18 December 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
On December 8th the Government formally acknowledged in writing that school leaders, teachers and staff had worked tirelessly throughout the Autumn term, recognising their important role in contact tracing to help in the national effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. They stated that they were fully aware that this had led to additional work over weekends and holidays and were incredibly grateful for this.
Their advice to Headteachers, to ensure that staff get the time off they need and deserve, was to encourage all schools to move a teacher training day from later in the year to Friday 18th December to enable all teachers and students to start their Christmas holiday early.
With that in mind, most schools finished for the Christmas holiday yesterday at 3.15 pm.
Three hours later at 6.30 pm the latest Government communication announced major changes to the start of the Spring Term highlighted below:
- On Monday 4th January, from our planned start time of 10.45 am, only vulnerable children, the children of critical workers and students in Year 11 and 13 are expected to attend Bushey Meads School. If your child falls into one of those categories they should attend school. (Please see below for the definition of vulnerable children*.)
- All other students should not attend that week and will need to access their learning via google classrooms.
- All other students can return to school on Monday 11th January from the usual time of 8.30 am.
- The government are stating that rapid testing will be made available to students in school, but have not provided any details about the logistics of this. They have however stated that students will not need to have had a test in order to return to school on Monday 11th January.
In relation to the proposed testing regime, students, or indeed staff, who are identified as being in close contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19 can consent to take part in ‘serial testing’ where they are tested daily for 7 days. This will enable them to stay in school if they test negative. If students or staff do not wish to take part, they will need to self-isolate for the minimum period of 10 days.
In all of this our patience continues to be tested and clearly a lack of forward planning and confused mixed messages seem to continue to reign, as they have done since March 2020 and the start of the national lockdown.
As usual, the first we heard about this seemingly chaotic end to the term, was in the national press and in social media from around midday yesterday.
Association of School and College Leaders General Secretary Geoff Barton said: “We are very concerned about the feasibility of setting up a testing programme at the scale envisaged.”
He added: “The profession is very willing to work with the government over how to roll-out mass testing, but ministers must understand that chaotic, last-minute announcements do not constitute a collaborative approach.”
Whilst the Government is encouraging all schools to promote the testing regime, participation is optional and also requires parental consent. Whilst more detailed operational guidance will be issued during the holiday period, it is clear that the majority of schools will not have the capacity to administer them.
The school workforce is stretched to limit already and yet schools are being asked to provide a small team to support the testing regime, recommending up to 9 members of staff or volunteers, all recruited during the Christmas holidays. The testing also requires a large space to administer the tests and a holding area for children to wait in a Covid-19 secure environment for their test results to come through. We unfortunately do not have this spare space in our school.
We do continue to be frustrated with the last-minute announcements from government and want to thank all our parents and carers for their continued support in these challenging times. Despite the ongoing chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic, we continue as a school to try to put our children first.
We will of course keep you updated where possible during the holiday period, but in the meantime want to wish you all a happy and safe Christmas break. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible who can return to school on Monday 4th January 2021 at 10.45 am.
Vulnerable children* include those who:
- are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children and young people who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
- have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- have been identified as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could therefore benefit from continued full-time attendance, this might include:
- children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services or in the process of being referred to children’s services
- adopted children or children on a special guardianship order
- those at risk of becoming NEET (‘not in employment, education or training’)
- those living in temporary accommodation
- those who are young carers
- those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example, due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)
- care leavers
- other children and young people at the provider and local authority’s discretion including pupils who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health