As you will have heard from the recent announcement a phased return to school is planned, conditional on the Covid-19 rate of infection continuing to fall and the five key tests set by the government being met. As a school, we must work towards implementing the government's directive as best we can but I would like to share with you the proposed implementation of this plan with the concerns that we have.
We totally support the idea that schools are the best place for children to learn; to have social interaction with their peers and for their emotional well-being. But, as Head Teacher the priority for me remains the safety of all children, all parents and carers and all staff accessing the school site. As you will be aware, the proposal is that Reception and Year 1 children would return to school on June 1st and although it states that Year 6 children will also return, we are still awaiting guidance as to whether this would include Year 4 in our 3-tiered school system. The government's ambition is to bring all primary school children back into school for at least a month before the end of the summer term, depending on current scientific advice.
The practicalities of this, is that we have to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, either through direct transmission (direct contact, sneezing, coughing) or through indirect transmission (touching contaminated surfaces). The government has stated that children in the Early Years cannot be expected to stay 2m apart and neither do school staff or the children need to wear PPE. In order to fulfil appropriate social distancing, the following measures would have to be implemented in order for the Reception and Year 1 children to return to school. These will include:
Any adult or child displaying symptoms of Covid-19 or any adult or child living with a family member displaying symptoms of Covid-19 must not enter the school
All children will need to be brought to school and collected by one adult only
Drop off and collection times will need to be staggered to avoid parents/carers congregating in groups
No parents/carers will be able to enter the school building
No external visitors will be allowed into the school building without a pre-arranged appointment
The children will enter the learning spaces directly from outside and there will be minimal movement of groups of children around the school during the day
The children will be organised into teaching groups of no more than 15 and these groups will remain with the same lead teacher in the same learning space and will not be able to mix with children from other groups
Break times and lunchtimes will be staggered
All children will need to wash their hands on arrival at school, with frequent hand washing taking place throughout the day
We will encourage the children to not touch their mouth, nose or face and we will be managing good hygiene, ie sneezing and coughing into paper tissues with the ethos of 'catch it, bin it, kill it'
In addition to this, we will endeavour to ensure that all hard surfaces, ie table tops and chairs, toilet seats and lids, sinks, light switches, door handles, door panels and children's resources are wiped and cleaned daily and regularly with disinfectant. The guidance given suggests that if Early Years settings follow these measures with regular hand washing and cleaning, the risk of transmission will be lowered.
My concern is that we are all keen to return to normality and that the children's well-being is a priority. I feel that I need to be clear that the children in Reception and Year 1 will not necessarily be returning to their normal class base with all their peers and potentially not their class teacher and will not be accessing the age-appropriate resources that would be in their usual classroom base. In addition to this, we have been guided to remove all soft furnishings and soft toys; this is not transitioning the children back into a familiar school setting. I believe we will be supporting a lot more children who are going to feel unsettled and may have developed attachment issues due to being at home with either or both parents/carers and potentially siblings who will not yet be returning to school.
The government has stated that as parents it is your choice whether you wish your child to return to school and that any absences as a result of the Covid-19 situation will be authorised and there will be no fines issued for absence. It would help us enormously in our planning for this phased return if you could inform us of your intention to send your child back on 1st June if your child is in Reception or Year 1. You can contact the school via the office phone between 9:30 and 11am each day: 01984 634385, the school mailbox: email@example.com or via the school mobile: 07852 196493. If we have not heard from you by Friday 15th May, please accept we will have to call you to confirm your intentions. Clearly, having an accurate picture of the number of children likely to return is essential to us being able to deliver this directive effectively.
Once we have this information, we will be able to inform you of which teaching group your child will be in, points of drop/collection and the timings of your child's sessions.
There is nothing more I would like to see than our school full, happy and returned to normality. But sadly, I feel we are a long way off being able to achieve this. I urge you to put yourselves and your child first, in the same way I have to put my staff and the children that will be arriving in school as a priority also.
During this lockdown situation, we have been working with vulnerable children and children of key workers. Any child who falls into these groups is entitled to be in school ahead of 1st June. Please contact the school office, if your child has not accessed the care provision and you feel they are eligible to take up this provision from this point.
Staff have been in school continuing to work either on site or remotely whilst the school has been closed to the majority of families and I am working with the Senior Leadership Team and Mrs Bulpin, our Chair of Governors, to ensure we can provide the best provision during this phased return and especially for the start of the new academic year.
I am concerned that children have missed a significant part of this academic year, that they will have missed their friends as well as key opportunities such as the Year 4 residential, inter-school sports programme, sports day, VE celebrations, our school's 30th birthday celebrations and potentially transition activities. In addition, to the exciting family opportunities that the KTSCA had planned throughout the summer months, We are actively working to plan how we can compensate for the loss of these milestones.
I would like to acknowledge the support that you have given, by engaging with the home learning opportunities suggested by the teaching team but also the wonderful, creative things that so many of you have been planning for your children to do during this time. I do not underestimate how challenging this must have been at times and whilst the children have missed lots of their school time, they will undoubtedly have benefited from spending so much time with you at home.
We really hope to see you soon.
With very best wishes
Mr David Frowde
Knights Templar Community Church School