Headteacher Updates

Head Teachers Letter 7th July 2020

Dear Parents and Carers

I hope that my letter finds you all well. As we are drawing to the close of the term I wanted to give you as much information as I can regarding September.

As you will know, there is gradual easing of lockdown restrictions for the country and the government have now issued their guidance that all children are to be back in school in September. The guidance is clear that we must continue to remain vigilant, maintain a system of control, minimise contact and maintain social distancing where we can but with the recognition that in schools this won't always be possible. The legislation makes it clear that it is MANDATORY for children to attend in September, so they have withdrawn the previous flexibilities around this.

The overarching principle of the guidance is to reduce the number of contacts between children and staff, but it has also said that it is acceptable for younger children and those with complex needs to not social distance from their peers as there is a recognition that this is not always possible. You will be very aware of the 'bubble' requirement in schools. The 'bubbles' can be much bigger from September and we have taken the decision to make the school one 'bubble'. This is still smaller than a year group 'bubble' in a mainstream secondary and it means that we can build resilience into our staffing to accommodate any absences whilst still ensuring safety and access to a broad and balanced curriculum for your child. We will continue to reduce interactions across school where we can and so there will be some changes - such as no assemblies and smaller dining groups (although no longer in classrooms).

We know of course that some of our children have been out of school since March and may be anxious about returning. We have identified some students who we feel need a gradual return and will be contacting you during the week to discuss a phased return as we feel that full days in the first weeks will be too much and we want the children to have a very successful reintegration back into school. Similarly, if that is something that you think will be beneficial to your child and we haven't identified that, then again the phone call this week is the time where we can discuss this. We are looking at this reintegration period being no longer than two weeks.

The guidance makes it clear that schools must prepare for local lock downs and this includes ensuring that we have a system in place for students to continue to receive education when they are at home. I wrote to you earlier with your child's Google classroom account details and this will be important in the coming months, as will access to the lessons on the website in the event of a local lock down, so please do try and engage with this when teachers contact you to check that it is working. As promised, teachers are working on personalised packs for each child and you will have these before we break for the summer holidays - I do hope that you find these helpful.

There are one or two changes for September which I just wanted to share with you - our Pathway models are changing to key stage models and the leaders in these areas have been redesigning the curriculum and assessment to make things even better for your child. Children who were in Pathway 1 will now be following our Ivy curriculum and this will continue to provide

support and education for our more sensory based learners. We will continue to provide highly differentiated learning for all of our children across school. For the first two weeks back in school all children will remain with their form tutor; this is to give everyone time to reconnect and for the children to have the opportunity to build relationships with others in their class. We know that this has been missing for many children and recognise the importance of this.

During the COVID-19 period we have been conducting annual reviews over the telephone or by Zoom. Your feedback on this has been very positive and I see no reason why we can't continue with this post COVID-19 for many parents who have to take time off work or travel a long distance for example. As always your wishes and feelings around this will shape the personalised offer for you, but for the first half term all our annual reviews will be taking place this way.

From next term only primary children and children following our Ivy curriculum will be going swimming although as yet we are not sure when the pool will re-open and again for the first half term there will be no swimming for anyone.

Reports will be coming out to you before the end of the term which will give you a brief summary of your child's progress and will let you know who your child's new teacher will be in September which I hope will be helpful information for you.

At the risk of repeating myself I just wanted to say another heartfelt thank you for the work you have been doing over the last few months. Thank you too for all the support that you have given and patience you have shown during what has been the strangest of times for everyone. You have done an amazing job.

School is beginning to feel much more like a school again, we have more children in the building each week but obviously within the boundaries of what is permissible at the moment.

We are excited about September, but we are neither complacent around the risk management nor oblivious to the anxiety that such a return may cause for you and your child. Rest assured, we will do all that we can to support and we will all continue to work together to try and restore the sense of security that your child previously felt in school.

In the meantime as always, any questions, please just ask.

Michelle Farr

Headteacher

The Forest School

Head teachers Letter 30th June 20

Dear Parent / Carer,

I write to set out the Trusts’ position on school re-opening.  Your Headteacher will write to you separately with the specific details and organisational arrangements.  I am delighted to say that we anticipate a full return to school during September.

It is important to remember that we remain in the period of COVID-19.  That will require some adjustments to be made in order to maintain safe environments.  It may, for instance, be that adjustments are made to the school day in order to more safely manage numbers at drop-off/ pick-up times.  A challenge for all schools nationally is how we provide teachers with their contracted non-contact time without risking super-spreading through cover arrangements.  Schools also have to plan for a more regular deep cleaning programme than was the case pre-COVID.  Similar to shops, restaurants and the rest – we can expect ‘Same, but not the same’ on the full return to school.

We have kept health, safety and welfare at the forefront of our thinking and planning throughout this period.  As things stand, a further spike in COVID-19 outbreaks remains a strong possibility.  Our arrangements are designed to be resilient to the challenge ahead.  We thank you for your trust, patience and understanding throughout these unprecedented times.  I am sure that we will all welcome a return to some level of certainty and normalisation in September.

With every best wish,

Mark Wilson

Chief Executive Officer

Wellspring Academy Trust

 

Head teachers Letter 16th June 20

Dear Parents and Carers

I thought it would be helpful for me to drop you a line to let you know how things are going here in school now that we are welcoming more children back.  Obviously we are doing this cautiously and gradually to ensure that at all times safety is preserved but also so that we can ensure that the children don't feel rushed in any way.

We had 15 additiotal children in this week and we will be taking a further 23 students next week - these are all part time places but it is lovely to know that we are getting to see some of the children again and helping them to adjust to being back in school.  The playground has become somewhere that children can freely play again (albeit in a much reduced capacity and with social distancing).

For those children who were with us last week, from our perspective was very successful and the children seemed to really enjoy being here too.  It’s very different for now; its quiet and we have to risk assess every situation very carefully but we are trying to keep things as fun for the children as we can whilst helping them to ensure that they maintain social distance.

I know some of you have been concerned about sending your child back to school and I totally respect this decision; these are very unusual times and I don't think that there are any right answers.

You will know from my previous correspondence that we are planning for various scenarios for September because of course at this point none of us really know how things will be by then.  Whilst ever there is social distancing in place we will not be able to offer full time places to children because the capacity of the building doesn't allow this and we have to keep safety as the principal factor for all our decision making.  You know that I will keep you informed of things as they progress but I thought it might be helpful for you to have this information at the back of your mind as ministers make additional changes moving forward to lock down restrictions.

In the next week or so when staff do their safe and well checks they will be gathering some additional information from you about work packs and on line learning as we want to make sure that we tailor the learning to support the children as much as we can.  We want to be able to see just how much work the children are engaging with and what else we might be able to offer.  We now have Google Classrooms which will support home delivery moving forward and we are in the process of familiarising ourselves with how this works.

I am very grateful for the continued support that you are offering and for your understanding about the complexities we are facing as a school in coordinating part time attendance and trying to develop more remote ways of working.

You continue to do an amazing job.  None of us have been prepared as parents to have so many things to juggle at the same time under such circumstances and your resolve in all of this is something that I am overwhelmed by.

With all my very best wishes.

Michelle Farr

Headteacher

The Forest School

 

Letter from Mark Wilson 11th June 20

Dear Parent/Carer

RE: Arrangements for the Expansion of Opening

The Secretary of State for Education this week reversed the government’s aim for all Primary-aged children to be back in school before the summer holidays and went on to say that the full opening of schools from September cannot be guaranteed.

I write on behalf of the Trust to keep you updated with our plans for expanding opening in schools. Our planning addresses the organisational and safety challenges associated with wider opening now and after the School Summer Holidays in September, assuming that Social Distancing measures remain government policy.  I write now to inform any longer-term arrangements that you may want/ need to make.  Were changes in Social Distancing Policy announced, our plans would be adapted accordingly and would be immediately communicated with you.

The Chief Medical Officer for England has stated that Social Distancing measures are likely needed until at least the end of this calendar year.  This will have significant impact on the number of children/young people in schools.  Quite simply, our schools do not have the space to accommodate everybody at the same time while Social Distancing measures are in place.  And, alas, the British weather is not reliable enough to plan for 50% of students to be outside at all times.

We are actively risk assessing the various options for wider opening, beyond those arrangements for the next few weeks that have already been communicated to you.  It is absolutely our aim to welcome as many of our children back as soon as we possibly and safely can.  Options under consideration at this time for September opening include:

  • Two or three days full provision for all weekly (Mon, Tues one week, Wed Thu, Fri the next, and vice versa)
  • One week on, one week off for all (half of each class to attend)

Provision for those children identified by the school and the children of Key Workers will remain as current.

Thank you for bearing with us, through these very difficult times.  Much uncertainty remains.  Rest assured, our schools are doing everything in their power to help the situation.  We will keep you informed of further developments as they happen.

Best Regards

Mark Wilson

Chief Executive Officer

 

Head teachers Letter 1st June 20

1st June 2020

Dear Parents and Carers

I wanted to write to you again today to further update you on our plans to admit more children into school.  As you know we are working to do this in a cautious planned phase and whilst social distancing rules are in place, we will only be able to offer part time places to children.

The part time nature will be – Monday/Tuesday for some children, Wednesday for some children, and Thursday/Friday for other children, with the timings of the school day being 9.30 a.m. until 2.30 p.m.

We will liaise with school transport for you so there is no need for you to do anything.  I do have to make you aware however, that because of the risk assessment around school transport and their need to maintain as much distance as possible on routes, it may not be possible for your child to be with the same driver and passenger transport assistant as before.  School transport have advised that they will aim to keep it the same where they can, but I thought it would be worth me letting you know this ahead of time.

We have devised our admissions into three phases and this is based on our risk assessment which is the requirement for special schools.  During this coming week parents will be contacted and you will be notified which phase of admission your child has been allocated to.

 

Phase 1 children will be offered their place from week commending 8th June.  We will continue to review and risk assess what this looks like moving forward and will notify you accordingly of when Phase 2 children can be admitted.  I know that you would like a date for this and we did have some tentative dates in mind, but because things are changing every day in terms of the guidance and the advice that is given, I am unable to confirm dates for Phase 2 (but can tell you that this is unlikely to be before 22nd June) and Phase 3 admissions (which are unlikely to be before 6th July).  I gave my commitment to you all at the beginning of this that I would do everything within my power to keep things safe for everyone.  We have to abide by the advice to move cautiously.

Once Phase 2 children have been admitted we will then look to admit Phase 3 children.

During this time and for the foreseeable future we will continue to update our on-line offer for children.

The role that parents and carers have played in this exceptional time cannot be underestimated; you have worked so hard and so supportively with us and I am incredibly grateful for this.  Our continued collaboration will remain as important in the coming months; still at this stage none of us know what things will look like in September.

There are a few things that I will need to just go through with you prior to children coming back to school; as you would expect all of these are linked to the safety of our children and of our staff.

  • If your child presents with COVID–19 symptoms they will need to stay home and self-isolate for at least 7 days.
  • If anyone in your household presents with COVID-19 symptoms, then your child will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • If your child displays symptoms of COVID-19 in school, then they will need to be removed to a quarantine area and you will need to collect your child as soon as possible.
  • Children are to be discouraged from bringing items in from home – that being said, I am aware that for many of our children use their own electronic devices on route which helps them to stay calm.  I am happy to support this and when in school the device will be stored in a sealed bag for them for the day.
  • I would ask that you apply a once a day sun cream to your child on a morning if it is a sunny day, as there will be greater use made of the outdoor space as recommended by the government; similarly please do send in hats for the children to wear when they are outdoors.  Obviously under usual circumstances we would apply this sun cream but given the restrictions around social distancing this will no longer be our default position.
  • I know that some of you usually drop your child at school, however I am really sorry but in the short term we will not be allowing parents or external visitors into school unless the circumstances are exceptional.  I would ask that when you are outside the school building that you maintain 2 metre social distance from other parents and where possible if you could limit this to just one parent then that would help minimise overcrowding at the school door.
  • Children will remain with their class group in their own ‘bubble’ for most of the time; this is to minimise circulation around school.
  • If someone in the class ‘bubble’ tests positive for COVID-19 then it will be necessary for all the class and staff to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards.
  • Children will need to wash their hands several times during the day – on entry into school, before and after mealtimes etc.
  • We will not be providing snacks for children at morning time so if your child would like one then please can you send something in from home.
  • Children will be eating lunch in their classrooms.
  • Please send your child in with a filled water bottle each day with their name on.

I realise that the above list may seem like a lot and may even make you feel a little worried; that is not my intention.  We have developed a very comprehensive risk assessment for school which is designed to try and mitigate against the potential risks posed.  Obviously nothing is 100% safe in life, I believe that we are doing all that we can, within the guidance that has been issued,  to try to mitigate against potential infection but as we know the virus is around us.  There is no compulsion for parents to send children to school at this time and I know that those of you who are choosing to recognise that we are all working together to try to welcome children back in the safest way that we can, whilst understanding that we cannot provide a totally risk free environment.

We recognise that our children will be returning to us very different to how they left us.  I want to reassure you that we are mindful of their potential anxieties about returning.  A great deal has been made about the need to reconnect with the children on their return and spend time acknowledging their fears and trauma and helping them to move forward with this.  We will be working with the children to help them with this and to give them time and space to re-establish friendships.

We know lots of things will be different for a while.  What will not be different is our care and commitment to the children and the families whom we serve and I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.

In the meantime, as always, if you have any questions, please just reach out to us.

Yours sincerely

Michelle Farr

Headteacher