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Monday 4th January 2020
As promised, we are writing to you with an update on the current situation regarding school opening this term. We apologise for the timing of this email, but we have been working hard all day to try and find a solution. We have been in several online meetings with representatives of the Local Authority seeking advice and getting updates from the DfE.
On 30th December 2020, the Government announced its revised plans for the reopening of schools in the Spring Term 2021 and I am sure that I do not need to highlight the considerable media coverage regarding the opening of all primary schools this week. The Department for Education is unclear as to the rationale for some Local Authorities' schools to remain closed whilst others remain open. It has now become abundantly clear that there is continuing uncertainty over whether schools can remain open safely.
Myself, Mrs Butcher and Mrs Hopper met with the Director of Children's Services and other headteachers remotely today and were advised that Public Health England and the Department for Education are still looking into the science as to whether the risk of children transmitting the virus has increased. What the science does tell us is that the new variant can be transmitted more easily and Primary aged children can carry the virus.
We have been advised by the Local Authority to take tomorrow, Tuesday 5th January, as an emergency INSET Day to consolidate our remote learning provision.
Following the acceleration of the infection rate and considering the limited knowledge around the new variant of the coronavirus, in the last 48 hours, several unions representing staff across all sectors of education have been advising staff to refrain from teaching full classes as normal and to focus on remote learning. They have advised that they should only attend school to support the learning of children of critical workers and vulnerable children. They have based this advice on the new variant that is highly infectious and the fact that infection rates have increased considerably since schools closed at Christmas.
Having completed our Risk Assessment of the situation, the decision we have taken is linked to staff safety and not about staff not wanting children to return to school. We cannot offer the correct levels of supervision to allow all children to safely return to school. Therefore from Wednesday 6th January all learning will be online via our school website apart from for those children who are considered vulnerable and those children of critical workers and those with an Education Health and Care Plan. Please see the link below for the definition of vulnerable and critical workers:
All children will be taught by their own class teacher to enable us to continue the separate bubble system. By reducing the numbers of children attending, we can adhere to the suggested restrictions enabling staff to work safely. For you to qualify for a critical worker place, at least one parent/carer must be a critical worker AND both parents/carers must be working during school hours and therefore not able to facilitate home learning. Obviously, if you are a critical worker in a single parent family, your child will be eligible for a place.
Class teachers will be in touch tomorrow with further details about remote learning provision for your children.
This is not the start of term that any of us had hoped for; however, we remain committed to our legal duties to protect the health, safety and welfare of our school community and if there are any updates from the Department of Education that changes the position at Woodlands Park Primary School, we will contact you as a matter of urgency.
We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause some families and sympathise with the stress this may put on you. We will be here via phone and email to support you all in any way we can.
Alison Penny, Jo Butcher and Laura Hopper