Dear Parent /Carer,
Summer Term and Autumn Term 2020 - Update
Since the government announced the lockdown we have offered a supportive service to all families in school through phone calls, home working ideas, the support of the delivery of equipment and free school meal vouchers. Alongside this we have had in school the children of keyworkers. Throughout this entire period of time we have had a number of staff who have been shielding, are living with someone who is shielding, or they themselves have had children at home. On the announcement from the government that lockdown was easing we increased our offer to children who had initially been identified as keyworkers children but where the parents had chosen against taking up the offer.
At every stage we have risk assessed our offer weighing up the benefits of having more children in school against the very real risk of contributing to the spread of the virus both amongst children but also staff. These decisions have never been taken lightly. We as a school community want every child to be back in school as soon as possible but only when we feel that the risk to the individual of contracting the virus is less than the damaging effects of being in lockdown. We ask all teaching staff to liaise weekly with the parents of the children within their class. We ask teachers to log these discussions and to relay to the Senior leadership team any concerns or difficulties that parents and carers may be having so that this can be discussed as a senior leadership team. We have weekly meetings each week for 2/3 hours where we dynamically risk assess, discussing individuals and whether or not we can offer any greater outreach or support. In the vast majority of cases we have felt that despite the numerous challenges and difficulties that lockdown has presented that it is still safer for children to be at home. We have made some exceptions to this, but this is done on an individual basis, through multi-agency working and not as a school decision in isolation.
We understand that other special schools have made different decisions in relation to their further opening of school, however we looked in great detail at their risk assessments but felt that it was not viable to expect our students to understand and follow social distancing rules. We are also limited by having an old building with narrow corridors where the ability to social distance in shared spaces is forever compromised. Instead, we have created a fully risk assessed model where we have created small bubbles of staff and students with an acceptance that social distancing will not be expected within these bubbles. This has a massive impact on the number of students we can cater for but we felt this was the only way at present to ensure that we have limited the risk as much as we can of the virus spreading within school.
We could have chosen to open school more fully and have more students back but in doing so we felt that we would have increased the risk of the virus spreading amongst students and staff. This was not a risk we were prepared to take at this present time. We really appreciate how much these decisions impact on you and your families and how difficult this situation has been for you all but at every stage we are trying to make decisions that put the safety and well-being of our students and staff at the centre of our decision making. It has been a difficult balancing act where we are quite often making medical based decisions despite being an educational establishment.
We appreciate that for some of you, you will feel that the damage to your child’s social and emotional health will be far greater than the potential risk of the virus spreading in school. We have empathy with this viewpoint however we also need to consider the vulnerability of many of our learners and the fact that there is the potential for this virus to take lives. We are genuinely sorry if you feel that we have not always had the balance right in our decision making.
It has been a difficult time for everyone during the COVID-19 outbreak, and school has been a very different place in order to protect the children and staff that are needed to be in school. In the recent weeks more lockdown restrictions have been lifted, with the emphasis on trying to get back to “normal”, whatever normal might look like in the future. The government advises all schools to return in September, and all children to have access back to their school. We are very much hoping this will be the case, but further advice, local lockdown restrictions, and a rise the R number, may change those plans.
It is our intention to have all children and staff back in September. We will operate classes and staff in class groups to protect children and staff. Whilst we accept that social distancing between our students will not be feasible we will reduce the amount of social contact between groups by not having large gatherings in one given area. It is likely that dinner times and playtimes will be done in much smaller class groups and events like assemblies may take place virtually rather than in person. Similarly, we will adopt a similar approach for staff meetings. School will follow local and national guidelines in relation to any further potential lockdowns.
Please see the school website for any changes to National, Regional or local circumstances.
School intends to return in September on Tuesday the 1st September, - following the bank holiday on the Monday. We will not be having a PD day at the start of term as the sooner we get our children back the better.
For those families that qualify for Free School Meals, the government have announced that these will continue throughout the school summer holiday. You will continue to receive them as you do now – via email or delivered by post.
From September 2020 the cost for an EYFS and Primary school dinner will be increasing from £2.10 per day to £2.20, this is due to increasing supplier costs. The government funded Universal Infant Free School Meal scheme will still continue ensuring all school children up to Year 2 will still be entitled to a free meal.
Daily Cost - EYFS/Primary £2.20 Weekly Cost - EYFS/Primary £11.00
Secondary/FE £2.30 Weekly Cost - Secondary/FE £11.50
Payments for school dinners should be paid in advance by sending cash in a marked envelope stating your child's name, amount enclosed and sate sent. You can also pay be debit/credit card by using School Gateway.
It is with regret that in the current climate of the COVID-19 virus SNAP will not be running the summer play scheme during the summer holidays. You will appreciate the issues around protecting children and staff, as well as not having any external entertainers booked or allowing them on site as well.
Karen Robson and Paul Mclean.
I would like to thank you all for your support over the many years that we have worked together for our children, and particularly for your understanding over the last few months.
It has been a very strange time with no celebration events for our 9 Post 16 students leaving us this year. We are very sad that we have not had the opportunity to share their individual achievements and successes, and wish them a fond farewell as they move onto their next chapter.
For me personally it is very disappointing that my last memories are of a quiet, sometimes sad and unusual environment that we have had to create, to keep everyone safe. However, I have years and years of happy memories, and I will always remember the happy, thriving, busy and caring place that Kirkleatham was, and will be again.
I wish you all the very best, and hope you are all able to keep safe and secure through this difficult time. I suspect I will need to pop back, when appropriate, to see the children and say goodbye properly to them.
Kind regards, Karen