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FAQs Week Beginning Monday 11th May 2020
Please see below some questions that we have anticipated that we thought might be useful to share with you with regard to school reopening more widely. Thanks to staff in advance for supporting me in thinking of what you might want to know. We hope this helps you. We hope that by sharing some of our thinking to date it will help you to have similar conversations at home and also prepare those children who are likely to return.
Please note provision will remain as is at Codsall Middle School until Friday 22nd May and will return to St Nicholas on Monday 25th May. School remains closed to all but key workers and vulnerable children until Monday 8th June at the earliest (and this is subject to the board being satisfied that conditions are ready to do so)
Will the school be open to children of key workers through the 6 weeks holidays?
We have absolutely no idea at this time. Like parents we read the news where we have heard that there may be plans for this, however to date we have no information to suggest that this will be the case. If this is required, there is nothing to say that children would be looked after by St Nicholas staff who have worked throughout the crisis and will be entitled to holiday and family time also. Teachers will need some of their holiday time also to get ready for the new academic year. Therefore we are not factoring this into our planning for the wider opening on or after 8th June. If schools are asked/directed to be open over the 6 weeks holidays this will be an issue for the MAT Board to respond to and consider. It would most likely mean that bubbles would need to change if this was required.
What level of cleaning will be undertaken for children returning to school?
Over the next two weeks the MAT schools will be undertaking measures to render their schools as clean and sanitary as possible for children to return to school more widely. This may involve awarding contracts externally to professional cleaning fleets to use specialist equipment. In addition to this we will of course have our school cleaning team who work diligently daily to try and clean the school to the highest standard. Our risk assessment process is ensuring we know what level of cleaning is required at different stages (e.g in a suspected case) and that suitable chemicals are used that will be effective against the virus. I will advise you as to our heightened regime and arrangements once this has been agreed. As you will note from the plan that has been shared 21.05.2020 in the latest news section of the website teaching staff will all be deployed to clean and sanitise resources and classrooms within the school day also. Cleaning is a high priority for us as more and more adults and children come into contact with one another.
Will all staff return to school?
No. Some staff are too at risk to return to school. We will have enough staff to operate a provision for N, R, Y1 and key workers and support those learning at home to date though. This will become an issue however with a speculated wider opening after the two weeks. A survey that has taken in staff views and ideas to support plans for reopening has raised staff concerns about:
- their ability to stay away from children – it is against their instinct and they know they will struggle to follow this
- children’s emotional health within the measures outlined to date – they are worried about how children will understand the need to stay distanced from friends and staff and the message this might give to children
- transmitting the virus to vulnerable family members or their own children
- management of play times and lunchtimes
- how to engage the youngest children without all of the small world resources and hands on activities they typically enjoy.
The staff are desperate to see the children but want this to be a safe and positive experience for the children and likewise for them to feel in control and well briefed. On June 1st we will ensure that we address these issues to the best of our abilities as school leaders as part of our staff training day.
When my child returns to school, will they be taught by their usual teacher?
Some children may be with their teacher, but most will not. We will not have our full complement of Early Years staff in school as many will remain in self-shielding as per the government guidance. We will need to space children throughout the school and designate staff to lead and supervise in each room as appropriate. We will organise groupings, staffing and classrooms being as mindful as possible of individual children needs and friendships. However we cannot guarantee your child will be with their best friend or neighbour and so on. It may be that we group households within class groups in the case of siblings or multiple births to contain family groups. Any activities will be planned by the teacher, although groups will where possible need to remain with the same member of staff as a track and trace measure so that we can know which children and adults have been together in the event of a confirmed case of Covid-19 as many of our staff and some of our children may have vulnerable dependants.
Is it my choice if my child attends from June 1st onwards?
This is absolutely a matter of parental choice and a decision you can make based on the information available, knowledge of your own situation and circumstances. You will not be fined if you choose for your child to stay at home.
Will the St Nicholas INSET Day still stand on 1st June?
On Monday 1st June St Nicholas will be closed to all but pupils who are children of key workers. Staff will receive training from a team of leaders in small hubs to ensure everyone understands procedures and protocol. Also staff will be tasked with preparing classroom spaces and resources, supporting cleaning regimes and ensuring that school is as ready and secure to receive children back in school. The situation is alien to staff and outside of their realm of experience. We will need to re plan and test fire evacuation procedures, medical and first aid management, organise and timetable group playtimes and spaces and many other systems and processes. I want staff to be as comfortable as possible to manage your children as calmly and positively as possible as they understand what is expected of them.
I am worried that my child is vulnerable or that a family member is, should I send them back to school?
Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. A minority of children will fall into this category, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.
Children and young people who live in a household with someone who is should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and the child or young person is able to understand and follow those instructions.
How do staff feel about the situation?
Staff are naturally posing questions of school leaders as to how things will work safely for their pupils and for their own families. They want to do their best to support all of our families in whatever guise that is (with home learning or at school). We hope you feel that we have tried to do this. I am sure parents will pick up on my continual thanks and praise for my staff – this is genuine. Since the outbreak, yes teachers and staff may not have needed to be present in school every day, but they have been present online, planning lessons for the future, supporting families in need, trying to keep positive spirit going and offering to do much outside of their job descriptions, delivering things to households, making phone calls, working school holidays etc as required without question. My reason for sharing this is to share that staff too will naturally be cautious about the return to school, not because they don’t want to be back as normal, but because they want to get things right, keep plates spinning for those in school and those home learners, minimise distress for children and maximise safety at all costs. The teaching profession are a humble, can-do bunch in my experience and it is sad to read at times how teachers may be being portrayed as trying to stay away from work or “on holiday since the outbreak”, when I know my staff are eager to do all they can to help. Once again my thanks to St Nics staff!
Some parents may have seen the question posed on one of the teaching unions to Gavin Williamson MP where he stated that Teaching Unions should not be scaremongering teachers or parents. Please be clear that all times we want you to have the factual information we have available to us and that which is shared by government. This is not to scaremonger but to allow individual families to make their own decisions.
Can you guarantee that my child will be 2 metres away from others at all times and that social distancing will be enforced?
Honest answer, absolutely not. We will of course do our best to support distancing, but parents must understand that in returning to school there is a very real likelihood that children will touch adults and one another and come in to close contact. The nature of the school site and the age of our children is such that this is unavoidable and we cannot be expected to respond to complaints around this when it inevitably happens. We cannot alleviate risk and parents must understand what we are able to do and use this to inform their decision making.
We will however:
- Confine children to designated rooms and groupings for play to minimise opportunity for mixing and movement
- Confine resources to rooms to minimise sharing and when sharing is essential, clean resources before transference
- Organise lunchtimes and playtimes differently
- Clear corridor spaces as far as is practical to allow maximum width space for walking
- Be vigilant in identifying children with symptoms, isolate them and ask parents to collect them
If parents imagine that our school if consolidated in to one building, is the size of a medium sized supermarket (albeit not in a large continual open plan space). Then consider the number of people allowed in that space and how difficult it is to maintain distancing even with adults. Then apply this to the number of children and adults who could be in school at one time at St Nicholas.
Will children in school bring reading books home?
No at this time we do not want to send unnecessary items back and forth into homes potentially transferring the virus. We will continually re-evaluate this and resume when we feel this is appropriate, but for now parents can access the phonics and reading materials made available for home learning by Mrs Sollom.
Will my child have homework still?
Again no at this time we do not want to send unnecessary items back and forth into homes potentially transferring the virus. We will continually re-evaluate this, however I am sure parents will appreciate some transition time to go back to parent/child relationships without a battle over completing work as well at a weekend with lockdown measures still in place. Of course those who want to do activities at home can do so as they see fit, but we will not be setting spellings etc to be tested and big homework projects during this time.
Can Year 4 come to school as this is the last year at St Nicholas, like Year 6 can in primary schools?
As we operate within a three tier system, Mr Bowers (MAT CEO and Head Teacher at Codsall Middle School) and I were quick to contact Gavin Williamson and other bodies to raise this as an issue. To date we have had no response. However in our attempts to distance Reception, Year 1 and key worker children (who will be a sizeable group, the attendance of Year 4 as well would render group sizes large). Please see my crude modelling of this:
If 100% of our Nursery, YR, Y1 and Key worker children attend school = approx. 260 children divided by 13 spaces = 20 children per classroom
If 75% of our Nursery, YR, Y1 and Key worker children attend school = approx. 195 children divided by 13 spaces = 15 children per classroom
If 50% of our Nursery, YR, Y1 and Key worker children attend school = approx. 160 children divided by 13 spaces = 12 children per classroom
If 100% of our Nursery, YR, Y1, Y4 and Key worker children attend school = approx. 320 children divided by 13 spaces = 24 children per classroom
If 75% of our Nursery, YR, Y1 and Key worker children attend school = approx. 255 children divided by 13 spaces = 20 children per classroom
If 50% of our Nursery YR, Y1 and Key worker children attend school = approx. 190 children divided by 13 spaces = 15 children per classroom
Please note these models operate on the premise that we have the staff able to return to work to support the spreading of children around the school. Likewise if we have a lot of Y2-Y4 keyworker children in then it may be that we need to make the Nursery, YR and Y1 groups larger to manage the provision for them too. *As you can imagine until we know numbers of attending pupils it is difficult to know. As numbers will fluctuate and have potential to grow as the workforce returns to work we have to work on the basis that we have a workable provision for 100% of the children to ensure preparedness.
I’m a keyworker and my child has been in the childcare provision throughout. My child is in Nursery, YR or Y1 what will happen to them?
Keyworker children will all need to remain in the key worker group, unless they are able to attend solely for the hours offered to their year group group. If these children need breakfast club, after school club or full day care (e.g not staggered starts) then they will be placed in the keyworker group as has been the case since lockdown. They will work on home learning that has been set for all children.
I’m a keyworker and my child has been in the childcare provision throughout. My child is in Y2-4 what will happen to them?
They will not be part of the YR and Y1 group and will operate as a separate group/several groups. The key has to be maintaining the integrity of groupings as far as is possible as we cannot mix groups and staff as far as possible as one of our attempts at preventing spread.
How will you manage lunchtimes, when the dinner hall is very busy?
Having been in consultation with our catering providers we have agreed only to provide packed lunches to the children which will comprise of ham, cheese or jam sandwiches which can be ordered daily. Reception and KS1 and Pupil Premium/FSM children will receive these at no charge as normal. As usual Nursery and children in Years 3 and 4 will pay. These will not be eaten in the school hall en masse. We may use the hall for some groups, however, when the weather allows we will eat picnic style outdoors on the field and when it is wet, in classrooms (which will have been sanitised before use). I will arrange one member of staff to deliver lunches and have contact with the serving hatch again minimising risk of spread.
We are currently planning out different scenarios and evaluating risk and feasibility of each, it may be that we do not offer full days to children and that children do mornings or afternoons only daily. This is to ensure we can accommodate every pupil for whom there is a wish to return and space them safely. We also need to ensure that we have time to allow staff to have a comfort break (visit the WC) and some provision for a lunch break. The staff that are working with the children will need to be factored in to the in the day cleaning regime also and this will allow for this. There are many other considerations to be taken into account and we want to maximise your child’s safety as well as the practicalities for parents to be able to better engage in work. Key worker children will attend full time as has been the case previously we hope.
Will the school have assembly/acts of worship?
Little groups will have a reflection within their daily session, but there will be no mass gatherings or daily acts of worship as a school.
Will staff and children wear masks?
The following measures will be taken as directed by government to protect the children with masks deemed unnecessary:
“Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended. Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in some shops. This does not apply to schools or other education settings. Schools and other education or childcare settings should therefore not require staff, children and learners to wear face coverings”.
Approaches we are asking schools and other settings to take include:
- making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus
- promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the catch it, bin it, kill it approach
- cleaning more frequently to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys
- minimising contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms
- reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times DFE May 2020
Staff and children will not wear masks and these will only be worn when staff need to should a child need to be placed in isolation whilst awaiting parent collection in a well ventilated room.
Will previously diaried school events take place?
Most will not, as these tend to be times that bring the school community together as a large consolidated group. The priority has to be maximising safety of pupils, parents and staff.
Could the school consider a full time outdoor provision, e.g such as wedding style marquees on the school field as research shows that the virus is transmitted less in open air?
This is a lovely idea but impractical. We need access to hot water and soap and toilet and will not have the staffing or group arrangements to be conveying children back and forth in to the building to use the conveniences. Of course we will make the most of our outdoor space to give children maximum time outdoors.
Will my child need to wear school uniform?
As we appreciate some children will have outgrown uniform and shoes and parents may not have had chance to replace with shops being shut, as well as parents being under new financial pressures. We will allow those that have uniform and want their child to wear it to do so, but those who do not have uniform that fits well (particularly shoes) to wear their own clothes. If children are in their own clothes they should be suitable for school and the weather please. Parents must be mindful that they may become spoiled or stained if children are outdoors a lot or doing any arty activities. It may help children to be in school uniform to feel like life is getting back to "normal", but we appreciate that parents cannot get feet measured etc at the moment and may not have previously purchased Summer uniform. We would ask parents to send children to school in fresh clothing daily and would advise that children's clothes are removed and washed on entry to the home environment, as per medical advice.
Will breakfast club and after school club be open?
This provision will only be open to children within the key worker group. The DFE say we "should only run such provision if... able to keep children within the groups they are in during the day or safely distanced." DFE May 2020. This group of children will be able to arrive at 7.30am but must be collected at 4.30pm to allow for school to be cleaned.
Will we allow visitors and volunteers in to school?
No until the situation is deemed to be safe, we would prefer to minimise additional adults coming in and out of school. (Thank you to all those who have offered your help. Those who have offered and are doing placements, it may be that we contact you should supervision become an issue in the event of staffing difficulties).
Will extra-curricular clubs run (football club, dance club etc)?
No. These bring too many children into contact and mixes the school groupings.
Will the school office be open?
Yes but with skeleton staff. This is a very busy time of year with new admissions and leavers, please bear with us in the office and try to be as organised as possible. We will not be accepting late arrivals to school via the main front office and do not want parents to come into the school reception unless this has previously been agreed. Where possible I would ask that parents ring/email the school as opposed to presenting in person. Our school reception area is small and poses a risk to parents and children at busy times of the school.
Does Miss Parker decide if the school is safe to open?
Miss Parker is responsible for managing the safety of the school when open, assessing risks and responding to emerging issues throughout the day. (Much the same as in normal non-Covid-19 times) The decision to open and the assessment of its safety on the 1st June is not a local head teacher decision. If there were a need to close once re-open we would of course take PHE and Staffordshire advice as to the reasons to do so. We are working closely within government direction and trying our best to plan something that will minimise risk to the best of our abilities. We are not medically or scientifically certified and do not profess to be. We are charged with following the government’s directives and serving the community as safely as we can.
To give parents an idea as to the issues that I am currently working through as shared by government last night please see here. Please scroll down to the key actions section.
Will curriculum and assessments resume as normal?
We will do what we feel is right for the children as we manage a fluid situation and respond to our dynamic risk assessments. With a changed school structure and time table and new demands on staff (think of the excessive cleaning regime that will be required within a day), normal service is highly unlikely. We have agreed that children who do attend school childcare will work on the same tasks that the home learning community do (as has been the case to date for key worker children). This is the only way we foresee that we can fairly manage the many different groups we need to support.
We will support the children through their reintegration to school and social life and try and restore some new normality and routine for them. Of course we will educate the children and ensure they are stimulated and learning, but with all of the safeguards that we will need to try and implement this will need to take a different approach. Our curriculum will need to be responsive to this time and modified accordingly.
I think it is fair to say that assessing children formally at this time is completely unreasonable both for the children and the staff. We will baseline all children in September again and start afresh. For now your child’s happiness, wellbeing and care is our priority. Please see here for the DFE guidance about this.
Will you continue to provide online home learning activities?
We will continue to set home learning activities, during term-time, so that that all children have access to provision to support their learning. These will be what the children in school are working on anyway. With school reopening to a greater number parents will need to be mindful that teaching staff will not be as responsive to parent emails during the time children are within school and indeed will need to shut off out of hours.
It may be that we establish a small remote learning team to deal with queries and provide support to those that remain at home who can be on call throughout the day as required. When we have a better idea as to number of pupils and staff in school versus at home, we can put things in place. In the initial stage all home learning enquiries will need to be directed to Miss Parker (although depending upon staffing she may be needed in class too).
My child is due to start Nursery or Reception, how and when will they start their induction?
It is highly likely that induction will begin in September as opposed to June/July in previous years. We are planning on starting some induction activities online, such as staff introducing themselves to children. You will receive information about any plans for induction, when necessary.
My Y4 child is due to start Middle School, how and when will they start their induction?
Individual schools will follow their own plans and we will release your children to attend anything you and they think is imperative to support them. We have already begun virtual communications about children, their strengths, needs and personalities so as to enable as smooth a transition as possible. We will await resources from specialist agencies to support any children who will be particularly vulnerable at this time and pass them on as needed.
We work very closely with our middle schools and are updating them with all of the necessary information that they need about your child. For those moving on to Codsall Middle School, please look on their website under ‘News/Events’ and then ‘Transition Information for New Parents 2020’ and you can download and view an induction presentation from the KS2 Achievement Leader (Mrs Deas).
Will my child be expected to share resources, such as pens and pencils?
Where possible, children will be given their own equipment, which they must not share with anyone else. They must not bring any equipment in from home. Any resources that are shared (e.g school laptop) will be thoroughly disinfected after use. However, as you can imagine this is no mean feat. We will need to utilise some of our staffing to being continually cleaning classrooms, tables, chairs, books, door handles, toilets, equipment etc to ensure that the school environment is as sanitary and hygienic as possible.
I do not want my child to attend, even though school is open and they are well with no symptoms, will I be penalised if I do not send them into school?
The government “strongly encourage children and young people in the eligible year groups and priority groups (such as children of critical workers) to attend, as requested by their school or college, unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence (such as shielding due to health conditions). Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time. DFE May 2020
We have sent a survey out to parents (thanks to all who have responded). This provision is proposed to last for two weeks, until the time that the government are planning for the full school community (apart from the shielded and vulnerable to return). We completely respect individual parent decisions on this and understand the complexity of the situation with so many things to weigh up. You and your child will be welcomed back unconditionally (from afar) whether that be in June, July or September. We want you and your child to be happy with whatever decision you make.
Will children be confined to the same classroom environment most of the day?
Scientific evidence shows that the outdoor environment is much more manageable in terms of virus transmission. With the nicer weather coming (and already here!), we will be moving towards more of an outdoor learning approach, where possible. However outside of this we will keep children where possible within one set classroom for the day.
My child has Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (D), how will you continue to ensure they are effectively supported?
As with any child at St Nicholas, we are committed to ensuring every child can achieve their very best and will continue to do so. However, our number one priority, at this time is your child’s safety and wellbeing and that of others. Where your child had individual or small group support before the lockdown, social distancing and balancing the deployment of staff may mean that any 1:1 or small group provision is unworkable.
We will support children with D in whatever way we possibly can, whilst being mindful of the safety and well-being of our staff and children. Teachers will liaise with your child’s next class teacher/school for the next academic year, and discuss each child’s next steps and how they can best be supported.
Parents throughout the school need to respect and understand that children with SEN may find the return to school overwhelming and need a lot of input and support to understand social distancing parameters. We cannot blame children who do not understand the situation (which if we are honest is almost all of our children) and need to be understanding of the difficulties for these children.
How will arrival and dismissal work to ensure we are all distanced?
We are doing our best to understand how this can work best and will advise in due course. However for now the government have stated that only 1 parent should bring a child to school. We would ask that where possible this is the same adult and that siblings do not come along too (although I know for some this will be unavoidable).
"Changes to drop off and pick up routines will be required. You should tell parents when they can drop off their children and that this should happen at the school gate. * This is something we think we won't need to do given that we have so many site entrances and the fact that we propose to offer staggered start and end times.
You should determine a queuing system and a process for staff to greet each child, ensure they wash their hands immediately on arrival, and then go straight to their classroom.
Schools should inform parents that this is to reduce the number of people on the school site in the interest of infection control. If it is customary for parents to gather in the playground or to enter the buildings to drop off or collect children this should no longer be allowed, and neither should any gathering at the school gates to talk to other parents." DFE May 2020
My child is in Nursery will they still have the same key worker?
Unfortunately the key worker system will not be in force during this time. Pupil /staff ratios for Nursery remain and this poses us an additional spacing difficulty with Nursery ratios being 1:13 for children with a teacher and 1:8 with anyone who is not a teacher. This means that we may need larger groups with 2 staff in one room or small groups with 1 member of staff but this will use up more rooms, making other groupings larger. This is why we are exploring part time attendance etc. It is highly unlikely that full time Nursery sessions will be on offer to anyone other than children of keyworkers. However this may be subject to change if we can offer it.