Our ongoing plans to open our schools more widely
25th May 2020
Our ongoing plans to open our schools more widely
Dear Parents and Carers
We all continue to miss the joy of being at work with your children as a school community and remain hopeful that you are all keeping safe at this time. Thank you for your patience and for your ongoing support as we work together to ensure our children are supported as best as we can. Our teachers and staff are grateful for the thoughtful and kind messages they have received from you and the photos of the home learning activities are an absolute joy to see.
As you will be aware, the Government announced an aspiration for schools to open to more children in the days and weeks after 1st June. We have been in touch with all our families over the last week to gauge levels of support for that possibility, and have been conducting in depth risk assessments once again for every child and member of staff, to help us with our planning.
I am writing to update you on the next phase of our plans to open our schools more widely. Our plans are based on Government guidance, our own risk assessments plus the capacity of each school to open more widely in a safe way.
Both schools are currently open, with very small numbers of children from key workers who have no other childcare at home and risk-assessed vulnerable children, as stipulated by the Government.
Our priority groups
Unlike mainstream schools, special schools do not have to prioritise particular year groups. We have decided to prioritise our offer in the next phase to our leavers. Many of our leavers have been in our schools throughout their primary and secondary education. Trustees, governors and staff feel it is right to support them as a priority as they transition and leave our schools and get ready for their next steps – college, vocational routes or other settings. We are also prioritising pupils who have the highest needs in terms of vulnerability that our risk assessments indicate.
However, as per the guidance, pupils who are living in households with anyone who is on the critically medically vulnerable list should not attend school. Neither should pupils who are medically highly vulnerable themselves.
How did we prioritise for phase 2?
Children where both parents are keyworkers with no other available childcare at home and vulnerable children
Whether or not the pupil is leaving this academic year and needs support with transition and leaving
We also considered:
- health issues in household or own health issues on government critically vulnerable list
- whether there is a serious concern of safety in school due to high risk relating to the current R level indicator that would have an impact on staffing levels, resilience and sustainability and the availability of staff to keep all other pupils as safe as possible. This includes consideration of potential behaviours that are challenging or pose additional hygiene risks and / or safety risks to other pupils and staff and the degree to which it is possible for a diminished team to mitigate
- significant risk to child or household member mental health
Provisional wider opening date for the next phase (phase 2)
We are aiming to open wider for the identified pupils from 8th June, if possible.
This is dependent on a number of factors that sit outside our control and will be essential to be in place for us to ensure all preparations are completed. Factors include the Government continuing to recommend wider opening after their planned review on 28th May to meet the ‘5 tests’, the Local Authority being able to offer transport to pupils who need it and in a safe way that supports our social distancing ‘bubble’ measures, and additionally the Board of Trustees’ approval of all final risk assessments, which is a legal requirement.
We will be writing to all families in the coming days to either offer a provisional place, or to state that we will continue to support children learning at home for phase 2.
What are the phases?
We are currently in phase 1, where we are open for children of key workers and the most vulnerable. Phase 2 will see the offer extended to our leavers and children who are risk assessed as being very vulnerable now. Phases after this are likely to be introduced from September, after the next series of Government advice or instruction after the school summer holidays.
The schools will be closed for the summer holidays from Friday 17th July 2020.
Will it be safe?
We understand that this is a time of great uncertainty and that you may be feeling anxious about sending your children to school. The safety and wellbeing of our children and staff is paramount and always remains our priority. We have taken a cautious, phased approach and put into place systems and procedures to maximise the safety of children and adults alike in our school communities.
There are detailed risk assessments in place for each school and protocols that are on each school website.
No two schools are the same - buildings differ, classroom sizes differ, pupils’ needs and numbers differ, inside and outside spaces differ. Therefore, the number of pupils our schools will be able to offer places to will be different according to each individual school’s circumstances. Schools have considered all available staff, the size of each building and the needs of the children.
It is not possible to maintain social distancing in our schools and it would be inappropriate to expect our children to remain 2 meters apart from staff and peers.
However, we are able to introduce sensible measures to minimise social contact. Whilst the measures are positive for supporting containment of any potential infection, they will unfortunately mean that social contact is significantly reduced for our pupils. We will be adopting a ‘bubble’ approach to minimise any potential spread of the virus. Small class groups will remain as constant as possible and will not mix with other groups. This will be the case for learning, break times and lunch times.
For many families, the loss of social interaction and the opportunity for children to play with their friends has been a major area of concern. However, even pupils who are able to return to school in our reduced provision will sadly still not be able to mix very much with peers as we have to follow Government advice to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. These measures will be under review until such time that Government advices changes, related to the R level. This is a significant factor in our risk assessment process.
We would like to remind parents and carers that children should not be sent to school if they are unwell. Any child who presents with a cough or fever will be sent home. Should you, your child or another member of your family develop potential COVID-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate immediately and please ensure that you inform the school as soon as possible, regardless of when your child is next due to attend. This is so we can undertake additional risk assessments and put in place any further precautionary measures that may be needed. All children who are attending school, and their families, will be eligible for COVID-19 testing should they develop symptoms. Anyone who becomes unwell should access this testing as soon as possible and keep the school updated on their results. Anyone who does not access testing will not be allowed to return to school until the end of the self-isolation period (7 days for the person who is unwell, 14 days for the family). Should we have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in one of our schools, the Trust has contingency plans in place for contact isolation, closure of the setting for deep cleaning and reopening of closed areas of the premises which have already been cleaned to allow us to continue to operate to some degree.
Hygiene and Cleaning
Children's personal hygiene routines will be supported by staff as an integral part of their day. Each setting is undergoing a more rigorous/frequent cleaning schedule to ensure that all high-risk areas such as door handles, handrails etc. are being cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis throughout the day.
I am hugely grateful to the fantastic staff teams in our schools who have worked exceptionally hard throughout this crisis. It will not surprise you to hear that we will be operating on reduced staffing capacity as we still have staff who are shielding, self-isolating or unable to attend for other reasons because of the current set of circumstances. Please be aware it is not possible for all children to be able to come back to their familiar teacher or staff team. We will be developing teams of staff to support learning in school and another team to support home learning.
Future planning and next steps
Planning will continue throughout the next half term and on into the summer and we will respond to the updates from the Government. We will continue to do our best to keep you as up to date as possible.
As mentioned, you will receive a letter over the coming days with either the offer of a place for phase 2 (8th June until 17th July) or to state that home learning will continue. If you are offered a place, please send the response form back asap so that we can finalise plans or offer a place to another child.
We are sorry and frustrated that we cannot resume business as usual at this time, and look forward to the day when we will be able to.
Meanwhile, thank you for your ongoing support, understanding and partnership.
With best wishes
Andrew Buckton, CEO Enable Trust Sue Hewitt, Headteacher – Culverhill School