A Phased Return Plan to Parents – PLEASE READ!
Phased Return to School Information
I am sure that after the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday regarding the opening of schools for Nursery, reception, Y1 & Y6, there are lots of questions you have. Late night on Monday 11th May the government released further guidance for parents and schools, but this new guidance has still left us as a school, and the local authority with lots of questions which need clarification too!
My apologies for such a long letter but please take the time to read this carefully.
What is the current situation?
At the moment, for us in school, there is no change to the current guidance. We will continue to provide care for those parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response and those that cannot be safely cared for at home. The overall message now, and in the future, is that it is safer to stay at home. This will continue on a booking system and children only coming on the days that are needed.
What is the current government guidance?
The government have provided their advice, but as usual, this is vague and gives no clear direction. This means that every school community will interpret it in their own way to suit their own circumstances! We are also taking the advice of the local authority and other schools in Harlow to try and find some clarification and consensus to move forward. Please find the latest guidance by following the link:
There are also some FAQs that might be useful.
The current guidance is suggesting that if the government feel it is safe to do so, then the classes of nursery, reception, Y1 and Y6 will return to school at the same time on June 1st and this will be in addition to our critical worker children. The decision on whether this will or won’t happen will be made in late May by the government. It is also suggested that we have groups of no more than 15 children and those children are ideally not allowed to mix – the guidance recommends that they stay in the same group with the same adults. There is no expectation of 2m social distancing, between the children in the group (although we will encourage this), they have suggestions other measures for us to explore. As you can imagine, this presents its own issues regarding COVID safety and young children. We will not be able to guarantee that children and staff will be kept 2m apart.
What is the school doing to prepare for June 1st?
The senior leadership team have spent the last few days having discussions together and with other schools in Harlow and the local authority to begin making embryonic plans towards a phased return, based on the latest government guidance. We now need to share these with staff and the governors. These plans will not be finalised or shared publicly until we are sure that we have the right plan for Pear Tree Mead, which follows the government guidelines. However, I do want to share our current thinking with you because we are a school family and I believe that you need all the facts about the direction which the government wants us to take.
With the number of small groups (15 children in a group) that we will need to offer, not all children will be looked after by their own class teacher. Some groups will need to be looked after by teaching assistants (who are all suitably qualified at Pear Tree Mead) – there are simply not enough teachers to go around. Mixing of groups of children will be limited and they will be kept in these small groups. Staff may have to change over the time if anyone starts to display symptoms.
It is also very likely that children will not be in their usual classroom, potentially not with their usual teacher or teaching assistant or with their preferred friendship group. We have to be realistic that this means not following the usual school timetable and structure. Classrooms will not be laid out in the same way or have the same resources in. Tables will be spread out and all unneeded resources and soft furnishing will be removed. Resources will be limited for children as cleaning of these will have to be carried out.
Despite our very best endeavours, we are not going to be able to offer the known environment which your child left, although we will try our very best based on the our expertise and knowledge of your children. We know that this may cause anxiety for some pupils and parents and will do utmost to minimise this.
Children will only be allowed to be bought to school by one person and parents will not be allowed into the school building. We will stagger drop off and pick up times and parents will be asked to maintain a 2m social distancing rule from each other and all staff. Communication with parents will be via email and phone and not face to face.
Staff may need to wear PPE equipment for giving first aid and intimate care and for looking after children if they are unwell. Children will not to asked to wear masks. We will be making sure that children wash their hands regularly.
The school will be putting in place extra cleaning during the day and in the evening and shared resources will be cleaned. We will be issuing children with their own resources so that sharing resources will be limited.
Playtimes and lunchtimes will be staggered and playground equipment will be limited due to sharing resources. Social distancing will still be encouraged and so any games involving close contact will not be allowed. Outdoor learning will be encouraged and rooms will be well ventilated.
Children will not return full time because we cannot house all of the children safely. This will be part time attendance and then home learning for the rest of the week. This could be half days or whole days but will not every day.
In addition to a phased return, the teachers will also need to continue to offer childcare for critical workers and online learning and support for
- Other year groups (PS, Y2, Y3, Y4, Y5)
- Children in the return year groups that cannot attend school for medical reasons
- Children who won’t be attending school if you choose not to send them
- Children who are in families who are showing symptoms and so have to self-isolate
- Children who are not in school as it is not their designated day
Home learning will still be sent out every two weeks, online programs will still be set, the website will be updated and the celebrations email will still be working and answered. Children will be expected to complete home learning on the days they are not at school.
Children who are medically shielding or are in a household where a member of their family is shielding should not attend school and should complete home learning. This is because we cannot guarantee social distancing.
What will happen next?
Please be assured that we will not re-open for the specified year groups until we are 100% prepared and our plans are based on what we as a school community need and want. I anticipate (and hope!) that the guidance may be updated in the next few weeks to support a phased return, but until it is, we will endeavour to facilitate a safe return by interpreting the guidance ourselves to suit our school.
Bearing in mind the points above and the official guidance, I want you to know that we miss you and your children and do want to welcome them back to school as soon as it is safe to do so! We remain committed to helping our school community feel safe and secure as we move forwards; if you as parents decide that the situation in school is too concerning or unsettling, we would absolutely support you in the decision to keep your child/ren out of school. We will not fine for non-attendance or let it affect their attendance record. We would ask you to let us know that they will not be attending and ask that you carry on home learning with them. We will inform you in the future when normal attendance tracking resumes. This will ne following government guidance. This may be September but we are unsure about this at the moment. The Government will let us know when it is statutory to return to school.
If children attend school after half term we will be monitoring all children for symptoms. (This may include regular temperature checks) If any of these symptoms are seen at school we will have to send that child and their siblings home. We are being told that testing will be available for children, otherwise children and their families will have to self isolate for the 14 days. If there is positive result in testing then the whole group of children and staff will be sent home to self isolate for the 14 days.
If your child does return to school in June, we will ask you to send them in clean clothes every day. This should be the child’s own clothes (not uniform) suitable for school, outdoor learning and physical exercise. Children will not be asked to bring in PE kits or book bags as we wish to reduce items being bought in from home. We will let you know well in advance when this changes and uniform is expected.
Lunch arrangements are currently being discussed with ISS and we will inform you of these when we have our plans.
The speculation in the press and on social media will now be about how schools can open safely (or whether they should open at all before September), and it will intensify over the next three weeks. As always, at Pear Tree Mead, we take the view that we need to consider all of our actions and communications to parents and children carefully, before making decisions. These decisions will always first and foremost take into account the welfare, safety and well-being of staff, pupils and parents in our school. Once the school have made any decisions (following all government guidelines), we will let you know through our usual channels.
Just a heads up for all parents – school will be closed for all pupils (including keyworkers children) on the 1st June (planned inset day) as we will be preparing and deep cleaning ready for pupils to return on the 2nd June if we have decided that this is possible.
Based on this information we are asking you to let us know if you are planning on sending your child so that we can plan our numbers and staffing. Please complete the form on the school app by Tuesday 19th May 2020
Until then, please do not worry or compare us to other schools – we are unique and will make decisions which suit us as a school community. I know that all Harlow schools will have to plan differently. We will continue to keep contact with you and continue to support each other in these very difficult and uncertain times.
I understand that this is a difficult decision for you to make and we understand that all parents decisions will be different. Please don’t judge other parents decisions as we are have different home and family situations to consider.
Based on the above information please choose 1 of the following options. Please only complete if your child is in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 or Year 6.
We ask you to consider the following questions and respond via the app please complete one form for each child you have in these year groups. You may be making different decisions for each child.
- Full name of child?
- Which Year group is your child in?
- I will be sending my child back to school in June. Yes / No
- I understand that the plan will be sent out as soon as possible to explain the phased return. Yes / No
- I understand the measures that will be put in place to keep my child and the staff at PTM safe. Yes / No
In the meantime I ask that you stay safe and well and I look forward to updating you as soon as possible
Mrs Peden – Headteacher