Borrowdale School Newsletter

Borrowdale CE Primary School

Planned reopening of schools

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Dear Parents
I am writing to you following the Government’s recent announcement that signals the start of a phased return of children to schools. I just wanted to keep you in the loop about where we are in terms of planning for reopening.

You will be aware that things are changing rapidly. What is discussed today, may not be the same tomorrow. Huge amounts of documents, information and guidance from the government, local authority, teaching unions, the Diocese and many other organisations who support the work of the school are flooding my inbox. Some of which is helpful and some is very questionable and unclear. We will work through it all logically and carefully before jumping into action.
At the moment, the government’s intention is to open primary schools initially with reduced numbers to children from certain year groups from possibly as early as 1st June. But it is their ambition to bring in all primary year groups before the summer holidays. It is important to state from the outset that this plan is conditional. Schools are being asked to plan on this basis, ahead of confirmation that five government tests are met. The Prime Minister has declared that he will review the national situation at the end of May and there could be major changes to these proposals.
We are keeping the health and safety of OUR school community at the top of our list of priorities. So, while the government’s plan is for schools to begin to open on 1st June to children of key workers, some pupils who are defined as “vulnerable’ and pupils in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, this can only happen when we can meet the protective measures outlined by the Government for schools that need to be in place. With this in mind we have a huge number of questions which will need to be answered. We are currently in a RISK ASSESSMENT PHASE as directed by the Department for Education.
The first step in our plans to prepare for a phased return will be to determine our capacity to implement the protective measures outlined by the Government for schools. This process is being carried out by all schools both locally and nationally at this time. We are working very closely with other local schools, but the plans in individual schools may eventually differ slightly based upon local and individual circumstances.
In order to support this phase of our planning, it is essential at this stage that we are able to determine the level of demand for places. At this stage we would like to ask all parents to give us an initial indication whether they intend for their child to return when the phased return commences. Please email your preference and thoughts to by Tuesday 19th May (earlier if possible).
Responses will be used to help decide whether/ how a safe return will become possible, as we work closely with our health and safety advisors and the local authority to follow the government advice on reducing risk. 
I am convinced that the school will be a very different place when we re-open and feel that it is necessary to highlight this to you at this point.
However, we hope that the children invited back to school will feel very positive that life is beginning to return to normal once they see their teachers and friends again. We also hope that you as parents will trust us to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your children to the best of our ability and hopefully begin to rebuild your lives.
Although the Government ‘strongly advise’ that eligible children return to school, I will emphasise that at Borrowdale School there will be no expectation that parents should choose to send their children to school if you don’t wish to, at this moment. There will be no pressure from me or the governors to take up a school place if you do not feel confident to do so. No action will be taken if you decide to keep your children at home. It is important to stress that we understand that the decision whether or not you send your child back to school as part of the phased return is an extremely difficult one.
  I understand you may be wondering “what school might look like” and you may want to know this before coming to your decision. This presents a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation as so much will depend on how many children will return. But to give you an impression of the kind of measures that will be put in place and how they will impact the day-to-day working of the school, I have attached an appendix to this letter (below).
Although we will be operating a phased return to school, in our planning and risk assessments we need to prepare for the situation beyond the first two weeks, when the government expects all children to be invited back. This is why I ask all parents to let me know their initial thoughts on whether their child(ren) will return to school.
So, while the government plan is for schools to begin to open to children of key workers, some pupils who are defined as “vulnerable’ and pupils in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, our planning is being geared towards the eventual return of all children. We regret that an approach which allows pupils to attend on certain days on an ad-hoc basis may not be possible. This is because we need to prepare a plan that is stable, consistent and sustainable.
We are currently also in the process of working out which members of staff will be able to re-join the staff team in school, as we may have some staff who are shielding or unwell, or required to stay at home.
Once we have determined how many pupils we can expect and whether we have the capacity to implement the required staffing structure, a clearer picture will emerge. Staff will be able to start planning for the re-introduction of children to school, set new teaching groups, re-allocate classrooms, re-organise layouts and determine how we can provide the best education for the children in school and those who choose to continue learning remotely at home.
I am pleased to inform you that I have the support of a working group of governors that has been formed to help and advise me through the preparations of reopening the school. We are currently working together to complete the risk assessment, which is a very important and huge undertaking.
Once the risk assessment period is satisfactorily completed (and this is currently subject to change as further guidance and information is received), we will start to implement the protective measures outlined by the government.
Hopefully, by then we will know more about which children and staff will be returning and can start planning which staff the children will be working with and where they will be based for their learning. Further developments regarding transport, drop-off and pick up, lunch provision etc will hopefully also become clearer by then, as we will need to ensure that everyone maintains the 2m social distancing rules as far as is possible.
I am sorry that I am not able to give you as much clarity as I would like at this point, but we will keep you up to speed with our decisions as we move forward. I hope that you can see that this is a very complex process and understand that none of us has ever been involved in anything like it during our careers before, but we need to make sure we get things right.
We are all looking forward to seeing you back in school before too long, but in the meantime, please look after each other and get in touch if you need us for any support or help. The teachers have loved receiving messages on Dojo and hearing about what the children have been up to. On a personal note, thank you for trusting the school to do its best for your children.
Yours sincerely
Ralf Smits
Preparations to implement protective measures outlined by the Government.
The government recognises that, “unlike older children and adults, early years and primary age children cannot be expected to remain 2m apart from each other and staff”. Therefore, protective measures recommended by the government will not include social distancing as we have come to understand it. Instead schools should take into account the following hierarchy of measures:
  • Avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms
  • Frequent hand cleaning and good personal/ food hygiene practices
  • Regular cleaning of settings
  • Minimising contact and mixing
At Borrowdale School we are working hard to put into place rigorous control measures to best meet these requirements. Parents should be advised that the safety of children, families and staff remain our highest priority. We will always strive to reduce risk by adhering to the latest guidance and stringent safety practices however, we are unable to guarantee the complete elimination of risk.
Implications for school organisation as part of a phased return.
  • Pupils will work in groups of no more than 15 as recommended. Group sizes will be determined by taking into account the needs of the children and the size of the room in which they will work. Wherever possible children will consistently be taught by the same staff member in order to reduce ‘contact points’. This may mean that your child will not be placed with their current teacher or based in their current classroom.
  • Groups of children (and adults) must be kept separate from each other at all times including in lessons, breaks and mealtimes wherever possible.
  • In order to reduce ‘contact points’ the school timetable is likely to include staggered break times and meal times.
  • Classrooms will be redesigned in order to promote safe practice. With older children this will mean an allocated table and the removal of additional furniture from classrooms. We recognise that younger children cannot be expected to remain at a desk for lengthy periods of time and so this may be managed by reducing group sizes further.
  • Reduction in the number and nature of resources – particularly play-based resources for younger children – to enable regular cleaning; and the removal of other furniture and resources from classrooms.
  • Whilst most lessons will follow exactly the same format as per our daily home learning lessons, the school will place an emphasis on well-being and mental health.
  • Staff ratios in the Early Years will remain in place
  • Pupils in Nursery will not be able to attend more than one setting
  • All previously planned gatherings (Leavers’ Assembly, Sports Days, FoBS events) will not take place pending further guidance
  • As part of our risk assessment, it is possible that staff might follow the advice of their professional bodies and choose to wear PPE in order to manage the risk of transmissions – particularly when administering first aid or supporting intimate care
  • Stringent additional handwashing and cleaning will need to take place throughout the day to help manage the risk of infection.  All children will be expected to comply without exception
  • Nursery children may be allocated sessions and will not be permitted to attend an additional setting during this period.   
  • Children and staff who present with COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated prior to being sent home. All children and staff will be eligible for a test for COVID-19 if displaying symptoms.
We recognise the difficult decision placed on all families. We hope this letter does not cause you any additional fear or anxiety but  we feel that it is important to provide you with the latest information  on how we will implement protective measures to keep children, families and staff as safe as we possibly can, and to give you a sense of how the measures  will impact on the day to day running of the school. It should be remembered that the risk of contracting Covid 19 cannot be entirely eliminated and so it is for parents to come to their own decision based upon the information we have provided. 
I would like to thank all parents for their cooperation and support of the school during this challenging time.
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