Dear parents and carers,
Happy New Year!
You will have seen a lot of news coverage about primary schools re-opening tomorrow. Last night, the largest teachers’ union advised teachers not to return to schools as they feel that they are not safe workplaces given the rise in infections and the new variant of the virus. Although infections are rising, Leeds and Bradford are below the national average for infections. We remain in tier 3 whereas the primaries that are currently due to close on-site to most pupils are in tier 4.
I have consulted with school staff this morning and the very large majority of staff will be in work tomorrow as usual (although there are certainly some understandable anxieties that must be respected).
Frankly, I may have reluctantly supported a nationwide shutdown of schools had it been announced by the government a week ago. However, we do not support closure of schools with half a day’s notice, therefore we will be open as usual tomorrow unless instructed otherwise by the government or local authority. This position appears to be in line with most other local primary schools. It should be noted that the union concerns relate to legitimate H&S considerations and colleagues may choose to exercise their legal right to raise these H&S issues at a later point in the term that could cause the school to have to close.
We are reviewing our COVID risk assessment again and will be making the following changes for next week:
- We would now ask parents and carers to wear a face-covering whilst on site collecting and dropping off as there is some congestion and waiting around. This matter already causes some more vulnerable members of our community more anxiety and mask-wearing is not a major inconvenience for most people. I am now of the opinion that this is symbolically important too: a reminder to children that COVID-secure measures need to be followed in school, and a respectful nod to others in the school community that we care about them. Please also stand at least 2m apart from other adults.
- We will change our PPA and PE plans (Y1-Y6) to further reduce mixing of classes within a bubble.
- All adults in school will be required to wear a face-covering in communal areas: corridors, dining halls, around the copier. Adults in classrooms that are not directly teaching will be more strongly encouraged to wear a face covering.
I suspect that all primary schools may be instructed to close at some point in January. If that is the case, we will continue to offer a school place to children of key workers and ‘vulnerable’ children e.g. those with an EHCP or FFI funding. Other children will be offered a more enhanced remote learning offer as described on the school website
(although in those circumstances, some staff would have their own childcare demands that can limit what they can offer). We will survey the school community next week as regards critical worker status and access to IT in preparation for this possibility.
It will not be possible to offer a very comprehensive remote learning provision for children that are kept off school by parents whilst the school is open as teachers can’t be in front of their class and engage with others at home.
I am sorry that my first communication with you this year is not more upbeat. Vaccinations do promise a better future, but the situation in the short term remains very challenging. We had a very positive first term of the school year and we are determined to do whatever we can to be successful and as safe as possible moving forward.