May 15th Headteacher Update
A great deal has changed in the last week. The lockdown has eased slightly and amongst other things we are now allowed to go outdoors to exercise as many times as we like, and have picnics in parks or on the beach. This is great for our mental health and wellbeing … and a huge relief for those of us without immediate access to a garden or any significant outdoor space. Late yesterday afternoon I enjoyed kicking a ball in the park with my son for the first time in many weeks … it was fantastic!
You will have also seen and heard in the news that schools may partially reopen in June. For us this only applies to our Year 10 students. The return to school will be gradual and is unlikely to be a full-time basis. Most importantly of all it will only happen when it we believe that it is safe to do so.
Since the Prime Ministers announcement stating the need to prepare for a small-scale partial re-opening, I have been receiving advice and guidance from the Department for Education (DfE), Teaching Unions and the Local Authority. I have also been liaising with colleague headteachers across the city and consulting with staff in school.
In making a decision about possible re-opening, there are wide range of factors that we need to consider. Any return to school for students has to be manged with extreme caution and care so that all protective measures can be put in place. The DfE has published a checklist that we are adapting to meet the specific needs of our school circumstances. We are carrying out risk assessments that draw on the advice of our local health and safety teams at the Local Authority. These are helping us to determine when and how we might reopen. A gradual and phased return to school is definitely the most sensible approach. This will allow us to adapt to the new ways of working that are inevitable if we are to re-open safely before a vaccine or effective treatments for Covid-19 have been identified.
Today, Teaching Unions have been meeting with the government’s scientific advisers to seek further reassurances that it is safe to open schools in England. This is so that both schools and parents can be absolutely clear about levels of safety. Whilst we await these reassurances we are creating a detailed action plan that we will share with you if the decision is made that it is safe for our school to reopen partially to students in Year 10 in the coming weeks. To give you an idea as to what precautions we will be taking these will include:
- Keeping pupils and staff with coronavirus symptoms at home
- Washing hands more than usual
- Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
- Ensuring good respiratory hygiene
- Limiting student numbers
- Strict social distancing
In the meantime, please may I assure you that we will only re-open the school when we are certain that risk is at a minimum. The safety of your children is paramount and we will proceed methodically and with extreme caution.
Please can I remind you that you can make an appointment to meet with me on Zoom at one of the ‘Virtual drop-in sessions’ (Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9:00-9:30am) by emailing EHolmes@patchamhigh.org.uk
Thank you for continuing to engage with the school.
Please take care!