There has been some careful thought and consideration today about guidance released from unions, statistics being released about the infection rates, plus further information of positive tests over the Christmas holidays. You will have no doubt seen in the news that the National Education Union has now advised its members that it is not safe for them to return to school tomorrow and that the government are failing in their duty to provide safe enough environments for the children and staff in schools. Alongside this, the current infection rates in Birmingham are very high and have risen sharply this weekend. In the light of all these considerations, the Chair of Governors and I have made a very difficult decision.
The decision is to close Harborne Primary School to all but key worker children and vulnerable children for the next two weeks. This decision has been made to enable school staff to use the time fruitfully to plan for the safe opening to key worker and vulnerable children from Wednesday 6th January, whilst keeping the school community at large safe during this very worrying surge of the second strain of coronavirus. This decision also removes some of the pressure from our members of staff who have to decide whether to follow their union guidance or not. This has not been a decision we have undertaken lightly, but it seems the best thing to do in the circumstances. We feel that opening to all 720 children on Tuesday would be potentially dangerous and could result in a sudden surge of cases in our wider community, endangering everyone. We do not want this to happen, and then we would have to close anyway. Our decision is to try to be proactive and prevent an unnecessary crisis in our school.
We are not alone in this decision in Harborne; it is disappointing, however, that heads have been left to make this decision as individuals rather than receiving more decisive advice and guidance from higher powers. They may still make this decision in the coming days, but we would rather do so now and give ourselves time to plan and prepare adequately, and remove the doubt and uncertainty that has been prevalent in all of our minds for the last few days. For this reason, school will remain closed to all pupils on Tuesday 5th January and will then open to accepted key worker and vulnerable children on Wednesday 6th January.
Needless to say, we have a huge amount of organisation to do before then. We will be sending each family a form to complete about critical key worker status. It is imperative that this is completed accurately and honestly, so we can organise our bubbles and arrange staffing for the bubbles. Until we have this vital information from parents we cannot make plans for Wednesday. Only children whose parents have completed the critical worker form, and are accepted, will be allowed into school on Wednesday. Vulnerable children will receive a separate letter inviting them to attend.
Any children with no form completed will be presumed as having no critical worker status and therefore will not be attending school for the next two weeks. Learning will be carried out remotely through Purple Mash - we feel we are much better prepared for this now than we were back in March 2020 when schools were first closed. If families cannot access the internet then please get in touch with the school as we may be able to help with that too.
Our current plan is to reopen to all pupils from Monday 18th January, but this will depend on where the infection rates are at that time and any further guidance released. We will, of course, keep you appraised of any changes to these plans.
I do hope parents can understand our reasons for making this decision, which we know will be a difficult and inconvenient one for many of you. It is our duty, however, not just to educate our children but to keep them safe and healthy too. Please look out for the form tomorrow and complete and return it to us on Monday if possible. Thank you.
Mrs Mandy Coles