheartedly, parents and children, for coping so admirably with this situation, the like of which we have never encountered before. It has not been easy we know, but together, we can try and build our school back up again together.
Thank you for all your support and I hope to see you again soon.