I write to you as a follow up to my APP post from Friday. As you will be aware, the Government has made announcements about the need for schools to begin to prepare for a phased reintroduction of pupils from the beginning of June. The full details of how this will work are gradually becoming available, but it is vital that you, as parents, understand the position that we are now in as a school and the reasons why. Ultimately, at whatever point the Government and the local authority deem it wise for your child to return to school, it will be for our whole school community to work out whether that is in the best interests of every individual. You will have noted that I have continually said that, as a school, we will support the decisions of parents during these times and that has not changed. Outlined below is what we currently know:
Who has been asked to return?
Plans are being created for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 only, to begin to return from June 8th.
Places will still be available for children of key workers in the same way that they have been since the end of March. Any clinically extremely vulnerable pupils will still not attend school as the shielding advice is still in place for these children.
Why Reception, Y1 and Y6?
These are the year groups and guidelines stipulated by the Government. The beginning of June date will only be confirmed once the Government’s ‘Five tests’ have been met, which is why we have currently been asked to prepare for the possible eventuality but cannot yet confirm all of the details.
When will these pupils return?
Our local authority have indicated that schools in Blackburn with Darwen should aim for an 8th June start, for Reception class only. This is dependent on the 5 indicators the government are using to determine whether it is safe enough for children, staff and all of their families.
Government proposals require pupils to be kept in groups of no more than 15 (plus staff, most likely one teacher and one TA). We will endeavour to keep those staff members the same at all times, to reduce the risk of spreading infection. We envisage this as being known as their ‘bubble’, in which we will try to keep them away from all other groups in school at all times. In order to accommodate all pupils in the suggested year groups at one time, we would be at full capacity for staffing and school space. This means that, should the number of childcare requests increase, we would be unable to continue to provide full time education. It is also a part of the Government ‘Road Map’ for all year groups to return by the end of term. Without further clarification about how this can be managed, it is difficult to envisage how this could be achieved full time without a significant change to the guidelines.
We therefore do not want to create a system in which some pupils return full time for a few weeks, only to need to reduce this amount of time at a later point. We feel that this will disadvantage all parents unduly and, most importantly, would harm any transition work that is done to support the reintegration of pupils. A system at ‘full capacity’ from the off would also be damaging as, any staffing issues (such as a non-COVID19 illness), would immediately mean whole groups could not attend school. Further to this, it would be detrimental to our efforts to maintain a Home Learning programme, as staff would have limited time to develop this further with a full time teaching commitment and the planning and preparation this involves; when we have all (staff, pupils and parents) worked so hard to make this system effective, it would be a real shame for this to stop (although there will likely need to be modifications to this after June 8th in some format). We do not, in any way, wish to disadvantage pupils who are not attending school and want to ensure that we can provide the best provision possible for all within the limitations we find ourselves in.
Whatever system is settled upon, a carefully managed transition should hopefully allow this arrangement to be maintained for a longer period of time (certainly through to the end of term).
If my child is eligible, is it compulsory for them to attend school?
The Government is encouraging pupils to attend but it is the choice of parents. There will be no fines for non-attendance and we will support parents, whatever decision is made.
The Government has relaxed the attendance regulations. The full information is contained within the Government guidance for parents and carers, which I would encourage you to read and outlines some of the guidance that we are working to.
What are the next steps?
Further details around how the ‘bubble’ system will work will be discussed over the next few days between staff and governors. In order to plan more efficiently, it would be really useful to gain a better understanding of which pupils in EYFS, year 1 and year 6 are likely to return before the end of term. These answers are not a commitment to returning, but any parents who answer ‘no’ will be regarded as definitively not sending pupils and will therefore be unable to send their child for the first two weeks at least. The same question will be asked again in mid-June. Please complete the relevant survey for every eligible child in your house (please do not complete if your child is in any other year groups).
There are no definitive right answers at the moment. As a school, we are working hard to interpret the complexities of the Government advice in the context of our school. I would like to reiterate my commitment to supporting you in making the best decisions for your child. We are a school of educational professionals, who are not privy to any further scientific information or understanding than is publically available, but we are working to understand this to make our school environment as safe as we can for pupils, staff and parents. I will be in contact when further details about how the school week will look have been developed and a detailed risk assessment has been completed.
Education will look very different (certainly in the short term) to that which we are all used to. Children may not be with their own teacher or with all of their friends.
Nobody knows more than the staff and I that the social and emotional impact of the past few months, for lots of pupils, has been significant and we need to address this before returning to our full academic curriculum.
I am frustrated that I cannot give you more details at present but the vagaries of some of the guidelines are still being developed, by the Government, Local Authority and unions, and, as I have stated, we are still trying to plan for implementing them at Ashleigh. I know that you will understand this and I thank you all again for the support and consideration that so many families have shown throughout this – it is a privilege to be the headteacher of our school and I assure you that I will keep you informed every step of the way. Getting this right, for every individual, is what matters.
Please email the school office firstname.lastname@example.org, by Friday 22nd May, noon, at the latest. To indicate your intentions. Only email if your child is in Reception, Y1 or Y6.
Please note, if your R, Y1 or Y6 child has siblings in other classes, unfortunately, they will not be able to return at the same time.
Please include in your email the following:
The name of your child and year group
Yes, I would like my child to return to school before the end of term
No, I would prefer to keep my child at home and continue with home learning.