22nd May 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I thank the many of you who have sent kind and encouraging words into school over the last week. We do so appreciate your support and team spirit through all of this.

We have now spoken to the vast majority of you to explore your ideal scenarios moving forward. If you were not able to answer our calls please do get in touch as we would like to have talked to you all. We have also received lots of further guidance from local and national government as to the steps we need to take over the coming weeks.

All schools are to continue to work under the following guidance:

  • Key worker children and those who are most vulnerable within our community need to be provided with school places and we at Palatine have done this from the start and will continue to prioritise these pupils moving forward. A number of keyworkers now need access to their school spaces where they didn’t previously which will increase our numbers further.
  • Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (‘shielded’) should remain at home. It is important that families in these circumstances do follow this medical advice to keep their children safe.
  • Where family members are clinically extremely vulnerable (‘shielded’) children are not expected to attend school unless stringent social distancing can be maintained. This is not possible to guarantee in a special school context where all our pupils are learning to follow rules and routines. For example, we can implement a one way system around the school corridors, teach the children to walk in the right direction and put signage around the site to help them see this visually but we cannot guarantee that all children who need to access our setting will be able to do this all of the time.
  • Those who are clinically vulnerable have been advised to follow medical advice and we would advise all families to do so.

The government recognise that children in specialist settings are not all able to follow the guidelines and have stated ‘it is imperative that’ we ‘conduct a risk assessment. This should include limiting the number of children in each group’ whilst phasing more children back in over the summer term.

Over the last two weeks we have completed this work in the following ways:

  • we have talked to you about your individual family circumstances to ensure we gain a full understanding of who is in most need of school spaces and who is safer to remain at home;
  • we have also risk assessed our staff team further to ascertain staffing needs and whether we have further availability moving forward;
  • we have risk assessed routines, systems, space and staffing numbers as a whole to determine the safe level of pupils we can accommodate moving forward.

 

Next week we will be contacting you individually either by letter, phone or text to explain what this will mean for you. We will also be able to share some of our plans moving forward.

 

Next week is half term so some staff members will be on their holiday week. Teaching staff who will be available are:

 

  • Janetta Gill
  • Emma Crockett
  • Katie Purkis
  • Sophie Milner-Smith (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)
  • Alice Luxford
  • Sarah Daneshi
  • Renisha Smythe

We know you have all been enjoying the social medical content which we put up regularl through each day. This week because it is mental health week and the theme is kindness we thought we would treat you! We hope your children (and yourselves, of course) enjoy the Palatine staff’s version of ‘Count on Me!’

I wish everyone a happy Bank Holiday weekend and those whose children will be at home an enjoyable half term week.

With best wishes

Catriona

 

12th May 2020

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

Catriona

 

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