Happy New Year and many best wishes for health and happiness in 2021.
You will all be aware of the ongoing news stories in the media regarding the reopening of schools alongside the increasing numbers of COVID cases and the heightened transmissibility of the new COVID variant – particularly its largely unknown affect on younger age groups.
The government’s confused communications to school leaders regarding a return to school for the start of the spring term are causing significant concern and worry for all teachers and school support staff. Recent u-turns on policy from the Department of Education have further exacerbated anxiety among parents and local school communities regarding school reopening and the setting of a clear long-term strategy on schools reopening in a safe and controlled learning environment.
Throughout this crisis, I have been clear that children should be in school – it is the best place for their emotional, mental health and well-being and is the best place for them to learn and be educated. However, alongside the seriousness of the current situation and a significant rise in COVID case numbers, a return to school has to be done with regards to public health considerations focused on the safety of children, families, staff and the wider community at school.
Last term, achieving 15 weeks of uninterrupted schooling – with no enforced closures of bubbles – was a great success and clearly reflected the commitment of everyone at school to maintaining continuity of education for the children at Stanley Crook. The support and efforts of parents/ carers for the new safety measures introduced at school was greatly appreciated – as is the ongoing support which I know school will receive from parents/ carers moving forward into the Spring term.
The rapidly changing situation does require additional and clearer guidance from the government and the DfE to all school leaders on ways in which schools can continue delivering educational provision in a safe learning environment, including guidance on necessary changes to risk assessments and updates on keeping staff and children safe in response to the increased risk presented by rising case numbers and increased transmissibility of the new variant.
Ensuring the safety of children, staff and families is the number one priority for any headteacher. School leaders continue to seek reassurances from government and the DfE on the scientific evidence currently being used to direct policy with regards school closures and schools reopening in different Tier 4 areas of the country, as well as the differentiation in risk between primary and secondary schools.
As the situation currently stands, school will reopen to all children on Monday 4th January. Enhancements to current school risk assessments have been made, which focus on further minimising contacts between Team bubbles, reducing contact between staff teams and redoubling efforts on ‘hands, face, space’ around school. Every effort will be made to minimise disruption to the education of the children and school will continue to endeavour to operate as ‘normally’ as possible so that the children do not notice much of the changes in school operations – very much in the same spirit as the Autumn term was planned and delivered.
Further announcements are expected later today and into tomorrow and I will post updates to ClassDojo tomorrow with final arrangements before any potential return on Monday.
In the meantime, I hope that you can all continue to stay safe and well and I look forward to seeing everyone soon.