Looking Forward to Welcoming Everybody Back!

Dear parents and children,

We hope that you have all been able to enjoy a decent summer and are very much looking forward to having all of our children return to school for the autumn term. As you may be aware, the advice and guidance to support the safest possible return to school is constantly evolving. The decision for all pupils to return to school is based mainly on the evidence that the risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts for children being out of school. We are also mindful of the need to respond to the local situation and are reassured that, from 1st June 2020 until the end of the summer term, there were no declared outbreaks of COVID-19 in any Hertfordshire schools or early years settings.

We appreciate the fantastic support that we received from our parents and our whole school community during last term and were delighted that the designated year groups were able to return to full time education from 1st June, and that all children were able to return in some capacity over the final few weeks of term. The balance of risks is now overwhelmingly in favour of all children returning to school and, unlike last term where attendance was optional, school attendance is now mandatory and the usual rules for school attendance apply. As a school, we have taken great care to ensure that we follow the guidance robustly with a view to providing the best possible outcomes for our children. If any families are still anxious about their children’s return to school then we would urge you to contact the school and share your concerns in order for us to offer the appropriate considerations and reassurances. Parents could also use the www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/returningtoschool link if they wish to look in greater detail at Hertfordshire’s local guidance for the safe return of all pupils.

Many of the measures introduced in June will be continuing, such as the raised profile of hand-washing and hygiene; the additional cleaning arrangements and wiping down of surfaces and equipment between sessions; and the general principles of social distancing. It is recognised that young children find it impossible to maintain full social distancing throughout the day, and the importance of social interaction is key when considering our children’s emotional health and well being. Although we are required to set classrooms up with a different layout so pupils are sitting forward-facing to support good respiratory hygiene, social distancing will not be required – or possible – within each bubble. However, the number of people that children interact closely with will be limited to their immediate group.

Pupils will now form their own ‘class bubbles’. As we move towards winter, we may need to increase the size of these bubbles in order to offer a full range of learning opportunities, as well as manage practical logistics around the school. Whatever the size of the group – which will always remain lower than the ‘year group sized bubbles’ being used at secondary schools – children will be kept apart from other groups to minimise transmission risks.

At present we are still required to implement staggered drop off and collection times, along with separate play zones for each class bubble. There will be no communal gatherings, such as assemblies. I will be delivering whole school assemblies remotely on Mondays and Fridays, with our traditional celebration assembly and the Stars of the Week Awards being given out on the Fridays. Sadly, no tea-parties will take place until we are back to operating ‘as normal.’

The curriculum has been tweaked to allow schools the opportunity to assess any gaps in learning, with a focus on consolidation within the core subjects whilst maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum. Our staff will be delivering the full curriculum from the very start of the autumn term, with due consideration given to any potential gaps. This will be particularly important for those children in Key Stage 2, who were unable to return to a full time education from 1st June. We believe that the best way forward is to maintain our strong dialogue with parents and put ‘catch-up’ plans into place where we feel they are necessary. Our children engaged superbly with their home learning during the lockdown period and we are confident that any gaps can be addressed in a planned and proportionate manner rather than risking any potential anxiety for children on their return to school. The government guidance suggests that schools will have sufficient flexibility, but must return to their full curriculum by the summer term. We are fully ready and prepared to implement our full curriculum from the moment our children return, with due respect to the statutory guidance over subjects such as P.E. where there are some restrictions on contact sports.

Schools have been instructed that wraparound care facilities, such as our breakfast and after school club, should return. We are required to set our own measures to minimise risks and have therefore negotiated with Re-Play that our Breakfast Club and after school provision will no longer be a shared provision with St John Fisher, until the time comes when we can safely and comfortably return to the previous arrangement. Breakfast Club will therefore take place at Skyswood for the autumn term rather than across the road.

We are once again able to run extra-curricular clubs and non-residential school trips as long as the school follow the Covid-safe guidelines. We recognise the value of after school clubs and will plan for a phased return, complying with the necessary measures and guidance. After school clubs are of course optional, but If parents are still not completely comfortable with the immediate return to clubs then, wherever possible, your child could join up at a later date. The only exceptions to this might be if external providers have a maximum number of places and there are no longer spaces available. With regard to school trips, we will be taking a cautious approach and will only organise trips if we are fully comfortable with all aspects of the trip, including travel arrangements and the nature of the trip itself. We are also mindful of wanting EVERY child and family to feel comfortable with the arrangements and therefore cannot foresee the usual rich variety of school trips taking place until slightly later in the year, depending upon how the situation evolves over the forthcoming term and beyond.

In keeping our children and school safe, the government has provided a guidance document for parents, which I have attached. If your child (or anyone in your household) has symptoms they must arrange a test as soon as possible and isolate at home for 10 days from date of onset of symptoms (or until they receive a negative result). Everyone else in the household who does not have symptoms must isolate at home for 14 days (or until the symptomatic household member receives a negative result). Any children who demonstrate symptoms in school will be immediately sent home. They will be isolated with the necessary comfort and supervision in a ventilated room until parents are able to collect them. This is the one circumstance where staff would be required to wear the appropriate PPE equipment. We have been instructed not to encourage the general use of face masks within primary schools.

Once again, I would like to thank our children and families for the outstanding co-operation and support since the initial lockdown period in March. We are now in a strong position to provide a safe environment and to deliver a full and exciting curriculum for all children on their  return. We urge our parents and families to please continue to follow the guidance given and help us to keep your children as safe and happy as possible. Please don’t hesitate to contact myself, your child’s class teacher, or a member of our Senior Leadership Team if there is anything that you need to discuss further in order to support the most positive return to school for your child. If any families are in a situation where they have returned from a holiday and are still in a period of self-isolation due to the sudden changes in regulations, please let the school know  by Thursday 3rd September, when we are expecting all children to return.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Bridle (Headteacher)