Back to school letter

15th May 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Like many of you, we have been trying to work out what the changes outlined by the Prime Minister mean for us – for schools in particular. We cannot wait for our school to be filled again with happy children, enjoying learning and the company of their classmates. It is clear however, that we must go step by step and above all, ensure that we are keeping everyone safe. We have studied the guidance documents very carefully and would like to share our initial thinking on this, so you are aware of what it says.

Education and childcare settings are already open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children, who have no alternative. Children in these groups are now being encouraged to attend if they are not already doing so therefore numbers are likely to increase. We are told that all children must be in small groups of no more than 15.

Schools are being asked to prepare for children in the early years, F2, Y1 and Y6 to begin a return to school, no earlier than 1st June 2020. These children must also be in small groups, no more than 15.

All this gives schools on Wirral, and throughout the country, much to consider. Schools will be limited by how many groups of no more than 15 they can accommodate in suitable spaces in schools. For example, a typical Primary school with 7 classrooms plus a hall would only be able to accommodate 8 groups of no more than 15 – a maximum of 120 children; just over half the number of children usually in the school. As you can imagine for a school our size, with over 700 pupils, this is an extremely challenging requirement.

Schools will also be limited by the numbers of staff available. Staff who are shielding will not be able to return to school at this point and have been instructed that they must remain working at home. Some schools on Wirral will be greatly affected by this necessary measure, indeed we have several members of staff who will not be able to return to work.

As children must be in small groups, they may well not be with their own class teacher or all their friends or in their own classroom. The government guidance says that as far as possible, they will need to remain with the same group and the same adult while they are in school. Breaks must be taken in the same small groups, staggered so that the children do not mix in larger groups.  As a result, playtimes and lunchtimes will need to be different than usual.

Schools will need to carry out additional stringent cleaning everyday so that when children leave, the spaces and resources that they have used are thoroughly cleaned to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus. This is already happening daily but as numbers increase, there will be more areas and resources to clean. Additional time for cleaning will have to be factored into any arrangements that schools make for the return of more pupils.

We are instructed that all classroom items and resources that cannot be easily cleaned must be put away. Activities must be limited to things that can be cleaned regularly. In early years settings this may change the classroom environment the children are familiar with. For example, there would be no sand, water, playdough or dressing up clothes. We must avoid children sharing resources where we can and if they must share, we need to be able to clean equipment after each use.

So what does this mean for parents on Wirral?

  • Children of key workers and vulnerable children must continue to be accommodated first. Schools will then be able to see how many additional children they can care for dependent on spaces and staffing available.

This clearly may mean that not all children in the early years, F2, Y1 and Y6 may be able to attend at once. We are looking carefully at this, considering what provision we can safely offer. It will not be the same for all schools on Wirral – it cannot be as it will depend on the accommodation and staffing available in individual schools.

  • In order to be able to allow as many children in the designated year groups to attend school, schools may offer places on a part-time basis or for a certain number of sessions per week.
  • School will be different for children returning. The children need to understand that they may not be with their own teacher or in their own classroom as this may not be possible. Routines and systems will be unfamiliar and more formal than usual. They will however, be well cared for and welcomed by the adult who is working with them.

When the time comes for some children to return, our school and at all schools on Wirral, we will be doing everything we can to follow the guidance issued by the DfE to keep everyone safe and parents will need to help too:

  • You will be given staggered times to arrive at school and to collect children so that schools can try to safely manage this and ensure there is minimal adult contact – 2m distancing between adults must be maintained. Parents must not gather at the school gates when arriving or departing.
  • Only one adult can accompany children to school.
  • Children must wear clean clothes each day to school.
  • Families must continue to observe the current social distancing guidance out of school so must not be mixing with other households.

These are challenging times for us all. Many of you will be anxious to get back to work but many will be worried about sending children back to school. School staff understand and share those anxieties for their own children and families. Wirral schools will do everything they can to respond to the guidance given by the government but will also be ensuring that we do this safely. If you feel the time is not right for your children to return, that is your choice. There is no compulsory education at the moment, and parents will not be penalised in any way for choosing to keep their children at home for a little longer. If you feel the time is not right for your children to return, that is your choice. 

This initial thinking will develop over the next week or so. Further advice will be given from the Local Authority and the Department of Education and when we are able to share further information with you, we will do this. You will also be aware that professional associations and unions have many concerns and they will be working at local level and national level to resolve these. Until then, the date of June 1st is not confirmed but nevertheless, we wanted to share the key points in the guidance we have been given clearly so that you also have time to think about this.

We would love nothing better than to have everything back to normal and to welcome your children back with open arms, but we are all in unprecedented times. Welcoming your children back safely must be our priority and we know you would want this to be the case.

Stay safe,

Mrs R Littler, Headteacher & Mr A Grice, Chair of Governors