2nd November 2023
Dear Parents and Carers,
I have written early this week as I thought it might be helpful to explain our rationale in closing the school at times in the light this week’s amber warning. You will be very aware that sometimes we need to make judgement calls about whether or not school is safe to open.
This can be because of extremely bad weather. In these instances, we take advice from the Met Office and WSCC guidance.
- Red warnings would usually mean we would close (for winds, flooding or snow, for example). The advice from West Sussex is that red warnings for extreme heat would allow schools to open because you can keep the children inside. Within a special school, however, we would need to consider if the classrooms are too hot for some pupils whose medical conditions get worse in heat.
- Yellow warnings would usually mean we could open.
- Amber warnings are trickier because the warning does not indicate extreme danger. However, neither can they be ignored, as they warn of quite a high degree of risk.
When we left yesterday, it felt safe to open. This morning at the time the local special schools made their decision (which we do so collectively), it did not appear to be so. This is not an exact science because the weather can change and forecasts can be wrong. We try our very best to make the right call in the circumstances we are faced with at the time.
When we make our decisions, you and the transport teams must also make yours and if you feel conditions are such that it is not safe to travel from where you live or safe for your child to travel on a bus then please do feel that you can make this judgement call even if we have decided to open. We recognise our community travels in from a wide area where weather conditions can be different and you must decide what is right for your child on the evidence you have. We all have to make the decision we think is best with the evidence we have at the time. We can support one another in this by understanding how challenging it is. I thank you for your support with this today.
We may also have to close classes because of staff absence. In this circumstance, we need to be sure we have enough staff with the right specific skills and / or a strong enough relationship with children to keep a specific group safe. This consideration is not the same for each class. In general, children with more complex needs rely more heavily on specific adults. Younger children and those with more complex needs rely more heavily on having staff they know well. Sometimes the sheer number of staff off means we do not have the capacity to open all classes as each move we make to support a class that is short staffed has a knock on impact on another class. Again, we do not take these decisions lightly. I know a number of you have been impacted by this in the last few days and again I thank you for your support.
Sometimes the notice we can give you is very short and I know this is both frustrating and difficult for you. This happens when we do not have all the information we need soon enough or when a plan falls through at the last minute. We try our best to avoid this. Please do have back up plans in place, as this will help you should you be impacted.
We are a wonderful team at Palatine and because we work together as a community this helps us to get through these challenges well. Thank you!
At Palatine, we aim to prepare our children for a future in a world which is shaped by technology. The online world provides many opportunities; however, it also presents risks and challenges. Being online can be positive for children, including those with additional needs. So much of our communication now happens online, either by messages, in a game or through a video call, however, we all play an important role in helping children have positive experiences online. Working in partnership with children and their parents and carers is essential in promoting children’s welfare and in helping children stay safe online. According to the latest research from Ofcom, nearly half of all 3–4-year-olds have their own tablet (Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2022). Attached is the November Online Safety Newsletter with updates to keep children safe online.
Best attendance for the week leading up to half term:
Explorers Hub – Peacock class 100% and Polar Bears class 100%
Investigators Hub – Gecko class and Panda class
Engineers Hub – Sloth class
The children have settled back into the routines of school really well after the half term break and despite the weather. One of our early years classes transitioned well to Forest school for the first time and explored the different autumn objects as well as splashing in the puddles with beaming smiles on their faces. A number of pupils have made progress with their eating this week, trying new foods, for example, or encouraging their friends to eat or coping well with their feeds. One pupil has done a wee on the toilet! Two pupils sang whole tunes for their classes and another happily banged on the drum during phonics. Two pupils learnt the months of the year song and ordered the months whilst another spelt all the months of the year using his sounds. Other pupils have been transitioning really well and one pupil went to forest school and stayed for the whole session. There has been a development in pupils being able to listen and in following instructions and one pupil worked independently for 3 minutes. Another pupil has been playing really well with friends. One pupil said the names of their classmates for the first time. A number of our older pupils have been exploring electricity and thinking about what is powered by electricity. Wow!
The sign of the week is read!
Very best wishes,