Hi to all Parents and Carers
Tonight I have sent you a long email. I have thought long and hard about what to say. In this letter I am beginning to outline to you the provision I think school can safely make to re-open school for your child.
I know that you will not all be happy with the school's offer. However, this offer is being made with all our welfare in mind.
I will be in touch again very soon.
15th May 2020
Dear St Margaret’s Parents and Carers,
Apologies for this lengthy letter. This is the most difficult letter I have ever had to write to parents and yet it is the most important for all our well-being. It has been eight weeks since the announcement was made that schools across the United Kingdom would be closed for the majority of pupils. Staff have continued to work throughout this period, providing home learning opportunities and support; along with communication links with parents and children.
We miss our St Margaret’s family immensely. We are looking forward to the day that we can be all back together. But your safety and that of our staff team is the utmost priority.
As you will be aware, the Prime Minister announced on Sunday 10th May that primary schools in England may begin to open in a limited capacity from June 1st for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
A 50-page Government document and publications from the Department for Education was made available from Monday and continue to be developed on a daily basis. We are looking closely at these documents, digesting the content and communicating with Bury Local Authority on a daily basis in order to begin to consider the options available to us. Any proposals will have huge implications for us all as parents, employees and employers and it will not meet the needs of every household. What will underpin any decision made, is the safety and well-being of our pupils, staff and community.
It is important that school shares with you our initial thoughts on how to move forward.
Firstly, these are some of the headlines from Sunday and Monday’s Government announcements:
- Schools may begin to reopen from 1st June for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in limited numbers, if the conditions are right and the ‘R’ remains below 1.
- The aim is for all primary pupils to spend a month in school before the summer break – this being kept under review.
- Childcare provision will still be made available for children of key workers as currently permitted.
- Children will be in smaller groups / classes of 15 pupils, maximum. Children should stay within their new group. At St. Margaret’s the number will be 8 as a maximum due to the size of the rooms available.
- It is important that contact between children and staff is reduced as far as possible. This means that staff will not work with children in the usual and casual way.
- Where settings can keep children and young people in small groups 2 metres away from each other, they should do so.
- Outdoor space to be utilised where possible. Any equipment used will need to be cleaned after each use. This will clearly be weather dependent.
In reality, this is what we face at St Margaret’s:
- Each Key Stage 2 classroom made available for Year 6 can fit 8 pupils in, with social distancing (2m) in place as much as possible and one member of staff.
- There are 105 pupils in R, 1 and 6. Each year group requires 4 rooms. We have 8 classrooms in school – the maths demonstrates that we cannot host all the identified year groups in school at the same time.
- Add to 105 pupils, the number of keyworker children that would be in school for childcare. At least one other classroom will be needed to host them.
- A number of staff are classified as vulnerable and will not be able to return to work.
- Children will not have the same member of staff every day and it will not be your child’s usual class teacher who teaches them.
- We do not yet know the plans for the kitchens to open to provide meals for your child.
- School does not yet know what plans are made by Bury Cleaning Services to ensure that the building is suitably cleaned at the end of each day. I know my team are very dedicated and they will try their very best, with the deeper cleaning of rooms.
- The school is being asked to provide three functions simultaneously: Childcare for keyworker children, education in school for some year groups and provide / support home learning for those pupils not in school. I think you would agree this is a challenge if not impossible.
We simply do not have the staffing and space available to provide all the above safely and effectively at the same time.
It is important for you to be aware that:
- Even if your child is in the identified year groups set by the Government they will not be starting back at school on June 1st. In the week beginning 1.6.2020 staff will be in school being trained in our systems to keep your child safe and defining our curriculum offer.
- Pupils may not be returning to school for the full day or full week or for the full half term.
- There may need to be time allocated within the week for deeper cleaning of rooms and equipment.
- Drop off and collection times will be staggered to support social distancing measures. We will ensure that siblings are assigned the same times. Social distancing measures will need to be in place for drop off and collection times.
- There will be no provision of childcare or supervision before 9am or after 3.30pm.
- Children will work in groups. They may not be with their chosen friend although we will try our best to arrange this.
- Once children are assigned to their groups and rooms, they will have to stay in their groups, in an allocated seat in the same room throughout these measures, including over lunchtimes.
- The Government have accepted that social distance measures (2 metre distancing) cannot be achieved throughout the school and at all times of the day; particularly with our little ones – we are dealing with children after all. As head teacher, I am being honest when I say that under these circumstances I cannot guarantee social distancing will be observed and therefore I cannot guarantee your child’s safety. Our Governing Body is considering its response on this very issue.
- There will be reduced equipment available for Early Years children to play and learn with, in order to comply with safety and cleaning guidelines. There will not be free flow continuous provision – Early Years pupils may be assigned an area and equipment each day, in order to manage regular cleaning and minimise cross contamination. Your child will not return to the provision they are used to. (Sorry to say)
- We will not be returning to a school timetable, curriculum or teaching style that was in place prior to school closure.
- A return to school in any form will result in changes to the current arrangements for home learning, because all staff will be in school.
- If you would like your child to wear a face covering in the classroom or around the school environment, it would be worth them starting to wear and get used to it now, around their home and out on their daily exercise. Children must be able to independently put their face covering on and we cannot enforce this in school. Face coverings have not been deemed as compulsory or a requirement for staff or children by the Government, but staff or children may choose to wear it.
- Any outbreak of COVID-19 in school will result in school closure for at least two weeks
Therefore, I am asking for your help in the following ways:
- Please do not make plans based upon children in YR, Y1 and Y6 returning to school, fulltime on the 1st June. This is not going to happen. The earliest return for Year 6 will be the 8th June. More details will follow specific to Year 6 as soon as possible.
- Give school the time needed to devise an approved plan and risk assessments based upon DFE, Public Health England, Health and Safety, Local Authority and Teaching Union guidance. You will be updated as often as possible.
- Thank you for supporting the decisions made by the school, in order to manage the safety of pupils and staff during this pandemic. Planning and risk assessments have the absolute priority of keeping everyone safe and complying with our duties as an employer for our workplace.
In order for school to start our planning and risk assessment process, we would like to know if you would be intending or considering whether to send your child in to school, if it was open to do so before the summer break. We will begin with, Year 6 then Reception and Year 1. This will allow us to know provisional numbers and inform our plans. Please send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is not formally committing your child’s attendance. If we do not receive a message regarding your child, we will consider this as an indication of not returning before the start of the new academic year. If we are in a position to expand opening to pupils in other year groups, we will gather this information at that point in time.
The decision as to whether your child returns to school lies with you as parents. It is a decision that many of our staff are having to make about their children too.
Please continue to take care. We are missing you all dearly and look forward to seeing you during safer times. To re-iterate, this is most difficult, yet most important message, I have ever sent to my parents in my whole career at St. Margaret’s.
Mrs. Perry – Head Teacher since September 2004
Mr. A. Longworth – Deputy Head Teacher
Mrs. Louisa Murphy – Chair of Governors