Update form Mr Gallagher regarding school opening process
I can imagine many of you are feeling very unsettled at the moment regarding whether to send your child back to school. Despite a successful Lockdown where we have endeavored to support, engage and celebrate our community we again find ourselves at a new crossroads, an emotive and unsettling point in time where evidence is disputed and challenged every day, only adding to our uncertainty.
The government's plan is an ambition not a directive and there is a difference between planning for a return and implementing a return to work. We would only do the latter when all the evidence is trusted and ratified by governors.
I presented a proposal to senior leaders last week and shared the headlines with yourselves and staff on Friday. I stress the term 'proposal' and would like to emphasise that we are responding to government guidance and will always act in a phased and considered way. We must reopen schools at some point in the near future, therefore the first proposal was the start of that process.
It may be necessary to take a more gradual response than the government has indicated but the first draft does adhere to the government guidance and will be discussed with governors this evening, through 'Silverhill spectacles'.
Understandably, I have received numerous emails requesting further detail. It is not appropriate to respond to you all individually at the moment but please be reassured that we are rigorously considering the implementation of protective measures to create a safer environment. We, as school leaders, know the unique circumstances of our school best, e.g. school layout, staffing availability, class sizes and how to manage the number of key workers' children attending school in addition to the recommended year groups returning (R,1 & 6).
These are the approaches we are currently considering under government guidance:
- carrying out a risk assessment that directly addresses risks associated with coronavirus so that sensible measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for children, young people and staff
- carrying out a risk assessment to ascertain whether we can open in line with the governments recommended year groups
- making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus
- promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the catch it, bin it, kill it approach
- cleaning more frequently to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, table tops, play equipment and toys
- minimising contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms.
- making sensible decisions to the social distancing capabilities of the school inside and outside the building
- reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times
I've highlighted the word sensible; as throughout this process, we are risk assessing in line with the guidance. As I mentioned last week, schools cannot 100% guarantee that children will adhere to social distancing advice just like the vast majority of daily scenarios don't either. We will however create a culture of social distancing with rigorous hygiene procedures and only open with numbers of children considered to be able to phase in this culture and expectation.
We as school leaders, in consultation with our governing boards, will work within the parameters of government policy to make sensible decisions. The finer detail of these sensible decisions will be finalized during the last days of the month in response to the latest and most relevant guidance.
Our final decisions will be unique to the contextual factors of Silverhill and how we potentially could open safely. Only then would we be able to consider how and when more pupils might be able to return to our setting in the future. We are very much in 'phase one' - Can we open with full numbers of R,1, 6 and Key workers' children?
We must work within the parameters that the government have set in order to protect our school community and the decisions our school leadership will ultimately have to make.
It is vital that we all work together and remain supportive of each other during this difficult time. It is important that we, all, are mindful that this will be a stressful time for everyone and start any conversations from that basis.
We are still working on plans to consider what a future phased re-opening might look like for Silverhill's context, considering all the logistics and challenges this will involve. I understand that there will be an expectation from parents and governors for forward planning to assess whether it is reasonably practicable to expand provision once we finally open. All decisions will be phased and considered to ensure sensible decisions are made for everyone concerned.
We will adhere to the very latest guidance before 1st June. If, we consider that the latest risk assessment will not permit a sensible and measured approach to expanding pupil numbers within a culture of social distancing and hygiene, we will not open the school further than for the children of Key Workers, as we have done safely for the last eight weeks.
Thank you for your patience and understanding at such a challenging time for us all.