As you know, the government has set out an aspirational goal of beginning to return children to school from 1st June. We have been working really hard to read all the guidance (15 documents in one week!) and to work out a plan that is right for the children, staff and community of Pontesbury CE Primary School. This is not an easy task and there are no easy solutions to the puzzle we are presented with.
We want to reassure you that the staff and governors are liaising closely and regularly to try and find a safe way forward. We know this is a very anxious time for many people; any wider opening of school will be done with the greatest consideration for your child’s physical health and mental well-being.
We wanted to share our thoughts with you:
- Any plans to widen the opening of school to more pupils is completely contingent on the national safety steps having been met. It is entirely possible that this will not be the case. Although every member of staff wants to be back in school working with their class (in person, rather than virtually), we are only prepared to do so when we know it is safe for your child, your family and for the staff. We will know this on 28th May pending the Government Briefing and all plans detailed below are based on these criteria having been met.
- Expanding the key worker care – the government has asked us to prioritise offering full time care to the children of key workers. With this in mind, we will be contacting all key worker parents and also the parents of children who could be considered vulnerable and inviting them to take up a full time school place from 1st June. Until this point we have followed the advice that it was safer for children to be at home if they could be at home; now that advice has changed and we will be encouraging children to come in if they fall into these groups. Please be reassured that there will be no penalty for parents who choose not to send their children back on 1st June. We recognise that this is a very difficult choice for many people. Please do not phone school if you are a key worker parent or the parent of a vulnerable child – we will contact you in the next 2 days.
- Opening school more widely – you will be aware that the government has asked us to consider bringing Y6, Y1 and YR children back into school. It is our hope and intention to invite more children back into school as soon as we can do so safely. If we have any capacity in staffing and any space in the school building after the expanded key worker children offer, we will begin by inviting Y6 children. Y6 will not be offered a full time place due the requirement to place children in ‘bubbles’ of no more than 10 children with a member of staff; each ‘bubble’ will have no contact at any time with any other ‘bubble’. We are hoping to be able to offer Y6 children the chance to come back into school, as soon as we are able to. It is likely that this will not be until after 8th June.
Thurs 21st & Fri 22nd – school will contact key worker parents and parents of vulnerable children (as defined by the DfE guidance) to find out who will be sending their child into school full-time from 1st June.
wb 25th May – confirmation of key worker children’s places will be sent to all parents who have indicated they wish their child to return on 1st June.
Thurs 28th May – government will announce whether or not their conditions for wider opening of schools have been met. If the conditions have not been met, Pontesbury Primary School will simply continue to provide the expanded key worker children with a place and will await further guidance from the government before considering the phased return of other year groups.
1st June – school will open to the wider key worker group
wb 1st June – governors and SLT will consider whether it is possible to invite Y6, YR and Y1 children in (if the latest government guidance indicates this is appropriate). Parents of children in these year groups will be contacted.
I will post more information explaining what operational and safety procedures will be in place for a 1st June return (for the wider key worker group) and these will be shared on the website in due course.
The plans we have outlined means we will be able to proceed as a school in a considered, managed and safe way as the term progresses. These plans are bespoke to Pontesbury Primary and every consideration has been given to requests from the Government to open for specific year groups. All Government guidelines, union advice and discussions from many hours of virtual meetings with all stakeholders and the Local Authority, have informed the decisions we are making.
Staff and Governors feel this is the right way forward for our school. We are though in uncharted waters with this situation. Whatever the Government decides on the 28th May about June 1st, please rest assured that ensuring the continuing safety of all staff and children will underpin every plan and decision we make.
The Local Authority will shortly be publishing a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) for parents. Once these are available, I will post a link on our website. Please though do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any thoughts, concerns or questions relating to anything discussed in this post.
As headteacher, I have never before been tasked with such challenges as we face today. I would therefore like to finish this post with a massive thank you to all my staff who are working so very hard as we navigate our way through the challenges set before us. Their vast efforts throughout the whole of this crisis, especially striving to maintain the best home, school learning environment possible, is testament to their dedication for our wonderful school. I have no doubt that every member of staff desperately wants normality to return and to welcome back all our fantastic children back but, until that moment, I thank them for all they are doing and I thank you, our parents, for all your continued support and trust.