Dear parents and carers
We are writing to keep you appraised of our plans to begin the phased re-opening of William Ford Junior School to some pupils.
The government has asked us to plan a reopening of the school from any date on or after Monday 1 June 2020. It is our responsibility to plan a phased reopening based on our judgement of what is safest for our school’s children, families and staff. This letter explains to you our plan, although it is provisional and could be changed or postponed at any moment based on our interpretation of the ever-changing advice and evidence.
As things stand, we hope to open our doors to Year 6 pupils only from Monday 8 June. This is in addition to the children of key workers and a small number of other families from any year group who are already in attendance. We have chosen this date rather than the government’s preferred date of 1 June so that we can be more confident that the government’s five tests for the lifting of lockdown have been sufficiently well met. The government is due to release essential up to date information on 28 May. Opening our school on 1 June would not give us time to analyse this information well enough in order to make our school premises as safe as possible. When this information is published on 28 May, we may decide that we cannot reopen the school after all, and cancel any plans to do so.
You may well wonder why it is up to us, as two primary school teachers, to analyse this information and make such a momentous decision. In other countries, government experts have made these decisions and given schools clear nationwide instructions. In England, the ultimate responsibility falls to us, and you may be assured that we will take it very seriously. Our prime minister has said that he wishes to ‘support’ us to reopen as soon as possible, but he has also asked us to teach children in groups of no more than fifteen pupils. We have neither the classrooms nor the staff to do this. Our main concern must always, therefore, be the minimisation of risk to children, families and staff rather than prioritising the aspirations of the government, however well-meaning those aspirations may be.
For us, the most pressing of the government’s tests is the availability of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for our staff to be confident that we will not run out before the end of the summer term. We have already secured most of what we need, but still have some gaps to fill.
If our provisional plan to open for Year 6 pupils on Monday 8 June goes ahead and is successful, we may be able to welcome some pupils from other year groups into school before the end of the summer term. This plan is, however, tentative and provisional and could be modified or postponed at any time. We will keep you informed about this.
Accompanying this letter is an online response form for parents to let us know your intentions. Please complete this, but in making your decision please take into account the following information:
- You do not have to send your child to school. The government has requested that we encourage you to do so, but our local authority has told us that they will not support us in any attempt to fine families who do not send their child to school. You will, therefore, not be fined if you choose not to send your child to school before the end of the summer term.
- We may only be able to offer your child a part-time timetable. This means that they may only be able to attend school on some days and not others. This is because we do not have enough classrooms or teachers to teach lots of small groups at the same time. We may also need to close the school for regular deep cleans.
- In school, your child will be educated in a small group known as a ‘bubble’. Each bubble will probably contain about ten pupils with one teacher and one teaching assistant. It is very likely that these staff members will not be your child’s usual teacher and teaching assistant. Each bubble will have no contact whatsoever with any children or staff from any other bubble. This means that your child will not see or speak to anybody outside their bubble for the entirety of the summer term. This includes lunchtimes and break times.
- Pupils will follow a well-planned and worthwhile curriculum, but this will not be their normal curriculum. It may not be as broad and balanced as usual, and is likely to emphasise activities to support pupils’ safety and wellbeing ahead of some of the more traditional subjects.
- Within each bubble, hygiene will be the highest priority. Your child will be instructed to wash and sanitise their hands regularly. School cleaners will be on site throughout the whole school day and will repeatedly clean anything that is touched frequently such as surfaces and door handles. Pupils may not bring any equipment into school. They may only use the equipment that we provide them with. They may not share anything with another pupil.
- Pupils will be kept as distant as possible from each other, but it will not be possible for strict social distancing to be maintained within bubbles. This means that the school is not guaranteeing that social distancing rules will be applied to your child, and the school cannot be held responsible for any outcome that may arise as a consequence of this lack of social distancing. Our behaviour management policy will be adjusted to make clear to children what the new contact rules are. Children will be praised and rewarded for keeping the rules, but sanctions for breaking the rules will be strictly enforced for everyone’s safety. In extreme cases, these sanctions could include exclusion.
- Pupils’ movement in and around school will be severely limited. They will eat in their classroom. No hot food will be available, but children may have a school packed lunch or bring their own packed lunch. They should also have a named water bottle which will never be touched by any other person. They will have outdoor breaks, but will be kept separate from all other bubbles. They will not be allowed to visit the toilet on request, but must wait for their bubble’s allotted time. We hope that no pupil would have to wait more than 15 minutes for an available opportunity to visit the toilet.
- Arrival at and departure from school will be staggered. It is essential that your child arrives only at their allotted time so that they do not have contact with a pupil from another bubble. If you collect your child from school, you must wait on the drive (outside the school’s main vehicle gate) and maintain a 2 metre distance from all other parents. Only one person from each household may collect a child or children from that household. A pupil may not be dropped off or collected by someone from another household. If your child walks to school on their own, they must have no contact with any other child from outside their bubble. Any failure to keep these rules could limit your child’s access to school for a period of time following the breach of the rule.
- If your child, or anyone else in your household, shows COVID-19 symptoms (high temperature, coughing or lack of smell or taste), you should not send them to school, but should instead follow government guidance related to testing and isolation. You should call us at school for advice. If your child develops symptoms at school, they will be sent home immediately and government guidance should be followed.
- If your child requires any first aid help at school for any reason, they will be tended to as usual by a trained member of staff, but that member of staff will wear full personal protective equipment. This will consist of gloves, an apron, a face mask and a visor. You may wish to discuss this with your child, as it is not what they are used to and could be potentially distressing for them to see staff dressed in this way.
- Parents and other visitors will not be allowed on school premises without an appointment. We are, as ever, available to talk to on the telephone. In the exceptional event of a meeting being necessary, an appointment should be made, and strict social distancing rules will be applied throughout the meeting.
We know that this is a long list of new rules, but we are sure that you appreciate that we have chosen to apply them so that your children and our staff can be as safe as possible. If you have any queries then please call us at school. If you have to leave a message on our answering machine, we will call you back as quickly as possible.
Please use the accompanying survey to let us know whether you would send your child to school this term if we were to reopen to your child’s year group. You have the freedom to choose, but answering yes does not mean that they will definitely be able to return, although it will help us with our reopening plans.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Lee Buckingham and Richard Hopkins