26th February 2021
numbers in Ks1 and uks2 - a plea for your help
Dear parents and carers,
Numbers are going up to and are sometimes higher than the 25 we have risk assessed for in years 1,2 5 and 6. While we appreciate the lockdown is far from easy, I again urge any of you who are working from home to consider whether you really do need the place in school. The end is in sight with 8th March less than two weeks away but the infection rates in the community and hospital admissions are much higher than they were last time we came out of lockdown.
I must remind everyone that we are not out of the woods and the vaccine will not be effective if it does not run alongside by a reduction in transmission of the virus. We want to reduce to a minimum the risk of transmission and staff or pupils needing to self-isolate as a result of transmission or close contact in school. Therefore I urge anyone who is working from home and still taking a place in school to consider the risk to your own family and others of the numbers in school being over that which we have risk assessed for. More people in school increases risk of transmission and rates in CW&C are high. We cannot be confident that children spread coronavirus less than adults with the highest incidence being 4-12 and 18-24 year olds. We want to avoid children and staff being unwell or isolating and I want to welcome back everyone on 8th with their teachers, teaching assistants, mid-day assistants and classmates all present and correct if at all possible without people having to meet 8th March required to isolate at home for ten days.
Please contact the school office if you can help us, the NHS and our local community out by keeping your child at home this week. As I said in our meeting back in January, we have a moral and civic duty to cooperate and do our best to support our communities, even when it is not easy. Now until after the Easter holiday will be critical to avoiding further lockdown and class or school closure; if we relax too soon we may well pay dearly in the coming months and into next academic year. There is so much we cannot control with coronavirus, making it even more important that we are useful and kind with the small things that are within our gift.
24th February 2021
numbers in school - not long to go but not a time to relax
Dear parents and carers,
For the rest of this week we have over the 25 children we have risk assessed for in KS1. While we understand it is very difficult to work at home and care for children and that your work has been designated as critical, I would urge any of you who are working from home to consider whether you really do need the place in school that you have booked. The end is in sight with 8th March less than two weeks away but the infection rates in the community and hospital admissions are much higher than they were last time we came out of lockdown. The government have not ruled out further lockdown, something we all want to avoid.
As in communication yesterday, I must emphasise that we are not out of the woods and the vaccine will not be effective if it is not accompanied by a reduction in transmission of the virus. We want to reduce to a minimum the risk of transmission and staff or pupils needing to self-isolate as a result of transmission or close contact in school. Therefore I urge anyone of you who are working from home and taking a place in school to consider the risk to your own family and others of the numbers in school being over that which we have risk assessed for. More people in school increases risk of transmission and rates in CW&C are high. We cannot be confident that children spread coronavirus less than adults with the highest incidence being 4-12 and 18-24 year olds. We want to avoid children and staff being unwell or isolating and I want to welcome back everyone on 8th with their teachers, teaching assistants, mid-day assistants and classmates all present and correct if at all possible without people having to meet 8th March required to isolate at home for ten days.
Please contact the school office if you can help us, the NHS and our local community out by keeping your child at home this week.
23rd February 2021
8th March - not long now!
Dear parents and carers,
First, I am delighted that we will be back together on 8th and you who have been supporting learning at home so brilliantly can breathe a huge sigh of relief and delight in being relieved of home learning duties. Thank you so much for all your efforts in what I know was an incredibly difficult time. It has been a few months none of us are in any hurry to repeat. Which means that we all have our part to play in ensuring that our children enjoy a sustained and safe return to school with Lockdown Learning being something we remember and talk about rather than something we are actually experiencing.
With this in mind, please click here to find the latest summary document for all adults stakeholders, staff and families. It has been updated with lots of new information. We recommend you read it all as it may help you feel happier about children returning to school safely and, by complying with the measures we describe, helping everyone else feel safe and secure too. The next weeks and months will be critical with each one of us playing our part to avoid further disruption to children’s learning in school. We are not out of the woods yet and infection rates and hospital admissions are still high. Therefore measures in the document, including the one way system, are for everyone, without exception.
Page 4 has some really important new information about a wider range of symptoms to the usual 3. Please read it carefully so you can act responsibly, from a position of knowledge.
The site will be more congested with all children back in school so we ask you move promptly though the grounds, keeping your children with you at all times. We have asked teachers to ensure classes are released promptly, this means UKS2 children should be off site before LKS2 children and parents come around the one way system. Please make your very best endeavours to keep social distance of 2m or at the very least 1m. The numbers on site are why we ask for face coverings on site outside as well as indoors.
Some parents and carers or other folk bringing children to school are either unable or choose not to wear a face covering. There are details on page 10 for reasonable adjustments we have made to enable their children to come to school and leave safely while minimising risk to yourselves and other people. Please note any adult without a face covering must wait outside the lobby at the school’s main entrance at the time for bringing children at 9am and collecting them at 3.20pm). Please maintain social distance of 2m at all times and wait for your children will be delivered to you and taken to class through the main entrance.
It has been as tough a start to a new year as I can remember. I am hopeful that we can all endure a little personal inconvenience and comply with what has been asked of us. Hopefully, then when we say ‘the only way is up’ it will be more than a vague hope or sound bite but something we will all be able to experience and enjoy this Spring and Summer.
Ms Stewart :-)
8th February 2021
Recording live meets and a plea for kindness and consideration
RECORDING LIVE MEETS
First to let you know that where we haven’t staffing for two people on a Live Google Meet, teachers will be recording the session for safeguarding purposes.
Please be assured the recordings will be stored in a secure area of the schools electronic management information system so will not be accessible. The only reason for a recording being watched would be in the event of a safeguarding or other concern being raised. We anticipate very few, if any, will be looked at. Recordings will be disposed of as soon as it is reasonable to assume they won’t be required. If you do not want your child recorded, we suggest you turn off the camera although remember that one of the big benefits of the live meeting is children being able to see each other.
NUMBERS IN SCHOOL
Further to last week’s blog, All At Sea, I need to remind everyone who has been offered a place in school in respect of being a critical worker that we still need to minimise numbers. We have a high demand for places and are aware that some families have two critical workers, working from home and keeping their children at home most days. Thank you. We are aware of others, with one critical worker who are taking the place in school. As I said in the blog, we don’t know all the circumstances and respect that we are all in different boats.
Nevertheless, all of us whether at home, in work or school, still have a moral and civic duty to keep numbers in school as low as possible. Hospitals remain under great pressure and other treatment and care is being affected; we need to work together, even when it’s hard, to support the NHS, reduce transmission and save lives. Our risk assessment is for 25 per class group, up to 100 in school. We can only manage this if people book in by 10am on the working day BEFORE they need the place.
I am hopeful that people will think before taking places. If demand does increase beyond what we can safely provide while still offering home learning to the majority, we will have to reconsider the offers of time in school for some children without an Education, Health and Care Plan and with a parent at home who is not a critical worker. Given that we don’t know what everyone’s circumstances are, I would much rather avoid making the decision myself and trust that we can support one another, all in our different boats, so there are places when needed while keeping the numbers safe enough.
Kind regards, Ms S :-)
5th February 2021
lockdown UPDATE and half term
Those of you who read the Blog on Monday will know that I do appreciate that, while all in the same stormy sea, we are all in different boats. School staff, parents, carers and children. It has been lovely for Lisa and I to talk to so many of the families not able to or choosing not to access places in school. We have been humbled by the efforts you are making juggling home life, school and work and we are in no doubt how hard this is. Thank you.
There are many more children in school than in the first lockdown and at a time when the death and transmission rates are higher. We appreciate so much those critical worker parents who only take a place when they really need it. Numbers are particularly high in KS1 (year 1 and 2) and UKS2 (year 5 and 6). We have risk assessed for 25 in a class; higher than in some schools, this is mitigated by double size classrooms (we can pull the central wall back), high level windows giving good ventilation, staff wearing masks and rigorous cleaning and hygiene. That said, we are anxious not to take numbers any higher. Demand is higher at the start of the week so if you can be flexible it would help.
With numbers as high as they are, it is important that those of you booking places in school do so by 10am of the working day before you need the place. Booking in at 8am the same morning makes it impossible to manage the risk as well as we might.
We take our duty to all our children, seriously. It has been interesting, lovely and reassuring to hear the overwhelmingly positive response from parents and carers about the home learning. You have found the increase in structure and provision really positive. You have told us of some positives, understanding and appreciating what your children are learning, understanding and knowing more deeply. You are as appreciative of teaching staff as we are with your efforts to support your children at home, a challenge we do not underestimate. Thank you to you and to the children; many of you have expressed such gratitude and pride in your children, their independence at getting on and being considerate of your working week.
Having more children in school means a third of teachers and most teaching assistants need to be in school. This leaves two thirds of teachers leading home learning. If numbers increased beyond what we judge safe in one group, we would need to consider staffing in school which we really don't want to do. This is a time for thinking of others, families who may have just as many or even more challenges in their boats. If you have a place but can work at home, I urge you to think before taking a place in school. If we all support one another, we will have capacity to continue supporting all our families as well as we can, wherever they are learning.
8th March is much talked and thought about. We know no more than you do and I doubt very much that we'll have advance warning. My hunch is we'll on hear on the news one day that we have two weeks' notice of schools reopening fully. I sincerely hope this is sooner not later. The very best place for our children is in school and once the transmission, vaccine and hospital rates all line up I will be delighted to see us all back, together if still a bit apart, with what looks like distancing measures in place for a long time yet.
Meanwhile, it's one week before the half term. There won't be the same travel opportunities but I am hoping your children all enjoy a more relaxed week. Thinking of the teaching staff, each in their boats, I have asked them to turn off Google classroom on the Friday and not reopen until the Monday; they need to switch off too. If you are fancy something to enjoy over half term, remember the Lockdown Learning page of the website has links to places and activities children and young people will enjoy. Chester Zoo may be closed but there's a virtual presence in Wild Classroom! I do home some of you will decide to engage in Art Club, visit the Cave Gallery and think of submitting some work for an Easter exhibition! In the cave is a link to the Great Big Art Exhibition, a national venture you may have seen on Channel 4 news last night. The fab thing about a virtual gallery is you can display your work there, at home and in other virtual galleries, all at the same time. I hope making and sharing their work will help our children feel connected and contributing positively to the world out there.
Finally, my thanks, admiration and best wishes to you all. This lockdown has felt much harder than last year; weather doesn't help and January doesn't take a pandemic to be depressing! I am so proud of what our school community have achieved together. Children, school staff, parents and carers, we have been in a genuine partnership like never before. I wish you the best for the last week of formal learning before a week off and I look forward to seeing some wonderful work for the Cave's first exhibition after the half term break.
Best and kindest wishes,
P.S. Thank you to the useful and kind parent reminding me about the Monday 22nd February INSET day where teaching staff will be working together to plan who we can have a wonderful term's learning in Summer where will be focussing on caring for our environment.
20th January 2021
FREE SCHOOL MEALS - VOUCHER UPDATE
I am delighted to inform you that Mrs Smith and Mrs Cocker have been 'on it at home' and families were able to access the vouchers from Edenred and redeem them at the Supermarket of their choice this week. Mrs Smith logged onto Edenred at 1:30am for our online slot on Tuesday meaning that people had been able to redeem their vouchers the same day.
It is great to be able to bring people some good news at last. My heartfelt thanks to our office team for putting this top of their list. Spring is always a busy time in the office with preparation for the end of the financial year and this year we are part of a pilot of a new financial IT system, something that, had we a crystal ball a year ago, we might not have signed up to trail blaze!
Ms S :-)
With my thanks to our teaching staff for their time in helping Mrs Rutter-Brown and I create and be able to share this document with you in a timely manner. The DfE required we do this by 18th January and we're happy not to flying by the seats of our pants ;-). DfE have taken some stick of late but their template was useful and we thank them for the structure they provided.
Just as with a home learning policy everyone has different needs, pressures, capacity and interests and we will never please everyone. This is why we have not forgotten the optional website based learning alongside the Google Classroom offer. We have done our very best and I am very, very proud of the offer the teaching team have made to families supporting their children learning at home. This is the offer for Lockdown 3, easily adjusted as the situation unfolds from mid-February.
We have chosen to include information about children in school and hardship too. We are one school, one family. Together if apart, each individual is a precious part of the whole.
Happy Wednesday, Ms S :-)
13th January 2021
school meals and support for children in recEIpt of free meals during lockdown 3
Children in school who are entitled to a free school meal (or universal FSM because they are in Reception, Year 1 or 2 continue to receive the meal on days they are attending school. Children in receipt of free school meals (not universal ones) are entitled to support while school is closed if their children are not attending.
We were given very short notice about school closure (8pm at night for the next day) and we have done our best. The immediate priority was to support families fast as waiting a long time when support is needed is not acceptable. Therefore, I took up the food parcels on offer as soon as we received the offer. On 11th we had a notice from DfE about vouchers for children’s lunches, for families to spend in a supermarket. Yesterday I asked Mrs Cocker and the admin team asking them to make accessing vouchers for families a priority. Today I received an email from our useful, kind and indefatigable CWAC School Relationship Team telling us how to do it. I note a politician was interviewed on Channel 4 News yesterday claiming it was "a Headteacher’s choice" whether to offer a voucher or a food parcel. I would like to assure you, anyone who know me knows that I would never choose a food parcel over a voucher where families can spend on the lunch as they choose for their child. However, one of my many priorities last week was to care about and respond quickly to immediate need. I did my best and Mrs Cocker and Co will be doing their best for a better solution as soon as possible.
Following local news reports on Edsential, Mrs Rutter-Brown is providing them with feedback on the parcels we received at their request. She delivered the parcels and, bearing in mind Edsential too had very short notice and can’t include perishable items, in her view there was a reasonable healthy lunch of food most children will eat (no easy task) including biscuits made by Mrs Dawson in our kitchen (thank you Mrs D!). I think some social media posts out flying about might give the impression that parcels were intended to feed families for a week; this is not what food companies were asked for. A free school meal is one lunch a day for children in the household who would usually receive a free meal in school.
Mrs R-B, the Governors and I take our responsibilities and accountability to all our families, including the most vulnerable families very seriously. Late notice is not of our making, no more than general inequality and systemic problems such as food poverty and the far greater impact of Covid on the poorest in society.
To parents of children receiving free school meals, we promise to have the voucher system going as soon as we can. Please bear with us.
4th January 2021
prime minister's announcement at 8pm
While we know no more than folk at home, we have been making initial plans for another short notice lockdown which could involve schools closing for all except vulnerable children and children of key workers. Mrs Rutter-Brown has contacted parents of some children already where we have offered a place. We have not sent this to the key workers from last lockdown; this was back in March, ten months ago and situations may have changed.
In the event of the PM announcing school closure in all Tier 4 areas we will need tomorrow to gather staff and children's books, as last March. We will aim to move to online learning and open the classes in school within 24 hours of an announcement. Can I draw your attention to the website page https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/curriculum/lockdown-learning which may be of more interest than it was this morning.
Onward and upward, Ms S :-)
4th January 2021
further information on tier 4 measures in school
Thank you to the overwhelming majority for your support this morning. You will know how rapidly the situation changed since we broke up in December.
This is a very difficult time for everyone. Staff in school, have experienced the same stresses, disappointment, frustration and anxiety with Covid over Christmas. We too have families; many of us have children of our own and in our extended families there are the elderly parents and relatives who we love and care about. We are no different from yourselves in that respect. We take our additional responsibility, to care for your children as well as we would want our own cared for, very seriously.
As headteacher and deputy headteacher our job includes ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of everyone on site. We try our very best to lead Kingsmead Primary School in providing the best education we can while balancing all the different circumstances, age and health profiles, opinions and feelings about this virus. We do our best to chart a path that can support everyone. Everyone means you at home, the children in school and the staff who are at additional risk. But this cannot be achieved in isolation; we need the support of yourselves, your children and staff to make us be as safe and feel as safe as we can during these difficult times.
I would like to reassure you that we do not make up policy on the hoof, we do not assess risk or act in any way regarding public health without seeking guidance from agencies and colleagues who know more about the subject than we do. Such guidance involves extensive reading, virtual meetings, webinars and telephone calls. Some of the guidance may be inconsistent in places but it is all very clear about one thing. This virus is a nasty disease and has serious and long term effects for many sufferers. The health secretary Matt Hancock described it as ‘out of control’ during the holiday.
Our risk assessment has therefore been revised January 2021 as a consequence of three factors not evident in December 2020:
1. Cheshire West and Chester moving to Tier 4 restrictions;
2. The impact of a new more virulent variant of Covid-19;
3. The relaxing of some Covid-19 restrictions for Christmas potentially leading to an increase in mixing and consequent exposure to the virus.
We would be in dereliction of our duty if we had not revisited our previous assessment and increased measures to reduce risk.
As the situation unfolded over the holiday I have been thinking about how we can respond in school to reassure staff and families that we have noted that the seriousness of the situation. There are a number of measures in place for the next fortnight. The virus has a period of up to 14 days before symptoms develop, therefore it seems sensible to have some additional precautions for the 14 days of the new term. They will then be reviewed and be relaxed or continue as we think necessary.
Staff met yesterday following the NEU members meeting online with their union, a meeting watched or attended by over 400,000 teaching staff. The safety of school staff: teachers, teaching support, premises, office and mid-day staff is our responsibility and we take it seriously.
In making the changes to the risk assessment I have consulted with Public Health at CWAC who have said I have their full support in the measures taken which reflect the previous letter from the Director of Public Health last term, asking parents collecting and dropping off children to wear face coverings in school grounds. We have informed governors and have their support.
Colleagues at Public Health in CWAC were very clear. Mask restrictions are less important outside when social distancing can be applied. Our playground is narrow and it is not possible for families to maintain social distance on the grounds. I have received emails of concern from people regarding adults mixing, not distancing or wearing face coverings on our narrow playground. Some families live with older family members or are critically vulnerable themselves. Others take a different view and we have tried to accommodate the needs of all.
For the next fortnight the following applies:
All adults on site, including the grounds, should wear a face covering. These can be provided on the gate for those who have forgotten.
For adults who are unable for medical reasons or choose not to wear face coverings, we have made reasonable adjustments. You can bring children to the main entrance at 8.55am and collect at 3.20pm if you wish. Alternatively, you can leave them with the member of staff on the gate, say goodbye and we will ensure they get to class.
Staff will wear face coverings in class, with some minimal amendments in some short lessons e.g. phonics, where a distance of over 2m can be maintained.
Children will not be using computers, laptops or i-pads to minimise contact contamination.
Clubs and activities where there is year group provision (going across two classes) will cease. This includes French Club, Sport and Orchestra and Wind Band. As recorders are in groups these will also cease for a fortnight.
Early Birds and Night Owls will continue to support working parents with some additional measures encouraging children in different classes to distance appropriately.
We will review these measures before the week beginning 18th January.
With thanks for your support and cooperation.
Catriona Stewart Lisa Rutter-Brown
Headteacher Deputy Headteacher
3rd January 2021
information for headteachers from Cheshire West and Chester Directors of public health and education
I am sharing with families some helpful information from our which came this afternoon from CWAC. Thank you to them and colleagues in the School Relationship Team who I know have been working through their holiday to navigate the evolving situation.
I hope this clarifies the current position for you. We will be open from Monday 4th January as on the calendar. If the situation changes you will be informed promptly and reasons explained. We continue to respect the many differing views on school closure and covid in our community without judgement. We ask that you too respect that our actions are taken in full consideration of the situation as we understand it and that, following a staff meeting today, that we will be increasing safety measures in school from tomorrow. This includes the expectation that all adults on site wear a face covering. We have spares for anyone who forgets so don't fret. We assure people with medical conditions and those who choose not to wear them that staff will be on duty to ensure children get to class safely. Other measures in place will be shared tomorrow.
Another thing to clarify: it is not for us here to assure you that primary schools should be open (or not). It is for our government to make the case that risks are acceptable. Currently they are of the view that they are. This is an evolving situation and I assure you that we will be responsive, communicate with you promptly and continue to do all we can to work as safely as we can within the situation we find ourselves.
Kind regards and stay safe,
Happy Sunday evening! Ms S :-)
2nd January 2021
NEW YEAR and managing increased risk from Covid-19
Please see the January document with updates. It is likely this will be updated again in the first days of the new term as it was written before latest information including the scientific evidence of a much more contagious, strain of the virus which affects all sectors of the population.
First may I wish you all the very best for the New Year. I hope not too many of you missed out seeing the family you had planned to see over the holiday. I know the prospect of seeing loved ones was keeping many us going in the weeks before Christmas and it was a bitter, if late but necessary blow to many of us.
The important thing now is for us all to do what we can to minimise the increased risk from us being put into Tier 4 and with the more contagious (thankfully it seems not more severe) strain of the virus heading North.
I am looking at data and advice and will be meeting with staff tomorrow. It is increasingly likely that we will ask them all to be wearing face coverings in the building, including classrooms. This will mean some necessary and reasonable adjustments to learning and teaching. Firstly, teaching staff will need to be ever mindful that hearing will be more difficult and visual support for lessons such as modelling on flip charts and boards while delivering lessons will be even more important. It means assembly on Monday, our first focussing on caring for other people (the Spring Term focus), will involve me asking children to care for themselves, their classmates and teachers by playing their part as responsible learning partners alongside the adults in school. Children will need to listen more attentively in class, let adults know when they haven't heard or need something to be repeated. Learning pace may well be slower with adults in masks but this does not mean learning has to be less effective. Think hare and tortoise! When the pace of learning slows, learning can be deeper and better remembered and we have been discussing and thinking about this well before Covid.
Some staff have critical conditions and may not be back until their clinicians advise it is safe to return to work; we will support these colleagues in working from home and ask that children and families are respectful of staff stepping up or coming into class to support.
You may be aware that the government has required almost a third of Local Authorities areas to close primary schools for at least the first two weeks of January. This does not affect us yet, even though we are in tier 4 and the reasoning for this has not been explained. Experience tells us any changes we are required to make will be communicated with very little notice for implementation. We have a plan for remote learning, should this become necessary. You can find the document on the website at:
Happy Saturday - despite all the above I am really looking forward to seeing you all on Monday! Take care, Ms S :-)