As you have heard from our Prime Minister’s announcements on Sunday 10th May, there is an aim to partially re-open Primary Schools from 1st June 2020.
We obviously very much look forward welcoming all of our children back as soon as possible, but need to do so, in a manner which ensures the safety of children and parents coming onto site, but also our staff in their workplace. This letter intends to give you a realistic introduction to what our return involves at this point. Any additional information or changes to plans will be cascaded via letters from next week.
As there is a lot to share, I am taking the liberty of breaking down current plans and outstanding issues to be clarified in the following sub-headings.
Safety for All
As a result of the 2 metre distance ruling being adhered to in public places such as on our daily walks or visiting the supermarket, this must also be complied with at all times on Howe Dell site.
Further guidance will be passed to parents as soon as absolute clarity is reached, but in the meantime, an extensive risk assessment for whole site, including School and Day Care has been devised by me in consultation with:
- The Senior Leadership Team for School
- Chair and Deputy Chair of Governors
- Facilities Manager
- Day Care Senior Leaders
- Union representatives of all staff groups
- Information from Department for Education
- Primary Heads’ Forum for Hertfordshire
We are also awaiting guidance from Herts County Council who are devising a Toolkit to support this process.
Will there be space for everyone to return with the 2 metres distance rule?
What is already very clear is that despite being a large two-form entry School with Day Care, providing our bespoke provision, capacity to meet requirements to open for Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 (i.e. potentially 240 children) requires a floor space we simply do not have with current restrictions.
Therefore, who is attending and when from these groups alone, will require further considerable thought. Indeed, based on the classroom sizes, we cannot accommodate half classes per room, but a maximum of 10 pupils per room with a teacher. Any additional adult may be outside the classroom or standing.
We also need to consider the viability and needs of the very different age groups
given priority to return first, whilst retaining our provision for our keyworker or vulnerable children who have accessed the school site for the last 7 weeks. They will continue to attend site, whatever year group they fall into. This number is expected to increase.
Will the classrooms have changed?
- For Nursery and Reception, the learning environment needs to be stripped of soft furnishings and minimal toys available, to ensure these can be readily and regularly cleaned.
- Changes for children of 10 per classroom and contact with different classroom groups will be minimised for safety.
- Some children will need to practice putting on accessible shoes and coats independently before returning, to ensure the 2 metre distancing rule isn’t affected.
- As 30 per class is a norm, parents need to warn their children that they will not necessarily return to their previous classroom: nor is it guaranteed with classes divided into 3 groups they will have access to their previous class teacher nor TA.
- When dealing with first aid or an accident requiring intimate care, PPE will be worn by staff including a face visor. (I am not writing this to alarm, but to ensure there is clarity of what this partial return will resemble). It will not yet be ‘business as usual, by any means.
- Staff will be given the option to wear face masks for pick up and drop off of children. Those greeting and handing over at the classroom doors and staff punctuating your route on and off site at the start and end of day will also wear high vis jackets and signage to alert visitors to retain 2m distance. Please ensure your children have been prepared for this change. It is in accordance with consultation with staff and our resulting Howe Dell risk assessment, which accepts the safety of individual schools can be determined by head teachers and with reference to DfE guidance. It complies with what is happening in Day Care already and does not mean staff nor children will be wearing PPE during the rest of the day, but allays staff concerns for heightened risk at these times with increased numbers of people on site.
- Handwashing and cleaning will be a regular feature of classroom practice.
How will the start and end of school happen?
You will be welcomed on arrival to site. Please note; 1 adult per family to deliver the children to priority classes (siblings can attend with you only if no-one is available at home to supervise these children).
You will attend site from Dragon Road side gate, wait with your children in a socially distanced manner until you are invited onsite. All children will be bought to site and collected by an adult during this partial opening.
- Parents are expected to keep children in family groups, supervise at all times and not congregate in groups after leaving the school site as 2m distance ruling is in place nationally.
- Those with disability and absolute need to drive to school, can access the carpark but will still need to enter the school from the Dragon Road side gate.
- Any heavily pregnant parents requiring parking on site must contact the school if needing help beyond this guidance please.
- This is for the safety of us all:
- For children in downstairs classrooms, parents should line up at 2 metre intervals on the infant playground when awaiting drop off and collection.
- For children in the upstairs classrooms, parents should wait at 2 metre intervals on the KS2 playground awaiting drop off and collection.
Parents and Carers should leave the school site promptly, maintaining social distancing. Exit from school at all times will be via the Main Entrance.
- Start and end of school is likely to be staggered, more information to follow.
- Drop off and collection arrangements will be different for Nursery. Parents will enter the site at the Dragon Road side gate and will collect from the Early Years’ entrance (ie adjacent to the car park). Parents will still arrive via the Dragon Road side gate. This is likely to be staggered on arrival and pick up times to keep you and those on site as safe as possible and to work with Day Care to avoid pinch points.
Will classes or year groups in KS1 & KS2 mix?
- Whilst on site, the children will be allocated a classroom, where they will be based at a specific desk. Learning resources will be ready on the desks and children need to bring their own pencil cases.
- PE kits will not be needed. PE will happen, but not involve equipment and breaks will be short but more regular than usual.
- Those having packed lunches may well eat in the classrooms.
- Key Worker children of all ages will continue to attend site and join the year group closest to their own age.
How will school manage the younger children?
Reception and Nursery children will benefit from seeing their friends and being back to school. Outdoor access will be increased, supervision heightened, but the tasks as in the rest of the school will focus on wellbeing and feeling happy, reintroducing school routines. Please ensure you have prepared Y1, Reception and Nursery children to the fact that they cannot touch nor go close to their classmates. I know this is really difficult for us and parents too, but by preparing the children for this before they arrive on site will mean staff are continuing to support the message introduced at home. My aim is to reduce stress and anxiety for children and adults by realistically sharing what the June 1st opening entails at this current time.
Children’s Council / Year 6 Expectations
- Meanwhile in Year 6, through prior learning, all know they are old enough in the eyes of the law to know the difference between right and wrong, there must be adherence to 2 metre distancing. Due to prior behaviour from some in the cohort, I need to be clear that any risk to the safety of self or others, or distress to others will not be tolerated. Also disrespectful gossip about staff absent on certain days having COVID-19 as happened prior to closing - thankfully completely untrue, will equally not be tolerated. (We are so lucky not to have had any direct cases on our school staff to date.)
- Y6 children and parents will sign an agreement that the importance of 2 metre social distancing is understood and will be adhered to, as will school rules for behaviour and respect, as was implemented into School Journey paperwork for PGL and Fellowship Afloat. To not do so, impacting on the safety of self and others or behaving outside of our school expectations will mean these children will be sent home. There may be fixed term exclusion to follow, which may result in a pending permanent exclusion. This will remain on the child’s school record.
- For most of Year 6 this is immaterial as they always behave responsibly and will be keen to return.
- However, for a significant group, parents are urged to ensure they are school ready before their return, to behave responsibly.
What else will be different?
- The school experience in this interim phase will be very different indeed to what is usually expected at Howe Dell.
- Parents need to be positive and realistic with their children about what they can expect in Year 6 and the fact the Prom, Y6 Play and probably the Leavers’ Assembly will not take place. Signing shirts also cannot happen for Y6 at this time due to 2m distance ruling.
- Reception and Nursery packs for pupils awaiting their Transition Meetings will be sent out and a virtual tour of the school will be done with conversations with staff possible. But attendance on site as usual, will not happen.
- No Sports Days, large gatherings for PSA events, nor assemblies will happen before September at the earliest.
- Our Fete is cancelled.
- Y5 School Journey was cancelled and an insurance claim has been submitted for the £10,000 including VAT spent on this venture.
- Our Festival and Open Evening are cancelled.
- Our Themed Week including African Dancers and drumming has been cancelled.
This isn’t easy to write, but clarity for our ‘new reality’ whilst this virus remains at large is sadly necessary. The aim is to manage expectations.
Will there be After School Club/Breakfast Club/Other Clubs?
- No, all staff for Extended Services (Breakfast Club and After School Club) have been furloughed as there are no fees to pay salaries. As staff were paid fulltime up until 9th April, despite us closing on 22nd March to ensure an open fair furlough policy took place, there is no funding to enable this to happen at present.
- No clubs beyond the school day will run as staff continue to provide on line resources for those not on school site.
- Children will not be heard read individually on site because of 2m distancing.
- There will be no homework set, but much is on line from previous weeks and staff unable to work as at extremely high risk will continue to prepare work to be accessed remotely.
- We may consider providing a version of an extended day, which will be charged for and may be covered by Teaching Assistants (further clarification to be sought).
- We may provide a charged Play Scheme covered by Teaching Assistant contracts over the summer, if at all possible.
Will my child have the same teacher as before COVID-19?
Probably not, although we aim to keep teaching teams as consistent as possible. Miss Madden and Mrs Woollett may not be back on site as both are pregnant, with babies due in September.
Is there anything else I need to know?
- For the moment, this is enough.
- Once we know about variation and detail to these plans, I will write again.
- Likewise, we currently continue to order E-Vouchers for Free School Meals eligible children and if any change, these parents will be informed.
- Those families shielding themselves or an extremely vulnerable member of their household are not expected to return at this time and anyone with symptoms in a household needs to self-isolate as per COVID-19 guidance.
- Children with hay fever, due to sneezing and coughing should also not attend site on days where they have symptoms, to protect themselves and the wider community.
The outline of measures I hope in some ways will reassure parents of the detail of planning and thoroughness of thinking in my attempt to follow the Prime Minister's direction. Equally, I have no doubt the school experience I am describing may surprise many and cause worry. I fully understand and share your concerns. Therefore, may I reaffirm as in the DfE guidance, I have done all I can to enable this partial opening to happen, but if parents do not feel comfortable in sending their children back in the year groups planned then I fully understand. On current guidance, parents will not be penalised if they keep children at home and currently Unions are still advising staff who are their members.
This is a huge amount of information to absorb and may be the first of a number of letters. However, I wanted to reassure you that we are keen to open to more children and will do all in my power to ensure this is thoroughly communicated and above all, safe for all.
May I thank the amazing staff for all they continue to do on and off site to support children and families and the lovely messages I received following my last letter to parents. As mentioned then, may I reaffirm you are all missed more than you will ever know.
Hoping to see you all soon: stay safe.
Executive Headteacher of Howe Dell School and Day Care