Covid-19: information about school
Please see letter of 6th June and statement from CWAC council regarding the decision to delay widening the offer of education given the latest public health data.
17th July 2020
Over and Out for a bit and a First Draft of September Plans
With all our good wishes for the summer; we got there in the end. Please see the initial draft of the recovery plan/risk assessment for families. This is a very much edited version of the full School Development and Recovery Plan and the Risk Assessments for September. We hope it be helpful; it will be revised through the holiday as further guidance and information becomes available and we will ensure that the most recent version is always available here, on the website.
Ms S :-)
16th July 2020
Farewell and good wishes from our Director of Education
Mark is retiring after 8 years heading up education in Cheshire West and Chester. He was happy for me to share his farewell message to schools more widely and as he makes some pertinent points, I thought I'd share with our families.
Ms S :-)
The end of term is nearly here and you will all be looking forward to a chance to rest and recuperate after what has been an exceptionally challenging few months. We have had to face situations and decisions that have been completely new territory. Uncertainty is a fact of life and I can think of many uncertain times over the 8 years that I have been Director of Education and Inclusion. However, where there has been potentially health-related consequences of our actions – well, that has tested our mettle. Sometimes we have wanted definitive answers but in the end we have had to draw upon the best of past experience, a good analysis of pros and cons, the skill of anticipating consequences, disciplined thinking and sometimes just good common sense. I know that I often go on about partnership working. But I truly believe that in a world that sometimes seems to value discord and treats disharmony almost like entertainment, it is only through our collective leadership, working together on common aims, mutual respect and a shared determination to improve, that we are able to work through the sorts of challenges that we have faced through Covid-19.
At the heart has been our shared and overarching commitment to wanting the best for children and young people. It’s what we all came into the career for. It is what caused me, 40-ish years ago, to choose education as my career, over potentially other more lucrative opportunities. Education has been life-changing for me. I have always had the drive to do what I can for it to be life-changing for others - not least those that don’t have the same opportunities or come from families with the same aspirations as others. I hope that, during my time with you all, I have helped to play some part in helping you, and your staff, to achieve that. Thank you, as always, for your support. Thank you for helping education in this borough to be as good as it is. Thank you for everything you have done for children and young people. Thank you for your faith in me.
Mark Parkinson - Director of Education and Inclusion
6th July 2020
Important information for being safe enough - now and in September
Dear Parents and Carers,
I am writing this as we get into the nitty gritty of preparing for September. There will be two – a risk assessment for health and safety and a recovery plan for curriculum, teaching and learning. These are a few things that we really need you to support. We are confident we can minimize the risk of coronavirus and absence caused by this and other illnesses, but we cannot do this without your support and cooperation.
HYGEINE – Every child should have washed their hands really thoroughly before making the journey to school and we will look at what is reasonable and practical on entry: handwashing or hand sanitizer with 30 in a class. However, it would be a good rule of thumb, for those old enough to manage it, for children to bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer for their own use in addition to that we are providing in school.
CATCH IT, KILL IT, BIN IT – all children should bring tissues to school and should be taught to cough or sneeze into a tissue which they then put in the bin and wash their hands. This is really important learning for them all and we would appreciate them all being taught how to blow their nose, cough or sneeze into a tissue. Please get into this habit over Summer so that all are used to carrying tissues in their pockets come September.
ATTENDANCE – The guidance states that the government want all children back in September and we support this. Risks can’t be eliminated and must be balanced. As the situation improves, we must balance the small risk of infection with other risks: children’s mental health and their education. Therefore usual expectations of attendance will resume from the start of the new term. We would ask you to be mindful of this if booking a last minute holiday to a country where quarantine rules apply. From September, the government are withdrawing freedom for parents to decide and school attendance is again a legal requirement for all children unless they are unwell.
SICKNESS – We are expecting a little more sickness absence while Coronavirus is with us. If unwell children must remain at home. We cannot accept children in school with symptoms of coronavirus: a sore throat, cough or lack of taste or smell and will no longer be able to administer over the counter medication or providing Calpol to manage symptomatic children in school. Children presenting as unwell in school will be isolated and their class will have to move outside while a thorough clean takes place, the isolation room (our medical room) will also then require a thorough clean before it can be used by anyone else. If children have symptoms and you are keeping them off school or if they present in school with symptoms and are sent home, we ask that you arrange for a test. If the test is negative they can return to school, if positive they must isolate for seven days after the onset of symptoms when they can return to school if they no longer show any symptoms of being unwell.
UNIFORM – Guidance has changed and it is now recommended that clothes don’t need washing more frequently and schools should return to previous uniform policy. One thing we will keep from the relaxation is allowing children to wear leggings as these are comfortable and practical and popular! They must be unbranded – no sports or designer logos and we will be expecting this; if children and families choose to ignore their responsibility in terms of dress code, we may remove their right to wear to leggings. One thing we will be keeping from enhanced measures is that all children’s hair must be tied back if it is long enough. This is not negotiable as we have a responsibility for the health and safety of cleaning staff and other children; contact with hair increases risk to others and hair tied back reduces the risk of contact with hair. Simple!
ACCIDENTS – Staff will use PPE for first aid as this requires closer contact with children. We do not expect staff to clean up accidents where children have wet themselves and therefore parents may want to send any of the youngest children who still have accidents in pull ups. This is not something we would usually advocate but it seems to be a reasonable compromise to avoid children missing school and reduce the risk of infection. We know COVID is present in and infected person’s urine (and many children don’t have any symptoms) but we don’t know yet whether the particles in urine can be passed on. Until we know it is wise to err on the side of caution to protect other people from unnecessary risk.
I hope this is helpful. Before we start back I will make sure that a new risk assessment to replace June 2020 (which will be called, guess what, September 2020!) will be available on the website.
Kind regards and thanks for reading,
23rd June 2020
Update on years 2,3,4 and 5
Dear Parents and Carers,
RE: Reopening school for children in years 2-5
I am writing this after a governors’ meeting last night and a long conversation with our Director of Education by phone yesterday. A majority of families, including many of children in Reception, Year 1 and 6 supported us in our proposal to those groups for the final week and provide education for one week only to other year groups. Like the majority of you, this was our preference. However, discussions with the Local Authority who have sought legal guidance (a number of headteachers have asked the same question) the advice is that the LA would only support our opening for more children if the provision in Reception, Year 1 and 6 was maintained. This is not a time for us to act alone, unsupported and therefore we have to revisit plans. Please note that we totally understand fully the Local Authority’s position and any frustrations we may have are not with our valued colleagues in CWAC. The conversation yesterday led to a hasty meeting with Mrs Rutter-Brown and Mrs Hammond (our wellbeing leader) before Governors met last night.
We recognise the importance of each child having an opportunity to bring the year to a close and the benefits this will have to some children’s mental health and readiness to come back in September hopeful, happy and optimistic for the year ahead. Therefore we are planning to give everyone an opportunity to close the academic year together but the time will be reduced and this is unavoidable.
The biggest challenge for us here is staffing numbers; fifteen in a group is half size classes. Three out of seven year groups in, plus two key workers’ groups means it stands to reason that all teaching staff are needed for the children in school currently (in fact we have funded additional teaching time as we have staff shielding or isolating and are running at full capacity). Therefore marquees and portable toilets on the field, even if they were affordable, are not an answer for us.
However we are looking at a revised plan which would enable each child in year 2, 3, 4 and 5 to have a day in school, in a small group of fifteen, with their current teacher. We would need to use the Hall and Community room but it may well be possible. The likelihood is this will be for one day over the last two weeks of term for twelve groups of up to fifteen children and thank you to Mrs Rutter-Brown who is working on a feasibility plan.
I am sorry to not be able to write and say we can go full steam ahead with the proposal, favoured by staff, governors and most parents and carers. Some may be wondering if any government announcement today about taking reducing the 2m to 1m social distancing rules will make a difference. I have discussed with governors that we intend to maintain the 2m distance between groups and adults from different groups. This is because the risk of transmission of the virus is estimated to be between 2 and 10 times greater when the distance is reduced to 1m. While we understand the risk to children may be less, and schools are indeed controlled places, given that we are not able to enforce social distancing between children within a group, it is prudent to maintain the 2m rule at least until the end of the academic year.
Please accept my sincere apologies for any disappointment or distress to you or your children. One thing this pandemic has taught me is the vital role we have for childcare; education is our first and foremost responsibility but I have perhaps in the past under-appreciated the childcare role of a primary school. The one day won’t help this I’m afraid, but it may well make a difference to your children’s emotional and mental health and this is the reason we want to, within the limitations in which we’re currently working, to offer everyone the chance for a final day in school.
Very warm regards,
Catriona Stewart [headteacher]
19th June 2020
Transition - response to questionnaire
Dear parents and carers,
Thank you for responding to our quick survey where we could garner your thoughts on our proposal to cease provision for Reception, Year 1 and 6 from 10th July and for the final week only, open to other year groups.
As expected, there were a range of views and most of you were quite naturally thinking and commenting on the impact on you personally. However, not all opposed were parents of children in Reception, Year 1 and 6 and not all in support were from other year groups (which was neither good nor bad, just interesting!). Some of you were neutral and were happy to trust and support our efforts whatever was decided; others told us that while the proposal affected you negatively you could see the benefit to other children and so would be supportive. As for the final scores, over 66% of 207 responses support the proposal with more than 19% opposed.
The high response to this survey (thank you) gives us confidence that the majority of parents and carers support our proposal which is our preference too. I am still waiting for the latest information from government, preferably with some detail behind the announcements that make it onto the news. I am also waiting for advice from our professional association, the NAHT. Please bear with us for a final decision until we have the information we need.
This communication is now to clear up a couple of misconceptions and explain our reasoning in more detail.
Just a small number of people misunderstood the proposal around transition so to clarify: ALL children will spend their final week engaged in activities to prepare them for meeting new staff and sharing something of themselves in work to both celebrate and finish this year and share with their next teacher/s. For Reception, Year 1 and 6 this could be the week beginning 6th July. For Years 2-5 this would be the week beginning 13th July. This would mean that year 6 would have almost 4 weeks of school (having started back on Tuesday 16th), Year 1 would have 3 weeks and 2 days, Reception 3 weeks, Year 2 and 5 one week and Year 3 and 4 two days. We feel especially bad for year 3 and 4 but we just haven’t the physical facilities or staffing resources to meet government guidance around fixed groups and distancing within the building.
Government guidance and advice was not to return ‘on’ 1st June but ‘from’ 1st June and one small word makes a lot of difference. While our risk assessment was ready in terms of our school for 1st June, data we had been told was important (such as the R rate and inconclusive data on children’s impact on spread) indicated that in the North West a more cautious approach might well be the right thing to do. I had promised all families a ‘safe enough’ approach and we acted in accordance; our decision may not please everyone and may not even have been ‘right’ but it was made thoughtfully and was the best one we felt we could make at the time.
We have not ‘delayed three times’ but have responded as best as we can to ever changing advice and a changing situation. Reading data from Independent SAGE alongside our Risk Assessment, we decided first to begin a phased reopening from 8th June. Further information gave us pause for thought and we made a decision to delay until 22nd. Once we were told the R rate should no longer be thought quite so important (and opinion remains divided on this) and we received information to this effect from the Local Authority and the Health Authority, we acted immediately to reconsider the delay for all year groups to 22nd, convened a governing body and leadership team meeting that morning and brought forward the dates for Key Workers’ children, Year 6 and Year 1 for full time learning. This was done for parents and carers, first and foremost; staff are no more fond of changing plans than anyone else. The fact that things have changed is frustrating but we have done our best to communicate promptly, consider actions carefully and the overwhelming majority of our families have really valued this.
This next paragraph is probably the most important part of this communication.
The proposal to bring other year groups back for the final week was not about notions of ‘catch up’ but is about our school’s recovery from closure in terms of the emotional well-being and mental health of children. This will have a big impact for some on their readiness to return in September. We agree with the comments that a few days will not make much or any difference in terms of tests and academic learning and Mathematics and English scores. Can ‘just a day or two’ really be worth it? Well yes. Maybe not for all, but certainly for some. We know from your communication with us and our knowledge of child psychology, that this will be incredibly important to some children’s emotional and mental health. Marking the rhythms of the day, week, the term, the year, punctuate our lives and provide security (just one of the reasons I bang on about bedtime stories!). Christmas Day, Chinese New Year, Hanuka, Diwali or Eid, a wedding or funeral – all just one or a few days. Birthdays too may be ‘just one day’ and at my age they can be done without; but we all know how significant they are for children. Our trauma informed practice tells us that the marking of ends and beginnings is important for all children and especially those who have experienced trauma. We locked down suddenly, we had a goodbye assembly but many families were already shielding. We know that the sudden end to normal weeks and daily routines means many more children, including ones from happy, safe and relatively affluent homes will have experienced trauma. This is why we are so very keen to give each and every one the opportunity to mark the close of this year in school before welcoming them (and we very much hope it’s all of them) back in September.
The rest of this communication is in response to a couple of comments on the survey, all of which, even where they disagreed, were expressed politely, so thank you. It may be of interest but isn’t essential reading!
Regarding one suggestion that teachers use the summer holidays as we’d already had a lot of time off to work with the other year groups, I would like to clarify how lockdown has affected staff in school and the impact it has had on workload. Some staff have found they can work from home more easily and some have found their workload reduced. Others have been in school through the holidays and bank holidays and for some of us, workload has increased significantly including being in long days on bank and school holidays. Our experience has been like any other public sector service and many private businesses in this respect. We get that it is hard to truly understand someone else’s job; it is reasonable to wonder that if your child’s teacher isn’t stood in front of your child teaching then what can they be doing? It is our teachers however who, more than anyone in school, haven’t experienced a decline in workload. They have worked differently, for sure and, like you, they have juggled educating their own children with work. Like you, most have found this really challenging and, like you, are wanting to be back to normal where the demarcation between home and work life is clearer. Making a video, just one example, may take numerous takes (we don’t have editing suites) and cats, dogs, children and other distractions mean a recorded lesson can take far longer to prepare and present online than it takes to watch. Preparing work for others to deliver inevitably takes more time than preparing for work you will present and deliver yourself in class.
Well before the current pandemic, school leaders and governors have been instructed by DfE and Ofsted to prioritise teachers’ workload which has led to a looming crisis in recruitment and retention. We have been fortunate in being able to attract and retain really high quality teachers and one reason we keep them is because we care for them. We understand the rhythms of the school year: most of us are exhausted come July; we know the long Autumn term is hard graft for teaching staff and children too. Our children’s well-being and education is 100% our highest priority. Always. The best thing for that, in my professional judgement, is to return in September to a workforce that is refreshed, optimistic, hopeful about the future and with the resilience and capacity to give your children the best education we can.
My friends working in the NHS and in healthcare on ITU wards, elderly care, COVID wards and so on, have found their workload increased exponentially and I know that they and their children have had a relentless period with little time off. Others working in the NHS, whose work is in clinics and services not related to COVID, or which would be impossible to run safely during a pandemic, have found their workload might have reduced or just be different with online appointments. Some of you will have found your employers to have been supportive of you working from home with children to educate and entertain, others have had a less positive experience: no different to teachers up and down the land. School staff's, like health staff’s experience reflects the wider UK workforce: some of you have found workload increased, for others it has declined. Sadly, for some the pandemic has sadly meant their job has or is under threat of disappearing entirely. We do not underestimate the devastation that a threat of redundancy or job loss can bring. Please visit https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/information/financial-hardship if you are concerned about finances and if you think we can help, please do get in touch for a confidential conversation.
I hope you understand that this lengthy communication is an attempt to explain how our school workforce has much more in common with the rest of the population than might appear at first glance. As for September? I have no crystal ball and absolutely no idea what that will bring. My hunch is that if distancing rules are relaxed in July, we might have reason to hope for greater normality for all our children.
12th June 2020
Latest on reopening
12th June 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
With this letter is some correspondence from our Local Authority which I received this morning. At very short notice we convened a virtual meeting with governors and school leaders and have made the decision to begin our phased widening of the educational offer earlier than 22nd June as in my previous letter.
Tuesday 16th June - the two fixed key worker classes and three year 6 groups start back
Thursday 18th June - welcoming in year 1 from Butterflies and Bees into their new fixed groups
Monday 22nd June - welcoming back our youngest children, Reception, the Ladybirds
This has been in response to the new information shared with us. We are of the professional view that a staggered start is prudent to makes sure that the children (and no less their parents and carers) understand and are able to follow the new ways of maintaining safe enough distance in the school grounds and building.
As with all decisions, this may well please some more than others, but it is one we found far easier to make than when we last wrote to you. As previously communicated, we cannot guarantee absolute safety with anything, but in terms of the local and national picture, alongside our risk assessment (my Magnum Opus!) governors and school leaders consider it safe enough to widen our offer to more children. And we can’t wait to see them!
If there is anyone left out there who hasn’t read our June 2020 document setting out key areas of managing risk and how we will need your support please read before sending your child back to school. It may help older ones to read with them. You can find it via the link below:
I know teachers have been busy recording themselves, a process that has involved many takes (the KFA might want to do a fund raiser making a video of out-takes!). We do hope this has helped motivate and encourage children and parents with the online learning we are providing and signposting you to. Please respect that once teachers are back in class full time, many with new year groups, online learning will be provided by those few teachers critically or extremely critically vulnerable who are isolating in their homes.
Please note that with the taking of your place in school usual attendance is expected daily. Being in school will no longer be childcare but will be education and unless children are unwell or saying they feel ill, they should be in. You can find out more at:
Similarly uniform policy is relaxed but this does not mean it is a non-uniform school. We would be very surprised not to see every child in uniform on Monday but understand that children need clean clothes every day and so once their supply of uniform is all in the wash children may, later in the week, appear in different clothes. Some aspects of uniform are strengthened (we will not accept children in school with long hair that is not tied back properly):
Finally, years 2-5. We have not forgotten anyone and we are a school for children aged 4-11, all of them. In school each day we will be having a Monday Message, Tuesday Tune, Words on Wednesday, Thursday Thought and Friday Fable (this will move to being pre-recorded so we can have in school and you can have at home at a time to suit). The daily opportunities for an ‘assembly’ of sorts will mean brothers and sisters and friends can have a shared experience of Kingsmead Primary School, a school for all our children, even though only some can be in at a time. We are just as desperate to see all these children before the end of term. We are looking into what we can offer before term ends. With all teachers fully occupied with Reception, Year 1, 6 and Key workers’ groups we will have to think carefully. We hope to have a clearer picture to consult with you on soon.
Catriona Stewart - Headteacher
Lesley Nelson - Chair of Governors
6th June 2020
Update on School Opening to More Pupils
Dear parents and carers,
We are writing to you following the late Friday release of infection data for regions which showed the North West to have the highest rate of infection in England. Today, headteachers have met with David McNaught, our Director of Education, a CWAC cabinet member and the Director of Public Health for CWAC via Zoom. The director of public health in CWAC only received the North West data on the R rate late on Friday. This was the catalyst for the Zoom meeting today. Therefore the late notice to you is regrettable and I apologise unreservedly for the distress it may cause, however this has not been the fault of us in school nor our colleagues working in the Local Authority.
We are informing you that we have, very reluctantly, made the decision to delay the opening of school to more year groups. Click here to read the press release from the Local Authority which has supported this decision. Our decision will be reviewed and we will be responsive to the data we have on infection rates; to avoid uncertainty and the difficulty this presents not only to parents but to children and staff too, we will not widen our offer beyond key workers’ and vulnerable children until 22nd June when hopefully we have better data about local infection rates and a decision will be made. To be clear, our decision is because of the following two factors which, taken together, make, in our view, the risk unacceptably high:
Although the R rate is inconclusive (it is raised in care homes and hospitals and the North West may or may not reflect the rate in CWAC), the risk is heightened because what data we do have shows that infection rates are not declining as much as we might have hoped and are concerningly high in the North West;
Test, track and trace is not up and running and while it’s begun, it has been publicly stated won’t be fully operational for some time.
We would like to be very clear that our decision has nothing to do with our very thorough Kingsmead primary school risk assessment (which we have confidence in), our preparedness or ability to work safely within the confines of our school. This decision has been about the fact that infection rates have not declined as we’d have hoped, that 100 scientists have signed a paper voicing their concerns that lockdown is being relaxed too soon and that the Chief Medical Officer did not authorise the government to reduce the national risk level from level 4 (the second highest) where it remains. While I would very much like more data on the specifics in Cheshire West and Chester, this is not something we have available to us. The R rate is a difficult piece of data and we don’t know if the R rate in Cheshire West and Chester reflects North West data. Not knowing the CWAC R rate does not mean it is unsafe for us to open, but neither does it mean it is safe enough. There remains great uncertainty about levels of risk among those involved. Therefore we have decided to proceed with caution and, very sadly, to delay.
For families of key workers who need to work (not the full time classes we had planned) and vulnerable children, there will be staff in school as usual on Monday and we will continue with the booking form arrangements for the following two weeks at least. Please email us if you are a key worker and need access to childcare.
With warmest regards,
Catriona Stewart - headteacher
Lesley Nelson - chair of governors
26th May 2020
Risk Assessment / Recovery Plan for Families
Important reading for all families sending children back to school after half term. PLEASE NOTE NEW VERSION AS OF 01/06/2020 - minor changes to staffing.
22nd May 2020
Letter re widening our offer from 8th June
Please bear in mind that as the situation nationally and locally and our own risk assessment develops, there may be some changes.
CWAC Letter to Parents
Our Directors of Education, Mark Parkinson and David McNaught have written to all parents of Local Authority Schools.
We thank them for their support and will revisit our own planning and risk assessment in the light of their advice for after the holiday.
20th May 2020
Letter from the Northwich Partnership
Dear Parents and Carers of children in Northwich,
I am writing as the Chair of the Northwich Education Partnership, a partnership of almost all primary schools in our area. Schools in the locality have been working together for some years and now, in these unprecedented times, we want to communicate with you with one voice regarding the lockdown and proposed reopening of primary schools. You will know that the government have asked us to open to some year groups at some point from 1st June with the Prime Ministers’ ‘ambition’ being to open to all children for the last four weeks of term.
Cheshire West and Chester Council have issued a press statement and we thank them for their support.
We are sure you appreciate that we are working in a situation that is totally new for us all. It is also one that has been and is changing daily. Government guidance began to come out on the Monday evening following Prime Minister Johnson’s Sunday announcement on TV. New guidance continues to arrive, some of it contradicting what has been said previously. While we appreciate guidance from the Department of Education and understand that the picture changes as much for them as for us, this makes planning more difficult. Every day new guidance arrives the timescale for planning how we can implement it in all our different schools, gets shorter and shorter.
Our priority as head teachers is, first and foremost the welfare and safety of your children and adults, the people in school who care for and educate them. Evidence suggests children are relatively less affected by coronavirus than adults, though there is, as yet, not much data on children and very few have been tested. However, as headteachers, we not only have a duty of care to children but also to all the adults working in school and without whom caring and providing for children’s welfare or education is not possible.
This is why you have probably not yet have received a detailed plan from your child’s school with dates and times. As much as you, we want to know exactly what things will look like from 1st June, but it is important that this is communicated only when we can deliver what we are offering, and as safely and well as we can. Announcing prematurely that we are open from 1st June and then having to pull back because it won’t be possible or not safe enough is no help at all to families. We met virtually with David McNaught, our Director of Education yesterday, and we will be getting further advice from Cheshire West and Chester Council on Thursday so it is important we wait for that too.
Planning and risk assessing reopening schools is not like when we come back after a Summer holiday and need an INSET day to get sorted for children. We are not reopening the schools that closed on 20th March. We are reopening limited educational provision with around half size classes; the use of the building and mixing of people in it having to be far more controlled and adults as well as children will all be learning very new ways of being together. Together but apart. Schools’ vision and ethos will continue, but many of the practical arrangements and cultural ways will have to be very different for us all. Only then can we and you, children’s parents and carers at home, be confident that we are safe enough to reopen because we have planned thoroughly and made our very best endeavours to reduce the risk as much as we can.
It is likely that with different ages and health profiles of staff, very different class sizes, cohorts of children and buildings, provision from one of our schools to another will look different. We were all quite different before lockdown and can’t all do and be the same now. Please think before making unhelpful comparisons between us. One school may be able to achieve relatively easily what would just not be possible for the partner school down the road.
Thinking of comparisons, unlike the shops and garden centres schools are being compared to in the media, schools are unique in being asked to open to the public without social distancing. One thing the government, DfE, teacher unions and Local Authorities all do seem to agree on is that social distancing is not possible or desirable in school. It would be upsetting and unkind to children for one thing and impossible to implement anyway. This is why we have been asked to work in small groups of around 15 and keep the groups separate during their time in school.
We understand that you will be anxious yourselves about your child returning to school. Others will be equally anxious about their children in Years 2, 3, 4 and 5 (who are just as dear to us) and what this means for them. We would like to be able to give you a clear, detailed plan so you know exactly what things will look like after 1st June. But we can’t right now. We need time to develop and formalize the plans and risk assessments that we have been working on for a good while. We need time to train staff so they can implement the changes with competence and confidence. We need to ensure our planning and provision will make us safe enough for everyone to return to: children and the adults who care for them. And some of our schools will be in a position to do that sooner and more completely than others.
There have been some very unhelpful and inaccurate reports in some corners of the media and we are saddened and disappointed by these. Far from schools being ‘on holiday’, schools in the locality have been open every day since lockdown, five days a week including all holidays and bank holidays for key workers’ and some vulnerable children. One thing you families do need at this very difficult time is confidence and trust in the leaders and staff into whose care you are placing your children. We assure you that, just as before lockdown, the safety, education and welfare of your children is our overriding concern. The teaching unions, including the NAHT and NEU have also been just as mindful of and concerned for your children during this crisis as they have about their members. Creating false division between schools, children and their parents is at best, unhelpful. A lack of consultation, clarity and the very short timescales mean our unions are reflecting genuine high levels of anxiety and concern for our children and the staff who care for them.
The interests of school staff, children and families have far more in common than some people in the media would have you believe. You will understand just as well as we do, that here in school we can only look after your children, keep them safe and feeling safe, if we all respect each other and work together, in true partnership. Finally, thank you on behalf of all your children’s teachers for the great efforts you are putting into the education of your children at home and we hope what we have provided has been helpful. We have been in an educational partnership like never before.
With our best wishes, we look forward to communicating more fully in due course.
On behalf of the head teachers in the Northwich Education Partnership,
13th May 2020
Letter from Ms Stewart about reopening after the Whitsun holiday
Dear parents and carers,
Firstly, thank you for all your kind messages and support at what has been an incredibly hard time for us all, not least you at home. Many of you are juggling trying to provide a school day at home while juggling with your own work and working from home. It has not been easy and we understand from all our staff who are juggling work with educating their own children at home, the challenges you have faced. Parents and teachers, at least as far as education is concerned are more than ever, in it together.
Secondly, I want to assure you that we, as much as you, are very much looking forward to seeing children back in school. I can assure you that our staff are all wanting to be back, educating your children and recreating and re-developing our school and its culture in response to the current crisis. A crisis which looks likely to be with us for a prolonged period of time. This is not a short term fix and we are planning for long term adaptations to how we are, still useful and kind, still caring for ourselves, others and the environment while also mindful that we will all have to unlearn decades of habits and ways of being. We will not be down on the floor at children’s level or singing indoors for now, but these important, if not essential, things will return in due course. We will need to be together and think differently in order to keep all our school community: children, staff and you at home, as safe as we can. (You might have read or want to read last Monday’s blog on the website which was about being safe enough). Plans are in progress and have been for some time for how we might reopen.
The Prime Minister provided some information about the government’s expectations on Sunday evening, followed with some detail on Monday evening and further detail and information on Tuesday evening. There was further DfE guidance following through today However, I am not in a position to give you lots of detail yet. We need further information and to discuss further as a whole staff, leadership team and school governors. It is important that you get reliable and clear information rather than make premature pronouncements that leave you with more questions than answers and that lack clarity.
What I can say is that or current priority is planning for classes of 15 in Reception, Year 1 and 6. This will give us valuable experience to then plan for and welcome everyone back safely when that time comes. What I will say is very likely is:
There will be staggered opening and closing times, initially for Reception, Year 1 and 6 but likely beyond.
We will have one-way systems for parents bringing and collecting children and will restrict to one parent or carer to reduce people on site as far as we can.
No more than two people in the entrance lobby.
All children will wash hands regularly, including on arrival and before being sent home.
To reduce risk of cross contamination, playtimes and lunches will be staggered.
At the end of this letter are some FAQs which I’ll include on the website.
There have been some very unhelpful and inaccurate reports in some corners of the media and I have been saddened and disappointed by these. For one thing, far from our school being closed or ‘on holiday’, we have been open every day since lockdown, five days a week including all holidays and bank holidays for key workers’ children. We have taken on the before and after school care when Superkids closed for business a week before the Easter break. The last thing any of us need right now are attempts by unscrupulous people to sow division between schools and families and turn people against each other. One thing this crisis has shown us is that we are and can be a better society than that. More recently, I have noted comments regarding our teaching unions. I have been on many virtual meetings with my own union, the NAHT. During this time the overwhelming bulk of discussion and advice has not been about school staff but about children, their welfare and best interests; the NEU and other unions have had a very similar focus. However, only a fool would think we can care for children and keep them safe and feeling safe without regard and consideration for the staff who care for them. People with their own agenda, sowing seeds of division and suspicion for their own reasons is at best, unhelpful. A lack of consultation, clarity and the very short timescales mean our unions are reflecting genuine high levels of anxiety and concern for our children and the staff who care for them.
I am confident we can and will reopen safe enough for staff and children alike. I am confident we can continue to develop and build a school focused not just on managing and surviving the current crisis but on improvement and thriving too. But this can only happen if we have trust and respect for one another. This is the spirit in which have provided the online learning, respecting all your different situations and home. It’s how we’ll respect your decision about returning to school.
I am confident we can continue to rely on your support. I will write to you again in due course, as soon as I can give you greater clarity on the arrangements.
Catriona Stewart Headteacher
14th May 2020
Letter from Mrs Cotton to Reception parents about reopening and how we are planning to support our youngest children
Dear Parents and Carers,
Many thanks for all of the support that you have been giving your children in their home learning, it has been great to see all of the lovely things that you have been doing at home. These are strange and unsettling times for us all, I know that the staff have been missing the children tremendously, and are looking forward to seeing them in school.
As you will know, the Government’s plan is to open school for Reception children at some point from June 1st. Their guidance states that children should be in groups of no more than 15, whom they will stay with all day. We have put extensive thought into the best way we can do this in our school, in order to keep the children and staff safe, but still give them the same warm and welcoming environment, opportunity to play, and also support their learning as much as possible.
The Reception children will be split by age into three groups, and will learn in the three Key Stage 1 classrooms. We will spend our time before June 1st planning the best possible way that we can provide an environment that is familiar for them. This will be their base, or ‘bubble’ and they will spend their time in school with that group of children. We will use the outside environment as much as we can, and enjoy the lovely weather that the summer term usually brings.
We know that very small children cannot socially distance, and so we will give thought to the toys and resources that we can provide that can be more easily cleaned. We will introduce the children to some learning at tables, so that the transition to Year 1 is not overwhelming. Keeping the children and the staff safe is our first priority, so please be reassured that we are considering every aspect of the school day. There will, however, be some aspects of school life that will be unavoidably different, we will support the children in these changes, and keep you informed as we work out our ‘new normal’.
In order to help your children on their return to school, you can prepare them by making sure that they can dress and undress themselves - jumper, coat and shoes without aid. Being in charge of their own belongings - collecting everything that they need and organising themselves avoids unnecessary contact, but also is great preparation for Key Stage 1!
In thinking of the staff for the new groups, the thirty oldest children will be with teachers that they will have next year, so their transition to year 1 will be supported and they won’t have to get to know new people. The fifteen youngest will be taught by me, supporting them with coming back in and getting back used to school. This means that while there has been unavoidable disruption to education in school, over Reception and Year 1 they will have had the same teachers as they would had we never been closed.
There are lots of details to be thought about, please keep looking out for emails from school, and also information through Google Classrooms.
I look forward to seeing you all soon
Mrs Karen Cotton