On the 23rd March our school changed beyond recognition and we have been open only for children of key workers and very vulnerable children.
We have all been in lock-down as the country faced the threat of Covid 19. Nine weeks later the situation is beginning to change. Last week the Prime Minister outlined the process for gradually lifting the lock down restrictions.
The government have asked us to plan to gradually increase the numbers of pupils in the school from June 1st. This is conditional on the five tests set by the government being met. The important indicators are that the NHS is coping with the demands placed on it, that the rate of infections has decreased and the death rate too, that there is an adequate supply of tests and PPE and there is no risk of a second ‘peak’. We will find out next week from the government whether these tests have been met and it is safe to continue with our plans.
The unions and professional bodies are working with government to support schools to ensure that we are given clear guidance and information about how our schools are to operate safely in this new world that we are entering. There continues to be much debate about this across the country. We know that many of you are worried about the risks of returning your children to school. We share those concerns and everyone at the school – staff and governors - have been looking at ways to make the school environment as safe as is possible given the challenges we face as a special school.
We are now sharing with you our risk assessment. It describes how we envisage the school operating and the ways in which we will keep staff and pupils as safe as possible. The assessment and the measures it contains follows as closely as possible government guidance issued in preparation for June 1st, as well as reflecting the detailed information provided to schools by the government since the lock down began. We are taking advantage of the flexibilities that special schools have been given in planning for a gradual increase in numbers.
Essentially the school day will look quite different to the one we left a few months ago. It will involve the following key measures to minimise the risks to the health of pupils and staff, and maximise their wellbeing:
- Small groups of pupils and staff (‘bubbles’) of about four children
- These bubbles staying together for the day and not mixing with other bubbles
- Within the bubbles as much social distancing as is possible will be encouraged
- We cannot ensure social distancing within the bubbles due to the special educational needs of our pupils
- Staggered entry and exit times to minimize wider contacts
- Staggered break-times and lunch times with some bubbles eating in their rooms
- Regular hand washing, hand sanitising and a daily temperature check
- Modified curriculum with a focus on wellbeing and key skills
- Focus on hand washing, hygiene and social distancing
- Enhanced cleaning regime for the school
Personal protective equipment (PPE) will continue to be available for all primary care, for the supervision of any pupil presenting with Covid 19 symptoms awaiting collection from school and for situations where a child may spit. The wider use and wearing of PPE is not recommended by the government guidance.
We know that you will share our concern for the wellbeing of your children who have spent so long now away from the school. The home-learning offer has been there to help to fill the gap but it does not compensate for the face-to-face experience in the classroom.
In extending our numbers we are following the guidance for special schools which asks us to make further risk assessments of the children and to determine which of them are to be prioritised. We have broadly interpreted that to be the younger children who have had less time in school and those children who will have a significant transition this year. In line with other special schools in Kent these places will be on a part-time basis. We will review how these plans go and then look to increase the numbers of children who will get a school experience before the beginning of the summer break.
I fully understand that many of you will choose at this time not to send your child back to school were they to be invited. If you were to make that decision the home-learning support would continue. We would continue to be in contact with you and be able to respond were you to change your minds.
We will be in contact with you again with further details about these plans if your child is to be offered a place. We will also contact you when the government makes its decision about whether it is safe to continue with our plans.
We look forward to continuing to work with you to plan and execute the careful and gradual reopening of our school community.
Daniel Lewis Nigel Wootton
Headteacher Chair of Governors
COVID-19 Risk Assessments