June 2020 Update
Dear Parents and Carers,
I am writing to give more details about our plans to further open schools in line with the government’s recent announcements. Before half term many of you responded to a short survey which was very informative. I was particularly struck by the supportive comments that you made and the high levels of trust that you have in school. I am not surprised that you have collectively been a fantastic parent/carer body – and I know from colleagues that this is not universally the case. Thank you!
It has been the most stressful time of my career as the issues are so crucial and there has been considerable amounts of discussion, deliberation and debate amongst school staff, governors and other colleagues in the City in addition to the thoughts and ideas contained in the responses from you to the survey. You will be aware that Newcastle has had a united approach to children returning to school. We have been bombarded with updates and advice from the government – the week before half term the guidance underwent 41 changes. At the same time that the Prime Minister was announcing that it was safe for children to return to school four of their SAGE panel cautioned against it – so it has been difficult to be certain about what action to take. Be assured that what we are doing takes into account the recommendations from the government, health professionals, Local Authority and Trade Unions.
From Monday 8th June we will be opening to Y6 children. We will continue to offer provision for the children of key workers, those with an Education Health Care Plan and vulnerable families. The key worker group may grow as more people return to work. The key worker registration can be found on our website and must be completed before children are allocated a place. DO NOT just send children into school as we must know who is coming and that we have capacity for them.
For Y6, and any other children that return to school in future weeks, school will have to look very different. The restrictions and procedures are not what we would ever want to impose on children. Our classes will only take a maximum of ten children to maintain the required social distancing. Each class will become a ‘bubble’ and those children are not allowed to mix with another bubble. For this reason children will have to arrive, have breaks and lunch and leave at the end of the day at different times – and these will have to be strictly adhered to. Each bubble will have a teacher and a member of support staff allocated to it – and they will not mix with other bubbles either. There will be regular and intense hand washing and cleaning of areas in school. Children will have to stay at their table and only use the resources that we provide for them. It is likely that children will be in a different room to their normal classroom and that they will not be taught by their normal class teacher. Further examples of this are provided for you to look at.
Whilst we are opening to Y6 it is still your decision if you wish your children to return to school – and there is no penalty for keeping children at home. This chart shows the responses we got from you about your likely intentions. I know that some of your circumstances and thoughts will have changed since then but it gives us an indication. We now need Y6 children’s parents and carers to make a decision and complete the Y6 June 20 FORM. Your decision can be changed but we will need a week’s notice so that we can ensure staffing and room capacity. If all of Y6 returned to school we would need 19 members of staff (including 6 lunchtime staff) in addition to the key worker provision. You can see that if the regulations continue we are not going to be able to have three whole year groups in school full time due to classroom size and therefore staff capacity.
Our current intention is that we will continue with the Y6 provision for two weeks and then hope to add Y1 as the government has asked us to. Social distancing will be much harder for Y1 – as will sitting for extended periods at a desk. We do not think that it is currently safe to bring reception back. We will undoubtedly make changes to our arrangements once they have started and will continue to communicate with you.
I apologise that this letter is long and a bit dismal! Further detailed information will be sent to parents and carers of children in Y6 before the end of the week once we have their replies via the form giving arrival and departure times and further information about what can and cannot be brought to school. We will also add our extensive risk assessment to the website for everyone to read once staff have been fully consulted on it.