School closed – important information for parents and carers

Summary

  • We are closed to all children from 3:20pm today (Friday).
  • We may be able to offer assistance to a very select group of children (based on key worker criteria). This option depends on staffing availability. If children can stay at home, they should.
  • Please read the whole post, and then complete the form at the end if required.

Background

You will be aware that the government has closed schools from the end of the school day today (Friday). They have also said that all primary assessments, including phonics tests and KS1 and KS2 SATs will not be taking place. These are both very significant measures, and may be a shock to you and your children.

School is closed

The government has indicated that, from Monday, it is asking schools to open to provide care for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Providing this care is not a statutory requirement – schools are being asked to help as part of a national response, and have not become general child care. This is a very different type of provision than schools usually provide. For these very few pupils, it will be about child care, not education. All expectations regarding educational provision have been lifted, including legal expectations for children to attend school. This includes children with EHCPs. It remains the case that if a school does not have enough staff to care for pupils safely, it should not open – even in limited capacity.

The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. If children can stay at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend. Further, the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

Which children absolutely need to attend?

Again, to reiterate, this is firstly based on staffing availability, and there is no legal compulsion on school to offer a service.

Where there are two adults in the family, and one is a key worker, if one parent is able to stay at home and look after the children, then this is strongly advisable.

Government’s advice stresses that: “Many parents working in these critical sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so…. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.” Therefore while we will provide an ‘educational’ setting for your children, but if you are able to make other arrangements please do so.

What about key workers?

There is no requirement for parents and carers of key workers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so. Many parents working in the critical sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. The government’s definition includes the following:

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other front-line health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms-length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.

Transport

This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

My child has an EHCP. What does this mean?

The emphasis in these circumstances is health issues.

We may be able to assist in providing care for your child. However, if they have an underlying health condition we strongly advise that they stay at home where they will be at less risk to infection. We will be in contact with you in person.

We regret that we are unable to open to children within the Bridge because the specialist staffing required is not available. We will however be operating a more remote-based learning approach for these children.

If school is able to offer assistance to the children of key workers, what will this look like?

It will be on a basis of child care primarily. We hope to offer support of the home learning activities that we will be offering all children. Timings wise, it will initially be for the normal school day of 8:30am to 3:20pm. Based on availability of staff, we may be able to open earlier and close later. This information is also requested on the form.

What does this mean for the next two weeks, Easter holidays, and the summer term?

We will be operating in a three-phased approach:

  1. At present we are working on the next two weeks – what we will be able to offer despite being closed. This is the most pressing issue.
  2. Easter holidays – we will communicate about this later. Again, we are closed but may be able to offer very limited care.
  3. Summer Term – we do not presently know what this will look like, and the government have closed schools until further notice. Therefore we are unable to make decisions about this yet.

What will home learning look like from Monday?

Whilst we will still maintain an element of home learning, it may not look like what it has done over the past week. We need to find a level of what is maintainable and helpful, bearing in mind the other commitments of teaching staff who are at home (for example, their own children). We are very grateful for your support of our efforts, and we will still be providing home learning activities online. We will also do what we can to keep in touch with your children. We feel this is important to try to keep a sense of normality.

What about meals and vouchers?

We are working through this and will provide further information.

What do I need to do now?

You only need to complete this form if you are a key worker who is unable to to keep your child(ren) at home. Please make every effort be complete it as soon as possible, preferably by 6pm today (Friday) latest.

If you are not a key worker, or you are a key worker who is able to keep your child at home, please do not complete the form.

What happens next?

We will then analyse the responses, and together with staffing availability, make a decision about what we are able to offer. We will communicate this with you ASAP – it most likely will not be today.

Thank you for your support.

Charles Applegate, Head Teacher

Partial closure Friday 20th March and (limited) details about next week

Dear parents and carers,

We will be operating the same procedures tomorrow as we have done most of this week. School will be open on Friday to the following children only, assuming they are not unwell:

  • Year 6 pupils and their siblings
  • Year 2 pupils and their siblings
  • Children who are not able to stay at home because of parental work commitments.

What about next week?

We are trying to work out what the government’s messages actually mean in practice. They were sketchy on the detail, and this makes decision-making difficult. Head Teachers around the country are trying to make decisions based on little information, and it is challenging to do!

We will be in touch with requests for information about key workers very soon. Please respond quickly when these messages are received.

Please note that staffing will still be a challenge and we will be operating a very, very limited service.

Further information will follow soon! Thank you for your support and understanding.

Best wishes, Charles Applegate