13th May 2020
As a follow on from my letter to you all yesterday, I am writing to explain my thoughts over the past 24 hours. I am still awaiting further clarity. The announcement and guidance by the Government now puts an enormous pressure on schools, particularly infant schools, to have the safest possible measures in place for the return of our pupils. The guidance for schools states that some schools will have some ‘flexibility’ in which pupils they will reopen to depending on the circumstances. This is true for Pinewood too.
The guidance states that infant schools should continue to provide places for ‘priority groups’ (vulnerable pupils and children of key workers who have been accessing school during closures) and then to prioritise opening Nursery, Reception and Year 1. As I stated yesterday I am currently awaiting further guidance and advice on this and am extremely worried of the safety implications of this decision for our children, staff and families.
As I said this is a vast proportion of our school. With social distancing our classrooms can accommodate on average around 10-12 children. I think it is realistic to say that you cannot socially distance 3-6 year olds! With current restrictions in place we cannot see how we can accommodate all these year groups in school at any one time. A phased return at Pinewood would therefore probably consist of a limited number of days attendance per child/year group starting with those prioritised from the government. This is dependent on further guidance.With Nursery this could potentially mean only offering 1 day a week. For Reception and Year 1 this may be limited to 2 days a week. Alternatively only one of those year groups may be invited back at one time.
With the number of small groups we will need to offer, we could not guarantee that all children will be taught by their class teacher/TA or a known adult. Despite our very best endeavours, we are not going to be able to offer the same familiar environment that your child left. The education we offer will not, in the near future, resemble anything like ‘normal’ educational provision. There will be a restriction of resources and a concentration on hygiene measures.
I am sure, like us, many of you are struggling to understand how a safe return can be facilitated, especially with the youngest of children who simply cannot socially distance and who learn through engaging in play, not in rows of desks. We also all know that even with our guidance, hygiene levels of young children need a lot of shall we say ‘support’ from ourselves!
We need to start planning what Pinewood’s phased return would look like. With the restrictions placed upon as noted above, we kindly request that should you prefer not to send your child back to school on the 1st June that you let your class teacher know via Seesaw. We do not require a reason. Please get this to us ASAP but definitely by Friday 15th May so we can start to plan what we may be able to offer. We will not hold you to this if the situation changes and you change your mind. This is not a firm commitment from yourselves it would just aid us with the early stages of the planning process. The teacher will not make comment but will simply inform me so I can make plans.
There will be mixed reactions and emotions at the thought of sending your child back to school and this is perfectly understandable. I urge you to read the guidance that I sent in yesterday’s letter. If, as parents, you decide that the whole situation in school is too concerning, we would fully support your decision to keep your child/children out of school and will understand your position entirely. The guidance states that ‘parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time.’ In other words, you are not being forced to send your child back. Homeschooling will continue.
Please do not comment if your plan is to send your child back to school on the 1st June as we will take that as given if you do not contact us.
Currently we only require this information for our nursery, reception and Year 1 children. We will be seeking the views of our Year 2 parents at a later date.
We will be in touch over the days ahead with further clarity once received.
I await further guidance with anticipation and anxiety. I wanted to reassure you all that what happens in reality will ultimately be informed by the confidence of parents and staff in particular. I as Head Teacher and our governors retain the power to make decisions about what is safe in our school. We know our staff, children, parents and building environment and are therefore best placed to reach a view of what will be safe at Pinewood. If we judge that the guidance cannot be applied safely in this setting, then Pinewood may not be in a position to open further by 1st June. We will conduct strict risk assessments prior to any decisions made.
It’s a very unsettling time for us all, but we’ll keep you updated with all our preparations for making sure the school is as safe as possible, so you can make an informed decision. Obviously guidance could all change before the 1st June.
In the meantime, the school is still open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers. We know some employers will be encouraging you to return to work, but we’re not in a position right now to extend places to other children until we receive further government guidance.
We’d like to thank you for your continuous support in helping your child learn from home. This will need to continue for a while yet, so please do continue to do what you can and stay in touch with us about how your child is doing.
Again you know my email should you need to get in touch. Please rest assured we are doing all we can to support you all through difficult times and miss you all hugely. We hope you are all ok.
Keep safe and warmest wishes