Firstly, my sincerest apologies for the last-minute changes to the plans at the
start of term and the additional ‘emergency inset’. The national situation over
the Christmas break overshadowed our plans for an orderly start to the term.
The inset was used by staff to plan for the stepping up of control measures
across the school, including the opening of an ‘Asymptomatic Lateral Flow Test
Centre’ at school. We planned to open this test centre before the children
returned, and to our word, by 15:00 on Monday the 4 th January, myself and Mr
Wood conducted the first Lateral Flow tests on site. Following that, between
7 am and 10 am on Tuesday morning, the staff were tested and all the results
were confirmed as negative and even more remarkable, all the children on site
on Tuesday were tested, and to my delight and relief, were also negative.
Thank you to those staff and children (and their parents) who consented to
those tests. The single biggest tool in this fight to protect our NHS and save
lives, is to break the chains of transmission; and, unless you are going to
completely isolate, the best way to do this is by taking part in asymptomatic
As mentioned over the last few days, almost all pupils attending have taken a
‘Lateral Flow Test’, and all the results have been Negative. We currently have
over 2000 test kits stockpiled in school. I am very proud of our school’s ability
to respond to these challenges and its ability to implement the testing
programme from day one of the term. It was because of our ambitious
approach, we could have the confidence in our ability to open the school as
normal, the following day as we initially intended.
The testing team, who have completed their Lateral Flow Testing training, and
assisted us getting this over the line are as follows, and I commend them for
Mr Chiswell and Mr Wood – Testing Team Leaders and Testing Operatives.
Mr McQueen, Mrs Baird, Mrs Harold, Miss Fletcher, Miss Wootten, Miss
Carberry - Testing Operatives.
Boris Johnson threw all our plans out on Monday evening when he decided to
lock us all down for the foreseeable future. This latest news was a real blow to
our school community. You will have undoubtedly noticed on the news a lot of
concern from Teaching Unions about the safety of schools. In particular, the
National Education Union were telling all their members not to attend school.
The majority of our staff, myself included, are in that union. All staff worked
hard to ensure that, as far as possible we were in a position to mitigate those
risks. Not a single one of our staff took the directive from the NEU, to work at
home and they are all presenting here ready to provide their services. It is for
that reason, their dedication to the school, I also commend them to you for
your praise and sincerest approbation. I am always overwhelmed with pride for
their commitment, professionalism and care for your children.
Our Secretary of State for Education, Mr Gavin Williamson has issued a lot of
guidance and rules around remote learning through the Department for
Education. Most of us have never lived through times of national (or indeed
international) crisis and I do not believe for one minute that there are any hard
or fast rules about how we manage it. Most families have not had to walk the
journey that a lot of you have had to walk. I understand and appreciate that in
normal circumstances your lives are a mix of complicated regimes and rituals,
that most other families could never appreciate. To that end, you have my
sincerest empathy and I would like you first to concentrate on keeping you and
your family safe.
Miss Gower, is leading the remote learning plans. We have appointed a
number of Remote Learning Coordinators, who will be there to help bridge the
gap between home and school. The plans we have are aspirational. The
Government want us to provide 4 hours a day and over the phased roll-out,
there will be that opportunity for your children. For some children, that will be a
welcome addition to their day. For others, that will be impossible for you to
implement. I want you to know I understand this and assure you that we will
work with you to create an education and support package that is personal to
you. Education is important and we will help you devise a timetable of
activities and visits that work for your individual circumstances. Your individual
Remote Learning Coordinator will be in touch within the next few days.
We are required by law to ensure that your children are safe and well at home.
If your child is not attending school, we will we be visiting you in person, at
least once a fortnight, but where possible, or required, more frequently. In
addition to this, your child’s form tutor (or their TA) will be in contact with you at
least once a week. This is to help us target support to you and your child.
There will be limited opportunities from next week; subject to risk assessment,
for your children to join us in school on a part-time basis. Or in some year
groups, full time. Please let your child’s form tutor know if you wish to be
considered for these spaces.
While the term ahead could seem full of risks and anxiety, this school is
standing by to help you through the coming weeks. While we cannot control all
the risks, I have no doubt in our ability to ensure that our school is as safe as
possible. We have not put expediency before our core principles of safety.
There is a widespread recognition from colleagues, both in and outside the
school for the way our policy and processes have prevented any C19 outbreak
here at the school and how we have responded to Government initiatives (e.g.
testing). To that end, while no one should underestimate the seriousness of
the situation we all find ourselves in, the time is hopefully fast approaching
where the country will become more normalised again.
Twice in my time as Headteacher, we have now had to significantly close the
school down to pupils to protect us from the transmission of this virus. Even
though the Government expects special schools to remain mostly open, I have
been faced with the difficult decision to restrict who can attend school. In order
to keep it operating with safe social distancing and other control measures in
place. To those who have never had to take such decisions, may I say to you,
they are taken with a heavy heart. In the knowledge that some pupils will really
miss school and that there could be a fear that this disruption to their schooling
may have long-lasting impacts on their futures. I do, as I said before, have
tremendous pride in my whole staff team who are standing by me to help you
minimise this impact and keep you and your child safe. I urge you to work with
us in finding what that support looks like for your individual children.
It is because of all of this, you, our parents, can have full confidence, that in
time, as they did in September, things will return to a new normal and your
child will, in the near future, be back, settled at school.
My best wishes for the coming term,