26th May 2020
I have taken the opportunity to add some information onto the school website so that, hopefully it will help parents understand that the phased re-opening plan for St Matthew's and the information sent out to parents and the decisions made for phased re-opening have been in line with DfE and WBC guidance.
The documents should speak for themselves and answer any queries raised about the plans for returning priority groups.
I do apologise if the information I have previously given has not been clear. I would like to reassure parents that school staff and I have carried out very detailed risk assessments and are endeavouring to do the best we can to ensure that school opens as quickly as possible and as safely as it can.
I, and all the St Matthew's staff, would like nothing more than to be back in school, working with all year groups and experiencing our typical summer term activities. I can assure you that we are working as hard as we can do to read, absorb DfE and WBC advice, work closely with governors to ensure that everyone stays as safe as they can be when we return. I take comfort that other headteachers in Warrington and in many other authorities have the same concerns and are also minimising risk as much as they possibly can, which is ultimately, is all we can do.
Why is St Matthew's Starting its Phased Re-opening from 8th June and not 1st June?
St Matthew's is starting its phased re-opening from 8th June for YR, Y1 and then Y6 because guidance from WBC (see document attached) recommends it and we want to follow WBC guidelines.
Why are WBC recommending this?
“Not all schools are the same and one approach will not suit all schools. What we have set out is a position to support the safe and successful reintegration of more pupils. We fully respect that Trusts, Headteachers and Governing Bodies may want to choose something different, but where possible we will try to have a consistent approach to avoid the rise of frustrations, particularly amongst parents.”
WBC have shared that 76% of Warrington schools have followed this guidance. The other 24% of schools are junior schools, academy schools, multi academy schools, or schools who decided (for their own reasons unknown to me) not to follow the guidance provided by the local authority.
Why is St Matthew's having not one, but two INSET days on Monday 8th June and Tuesday 9th June, instead of opening for children in priority groups?
Teachers are contracted to work for 195 days directly with children plus 5 INSET days.
Despite this, teachers worked through the Easter Holidays. WBC and HR advice is that they have Whit holidays so that they can work to their contracts. Teachers are expected to complete other tasks in their 'holiday' period, such as report writing, planning etc.
What do WBC say?
"This phased approach will be supported by robust HR advice, input from Public Health colleagues and conversations with our Union colleagues. Our planning is also be shared with local political Members. To support this phased model approach there is a set of operating principles for Primary, Secondary, Special and Post 16 providers."
What are teachers and staff doing in the INSET days in June?
The St Matthew's staff who will be involved with the phased re-opening on 10th June, will be present in school on 8th and 9th June.
On Monday, they will be gathering together for the first time in 11 weeks. Some of these staff are bereaved due to family members contracting COVID-19, some have had the virus themselves, many are unsure of what to expect when they return as they have not been into the building since March 20th and all are anxious about what re-opening means for themselves and their families.
So, Monday's INSET will be about staff:-
Tuesday's INSET will be about children and parents:-
Why is St Matthew's only able to accommodate a small numbers of pupils?
Mrs Fryman stated that "it's an impossibility to have all children returning"
The maximum capacity of children we can accept using these areas is 84, but we haven't included the hall in our calculations, we may have to if needed but this would be a last resort.
The hall would need to be used for any children of parents who are classed as key workers/critical workers. There are 45 children who have parents in this category.
At the moment we have dedicated the Y3 and the Y4 classrooms for these children - this would only accommodate 18 of the 45. The hall would accommodate others who wanted to return, which is anticipated.
WBC guidance says:
Settings should ensure:
WBC recommend that:
"If demand for places is higher than the setting’s capacity when measures to allow physical distancing between groups are in place, it may be necessary to have a temporary cap on numbers of children attending the setting. If necessary, settings should prioritise vulnerable children and children of critical workers, then 3 and 4 year olds, in particular those who will be transitioning to Reception in September, followed by younger age groups."
Why is St Matthew's Re-opening using a phased approach?
We believe this will give us sufficient time to make the necessary preparations and again, we will be following WBC guidance ...
"As more parents are needing to return to work, the demand for school places is expected to increase.
We advise schools to take pupils into schools incrementally alongside vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers – this will help us to test the protective measures put in place and manage demand for places.
Schools will need to conduct a risk-assessment of whether it is safe for children and staff to reintegrate more pupils and update those risk assessments on a regular basis.
The availability of staff is a critical success factor in being able to expanding pupil numbers in schools. By adopting this approach, schools will be able to better manage the availability of staff."