Dear Parents and Carers

Thank you for your continuing support in these difficult times. It is now over 100 days since the first Covid 19 patient in this country and we are in week eight of the lock-down. Much has changed and we have endeavored to maintain contact with you and your children. The feedback you are providing about the home-learning programmes the teachers have put in place for your children has been very useful and we hope to continue to develop this service.

The Prime Minister said on Sunday night that schools could open ‘at the earliest’ on June 1st for certain year groups (the youngest and the oldest) in the primary phase. He said that there was ‘an ambition’ for secondary aged pupils beginning their exam years to get some time in school before the summer holidays. He made no mention of how these plans might relate to special schools and your children. He also made clear that these were provisional plans and were dependent on the coronavirus epidemic being under control and a number of measures relating to social distancing, testing and tracing and personal protective equipment being in place.

We have been provided with some more details yesterday which means that for special schools we have been asked to plan a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups and informed by new and existing risk assessments. We will prioritise those pupils who are having key transitions and for whom the impact on their life chances and development is the greatest. We will consider creating part-time attendance rotas so that as many children as safely as is possible can benefit before the summer break.

You will be aware that from the beginning of the lockdown we have been open for a small number of children who are extremely vulnerable or who have key workers as parents. This will continue. This experience has underlined for us the challenge of keeping children and staff safe whilst on the school site. The social distancing guidelines are very difficult to keep to given the special needs of the pupils at St. Nicholas. We also have the issue that a number of our staff are needing to shield, isolate or live in households with people who are shielding. Much as we would want to begin to get back to normal and open school to wider numbers of pupils I am very concerned about the risks that this presents. There are a number of safety protocols that we will need to develop and have securely in place before this expansion could take place.

These are risks to both the children and the staff given the expectation that we are able to maintain social distancing in the school environment and also ensure that it is a welcoming and positive place to learn in. Our school operates on consistent and predictable daily structures including staffing and these will not be securely in place due to the ongoing virus control measures. When we consider all of the factors in moving towards extending school opening we can see what a challenge it truly is.  I can assure you that the governors and myself are carefully considering these factors and ultimately we hold the responsibility of determining whether it is safe to open to a wider group of pupils were the government to say that this is what was to happen. I will continue now to keep you up to date on our planning, our risk assessments and our judgements in the light of the government guidance and the national picture.

Stay safe and best wishes