Click on the below links for our reopening information;
As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, since Boris Johnson made his announcement back on 10th May, much work (which is still ongoing) has been done in trying to establish an approach for wider opening. There have been many considerationsto ensure we can open as safely as possible and provide children with the best support and provision once in school.
I understand there are many emotions and concerns around the possibility of children returning to school and many questions are still to be answered for both parents and schools. Any decisions that I make will be made through the eyes of a mum as well as an Acting Headteacher, as I also share many mixed feelings about my own child’s potential return to school. I’d like to reassure that as always, every decision has been and will continue to be made based on what we feel is in the best interests of the children, within the guidance the Government have provided us with.
We have prepared some ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ to help you to understand what reopening may look like for children and support you in making an informed decision about sending your child back to school.
If you have a question that is not answered in the information below, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will endeavour to provide an answer to your query.
The following guidance has been released by the Government. You may find it useful to read.
Myself and the school team want nothing more than to return to school. However, we also want to ensure that any such return is safe for our children, their families, our staff and their loved ones.
Do you have a question you’d like us to answer? Please email email@example.com
How might school reopening ‘look’?
Government guidance has stated that schools should not operate a rota system. Therefore Birches children will be returning full time. We have the capacity to staff 6 ‘bubbles’, each one with up to 15 children and up to 3 members of staff. Bubbles will operate independently of each other during the day to avoid children and staffing mixing which would increase the risk of transmission.
Places will be allocated to Key Worker and vulnerable children followed by Nursery and Reception children and then Year 1 children.
Will childcare provision for Key Worker / ‘vulnerable’ children continue at Codsall Middle School?
From Tuesday 26th May, childcare provision will be provided at Birches.
My child is in Nursery, Reception or Y1 and has been in the childcare provision throughout. What will happen to them?
Once wider reopening has taken place at Birches, your child will attend school provision with their year group.
My child is in Y2, Y3 or Y4 and has been in the childcare provision throughout. What will happen to them?
They will not yet be eligible to return to school therefore will continue to receive childcare provision within the Key Worker bubble(s).
My child has not attended childcare provision so far but is eligible. Can they now attend?
Government guidance is now encouraging Key Worker and ‘vulnerable’ children to attend (unless advised otherwise – see question on clinically vulnerable groups). If your child is eligible and you wish them to attend childcare provision please email firstname.lastname@example.org
When my child returns to school, will they be taught by their usual teacher?
Due to the requirement to have groups of no more than 15 children and keep staff consistent to each group, we cannot guarantee that children will be taught by their ‘normal’ class teacher or in their usual classroom.
We will organise groupings, staffing and classrooms being as mindful as possible of individual children’s needs and friendships, however cannot make any guarantees. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, we do not yet know which members of staff will be able to return and this may have an impact.
Children will remain, as far as reasonably possible, with the same children and member(s) of staff to avoid unnecessary mixing and to enable us to identify which members of the school community have been in contact.
How do staff feel about the situation?
Understandably, staff themselves have many questions regarding the details and practicalities of returning to school, particularly regarding the safety of the children, parents, themselves, their families and our colleagues. We have an amazing team whose commitment to the children and our school community is second to none – particularly following the care, support and sheer hard work they have continued to provide during the weeks since closure. (For this I am extremely grateful!) They want to continue to do their best for the pupils but there remain many unanswered questions which of course, they seek the answers to and they remain cautious about the return to school. This caution is not through reluctance to ‘return to work’ (as I said, work has continued for staff – just in a very different way!) but because they want to get ‘it’ right – with confidence that children are safe, well cared for and able to learn.
Can you guarantee that my child will be 2 metres away from others at all times and that social distancing will be enforced?
My honest answer is no; we will, of course do our best to support social distancing and will put measures in place to encourage this (in line with the guidance). However we ask that parents understand that in returning to school there is a very real likelihood that children will touch adults and one another and come in to close contact. The nature of the school site and the age of our children is such that this is unavoidable.
What measures will be in place to ‘encourage’ social distancing?
- Organise children in designated rooms and groupings for learning and play to minimise unnecessary mixing and movement
- Minimise the need for adults to move across the site and come into unnecessary contact.
- Reorganise rooms and resources to minimise sharing and when sharing is essential, clean resources before transference
- Stagger lunchtimes and playtimes to ensure groups have access to free play and the outdoors but do not come into unnecessary contact
- Clear corridor spaces as far as is practical to allow maximum width space for walking
- Use separate entrances and exits as far as possible within our site.
- Be vigilant in identifying children with symptoms, isolate them quickly and ask parents to collect them
- Stagger arrival and collection times to reduce the number of parents arriving on site at any one time
- Operate a ‘drop and go’ system and ask that parents do not gather or linger on site.
What other measures will be in place to reduce risk?
- Increased levels of cleaning at the end of the day and at regular intervals during the day.
- As far as possible, organise staffing to ensure the same adults care for the same children (throughout the day and day by day).
- Regular handwashing. We have sinks in every classroom and children will be told to wash hands on arrival and throughout the day as well as before eating. We also have hand sanitiser dispensers across the school site if handwashing is not possible.
- Paper towels for hand drying instead of air hand driers.
- Removal of unnecessary items from classrooms to aid cleaning.
- Bins will be emptied regularly
- Where safe to do so, doors will be kept open to aid ventilation and prevent need to use handles.
Will my child be expected to share resources, such as pens and pencils?
Where possible, children will be given their own equipment, which they must not share with anyone else. Staff have begun creating individual packs with pencils, colouring pencils and felts, rulers etc in for each child. Children should not bring any equipment in from home. Any resources that must be shared (e.g school laptop) will be thoroughly disinfected after use.
Will children be confined to the same classroom environment most of the day?
As previously mentioned, groupings, staffing and classrooms will remain the same as far as practically possible. Therefore, children will be based in one room. However, as much as the weather allows us, children will be given as much chance as possible to be outdoors.
How will you manage lunchtimes?
Our school kitchen will provide packed lunches to all children in Reception and Year 1 as part of the Infant Free School Meal scheme. Children in Nursery who attend all day can be provided with a packed lunch (£2.40). Children who wish to do so may bring their own packed lunch. Lunches will be delivered to children’s classrooms where they will eat to avoid large groups of children mixing in the hall. If weather allows, children will be able to eat outside. Tables will be cleaned prior to eating (as well as at regular intervals during the day).
If and when children in Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4 return, they will be able to book a packed lunch as normal (normal charges apply) or bring a packed lunch from home.
My child is entitled to benefit related FSMs – will they be offered a lunch?
The national FSM voucher scheme will continue for children not in school. From wider reopening, those children attending childcare provision (or attending school) a packed lunch will be provided.
How will arrival and dismissal work to ensure we are all distanced?
As mentioned, we anticipate staggered start times and finish times to reduce the number of parents on site. The Government have also stated that only 1 parent should bring a child to school. It would be advisable that siblings do not come along too unless this is unavoidable.
Will the school have assembly/acts of worship?
No. Within groups, time will be given for reflection and well-being.
Will staff and children wear masks?
The following measures will be taken as directed by government to protect the children with masks deemed unnecessary:
“Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended. Face coverings may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in some shops. This does not apply to schools or other education settings. Schools and other education or childcare settings should therefore not require staff, children and learners to wear face coverings”.
Approaches we are asking schools and other settings to take include:
- making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of Coronavirus
- promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the catch it, bin it, kill it approach
- cleaning more frequently to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, table tops, play equipment and toys
- minimising contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms
- reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times DFE May 2020
I do not want my child to attend, even though school is open and they are well with no symptoms, will I be penalised if I do not send them into school?
The Government “strongly encourage children and young people in the eligible year groups and priority groups (such as children of critical workers) to attend, as requested by their school or college, unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence (such as shielding due to health conditions).
However, parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time. DFE May 2020
Children’s attendance percentage has not been affected during the school closure.
I think my child is at additional risk due to a medical condition or they live with someone who is at risk. Should they return to school?
Please read the following from the guidance;
Children and young people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and should not be expected to attend.
Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from Coronavirus. A minority of children will fall into this category, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.
Children and young people who live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and the child or young person is able to understand and follow those instructions.
Children and young people who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) as defined in the social distancing guidance and including those who are pregnant, can attend.
Unfortunately, as previously explained, we are unable to guarantee that within a school environment, social distancing measures will be followed.
My child has Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (SEND), how will you continue to ensure they are effectively supported?
As with any child at Birches, we are committed to ensuring that children can achieve their very best and will continue to do so. Our number one priority at this time, however is your child’s safety and wellbeing and that of others. Where your child may have had individual or small group support before the lockdown, social distancing and balancing the deployment of staff may mean that this is not possible.
We will support children with SEND in whatever way we possibly can, whilst being mindful of the safety and well-being of our staff and children. We appreciate that children will SEN in particular may find the return to school overwhelming and require support with this.
Can Year 4 come to school as this is their last year at Birches, like Year 6 can in primary schools?
As we operate within a three tier system, myself, Mr Bowers (MAT CEO and Headteacher at Codsall Middle School) and Miss Parker (Headteacher at St Nicolas First School) last week contacted Gavin Williamson to raise this as an issue and ask that transition of Year 4 pupils in the first/middle school system be considered. As yet, there has been no specific guidance and the only year groups currently identified for return on June 1st are Nursery, Reception and Year 1. It has been proposed that other year groups will return for the last month of the year if the Government deem it safe to do so.
We will continue to liaise with middle school staff (Codsall and Bilbrook) regarding transition arrangements and how children can best be supported through the change.
My Y4 child is due to start middle school, how and when will they start their induction?
We will support any transition plans put into place by individual, receiving schools as far as we can within our new safety arrangements. We have already begun liaising with middle school staff about children, their strengths, needs and personalities so as to enable as smooth a transition as possible. Further information on transition will be provided by your child’s receiving school.
For those moving on to Codsall Middle School, please look on their website under ‘News/Events’ and then ‘Transition Information for New Parents 2020’ and you can download and view an induction presentation from the KS2 Achievement Leader (Mrs Deas).
Will breakfast club and after school club be open?
To remain in line with guidance, children must remain with the same staff and children they have been with during the day so we are unable to combine children from different bubbles for club as we would normally do. This and the limitations of staffing and space greatly reduces our capacity to offer club. We are aware that many parents rely on club. We are therefore offering an ealy drop off at 8.15am to children in the Key Worker bubbles only as well as a later collection of 3.45pm (at a cost of £2.50).
We may be able to offer early drop off and/or late collection to children in Nursery, Reception and Year 1. However, we are not able to mix groups – children must remain with the same children and staff all day. Therefore children would be required to join one of the Key Worker groups instead of joining their Year group class bubble. We appreciate that this may not be ideal but it is the only way we can offer this provision due to staffing capacity and the requirements of guidance. We hope that parents understand the reasons for this.
As/if guidance changes and we are able to, we would look to increase this provision.
Will curriculum and assessments resume as normal?
We find ourselves in and will continue to be in a very fluid and ever changing situation. Our priority on return will be to support the learning but most importantly the well-being of the children (whilst keeping them as safe as possible). Staff will undoubtedly carry out informal assessments in their interactions with the children which may help inform next steps for learning. However, we do not feel it would be appropriate to begin carrying out formal assessments this term or returning to the full demands of the curriculum. Staff will plan to carry out baseline assessments of children in the Autumn term to help staff identify next steps to inform planning.
We will do what we feel is right for the children within a new school structure and timetable. Please be assured that your child’s best interests are at the forefront of any decisions we make and any arrangements made.
Teachers will liaise with each other and discuss transition to new classes in September. This will involve discussion about each child’s next steps and how they can best be supported.
Will you continue to provide online home learning activities?
As previously mentioned, home learning tasks will continue to be set during term time as they have been since closure.
We ask that parents of children not in school understand that staff who may have previously been available to respond to emails are likely to be engaged with children during the school day from 1st June and therefore will have reduced capacity to respond. They will, however, continue to respond as soon as they are able to do so.
Will children in school bring reading books home?
No, the Government have stated that resources should not be sent between home and school, including reading books.
Online books will continue to be set for those children for whom they are available and is it appropriate.
Will my child have homework still?
As we had already made changes to our homework policy (half termly grid) we will not now be setting additional homework. Since closure, we have provided a comprehensive home learning offer with staff planning their own daily tasks for maths, reading and writing as well as the project grid. (Thank you again to the team for this!) This will continue to be set. To support teacher workload and enable them to continue providing the support for children at home, children attending school will also complete these tasks during the day alongside some additional work. Spellings will continue to be set.
What will my child need to bring to school?
Children will need to bring their own, filled water bottle and a packed lunch (both clearly named please). To reduce risk of transmission, we ask that children bring only the necessities to school. They will not need a bag or PE kit. Children should bring a coat in case of cool or wet weather and a sunhat if weather is forecast to be hot. Sun cream should be applied in the morning.
Will my child need to wear school uniform?
School uniform is requested to promote in children a sense of normality in their school return and remind children of what it means to be ‘Birches’. (It is anticipated that children attending care provision children will also be asked to wear uniform if based at Birches from reopening.)
However, we appreciate that some children may have outgrown uniform and shoes and parents may not have had chance to replace with shops being shut, as well as parents being under new financial pressures. We will be understanding of this. Summer or winter uniform can be worn.
Guidance advises that clothing should be washed daily – we ask that parents please send their child in fresh clothes each day please.
Will extra-curricular clubs run (football club, theatre club etc)?
No. These bring too many children into contact from different groups and would go against guidance and our safety measures.
Will previously planned school events take place?
As much as we are looking forward to gathering as a school community once again, it is unlikely that planned events be held as the majority of these involve large groups of people coming together and as such, this would go against our measures for reducing risk.
Will visitors and volunteers be allowed into school?
No – until the situation is deemed to be safe, we would prefer to minimise additional adults coming in and out of school. Whilst their support is greatly appreciated, we will inform parents who have previously volunteered and those on placements when it is appropriate to recommence their volunteering role in school.
Will the school office be open?
Yes. However, to reduce the number of people coming to the hatch, we ask that parents only come in person if absolutely necessary. We request that parents telephone or email the office with any queries.
The office will be very busy and we must ensure they are as safe as possible in their working environment. We ask that parents arrive on time (according to their designated start time) and are organised to ensure that children arrive with what they need for the day (minimal).
We will put in place 2 metre markers to remind parents and visitors of the need to socially distance while on the school site. Only one person should enter the school entrance area at a time and we will ask that parents wait outside while the office attend to any essential visitors to the hatch.
My child is due to start Nursery or Reception, how and when will they start their induction?
Given the current situation we feel it is unlikely that transition visits and meetings will appropriate this side of the summer holiday. We anticipate the induction process will begin in September for children joining Nursery and Reception with a delayed start for those children.
We are planning to provide further information via email and the school website for our new families and children in the coming weeks.
What will happen if a suspected case of COVID-19 occurs in school?
We ask that parents are very vigilant and do not send their child to school for 7 days if their child displays any symptoms/tests positive. If a member of the household displays symptoms or has a positive test the rest of the household should self-isolate for 14 days. If a negative test is received, all members of the household can end their self-isolation.
In the instance of a child or adult displaying symptoms during the day, they will be immediately isolated from their ‘bubble’ and supervised from a distance. If they require any support or care then staff will be provided with PPE. Parents will be called and asked to collect their child immediately and a test should be arranged as soon as possible.
If a positive test is confirmed, all children and staff within the associated bubble will be sent home and must self-isolate for 14 days.
Following such an incident, a deep clean of all affected areas will be carried out in line with guidance.
Testing is now widely available, including for children.
Who decides if school is safe to open?
As Acting Headteacher, Mrs Ferretti (with the support of the team) is responsible for managing the safety of the school when open, assessing risks and responding to emerging issues throughout the day (much the same as in ‘normal times’). The decision to open and the assessment of its safety from the 1st June is not a local headteacher decision. We work under the guidance of Government direction and, to the best of our abilities will put plans and measures in place to minimise risk to all. We are not medically or scientifically certified and do not profess to be. As part of CMAT, Risk Assessments are being completed for each individual school and the Trust Board of Directors will meet to discuss and approve the safety arrangements of each school prior to opening. .
Should, as an individual school we have cause to close, (for example, a confirmed case of COVID-19 in school) we would of course take advice from Public Health England and Staffordshire and follow the correct procedures.