Dear Parents/ Carers,
Please be assured that our decisions on school routines are led by health and safety regulations and guidance. That has always been at the forefront of our decision making, and will continue to be so. People may have different opinions on what they think is the best system. The decisions we have taken all through the pandemic have been carefully considered.
Previously, we have had leeway over the extent of our opening. Now all schools are instructed to open in September. Each school has to decide what is best for their own children, within very prescriptive guidelines.
Schools are expected to operate staggered starts and finishes. How schools operate their own systems will depend on the size of the school and the layout of the building, including where entrances (temporary or permanent) are located. The start and finish times will be as outlined in my letter yesterday. There will be flexibility over older siblings leaving with their younger siblings, at their younger sibling’s exit point. If we feel that we can reduce the length of the staggered start, or finish, in the light of our experience at the start of term, we will do so. We will not be altering the times for the start of term, but we will review our procedures, as we have done throughout our limited opening since the end of March. If that means parents have to wait a little at the start of day or the end of it, so be it. Even in the rain, I believe it is not too much to ask, in order to reduce social distancing risks between parents. If parents feel it is unreasonable to put these measures into place, I respectfully, but firmly, disagree. I also understand the difficulties faced by working parents. Many of our staff are parents, whose children are attending schools with staggered starts. Changing childcare arrangements and/or negotiating working patterns with employers, is going to be commonplace across the country, for the time being.
Schools are instructed to operate class bubbles. Whilst I can understand the frustration of parents knowing that some mixing out of school is permissible, we have to follow these instructions, during the school day. Privately run before and after school care services are not required to follow the same guidelines as schools. You may feel that is an anomaly. I’m not the one making those directives.
In our risk assessment, we decided we could not have 350 children sharing the school hall, during the course of a lunch time, and followed government advice to keep children in their bubbles for this time. Smaller schools may be able to facilitate the necessary cleaning after every child has sat in a chair which is to be used by another child. We cannot do that. We are not allowed to serve hot meals in classrooms. But parents have a choice. If they don’t want their child to have a school lunch as described in my previous letter, they can bring in their own lunch. Janette does a great job in our school kitchen and we are lucky to have her.
These are extraordinary times and we are having to adapt to complex issues in a short space of time. The decisions taken throughout this period have had the full backing of the governors. All decisions will be taken with the best motives of the children at heart. We do not pretend to be perfect. Self-reflection is a good attribute. Overall, I am very pleased with how we have responded to the Covid-19 challenge and used our resources to support children and families.
With regard to electronic devices, I am simply pointing out how parents might want to support their child’s education moving forwards. How parents actually spend their money is a private matter. There have been a number of schemes to fund devices and I am grateful to our amazing outreach team in trying to secure some of this funding for the benefit of families who are really struggling financially. The school, unfortunately cannot fund it from our existing resources. Staff have been working and training throughout the pandemic, so there is no savings there. Our only savings are likely to be on reprographics and supply costs, but these savings are likely to be more than outweighed by extra cleaning costs, including during what normally would have been the Easter holiday when the school was open every weekday apart from Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Obviously, it is difficult in a letter or facebook message to explain the complex detail behind decision making but I am more than happy to discuss this with parents on the phone in September, and to hear their detailed plans as to how we can do things better.
In the meantime, stay positive and stay safe and refer to the gov.uk website for accurate advice on when self-isolation is necessary, rather than misleading comments on our facebook page. I look forward to seeing the happy smiles on all the children in September.
Duke Street Primary School