Weekly Bulletin: Friday 22nd May 2020
Messages for children at home
Have a look at this photo – what can you see?
Can you see a nesting box? Can you see a bird?
This is the nesting box in my garden, which is home to a family of blue tits every year. Do you remember the assembly when I showed you this nesting box and the nest inside? This was right at the start of the year, when I was telling you what I want our school to be: safe, happy and successful.
Right now, this nesting box is a safe home to this year’s blue tits. Mum and Dad blue tits have been busy. A few weeks ago, we could see them flying backwards and forwards with nest building materials (moss, twigs, feathers, even cat fur). Now they are busy collecting food for their baby chicks. The chicks are so big that you can see them through the hole in the nesting box and they are very noisy!
If our school is like a birds’ nest….. it’s been a funny old year for nest building this year! We have seen many changes and have had to do things very differently. I know that you will have got used to the changes so far. There might be further changes after half-term, if the school is able to re-open for more children. If you do come back into school, remember that it’s still a safe place (like a birds’ nest) and even if everything is different, it’s still your school, where you belong.
Have a lovely half term break everyone.
This term has flown by! Well done to each and every one of you for continuing your learning as best you can at home – as a well-known supermarket says: Every Little Helps! I know your teachers have really enjoyed keeping in touch with you via Tapestry or Purple Mash so please keep this up next term. Rest and relax over the holidays, have fun, but most importantly – stay safe.
Headteacher’s message for parents/carers
We are now ready to share our plans for the wider re-opening of Tunbury Primary School.
When are we re-opening?
Our first priority is to keep our children, families and staff as safe as possible, so the decision to re-open has not been taken lightly. Following a comprehensive risk assessment and planning process which began after the government’s first announcement, our Governing Body has now agreed that our school can re-open in a phased manner. The first phase of re-opening will depend on timescales set by central government.
At Tunbury, Monday 1st June is an INSET day, so the earliest possible date for our wider re-opening will be Tuesday 2nd June. However, this is not yet confirmed – we will email again over half term to confirm actual re-opening dates once we know for sure.
In order to re-open safely, our approach is phased. This means that on the first day of re-opening (possibly Tuesday 2nd June), we will welcome Year R children back into school. On the third day of re-opening (possibly Thursday 4th June), we will welcome Year 1 children back into school. Then on the first day of the second week of re-opening (possibly Monday 8th June), if we have the capacity to do so, we will welcome Year 6 children back into school.
Our children of key workers and vulnerable children will continue to attend from Tuesday 2nd June, after the INSET day, regardless of any other decisions made on wider re-opening.
Why are the start dates phased?
The DfE has asked primary schools to prioritise Year R and Year 1 children’s attendance over Year 6 children, and to plan for a school place for all children who are eligible to attend. We have a limited capacity in school, both in terms of our staffing numbers and the classroom spaces available to us. In terms of staffing, we have a number of members of staff who cannot return to work, either for their own health reasons, health vulnerabilities in their households or lack of childcare, especially for pre-school age children. In terms of classroom spaces, only 9 of our 21 classrooms are large enough to accommodate 15 children, based on KCC guidance. While we have asked our parents about the likelihood of returning children to school in June, the large number of ‘undecided’ responses makes it difficult to plan for how many children will actually return to school. By staggering the start dates for our different year groups, we are able to accommodate all the children in Year R and Year 1 who wish to return in the first phase and set up the teaching groups and classrooms for these children. Following this, if we do have capacity to do so, we will extend our re-opening to our Year 6 children. If all the ‘yes’ responses and around half the ‘undecideds’ in Year R and Year 1 return, we should have enough capacity for Year 6 children, both in terms of number of staff and number of classroom spaces.
Will children attend full-time?
Our children of key workers and vulnerable children will continue to attend school full-time.
Our returning children from Year R, Year 1 and Year 6 will attend school for 4.5 days per week, with a shorter day on each Friday. This is to allow our teachers who are returning to work full-time their allocated 10% non-contact PPA time. Normally, PPA time for teachers is covered by our sports coaches, but we now need to avoid mixing between different teaching groups and keep the number of staff working with any group as consistent as possible. For this reason, teachers will take their PPA time on a Friday afternoon, when the school day will end at lunchtime. The actual times of the end of the day will be staggered, depending on which teaching groups children are in.
How do the bubbles work?
The key concept on which school re-opening is based is totally separate teaching groups or bubbles, made up of up to 15 children who do not mix with any other children at any point during the school day. Each teaching group has their own entry/exit route and times, a separate breaktime and lunchtime, their own allocated toilets and sinks (with the exception of Year 6, where limited toilet facilities means that groups will share) and consistent teachers and teaching assistants. The experience of being in an isolated small group will be new to our children, but we will help them to adapt to these changes.
Each teaching group will be led by a Tunbury teacher, but this may not be your child’s usual class teacher and the classroom may not be their usual classroom. This may be because your child’s class teacher cannot return to work yet, or because uneven numbers of children returning from each class mean that children are re-grouped into new groups.
Will social distancing be maintained? Is there any other protection for children?
Our aim is to maintain social distancing as far as possible, for example by spreading out children’s workstations in each class and reducing movements around the classroom and school. However, DfE guidance states: ‘we know that, unlike older children and adults, early years and primary age children cannot be expected to remain 2 metres apart from each other and staff.’ Therefore, there will be times during the school day when children are in closer proximity to each other and adults, but this closer contact is confined to the limited number of people within each teaching group.
Children will continue to wash their hands regularly and in-school cleaning schedules will be increased throughout the day.
Sharing of classroom resources will be limited, even within each teaching group. For example, the use of each ipads and laptop will be for one child only, children will be allocated an individual set of pens/pencils for their use only and other resources which are shared may be disinfected at the end of each school day. This approach has a particularly significant effect on our Reception classrooms, where resources that are harder to clean (eg soft, wooden, malleable items) have now been removed.
Children will not be able to bring items to and from home and school as normal. Although they can bring their own packed lunch, they will not be bringing reading books or contact books.
Climbing equipment on the playgrounds will be out of bounds, as wooden surfaces are also difficult to clean effectively. Children will not have any shared playtime equipment such as footballs. Staff will support children with finding appropriate games and activities to play at breaktimes and lunchtimes.
It is vitally important that no-one enters or approaches the school site with symptoms of Covid-19. If any staff, children or other family members do become ill, NHS advice on self-isolation and testing must be followed.
Entry and exit into school
In order to keep our teaching groups separate, we have arranged a new system for entry and exit into the school site. Each teaching group will be allocated a start and finish time: either 8.30-8.40 plus 3.00-3.10, 8.40-8.50 plus 3.10-3.20 or 8.50-9.00 plus 3.20-3.30. Parents/carers will not enter the school playgrounds at all. Year R children will enter by the back gate, Year 1 children will enter by the front gate and Year 6 children and key workers will enter by the side gate. Siblings will enter at the same times, using the gate for the youngest child in the family group. More detailed instructions are as follows:
Back gate – Year R
- Parents/carers do not enter the school site, but wait in socially distant family groups (with only 1 parent per family group), starting at the back gate, in a queue marked by cones at the gate in 2m intervals, with the queue moving along the path down into the park.
- A member of staff is on duty at the gate to support children and families.
- Children leave their parents/carers, enter the site and walk independently to the Reception gate where a member of staff known to them is waiting. They then enter the classrooms via the external doors.
- Teachers remain in the classroom at drop-off. At collection, they bring their teaching group onto the playground and wait there (maintaining distancing) until each child’s parent comes to the gate for collection.
Front gate – Year 1
- Parents/carers do enter the school site at the front gate (but with only 1 parent per family group) and walk down the drive and round through the lower car park, then wait in socially distant family groups, starting at the marked area in the lower car park with cones at 2m intervals, with the queue moving through the lower car park and along the drive. (Car parking within the lower car park will not be in use).
- A member of staff is on duty in the lower car park to support children and families.
- Children leave their parents/carer and walk around the school building, into the lower playground and into their classrooms via the external doors, in sight of a member of staff at all times.
- Teachers remain in the classroom at drop-off. At collection, they bring their teaching group to the lower car park and wait there (maintaining distancing) until each child’s parent comes for collection.
Side gate – Year 6 and key workers
- Parents/carers do not enter the school site, but wait in socially distant family groups (with only 1 parent per family group), starting at the cones at the vehicle gate at the side entrance, with two queues moving around the pavements outside school.
- Two groups may be entering and dismissing simultaneously at this gate (Year 6 group plus one key worker group) but this should be easier for us to manage with older children.
- The vehicle gate is opened, with an orange fence separating this width into two halves for children from the two groups.
- Children enter the site and Year 6 children walk independently down the steps and straight into their classrooms via the external doors, Key worker children in Y2-5 walk independently along the path to the external door at the end of the Y6 corridor and then into their classrooms via an internal one-way route within school, all in sight of a member of staff.
- Teachers remain in the classroom at drop-off. At collection, they bring their teaching group onto the drive through area and wait there (maintaining distancing) until each child’s parent comes to the gate for collection.
When do I need to tell the school that my child will be returning?
We are expecting the government announcement on school re-opening to come on Thursday 28th May (although they do like to surprise us sometimes!) and in this case, we would email you on Friday 29th May to confirm our re-opening dates. At the same time, we would open an online form for parents of Year R and Year 1 children to tell us that you wish your children to return. This form would close at 11.00am on the day before each year group’s return date. At this point, teachers would work together to group the children returning into the new teaching groups and let you know what these were.
If you do not wish to return your child to school in the first week of re-opening, but later change your mind, we would ask you to wait until the following week to register your child for a return. In this way, we would prevent regular changes to the new teaching groups by creating a new transition point into school at the start of every new week in the summer term. If waiting for the next week causes you a significant problem, for example because you are returning to work, please contact us and we will try to work with you to accommodate your child at shorter notice.
Children of key workers and vulnerable children who have already been attending school can continue to attend as normal, either part time (linked to parents’ work) or full time. If you are a key worker and you wish to return your child to school for the very first time, please phone or email the school office to let us know that your child will be returning. We can accommodate key worker children at any point, but to help us ensure that we have enough space for each child, we ask you to let us know first.
Will staff be wearing PPE?
Staff will wear PPE, which will be provided by the school, in two distinct high-risk situations. These are firstly, administering first aid where this is required and secondly, supervising children who have symptoms of Covid-19 until they are collected by their parents/carers.
Additionally, some members of staff may choose to wear their own PPE in other situations or at other times of the school day.
What happens if someone becomes ill with Covid-19?
We are advised to seek advice from PHE (Public Health England) whenever a child or staff member in school exhibits symptoms. If a child or staff member tests positive for Covid-19, then the then the entire teaching group will be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days. It is also possible that PHE would recommend other measures as well, but we would always be guided by their advice.
Is the school office open?
The school office is open, but only via email or phone. Apart from Year 1 parents/carers coming in via the front gate, we ask parents/carers not to enter the school site at all, unless in exceptional circumstances. If you do approach the school office in person, a member of staff will speak to you via the intercom button outside the main doors, rather than opening the doors to allow you into school.
School lunches and school uniform
The school kitchen will be back in operation on the first day of any wider re-opening, but serving cold picnic lunches only. These lunches will be brought to children in their classrooms to eat there or outside in a designated space. All children in Year R, 1 and key workers/vulnerable children in Year 2 will be eligible for the universal free school meals as usual.
Children will wear school uniform as usual, although we will understand if some items have been grown out of during the lockdown period. If Year 6 do return, they can wear their leavers’ hoodies as part of school uniform.
Does my child have to come back to school?
Attendance at school at this time is not compulsory and we respect the wide range of different views held by different families.
Additionally, our current government guidance is that children who are ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ (shielded) should not come into school. Also, children with a shielded family member in their household should not come into school. If children have a level of health vulnerability lower than this, then their attendance at school depends on medical advice.
How can I prepare my child for a return to school?
Please be reassured that our key worker and vulnerable children, who have been in school throughout lockdown, have been really adaptable to the changes in school. Thanks to the support of parents/carers and staff, they have been able to understand why and how things are changing around them. To support our new returners to school, we are intending to make a short video for each year group, explaining entry/exit routines and how their school experience will be different. We are working on videos for Reception and our key workers/vulnerable children today, and these should be published on the ‘news’ section of our school website later on. Videos for Year 1 and Year 6 will follow after half-term.
Is it safe?
Since the start of lockdown, Tunbury staff and children have been working together in school every day. While we can never fully eliminate risk, it is now as safe as possible and the new approaches make it safer than it has been in our earlier days of dealing with the coronavirus threat.
Other provision: May half-term
For our key worker parents in need of childcare during half term, if you have already spoken to Mrs Smith or Mr Taylor to book your place, you are on our registers and we will see your children in school next week. Children can wear sports kit appropriate for the weather, bring a packed lunch and water bottle and enter school via the upper playground as usual. Our Holiday Club runs from 8.45-3.15 on Tuesday-Friday next week. The contact number for the Tunbury staff member in school during this period is 07953 156031, as the school office will not be open. As a reminder, this is a service for critical key workers (eg frontline NHS staff, police officers) who are being redeployed, have had leave cancelled or shifts extended and for whom both/all adults within the household are key workers going out to work and whose normal childcare arrangements are not viable (eg as childminders/holiday clubs are closed and elderly/vulnerable extended family members are not able to help).
Other provision: Home learning
We will continue to set home learning as usual for all year groups, even when the school re-opens more widely. In the week after half-term, Monday is an INSET day so home learning will be published on Tuesday and Thursday for this week only.
Overall, although planning for a wider re-opening has been challenging, we are confident that in time, Tunbury staff, children and parents/carers will be able to adapt to this totally new version of school life. For the moment, it’s not at all normal, but it will work.
We hope that this guide helps you to understand how these changes might affect you and your families. I’m sure that you can appreciate that everything is new to us as well, so while we have planned in detail, many things may also be refined in the early days of our wider re-opening. We have tried to provide enough detail at this stage, but we are aware that many parents/carers may have other questions which are not answered by today’s summary. To help with these, I will be answering the school phone between 1.00-3.00pm today, so please call me on 01634 863085 with any questions or concerns regarding the first phase of wider re-opening. (Please don’t call with questions about any subsequent phases of a return to school - we are working step by step, and no-one yet knows how the situation will develop in the future.) If you can’t call today, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your queries, so that we can respond to these immediately after half term. Thank you for your continued support.
Have a lovely half-term break everyone. Please take care of yourselves and your families.
Note from Miss Byrne: I wish everyone a very happy half term. I hope you all enjoy some more fun with a break in home learning. I will be contacting families as usual from Tuesday 2nd June. Keep safe, Miss Byrne
Mental Health Awareness Week: children have been busy contributing to this year’s theme of kindness.
Kindness is something that all ages can understand, and research shows that it can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, strengthen our friendships, and help people to feel happy and healthy. Kindness has contributed towards many good deeds during these uncertain times we are facing.
Thank you to all our children who have made a poster or contributed to our question on 'how you will change the world'! We are compiling a video which will be published in due course.
School Crossing Patrol: Please note that if the school does re-open more widely in June, our School Crossing Patrol will not be on duty until further notice. This decision has been made by KCC, as they are the employer of our SCP, after consideration of the difficulties in providing a safe working environment.