CEO Message: Reopening of Schools, 28th August 2020

Dear Parents and Carers

I hope that you are well and have found time to enjoy the summer. We appreciate it has been a time of challenge in many ways.

As you know all schools across the country will be fully open from the beginning of the school year. We very much welcome that. We are also pleased that the Government has made clear that all pupils are expected to attend. That is really important. They have missed far too much school and their future life chances depend on them receiving a good education. We are therefore very keen to get all of them back on track and into a positive routine of learning as soon as possible.

We are very conscious that for all our community there will be a degree of nervousness about returning to school and feeling safe. It will understandably take a little time for that confidence to return and we will do all we can to provide reassurance and support.

The first priority for every Beckfoot Trust school is always the safety of our young people and our staff. Our approach throughout this pandemic has been to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Government and Public Health England and not to invent our own rules.  You will have seen the detailed Risk Assessment for each of our schools on the school website. They are based on the ‘system of controls’ issued by Public Health England. Whilst acknowledging each of our school’s distinct contexts our aim has been to adopt the same broad approaches to keeping our community safe through this pandemic in every school.

I have set out below the common approaches to be adopted across the Trust from September. We call them our ‘minimum operating protocols’. All take their lead from the Public Health England ‘System of Controls’. Schools will shape their more specific guidance to you around these Trust protocols. That will especially apply to our special schools where the health care needs of our pupils are more complex.

  • All schools to have completed comprehensive risk assessments, that have been shared with staff and are on websites for parents and pupils to see. The Trades Unions have seen and approved them.
  • Every young person to remain in consistent bubbles.  These will vary in size due to the physical layout of each building, and the key stage that pupils are in.  For example, within our mainstream primary and special schools the pupils will be in single classes, bases or year groups.  Within our mainstream secondary settings the bubbles are based on whole year groups, to allow access to specialist teachers and rooms.  Staff move between classes in secondary schools as required.
  • Increased cleaning, handwashing and hygiene facilities and procedures in place across each school aligned to Public Health England guidance. Regular hand cleaning is essential.
  • Clear signage in place to shape movement around school to respect social distance and minimise corridor crowding. This will include one way systems wherever possible.
  • Classroom layout and seating arrangements adapted to minimise face to face contact.
  • Face coverings must be worn in our secondary schools in corridors and communal areas at least until local restrictions are lifted. They are not expected to be worn in classrooms but that option will exist. The guidance on face coverings to Primary and Special school leaders is to introduce measures they believe to be right in their specific circumstances. Whilst schools will keep a limited supply, it is the responsibility of the pupil and member of staff to have with them a face covering at all times.
  • The shape of the day has been adapted to minimise social contact across bubbles. This may include a staggered start and finish time or altered lunch and break arrangements.
  • Where necessary, schools will support School Transport companies to minimise the mixing of ‘bubbles’, for children to wear face coverings, and for all to sanitise before using buses.
  • Assemblies and large gatherings will not take place unless they meet Risk Assessment guidelines and adhere to social distancing protocols. This applies to both pupils and staff.
  • Public gatherings such as Open Evenings and Parents Evenings will not take place in school until further notice. They will be replaced with remote or virtual events.
  • Protocols will be in place to minimise visitors on site including contractors and parents.
  • Face to face staff and family meetings will be minimised and replaced with phone calls or online meetings where possible.
  • Some staff not involved in face to face work with pupils will work in offices on a rota, or work from home, in order to allow social distancing in office spaces and reduce contacts between staff. The movement of Trust colleagues between schools will be minimised to protect social bubbles.
  • There are clear procedures for managing staff or children that display symptoms whilst in school and sharing routes for families to access local testing options.
  • When pupils and staff return to school there will be a very thorough induction as to how we have organised our day to day activity to keep everyone safe.

The final point I wanted to make is less about arrangements for the return to school but about lessons learned whilst in lockdown. Lessons that will not be lost as we return to full opening. During lockdown we began to use digital technology more effectively to keep in contact with families and allow pupils to learn remotely at home. We have made a significant investment financially across the trust to increase the number of children with access to a digital device and is ongoing. No child left behind. Once we settle back into school life, school leaders will be talking to you in greater detail about their family involvement strategy and the use of IT to support learning outside the classroom.

To conclude, I hope the content of this letter gives you a degree of reassurance. We know it will take time for us all to get used to some of these protocols and we will learn more once the term starts. As with everything in life, the important thing to remember is that we are all in this together. We all have a collective moral responsibility to look after ourselves and one another.

I hope that the thorough process we have adopted allows us to re-establish the buzz and vibrancy that comes from having a school full of wonderful young people and fantastic staff. We can get through this together.

If you have concerns of any kind please contact us, contact details are on each of our websites.

Yours sincerely,
David Horn
CEO

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