Information regarding proposed school opening from Tuesday 1st September 2020
As you may be aware, the government has announced that primary schools will open fully, to all children, in September. We have been busy considering the directives and guidance issued by the Department for Education (DfE) with regards to how we, at Duke Street Primary School, will be operating in the autumn term, to enable children to return to school as safely as is possible.
Since the end of March, school attendance has not been compulsory and schools and parents across the country have made decisions based on their local situation. Each school and family has degrees of freedom over school opening and attendance.
We have taken advice from various sources and been able to draw up a recovery plan involving small numbers of children returning to work in school and larger numbers working at home.
We know that home learning has been a challenge for families and schools but we understood this was only a temporary situation and that schools would need to open much more widely at some point.
The government is now directing schools to open and making school attendance mandatory, from the start of the autumn term. The attitudes of people to the easing of the countrywide lockdown varies from person to person. Probably most people will be glad to resume some kind of normality, to see relatives and friends they have not been able to see for a while, to go to places which have, for several months, been shut down, and do activities which have not been possible during lockdown. Some people, however, will be anxious about mixing with new groups of people that they have felt safely isolated from. There will be anxiety and stress and some people will question how safe the easing of lockdown really is.
The simple fact is, life has always come with risks. The fact that this is a new disease, however, makes the answers less certain, as to the degree of risk associated with taking particular actions. At Duke Street, we are taking advice again, from a wide range of sources, in order to make the school environment as safe as we possibly can. This is all we have ever been able to do.
As I predicted in my previous letter, there is an expectation that children will return to schools in “bubbles”. (A bubble being a group of children who keep together as much as possible as an isolated group from other bubbles.) The government has decided that these bubbles should be class sized. They have given guidance about many aspects of health and safety including room layout. We await further advice regarding cleaning regimes from Public Health England, and we will act on this. Previous guidelines about social distancing between children has changed, although distancing between adults is expected.
There is not one single safe way to reduce the risk of infection. The task faced, as a country and as a school, is to put into place a variety of constraints to reduce that risk. Different people will have different opinions on what combination of measures is best. At a national level, this is well illustrated in differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with regard to how they have chosen different ways to control the virus and different ways to ease lockdown conditions.
On a school level, we will focus on appropriate cleaning measures, continued regular hand-washing, and the creation of “bubbles”. Staggered starts and ends to the school day will also be put in place, with children also accessing school through different entry points than previously. (More detail about this will be circulated shortly). There will be staggered breaktimes and dinnertimes. Lunches will be eaten in class. There will be no assemblies, other than through “Zoom.”
Sunshine Street will re-open, before and after school. Although there will not be an early Breakfast Club in the hall, we are looking to make alternative provision of food, to ensure no child will start the day hungry. There will be many changes, but we will still be Duke Street Primary School.
We are in the final stages of organising support staff to maximise the impact on children’s learning and their well-being. I am sure all children will be looking forward to being back in school, in their new classes, even though school life will be different from how it was in March.
Obviously, things can change and we have to be prepared to alter our plans again, should the need arise. The government has indicated that restrictions in the light of further outbreaks will be more locally imposed, rather than nationally, as witnessed in the case of Leicester.
As we approach the end of an extraordinary school year at Duke Street, we wish our Year 6 children all the best, as they prepare to start high school in the autumn term. We look forward in September to welcoming our new reception children to the school for the first time (a letter regarding phased starts will be sent to Reception parents next week).
On a staffing front, we are sad to be saying goodbye to Mrs Massey and Miss Durasova as teaching assistants, having clocked up 20 years and 10 years service to the school, respectively. We are also sad to be losing Miss Hett, who is starting a new business venture. We also wish a temporary farewell and a massive “Good Luck” to Miss Clitheroe, who starts her maternity leave over the summer.
As we announced before Christmas, I will be joined in September, by Mrs Ridley as
co-headteacher of the school, as I reduce my working commitment to 3 days a week. Miss Parkinson returns to full time working and will be deputy headteacher. Mr Reay will be assistant headteacher.
In the meantime, I wish you good health and positive well-being.
Duke Street Primary School