Message for the parents of our new Olive children
I hope you have all had a restful few weeks. It was so lovely to meet many of you before the holiday and I am already excited to see you all again soon - especially the children!
It is important that I update you on staffing prior to the new term.
Mrs Lidbury has taken the difficult decision to resign from her post for health reasons. She had been isolating throughout the lockdown and being clinically vulnerable with a medical condition she did not feel she could continue in her role. Children in any class need security and stability and she felt that by needing to protect herself and her own family her attendance would be affected.
She wishes to express how lovely you all were during the telephone calls and is very sad to not be fulfilling her role.
I am delighted that we have been able to secure Mrs Cook as the full-time teacher in Olive until Mrs Newbury's return from maternity leave in December. Mrs Cook was to be working in Olive every Friday but she is excited about taking on full responsibility for the class. She is a very experienced teacher who is highly respected by the team and has worked with us since my arrival at the school. The children will be in very capable hands.
I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Message for Year 6 children
The end of your journey at BcL is coming to an end. Some of you have been able to come into school and enjoy the last few weeks with Mrs Batey and some friends. I know she has thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you too. For many of you, you have been at home, beginning to prepare for the next step of your journey.
We were hoping to celebrate your time at school with a party at the end of term but we are still unable to do this due to the guidelines we have to follow. This may also be difficult next term as there are a number of guidelines still in place from September. HOWEVER, on Tuesday 21st July at 1.30 pm we would like to invite you into school for the afternoon to say goodbye and to give you the opportunity to see friends who may be moving on to a different school than you. We'll have a few things to munch and drink and if the weather behaves itself (the forecast is good) we'll be outside. There may also be one or two awards...
Choice of clothing is up to you and there is no need to bring anything apart from a coat which may be needed.
Your parents and carers will be able to pick you up at 3pm from the playground.
We do hope you can make it.
Mr Duke & Mrs Batey
Message for Parents/Carers of Ivy children
Before the end of term, we have created an opportunity for your child to visit the Blyton site and spend some time with Mrs Fernandez in Willow class. We fully understand if you still wish to keep your child at home at this time and will therefore make the transition in September as easy as possible for your family.
In the meantime, if you have any questions relating to your child's move to Key Stage 2 then please send them via our school email address: email@example.com and I will aim to answer them as soon as I can either personally or through a general response which I will post on the website.
Thank you as always for your kindness, patience and support during these challenging times.
Good afternoon, everyone. I hope you are all well.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Education stated that the Government have pulled back on their aim to return all primary children to school prior to the holiday. Therefore in the final weeks of the school year we will continue to accommodate children in Olive, Fir and the Year 6 children of Clover in the safest way possible. In addition, the Keyworker/Vulnerable group will continue at the Blyton site. To ensure the safety of all children, families and staff I feel this government decision is a correct one although I think we would have all benefited from more decisive guidance a number of weeks ago. I also appreciate the potential impact for families who have been under the impression that their children would be returning at some point this term.
Despite the change, it is so important that children in Ivy class have the opportunity to visit the Blyton site prior to starting in Willow in September. Therefore, towards the very the end of term, we will be arranging for the year 2 children to spend some time with Mrs Fernandez in her classroom - this is likely to be a morning for groups of approximately seven children. I will share arrangements for this next week so that you can plan ahead. You may decide that this is still too soon for your child to return so we will aim to support your child as much as possible in September.
Over the coming weeks, Mrs Batey, Mrs Briscoe and Mrs Holt will all be taken out of class for a week to complete other necessary school work in readiness for September. Mrs Geraghty (Y6), Mrs Fernandez (Fir) and Mrs Wright (Olive) will replace them during this time and I will also inform you of these dates next week.
Thank you for your ongoing support through this most challenging of times.
Take care, everyone.
Good afternoon, everyone; I hope you are enjoying the beautiful weather.
As expected during yesterday's briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson explained how the government had met their five targets which would enable the increased opening of schools for selected pupils. It will come as no surprise to you that I remain unconvinced by his arguments, as this, in my view, is not necessarily an educational decision with children at the heart of it. Sir Patrick Vallance himself stated that the UK is 'at a fragile state' and the Independent SAGE group also remain unconvinced by the direction taken due to the R rate which hovers just below 1 and is therefore at risk of increasing due to the model chosen by the Department for Education.
However, the Local Authority have made it clear that they are expecting schools to open from June 1st: this is possibly due to the lower R rate in this area compared with places like Manchester, Liverpool and the North East. I stated that we would open if the government met their targets and we had the necessary measures in place to minimise risk. Therefore, we will open our school on Tuesday June 2nd for children in Olive, Fir and Year 6 of Clover and we all cannot wait to see the children again.
Our PPE has arrived which enables staff to support children with more confidence if a child becomes ill and when cleaning areas within the school. I am also satisfied with the measures we have in place with regards to social distancing, hand-washing and the updated Behaviour Policy. We will ensure we follow all actions on the Partial-Opening Action Plan and refer constantly to the Risk Assessment. If I feel we could not do this, we would not be opening. I also need to add at this point, that if we are made aware of children spending time in the households of others and having sleepovers, we will contact the families of those children and it is possible that they will not be allowed back into school for 14 days. This may seem extreme, but we need to follow the social distancing guidelines set out at this time and cannot afford the bubbles in school - for want of a better phrase - to burst.
As parents and carers you will have your own view as to whether the 'opening' is necessary and whether your child should attend school at this point. I have expressed my views recently because this is not just about the cancelling of an event or a change to the Homework Policy. As the Headteacher with responsibility of 160 children and staff members, I think it is important you know where I stand. For many of you who are still not confident that sending your child back to school is in their best interest, I would advise that, for now, the child stays at home if your circumstances allow. This time will enable you to gather more information over the coming weeks which may help you decide for certain at a later date. Any decision you make now can be changed in the coming days and weeks and at any point you wish your child to return, we will be ready to welcome them back with twenty-four hours notice or by the Thursday of the previous week. If you still choose to wait until September, that is perfectly acceptable too. I want to be as flexible as possible for you.
This is not a time to judge the actions of others. No one should be the judge of a family other than their own.
For those children returning: we will make absolutely sure that they enjoy school, that they will feel safe and that they are pleased to be back. It will be so lovely to see their faces again.
If you require any reminders of timings and the organisation of school over the coming weeks, including where and when to drop-off and pick up your child, please refer to the Partial-Opening Action Plan on the website or get in touch via email, text or phone.
I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Later today, the government are expected to announce that they have reached their five targets and therefore schools across the country are expected to be 'opening' from the 1st June. Although I have strong views regarding the government's tendency to move the goalposts during this period of time - and in particular recognising that 'following the science' only appears to matter to suit a message rather than for the health and safety of children and families - we have been working in and out of school to minimise the risk if children return including preparing the Partial-Opening Action Plan and the Risk Assessment. Both of these documents have been agreed by the governing body.
Following the announcement later today, I will communicate with the governing body and my SLT and also keep an eye on Local Authority and union guidance before making the final decision about Tuesday 2nd June. I appreciate your patience and understanding during this time and recognise that there will be many views about the situation. I never forget that my responsibility is the safety of the children, their families and my team.
With this in mind, I have updated the Behaviour Policy with a procedure, which has been ratified by the governing body and will be published on the website before the weekend. The addition is the following:
Children who are displaying behaviours which increase the possibility of the virus spreading will be subjected to a risk assessment.
These behaviours may include:
If the risk assessment identifies that the child would be safer at home, this will be relayed to the family. If this is declined, the school will follow procedures in the behaviour policy, including fixed-term exclusions, to ensure the safety of all children and adults.
I have been asked about end of year reports. Teachers have been working hard using a revised template and the completed reports will be appearing in my inbox shortly. We had already made the decision to amend following the disruption caused by coronavirus and I'm pleased the DfE guidance (published only last week) followed what we had put in place. Assessments on the report will relate to where the children were at Easter and there has been a reduction in the narrative boxes.
Take care, everyone.
It has been over two months since we were directed to close the school doors to the vast majority of our wonderful children. The directive delivered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier that week was not a message I ever expected to receive as a headteacher and it inevitably provoked many emotions. There was, of course, the sense of relief after what seemed like weeks of discussion, speculation and worry. The news was increasingly sad as the virus spread rapidly but the 'Stay Home' message gave everyone clarity and a mission to keep not only their loved ones safe but the recognition that every individual's actions could impact on the wider community. Despite that clarity, we had no idea of how long we would be distanced from the children, which was incredibly sad for us all. People choose education as a career for one sole purpose: to educate and prepare children for their life's journey. So, for anyone working in school, the next weeks and months would be alien and not like anything of us had ever planned for. We were also acutely aware that many of our children would be moving on to their next step without a well-deserved celebration of their time at BcL.
As parents and carers you will have experienced many challenges since Lockdown. You will have been balancing parenting with home schooling, perhaps working from home whilst caring for relatives. Key Workers will have worked and continue to work through extremely challenging circumstances. Many of you will not have seen relatives and friends since March and perhaps longer - I hadn’t seen my own daughter for ten weeks until last week and cannot explain in words how I felt that day and I, like many of you, am thankful to Zoom for being able to see my parents. I hope and pray that you and your loved ones have stayed safe and stayed healthy and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead; we have all been thinking of you. I also appreciate that many of you will have experienced challenges around your employment as the economic impact of the pandemic is felt in every community. We all hope that your lives will return to some normality soon.
Since the partial closure of schools, Headteachers have followed the guidance of the government’s Department for Education. Just over two weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced that schools would be 're-opening' from June 1st dependent on the five targets being met and that this gave schools three weeks to prepare. Within that statement, he declared that children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 would be returning to school. I debated whether I should share my own view but as I ultimately have the responsibility for your children in school I think it is important that I do. Regardless of whether the return date was too early or not, more of that later, I do not know of any other Headteacher who felt that this combination was the right path to choose, mainly due to the social distancing challenge for younger children. Since that announcement, the government's own Scientific Advisory Group of Emergencies (SAGE) have published their science regarding the partial-opening. The model chosen by the government (R/Y1/Y6) is not even a model that SAGE recommended, which I find quite baffling considering the constant message of 'following the science.' The three week preparation has involved constant re-thinking and re-wording as, in the last two weeks alone, we have received almost twenty documents of guidance linked to the ‘opening’ of school, the latest being a paper focusing on Early Years which was released this bank holiday weekend after we had already planned extensively and the majority of my team are now at home looking after their families. The guidance is a necessity, you can't plan during a pandemic without it, and has in most cases been very useful, but the drip-feed approach and ever-changing wording has left the vast majority of school leaders frustrated. I appreciate in the scheme of things this may seem minor, but I have the responsibility for the health and well-being of 135 children and over 20 members of staff so it is important we get it right and open school when it is safe to do so and time is therefore a precious commodity.
I understand that the return of children to school at this stage is not just about the education of children - particularly when considering the changes in school personnel and the changing physical nature of classrooms across the country - and that doesn't rest easy with me. The date is premature in my view but necessary from the government's perspective in order to restart the economy. However, and it may be naive, but I would like decisions on the opening of schools to be based solely on the safety of children, families and staff and dependent on systems like an effective Test, Track and Trace system being in place. I am also not alone amongst educators in thinking that using Denmark's schools as a model for re-opening, when their circumstances are so very different to ours, did not make sense.
So, where are we now?
In school, I cannot guarantee social distancing and at a time when the R rate is still delicately poised between 0.7 and 1 with the wider release of lockdown imminent. Within the Partial-Opening Action Plan and the Risk Assessment, I believe we have put in appropriate guidelines to minimise risk but that is not a guarantee and it is partly due to the fact that only 30% of children are due to return on the 2nd June. Any increase in these numbers will require further planning to ensure we can provide the safest possible space. It is clear that the 15th June date for re-opening non-essential retail businesses coincides with a possible return for children in Years 2 to 5. This, with the current guidelines, will be impossible for us to follow and I cannot promise that all children will return. I am in no doubt that there will be some changes to these guidelines, for instance, will there be a reduction in the 2 metre social distancing rule to 1 metre only? These amendments will have to be quite drastic to ensure all children return prior to September. I do appreciate that the decision many of you have had to make about sending your child back to school has been a difficult one, often relying on your own parental instinct and perhaps you are still having thoughts of uncertainty. There is of course much anxiety which I completely understand as this is a new experience for all of us. You have to do what is right for you as a family so please do not feel guilty if you choose to either send your child to school or to remain at home. We understand. In other cases, this decision may have been taken out of your hands to some degree due to work circumstances and you may well feel equally anxious and concerned. Again, we understand and will do all we can to support both you and your child in the coming weeks. As always, please do contact us if you have any worries about the coming term; a number of parents and carers have been in touch and I have tried to respond as quickly as I can which I hope has been beneficial.
I am sure - and hope - that children are excited about the return to school and to help them to prepare it is important they understand how different the school looks. For now, school is physically very different. One way we are currently trying to minimise risk is for children to be in smaller groups than the non-statutory guidance of fifteen which means they may return to a different classroom with a different teacher. Children will not be able to play with their friends like they did and many of their friends will not be in school to play with. The majority of resources and play equipment have been removed to reduce risk of contamination. In fact, the classrooms themselves are skeletons of what they normally look like, as I have shared previously on social media and within the Action Plan. I appreciate some may see my honesty as an attempt to keep numbers low, but I think it is only fair that I provide a view of what the physical experience of the school will feel like for children.
Ongoing discussions are continuing between the Government, school leaders and unions representing all areas of school life with the safety of all being the core talking point. I will aim to update you on any further information as the week commences and particularly from the 28th May following the review of the five targets.
I have faith that at some point in the future we will be back together. Our children will be smiling, enjoying their learning, playing with their friends and exploring the world with their teachers. Our whole community will be back together as one. I promise you all that it is our mission to ensure every returning child enjoys school, feels comfortable in school, feels safe in school and learns in the most positive of environments.
We miss them.
On behalf of everyone in school, I want to thank you for everything you have done at home to support your loved ones during this time. Thank you too for the kind messages, cards and posters that we have received from many of you - it has provided such a boost to us all.
Our six Christian Values have never been more relevant:
Thank you for your support, patience and understanding.
Letter to Parents: 19th May 2020
The UK government have proposed to schools in England that they could open by June 1st if, as a country, we reach the five targets they have set. As an educator and a parent I have my views as to whether the timing of this is appropriate or not which is why it is important that parents do have a choice as to whether to send their children to school next term. A number of authorities across the country have decided not to open including Liverpool and Hartlepool and unions representing headteachers, teachers, cleaners and administrators are also against the opening without clear scientific evidence that it will be safe.
Nevertheless, I have been communicating with my Senior Leadership Team and been in regular contact with the Governing Body to update them on the latest steps we are taking including the Partial Opening Action Plan that I have provided below. I am still receiving daily guidance from the Department for Education and a number of unions which feeds into any document I share.
If we do open, school itself will feel very different. I have posted on our Instagram page and included a photograph in the Action Plan of what a classroom will look like in the coming weeks. It is not school as we know it because of the restrictions that will be in place and interaction with adults will be at a distance. However, we will do all we can to ensure a high standard of learning takes place alongside the need to consider the well-being of children which I believe is needed more than ever.
I will only be able to confirm school will be opened on June 1st when I believe we have fully taken the steps needed to minimise risk for children and adults, we have received guidance from the bodies I have mentioned previously and the government have confirmed that their five targets have been met.
Therefore, I appreciate your patience and understanding at this time.