Wednesday, 20th May
I hope you are all keeping well and are staying safe. I apologise for writing to you at length but following on from the survey last week, I feel that we are in a better position to let you know what school will be like for your child should you decide to send them back at the time we open for more children – it is YOUR choice; YOUR child. There will be NO fines for non- attendance. If we open on 1st June, the School will not be school as any of us know it and feel I need to be totally open and honest with you.
Do we want the children and staff all back in Linden Primary School? Of course we do. Schools are meant to be full of learning, laughter and fun and Linden is amazing at that. Are you at the end of your tether at home? Most probably. However, I am not going to write and tell you we can achieve social distancing and guarantee total safety in our school. We can always make things safer, we could perhaps reduce the risk slightly but as soon as lots of children return, I can tell you that the risk will be there.
You will have heard the government’s proposed plans to begin to phase in the opening of schools from – at the earliest – 1st June starting with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 where possible. If they all return we would have well in excess of 200 children in school and a large number of staff. It is up to schools, within the guidance given, to decide what is safe and manageable and I can tell you now that this isn’t. It is following rigorous risk assessment (available to parents shortly) that we can only safely offer wider opening to Reception and Year 1 at this time – we cannot offer Year 6. We have been asked to prioritise the younger years.
Managing the risk
For those in Reception and Year 1, who make the choice to send their children back, the following measures have been put in place.
- Classes will be split up into small teaching groups to keep the number of pupils in each as low as possible.
- Staggered starts to the day and staggered finish times will be introduced to avoid congestion at the school gates and one adult only dropping off and collecting.
- Break times and lunchtimes would be staggered and in designated areas and movement around the school will be minimal.
- We are being asked to clean surfaces continuously throughout the day, wear PPE for First Aid or personal care and set out classrooms for social distancing, avoiding contact with children and between children and staff.
I can tell you quite honestly that there is no such thing as social distancing in a school – we can try but we certainly cannot guarantee it. The reasons childhood illnesses spread in a school is because we are all in contact with each other! It is in the nature of how schools function and how children feel safe.
Reduced class sizes and timetable
Children will be divided into what the government are calling ‘bubbles’ – meaning they will be with up to 15 other children and at least one adult. The children and adults can only be in one ‘bubble’ and the ‘bubbles’ cannot mix at all. We would decide on the ‘bubbles’ and we would not be able to accommodate requests for children to change ‘bubbles’ -not all children would be with their friends and in any case they will have to try to remain at least 2 metres from others at all times. This is necessary so that any outbreak of the virus can be tracked and traced and those people who have been in the affected ‘bubble’ can isolate and be tested.
We do not have the space or staffing to safely accommodate all of these children in school every day. Therefore, we will:
- have a reduced timetable, with the R and Year 1 ‘bubbles’ being placed into two groups
- invite one group to attend for two days (Monday and Tuesday) followed by the second group for two days (Thursday and Friday) –this will allow for day in between the two bubble groups for a deep clean of all areas and resources and for teachers to continue to planning home learning.
- only be offering Reception children 2 mornings during the first week.
The changes for them are massive and we need to ease them slowly back into a very different looking school and school routine.
This means that we can only offer 2 days in schools for any child within these year group ‘bubbles’.
- Furniture will have to be removed from classes
- Systems for use of toilets and cleaning all worked out.
- Lunches will be eaten in ‘bubbles’ in the classrooms and will have to be a packed lunch
(R, Year 1 and key worker/vulnerable children entitled to low-income FSM’s can order a school packed lunch).
- We need PPE for First Aid and personal care– which we will source-and for if we have a child with symptoms.
- Desks will be 2 metres apart and children will have to remain at their desks and keep to their own equipment (a pencil case and stationary will be provided). The days will seem long for them and we may decide to shorten them, especially for the younger children - for their own mental health and well-being,
Key workers and vulnerable pupil provision
Key worker and vulnerable pupil provision will remain in place (the key worker list has not changed and can be found here). We have already seen a significant increase in our numbers as parents begin to return to work and as directed by the government, these children currently have priority. This may result in postponing other year groups returning if the numbers continue to increase as we would not be able to safely accommodate this large number of children.
Key worker or vulnerable children who are in Reception and Year 1 will not be able to move between these ‘bubbles’ for safety and contamination reasons and I will be asking parents to decide which ‘bubble’ they want their child included in – year group or key worker.
At this moment in time, we will not be offering breakfast or after-school provision for Reception or Year 1. Key worker provision will continue to run from 8:30-4:30.
As always at Linden, we will endeavour to make the experience as positive as possible and recognise that children will be very anxious, we are too – we will be putting in provision to support this. I hope you can understand the level of difficulty this all gives, but it is vital so that we can at least try to minimise the risks.
I am sorry to be so blunt in what I have described, but as a parent myself, I would want to know exactly what it will look like. Should you decide that you wish for your child to stay at home, that is absolutely fine and I assure you I will completely support and respect that. What I do ask though is that you make an indication on whether your child will return should we open to these year groups on the 1st of June so that we can prepare measures to support and reduce risks. I also need to be clear that it is ONLY year R and 1 being considered – if you have children in other years they cannot return at this time unless they are key worker children AND no other childcare option is available.
For those parents who indicate that their child(ren) will be returning if we open after 1st June, we will contact you next week letting you know which ‘bubble’ group they have been placed into, which days they will be able to attend and further information about drop-off and pick up times and locations.
Thank you for the time you have given to reading this – I appreciate that it is a difficult decision to determine what to do with your most precious of gifts – your children.
Take care and stay safe.
Lucy Collins & Gemina Davie
Headteacher & Chair of Governors
Linden Primary School
Fortnightly booking for the key worker/vulnerable pupil in all year groups, will continue through the schoolzine app (SZapp).
Wider School Reopening FAQ’s – Linden Primary School
The aim is to return on 1st June but when will it be confirmed?
The government will only confirm on 28th May if selected year groups may be able to return on 1st June. They will only proceed with opening schools if the tests are met. On 16 April the Government presented five tests for easing measures as:
- Protect the NHS’s ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.
- See a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19 so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.
- Reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
- Be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
- Be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS.
Which children will return to school?
The following children will be able to come to Linden Primary school if we open after 1st June:
- Year 1
- Priority Children - vulnerable children and children of critical workers, who have been able to attend since March (these children take priority over the year groups)
I don’t feel comfortable sending my child into school. Do they have to attend?
Absolutely not - YOUR CHILD; YOUR CHOICE. We are looking forward to welcoming your child back, however, we understand that some parents, for a variety of reasons, may wish to keep their child at home and continue for them to learn from home. It is not compulsory for children to attend and no fines will be issued.
I have to go back to work, can I send my child in even if they aren’t in the selected year groups?
At this stage the Linden Primary is only open for the selected year groups plus vulnerable children and children of key workers workers who have been able to attend throughout the coronavirus outbreak.
If you have been asked to return to work but do not have childcare, please talk to your employer to make necessary adjustments.
Can my child spend time in a year group ‘bubble’ and a key ‘bubble?
No, this is not possible. In order to minimise the virus transmission risk for pupils and staff we have to keep the ‘bubbles’ separate. As a key worker parent of a Reception or Year child you will need to indicate which ‘bubble’ they attend.
Will the school day start and end at the same time?
There will be some changes to the timings of the school day to ensure we can safely manage drop off and collection of children. We will clearly communicate these arrangements with parents before any possible wider opening.
How will I drop off and collect my child?
Collection and drop off will not be the same process as we had a few months ago. We are currently risk assessing and drawing up plans to ensure social distancing can happen at these times. Further details on the arrangements will be sent to parents and the full risk assessment will be available on the website.
We would ask that only one parent/carer attends drop off and pick up.
What if one of my children is in one of the returning years but another is not?
If school is to open more widely, this does not include siblings in different year groups unless those siblings are in a priority group, for example, vulnerable children and children of key workers. The Government hopes that all primary school children can come back to school before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible, although this will be kept under review. Reducing the risks for children and staff is of utmost priority.
Should my child wear a face covering, mask or other PPE?
Government guidance states, “Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended”
And if parents choose for them to wear a mask in school, they must be able to safely put on and remove it themselves.
Staff will be instructed to wear PPE when a child whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs or if a child becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home. If a staff member chooses to provide and wear their own PPE this is acceptable.
Can children be tested for the virus?
Once schools are open to more children and young people, staff and pupils in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their household. This will enable children and young people to get back to childcare or education, and their parents or carers to get back to work, if the test proves to be negative.
What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in my child’s school?
When a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus.
Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class/group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class/group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group develops symptoms.
As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the child or young person’s cohort or in the wider education or childcare setting, Public Health England’s local Health Protection Teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take.
Usually someone else collects my child from school as I have to go into work, can someone from another household collect my child?
Government guidance would only allow someone to pick up a child from another household if a 2m distance is kept between them. This would be very difficult with young children and therefore we would advise only members from your household should collect your child.
If I don’t send my child in, will I still get my FSM voucher?
Yes. The provision of food vouchers for those eligible under the low-income criteria will continue to be available where needed for those not attending school.
Will my child be taught by their usual teacher?
Although we cannot guarantee this, our aim is to have at least one adult who will be familiar to the children in each class.