Dear parent / carer
We hope that you and your families are keeping well through these difficult times.
Earlier this week I stated that I would like to inform you by today (15th May) of our plans for the potential re-opening on the 1st June for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children. We have made significant steps forward with those plans by referring to the government guidance, however, that guidance is still unfolding - we received the latest last night at 7.30pm and we are expecting further documents in the coming days. We are working extremely hard to consider all the questions it presents and trying to keep up with all the ongoing changes and updates.
I have been liaising with staff, our governing body, Headteachers in the local area and my network of local and national school contacts including Lincolnshire County Council. The local authority has also been working with head teacher representatives to provide schools with a consistent message around the decisions that need to be taken; they have been superb.
At the moment I feel like the captain of a ship navigating stormy seas. I am fortunate that the crew who work with me have been outstanding from Day 1 and together we will find our way through all of this and find the right solution for our school community. School is going to look very different for some time (certainly this side of the summer term) and we will all have to adjust. It’s our job as a school to support children and families and we understand that we have a vital role to play in the local community.
June 1st is by no means confirmed and the government has indicated that it could change depending on infection rates. As I write, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance - the government's scientific advisors - are meeting with union representatives to clarify the science behind the decision to re-open schools so early when other countries in the United Kingdom have not taken this step. Headteachers across the country are awaiting the results of that meeting.
We are currently carrying out risk assessments and considering how we could meet the requirements for social distancing and management of pupils and staff. This is not a straightforward task and it is clear that provision at school for the remainder of this academic year will look very different to what it did before the lockdown.
Thank you to all the parents of the children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 who have promptly responded to the survey text this week, this has helped us to plan towards an opening. We realise what a difficult decision this is - many of us are parents - and clearly you have huge concerns. We also understand that your response may change over time as data evolves; this is absolutely fine and we will be in regular touch with you over the coming weeks to monitor this.
In order to address all of this at school, we have considered:
-The creation of small ‘bubbles’ of children who remain together as a single group throughout the day with a specific teacher and a teaching assistant who will be mainly responsible for cleaning. These 'bubbles' would have to be separate from the other 'bubbles' - they shouldn’t mix at all - and we’ll be introducing different drop-off and collection times which may differ from the current school times. There will be clear guidance as to what this means for you. We are considering a lunchtime finish on Friday to ensure the sites are cleaned thoroughly ready for the following week. We will provide more detail on this next week.
-Break and lunchtimes will be staggered and eating will take place in the rooms in which the children are learning.
-How we could manage the social distancing requirements laid out in the guidelines in a way that is practical for staff and children. In Year 1 and Year 6 the children will have their own space and will be expected to stay in that space for the majority of the day. As I have stated before, we will be unable to guarantee social distancing in any year group but will be constantly encouraging children to be in their own space.
-With matters of hygiene, children will only use school equipment - we will create a kit for them - and following guidance, many resources will have to be removed from classrooms. All classrooms will have all soft cushions, toys and play equipment removed. Cleaning will be frequent through the day as well as daily deeper cleans between days. Children will be constantly reminded to wash their hands. They will not be able to bring in anything from home apart from their lunchbox which will be stored in the lockers (Laughton) or under the child's table (Blyton),
-The curriculum changes too, considering that children will have limited equipment due to hygiene requirements and social distancing. Awkwardly, this has moved from ‘childcare', to 'education,’ but with limitations in the guidance that impacts its delivery and the availability of resources. The curriculum will mainly be phonics (Olive and Fir), reading, writing and mathematics. PSHE will be incredibly important as we look to support children through this time. PE will also take place at a safer social distance. Year 6, in two groups, will also work towards their transition to secondary school. We will aim for as much outdoor learning as possible.
-How we can create the most enjoyable and safe environment for staff and pupils to return, whilst accepting we cannot mitigate every risk.
-Guidance has only just been issued about how to provide home-learning provision for the remaining year groups, and we will also have to consider how to do this whilst staff are in school through the day.
-How key-worker children in Years 2, 3, 4 and 5 are catered for. We will be in touch with families soon to gauge numbers.
Based upon all of this, we are continuing to look at how we might be able to safely implement a phased return which is right for our children, staff and families IF we were to return on 1st June. Being open with you all, I am very concerned about how the government expect schools to be organised safely once other year groups return later in June. We do not have the staff or space available currently to ensure this happens safely if the expectations of an opening remain the same at that stage.
Although the government’s intention is to encourage children to attend school, parents have the right to choose whether they feel this is right and required, and they will not be fined for non-attendance. Each family has the freedom to make a decision based upon their own personal circumstances and we will support their decision.
I have provided some detail here but I hope I am in a place to inform you in even more detail about our Action Plan early next week, but as guidance is still being sent from the government I feel it would be premature to do so now. We will let you know of our decisions and plans and share them with you as soon as possible.
Should you wish to discuss this with me, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Stay Safe everyone.