Dear Parents and Carers,
As many of you will no doubt be aware the government issued further guidance last night. I know many of you will be feeling somewhat confused and anxious about what this will mean for our school and your child. As yet we do not have all the answers. Nevertheless, I thought it would be helpful to share what I do know and what our next steps will be.
First I would like to reiterate that the health and wellbeing, safety and happiness of our pupils and our whole community comes first and I will continue to work with the staff team to do everything I can to keep everyone as safe as I can.
Over the last two days the government added to their guidance ‘our plan to rebuild’ with ‘actions for education and childcare setting to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020’ and ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings’. These documents are for the nation and the school system as a whole and not specifically for special schools. We are expecting there to be some further detail shortly and hoping that some of it will be specifically for special settings!
What we do know is:
- Special schools have not been advised to open for specific year groups but to ‘work towards a phased return of more children…without a focus on specific year groups’. This is good news because we believe as far as possible our children are best served by returning to their usual classes and teams. The expectation is that special schools will ‘work towards welcoming back as many children and young people as can safely be catered for in their setting’.
- To ensure safety schools need to follow social distancing guidelines, reducing group sizes and contact. In a special setting we also need to ensure we do have enough staff in order to keep the children safe. This is a careful balancing act. We have arrangements in place already to stagger lunch and play, clean resources throughout the day and to teach the children how to socially distance and these systems have been working well. These will be added to as we receive more guidance and welcome more children back to school over the last half term of the year.
- The children of key workers and the most vulnerable within our setting will remain coming to school as others join.
- There is no expectation that staff or pupils will wear / use more protective personal equipment (PPE) than would usually be used unless someone becomes unwell with symptoms.
- Those children who are shielded remain so and there is no expectation they will return to school. Those children living in a household with a shielded adult are only advised to attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to that they understand. If this applies to you we will discuss this with you. Please do not worry about attendance fines and so forth the guidance states ‘Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time and school will not be held accountable for attendance levels’.
These are the overall principles for the next steps that I have to work with so far. Once we have more detail which I can apply to our setting, I will of course share it with you.
Our next steps
Over the next few days a member of the senior team will ring to talk to you about the particular circumstances of your family so that we can work together to find out what would be best for your child. Once we know this we will plan to move towards a phased return of more children through the summer term.
You will be very aware that our school serves over 150 families and each and every child here has their own specific needs. What is ideal for your child and your circumstances may not suit many others or may not be practical for the community as a whole. Once we have discussed with you what you think will work best to keep you child physically and emotionally healthy we will do the best we can for the school as a whole. This will be within the guidance from the government in regards to social distancing and employment guidance too.
Please do bear with us. At Palatine we have tried hard to provide a bespoke service to our families over this time and to do the very best we can for you all. This takes time and planning. I think it is important we talk to you all and work with you as we plan to move forward and you will appreciate this will take time.
Thank you for your ongoing support. The team spirit and community support our school has shared during this time has been fantastic and much appreciated! Thank you. We will contact you by telephone over the next few days and will then issue plans moving forward towards the end of next week or early in the week after.
With best wishes