Please find below the answers to some questions that you may be asking in readiness for the partial opening of the schools and Nursery. If you would like further information or if a question you have is not answered, please email Garry Leeson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do we need to follow the government advice with regards to which Year groups return and when?
“Yes”. The direction from government very specifically says in their guidance document:
“We expect all mainstream schools and colleges, including independent schools, to follow the same approach. We encourage middle schools to do the same and welcome back children in year 6, to ensure national parity for children in this year group.”
This is one of only a very small number of instances where independent schools are mentioned in any current guidance. The DfE has been clear that the specified year groups are the only ones that should open as the first phase of the reopening of schools.
Insurance policies are unlikely to be relied upon if schools open year groups which is not in line with government guidance.
Can we open with year 8 and not year 6?
No, for the reasons set out above.
Do we have to open?
No, but if we choose to remain closed our risk assessment needs to be robust to explain why it is not safe to do so in our settings, taking account of the implementation of the government’s recommended practical steps to safely open.
Can we otherwise deviate from the guidance on steps to take upon reopening?
The guidance on measures to take within the schools should be considered by the Foundation within the context of the wider risk assessment. It would not be prudent to take steps which are less thorough than those recommend in the guidance; indeed, we have additional measures that we will implement.
Are there any other changes that apply prior to 1 June?
The government has actively encouraged those who cannot work from home to go to work. This does not mean that the Foundation will allow children of such parents back to school.
However, the government has asked that more parents who currently are eligible to send their children to school, do so. This applies to both vulnerable children and also children of key workers. The guidance previously stated that children of key workers should only go to school if they could not be safely cared for at home. That has now changed and these children may go to school even if they could be cared for at home. There is an expectation that the number of parents wanting their children to attend school will increase over the coming weeks.
What do we do about pupils in eligible year groups whose parents do not wish for them to attend school/Nursery when we reopen?
We know that some parents are concerned about sending their children back to school/Nursery. The government has stated in the guidance for parents that children in the eligible year groups are strongly encouraged to return, unless they are in one of the groups who should not attend (see vulnerable staff and children). The relaxation of the law on school attendance will continue during this time.
Each setting has been sending detailed communications to the parents about the steps the setting is taking, the compliance with lengthy government guidance and thorough risk assessments, so parents may feel encouraged about the safety of their children and send them.
Do we need to publish our risk assessment?
The government has stated that it expects all employers to share its risk assessment with its staff, and that employers of more than 50 staff should publish its specific Covid-19 risk assessment on its website.
A copy of our risk assessment will be made available to staff and put on the websites, however the key details of the control measures that are being put into place in each setting will also be shared in the Covid-19 Q&A section of each website as appropriate.
Do we need to continue to offer remote provision for those children who do not attend school?
Notwithstanding the reassurance the school can give, there will be parents who choose to keep their children at home, as well as those who must stay at home due to health risks. The guidance states that those who must stay home due to health should continue to be supported to learn at home as much as possible. There is less clarity in respect of pupils whose parents choose to keep them at home. Clearly a full online provision of education will not be possible while also delivering lessons to three-year groups in school, but each school will be providing as much work for these children to complete at home as possible.
What is the situation with vulnerable staff and children?
The guidance goes into detail in respect of both vulnerable children (i.e. from a health perspective) and vulnerable staff, as well as those staff or pupils who live with a vulnerable person.
It is clear that there is an important distinction between those who are “clinically extremely vulnerable” and those who are “clinically vulnerable”. Different rules apply in respect of each of these in the context of attending school, as well as people living with them.
If a member of staff or pupil is clinically extremely vulnerable they should follow shielding measures and not attend school. If a pupil or member of staff lives with a clinically extremely vulnerable person, they should not attend school unless social distancing can be stringently adhered to. This will be difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee and this category should not attend.
If a member of staff is clinically vulnerable, the guidance is that they should come into school if they cannot work from home and keep a 2-metre distance wherever possible. If a member of staff is clinically vulnerable and wants to work in a role which does not allow for this distance (e.g. a pregnant teacher wants to resume teaching) then the guidance says they may do so but it is also clear that a risk assessment should take place.
Where a child (or adult) lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (which includes pregnant women), the guidance says that they can attend school as normal.
The guidance says that the aim is for other primary age pupils to return for a month before the summer if feasible. How will this apply when there is potentially a maximum of 5 weeks of the term left?
We await further guidance on a likely date for a return of other year groups, and it remains to be seen whether this will be done by reference to a time period prior to the start of the school holidays (acknowledging that even within the state sector, summer holiday dates vary slightly) or whether a set date will be given in the same way it has been for the year groups returning initially. It seems more likely that it will be the latter, and that this has been given simply as an indication of the government’s intention in respect of timing.
How will social distancing be managed for Reception and Year 1 children?
We know the simple fact is that young children will not follow social distancing. This is acknowledged in the government guidance, and it states that this has been considered in the decision to reopen, with other initiatives in place to reduce the risk of transmission. The guidance refers to splitting classes in half, with no more than 15 in each group, with one teacher (and, if needed, one teaching assistant) or a teaching assistant leading the group under the direction of a teacher.
The primary purpose of the limit on numbers, as we understand it and along with all of the other measures taken in school to limit contact between these groups, is to limit the number of children that any one child or teacher has contact with while in school, alongside the need to have sufficient space. The risk is reduced in outdoor settings but careful consideration has been made to where “pinch points” exist.
The guidance does also refer to spacing desks as far apart as possible. To accommodate the numbers and spacing requirements, in some instances, rooms that are not regularly used are being utilized.
Should we encourage social distancing between Year 6 pupils?
The guidance is generic and encourages keeping children 2 metres apart from each other where possible. This will be more feasible for children in Year 6 than it will for those in Reception and Year 1 but will still be difficult outside of a classroom setting.
In the main the guidance encourages schools to keep pupils apart where possible, the decision to send these year groups back has been made with the knowledge that social distancing is unlikely to be maintained. The focus being on keeping the groups of children consistent and separate from each other, maintaining good hygiene and cleanliness to stop transmission both within groups and between different groups (e.g. thoroughly cleaning any equipment that may be used by multiple groups), in line with the detail of the guidance.
How should we engage parents in our plans to reopen?
As part of our planning process, each setting has contacted the parents to ask if they intend to send their children in to the setting. To assist parents to make this decision, details of the steps the setting is taking to reduce risk of transmission, along with how these fit in with the government guidance, were included in the communication.
Parents were informed of steps they will need to take such as dropping off or collecting at different times, changes to transport arrangements, as well as the need to avoid congregating outside the setting. Further information, both generic and specific to their child’s circumstances will be sent out in due course, including the steps that setting will need to take if a child is taken ill and parents will of course need to ensure they do not send children into the setting if they have any symptoms of coronavirus.
Do we need to continue to provide lunch and snacks using our catering staff and how do we manage lunch service?
The government guidance says that settings should continue to provide meals and sets out ways of ensuring this is done safely. Children will need to eat in their consistent groups.
At the schools a pre-ordered packed lunch will be delivered to each group outside their classroom.
How will staff get a break if they can be the only member of staff to have contact with their group of children during the day?
We have explored options for ensuring staff get a break during the day, and it is likely that another member of staff will be assigned to provide supervision during breaks and lunchtime to allow this.
Do we put Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children of key workers who have been attending school since the closure into their eligible year groups from 1 June or must they stay with other key worker children?
All children will be with their normal year group.
For key worker children in school who are not in the years eligible to return, the same principles over numbers (maximum 15 in a group) will apply.
Can we deliver PE and Games lessons?
The Planning Guide for Primary Schools suggests that Physical Education lessons may continue to take place providing they are strictly non-contact and do not involve more than any one temporary group. This seems to be a common-sense approach.
If the Local Authority is choosing not to open state-maintained schools in our local area, can they prevent us from opening?
The Local Authority does not have the ability to veto an independent school’s decision to open in line with government guidance.
We normally run breakfast and after school clubs as part of our ‘wrap-around’ provision. Are we required to re-start them?
No, we are not required to do so. We can only run such provision if we are able to keep children within the groups they are in during the day or safely distanced.
What if parents do not observe social distancing at the school gate? Is it my job to enforce social distancing outside the school gates?
Whilst parents will be informed on what to do at drop-off and pick-up times, it is likely for you to have to explain clearly what the arrangements are for the start and end of the school day and you may need to remind them from time to time. Signage has been put up and staggered start times and separate entrance points will help.
Planning what to teach, and how
The priorities for young children at this time are resocialisation into new style school routines, speaking and listening, and regaining momentum in particular with early reading.
Children who have had limited opportunities for exercise should be encouraged to exert themselves physically, making use of supervised non-touch running games within their group.
For younger children, the resources made available for child-initiated learning should be carefully considered. For example, malleable resources, such as play dough, should not be shared and consideration should be given to their safe use, depending on circumstances.
Resources for activities such as painting, sticking, cutting, small world play, indoor and outdoor construction activities should be washed before and after use and where possible, children should be discouraged from sharing these.
Children should be taught to wash their hands frequently, but particularly after using wheeled bikes, trikes and other large, movable toys. Children should be encouraged where possible not to touch their faces or to put objects in their mouths. Sharing stories, singing and playing outdoor games will help all children to socialise and resettle into familiar everyday classroom routines.
For year 1, where possible schools should ascertain where children have fallen behind or have progressed further against the school’s existing reading curriculum. If they have forgotten aspects already covered, then reteach and practice this material, where necessary reteaching phonics and using appropriately matched reading books to practice reading. Where there are small numbers significantly behind others then ensure they receive support as intensively as can be managed to catch up, and liaise where possible with parents and carers to ensure they can support too.
In year 6 it is unlikely that many of the end of term traditions will be able to take place, for example, whole year or class assemblies with parents, school journeys and trips. Schools should provide opportunities for children to discuss this as it may be a source of anxiety or sadness. Though visits to secondary schools for induction will not take place this year, some secondary schools may have capacity to undertake remote induction briefings or other types of sessions for pupils, for example to meet form tutors, heads of year, or other key staff, or have a tour of the school virtually. You should discuss the options with your secondary schools.
Year 6 teaching during this time should focus on readiness for secondary school, including academic readiness, which could involve additional teaching in any subject, but in particular mathematics and English to make up for any losses to learning incurred while at home.
Physical education lessons may continue to take place providing they are strictly non-contact and do not involve more than any one temporary group.