Coronavirus/Covid-19 contingency planning
Dear Parent or Carer,
I am writing to provide you with an update on our current contingency planning in relation to Covid-19/Coronavirus. On a daily basis, we are studying the updates from the DfE as well as the guidance issued by Public Health England and the NHS. We are using these updates to help us develop and inform our contingency planning. To be frank, we don’t get any guidance that isn’t already in the public domain.
This is clearly a serious matter but my mood was lightened somewhat reading a paper about the pros and cons of school closure where children were referred to as ‘little vectors’. This is now my favourite ‘not-really-rude’ phrase for a child that might have annoyed me: “Oh… you little vector!” I don’t say it out loud. The phrase does, however, remind us that children do pose a risk in terms of transmission of infection – they are not always the most hygienic – and whilst the virus is not typically a serious threat to the health of children, they do pose a more significant infection threat to more vulnerable family members – grandparents perhaps – and other members of the community.
Guidance changed slightly yesterday afternoon, and this letter takes this into account.
In terms of our daily routines in school, our cleaning regime has been strengthened with a particular focus on frequent touch surfaces such as door handles. Children and adults are all being instructed to wash or sanitise hands much more frequently and additional sanitisers have been placed strategically around school (more to follow). Some concerns have been raised about frequent use of sanitizers on some skins and so there is emollient cream at each front desk for anyone who needs it. We have stopped shaking hands in assembly and regularly repeat good hygiene messages. Attendance this week has been fairly typical for this time of year (although it is a further 5% lower today following revised guidance last night – see below).
At time of writing, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus linked to the school community. One family began self-isolating as a precaution earlier this week and we expect a test result in the coming days (although a change of testing policy may prevent this). It should be noted that, at the moment, the very large majority of tests are being returned as negative. As a precaution, the classrooms of the children affected have had a deeper clean.
We have spoken with a few parents of children with weakened immune systems or particular vulnerabilities and we are dynamically assessing risk. One member of staff will be staying away from school until advised by doctors that it would be reasonable to return.
New advice issued on Thursday states that anyone with a new, persistent cough or temperature of 37.8°C should self-isolate. The advice states:
- Not to go to work, school, or public areas, use public transport or taxis – or even for a walk
- Those with even mild symptoms of infection should stay at least two metres away from other people in their homes, and should sleep alone
- Those with confirmed or suspected cases should use a separate bathroom
We are planning for a number of different scenarios.
- Instruction from the government to close the whole school
- Infection affects a member of our school community and a case is confirmed
- High levels of staff illness/absence make it impossible to staff all classes or children
Our hope in sharing these plans is that you fully understand that we will do all that we can to keep our students and staff safe, whilst at the same time continuing to provide them with a valuable education.
- Instruction to close the whole school for a limited period
We do not intend to shut the school, but we could be instructed to do so by the government as part of a future nationwide policy (like many other countries are doing currently).
In this scenario, we will seek to maintain an element of online instruction and setting of work. This will vary according to the age of the children. For the older children, this will probably be based on assignments within Google Classroom. Younger children’s education would be based on postings on their class blogs and use of online resources such as Purple Mash, Mathletics, the Reading Bugs site and Spelling Shed.
With this in mind, we are sending home a paper reminder of all our children’s online usernames and passwords. Queries about passwords should be directed to Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org
If we had to close, one of the best things to do would be for your child to do lots of reading. To support this, we would aim to send home additional reading or library books where appropriate. The extent to which we can send home physical books and resources will, in part, depend upon how much notice we get of the closure.
Please ensure that we have an up to date email address for you so that we can let you know what work has been set and keep you up to date with developments. We would also update the news section of the website.
We are aware that some families may lack adequate hardware for on online approach to learning. Where this is the case, we could consider lending the child a Chromebook laptop. A family would still need to have their own Wi-Fi system to connect to or generous allowance of phone data through which to connect the Chromebook to the internet. If a loan of a Chromebook would be useful in this scenario, please leave your child’s name at the front desk.
Our teachers are being provided with guidance on a range of strategies for sharing work and support and if we find ourselves in this scenario, we will issue specific instructions to students and parents.
- Infection affects a member of our school community and a case is confirmed
In this scenario, the school would have to follow direct guidance and risk assessment from Public Health England. It is possible that some or all of the school could be closed. Given that we are, effectively, a split site school, it is possible that we could be instructed to have a partial closure. A partial closure could affect school meal provision (and would, no doubt, be complicated as regards siblings).
In the event of a confirmed case in the school community: “a risk assessment will be undertaken by the educational establishment with advice from the local Health Protection Team. In most cases, closure of the childcare or education setting will be unnecessary but this will be a local decision based on various factors such as establishment size and pupil mixing.”
- High levels of staff illness/absence
In the event of high levels of staff absence, there may be some combination of classes and lessons may not be as formal as usual. Qualified teachers would have an overview of provision, but supervision of pupils could be delegated to suitably experienced support staff on occasions. We would have to make dynamic risk assessments to ensure the health and safety of the school community. In this scenario, it could be that the school would have to partially or completely close.
Our school has a high number of children who have 1:1 support to meet Special Educational Needs or Disability. Regrettably, staff absence may mean that we would not be able to meet the needs of certain individuals at that time and some children may need to stay at home.
If our kitchen was disproportionately affected by staff absence, then the school could remain open but children could be required to bring their own packed lunch.
As it stands, the government intends to continue with the SATs tests for Y6, multiplication tests for Y4, Phonics Tests in Y1 and statutory teacher assessment in Reception and Year 2.
During this period, we ask that parents follow the normal absence procedures relating to pupils: email or call school to inform us of the reason for the absence. If any absence is linked to suspected Covid-19, please ensure that you speak directly to the school office 0113 2058130 or email email@example.com
Guidance on how to self-isolate to ensure this is effective can be found on the link below:
Other events such as Parents’ Evenings
Our current plans are to run these events as normal, but we have advised our staff not to shake hands with parent/carers. Everyone will be well spaced out. Please do accept our apologies for this and we hope you will support our reasons for limiting physical contact. Should plans change for these events, we will advise you using our normal communication channels.
We have been asked if there is the potential to do Parents’ Evening by Skype or equivalent. Unfortunately, this is not something that we have trialled or resourced and so we are not currently offering this as an option.
Events that lead to crowds of people coming into school into a confined space, e.g. hall or classroom, are the most likely to be cancelled. An example of an event that may be cancelled is the Year 1 Spring Chicken event on Friday 3rd April.
Forthcoming trips to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (Y2) and Murton Park (Y4) are currently expected to continue. Sporting events, fixtures and residentials are also continuing unless we are advised not to.
General advice can be found on the following link: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Guidance specific to schools is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19
We hope that this letter updates you on our current planning whilst recognising that the landscape continues to evolve. Please continue to keep us informed should your personal situations change in respect of this virus.
Please also be reassured that we will continue to make measured decisions in the best interests of the whole school community, whilst following the guidance provided by the DfE and Public Health England.
Thank you for your continued support and understanding as we plan for these potential scenarios.