This has been a very difficult letter to write. However, I am aware that just as my staff and I are worried and have countless questions, you as parents have even more. I would therefore like to share our plans, so you at least know where our thoughts are. These plans could change if further guidance is suddenly released from either the Department for Education or the Local Authority.
We are in the midst of a great deal of conflicting advice and guidance. This is a summary of the current situation:
All of the above present a complicated situation, and one which needs careful planning for. I am very proud to say that the staff at HPS have already willingly engaged in meetings to discuss how we manage the re-opening, and are approaching the planning process with professionalism and an unprecedented commitment to keeping our children, their families and our colleagues safe and protected. This is what we do. This is Harborne Primary.
With the size of our classrooms, we cannot safely have whole classes in one room. We therefore aim to split each class in half, generally by alphabetical order. This will keep numbers down, but should also help siblings be in school on the same days. Children have been off school a long time and we feel a phased return will be most beneficial to them, taking small steps. This also leaves us capacity to offer some time in school for the other year groups later in the term, without having to change timetables, rooms and teaching staff. We have therefore planned for a rota system of attendance, as we feel this is best for our pupils, teachers and whole school community.
Each half of the class will be in school for two full days each week - the first half of the class on Monday and Tuesday, the second half on Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will give us time to deep clean rooms, equipment, corridors and other shared spaces before the next group come in. Teachers will do their PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) on Wednesday, years 2, 3, 4 and 5 teachers can do their phone calls home and continue to provide home learning online.
Each R, Y1 and Y6 class will have a teacher and a support member of staff present for both days. This will enable more effective pastoral support and help boost the learning. All staff who are able to work will be back in school working their normal hours - teams of staff will be based either at the annex or the main site. If the usual class teacher is not available to work, we will be putting in place a known member of staff for the class. All classes will be in their normal classrooms on their normal site (with the exception of key worker/vulnerable children - see later section).
All parents are being ‘strongly encouraged’ by the government to send their R, Y1 and Y6 pupils into school, in smaller groups and on a phased return - however, no parent will be penalised if they choose to keep their child at home. We realise that some parents may not be happy to send their children into school. We fully respect that choice. The work carried out in school will be shared through One Note, but there will be no further home learning provided for these three year groups.
Our first priority will be personal, social and health education, including emotional/mental health and well-being. Reconnecting with their teachers, friends and new routines will be of paramount importance.
Only then will we begin to look at where the children are in their learning and start plugging the gaps - the focus initially will be on reading, writing and maths, but there will be creative and fun activities too. We will not be attempting to deliver the full curriculum usually on offer at Harborne, but we will balance the days so the children do not get tired, overwhelmed or demotivated.
Furniture will be rearranged in classrooms to enable social distancing wherever possible. Where possible children will have their own equipment and not share with others. We will stagger drop off and collection times to reduce numbers in the playground, and ask families not to linger in the school grounds, maintaining 2m social distancing. We will stagger lunchtimes so children are not all in the dinner halls at once. For playtimes, R and Y1 will be outside at the same time (maximum 90 children at the main site, 30 at the annex) and Y6 will be outside together (maximum 45 children at main site). We will establish routines about moving around school and allocate toilets to specific year groups to minimise mixing of groups. Any assemblies will also be held in year groups to allow 2m distances.
It is important to be honest and open here: whilst we will do everything we can to encourage the children to social distance and wash their hands regularly, they are young children and so they will certainly touch each other, play with each other, share things and forget to keep their distance. We have to be realistic. We will of course do our best, but we cannot guarantee they will not come into contact with others, or where others have touched, during the school day. It is your job as parents to assess the risk for your children and make your own decisions about whether they will come into school.
Meals and things from home:
Our kitchens will be providing meals for all the children, as we want to limit what the children bring in from home. Y6 children will be charged through Parent Pay, unless eligible for FSM; R and Y1 children receive universal infant FSM. Children must bring in their water bottles; they may bring in their own hand sanitiser or soap, but nothing else. They must wear school jumpers/polo shirts but can wear jogging bottoms below so they can comfortably do PE without needing to change. No book bags.
Key Worker/Vulnerable Children:
Children in years 2, 3, 4 and 5 will continue as before at the annex, using the email address to inform us daily of attendance required. They will be separate from RDB and 1H.
For children in R, Y1 and Y6 their parents have a choice - as we cannot allow these children to be in two different groups, parents will need to decide whether it is more important for their children to be back with their class mates and teachers or whether they need them to be in school more regularly. Therefore the choice is:
Wrap Around Care:
We should have enough staff to open all of our before/after school clubs but only for children of key workers, as we have been doing. If children of key workers are remaining at the annex (whatever year group), they will still be able to attend the breakfast club at £6 per day and the after school club for £10 a day there. If children of key workers are attending school with their own class for two days a week, they will be able to attend breakfast club/after school club/108 club at the main site for the same price. Snacks will be provided.
Whilst we recognise that the two days a week will be difficult for parents to manage, this plan will allow us to welcome all other year groups back into school on 22nd June, as outlined in the government’s phased plan. We wanted to future-proof our plan and felt it vitally important that ALL of our children have some school experience before the summer break, even if only part time. Year groups 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be able to return on the same basis as R, 1 and 6 - half the class for Monday/Tuesday and the other half for Thursday/Friday. The only change is that staffing levels will not allow for every class to have a second member of staff to support. We will make the decision on where the support will be prioritised nearer the time.
Hopefully this letter has given you all a better idea of how we intend to manage our re-opening. The key thing is to open safely, not quickly. As I have tried to make clear, please be aware that sharing these draft plans with you this early may mean they have to change if guidance changes. My aim is to be clear and honest about our plans, and give enough warning for families to make their own plans about how to manage the proposed timetable. If you do send children into school, we respectfully ask that families are rigorous about practicing social distancing and other government guidelines at home too; and remember, DO NOT send any child in if they, or anyone at home, are displaying symptoms. Thank you.
What do you think?
We have created a Slido app for you to log any questions you may have, and I am certain there will be many. We will answer these as honestly as we can, via the website and the newsletter.
We have also created a survey for parents of R, Y1 and Y6 children to complete, to give us some idea of how many children are likely to come into school from 1st June:
Please use both of these facilities over the next week; please do not email enquiry – this will help us manage questions more easily and get answers to you efficiently. We are unable to answer each of you personally - we have a lot of work to do to be ready for 1st June!
I hope this has given you some clarity and some answers to your many questions. Thank you for your continued support and understanding throughout the lock down period, I hope we can all work together to ensure we come out of this safely, our relationships stronger than ever and, most importantly, our children happy - because we all know that Happy Pupils Succeed!
Miss Mandy Hughes
Harborne Primary School