As you may know, schools finally received some guidance about September, at the end of last week. We are now working through the guidance and making decisions about what it will mean for our school and how we will operate in September. Things will need to be organised very differently in order to comply with the guidance. We are looking at and considering a number of options.
I will be writing to you again next week with some of the details, but I thought it would be useful to share some information below and some broad plans we are looking at implementing.
Some of the key principles we have to comply with
The guidance for schools has certain legal requirements and a wealth of health and safety requirements. Rightly so.
Schools are required to organise children into groups of children. These will be referred to as bubbles, but the bubbles will be larger than the current bubbles, as the risk of infection nationally is now considered to be extremely low. Schools can have different sizes of bubbles, organised in different ways for different reasons. Schools should minimise staff moving between bubbles where possible.
Schools are required to organise classrooms differently, to reduce the risk of any infection being shared widely. We are considering how best to organise classrooms. This is likely to differ according to the different ages of our children in school. Formal social distancing is not going to be required between children. But where possible, classrooms should be organised in a way which reduces the risk of free transmission, through children having consistent seating arrangements.
Schools are required to prevent the gathering of parents and children, through managing the start and the end of the school day differently. Information about your child’s start and finish time will be shared with you next week. But your child will have the opportunity to have up to an additional 15 minutes learning time as a result.
Schools are required to manage lunchtimes differently, so that all children do not gather together at once during lunchtime. As a result your child’s lunchtime will be slightly shorter and where they eat may change. However, this will provide an additional 15 minutes of learning time for all children in school.
Catch up on learning
We are working extremely hard over these last 2 weeks on plans for learning. We are very aware of the varying impact this whole situation has had on our children and both their learning and on their well-being. We are extremely aware of the children who have not been onsite. We are looking in detail about how to address this for each individual child when they return to school. There will be up to an additional 30 mins per day of learning time for children from September, as a result of the changes above.
Well-being and transition
We know that for some children, this period of not being in school is something which they will have made the most of. It will have provided some positive memories and quality time with many families. However, for other children, the loss of structure to their day, the loss of a face to face relationship with the adults who are important to them, as well as the loss of many social and emotional experiences with their friends, will be huge. We are determined to be flexible and we will be making sure that there is plenty of time in the school day to work with and support our children. It is very timely that the new RSHE (Relationships Sex Health Education) curriculum begins in September.
We appreciate that your children haven’t had their usual transition afternoon and didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to their current teachers. So for that reason, when your children return to school, they will return to their new classroom on the first day, but will spend the morning with their current teacher. It will be a chance to be together and to say goodbye, before moving on. After lunch, the children will then be with their new teacher. This is deliberate, so that they can go home on their first day, having met their new teacher so they are ready for the next morning. They may even come home with some small goodbye gifts from their teacher this year!
Schools have been explicitly directed to have robust plans in place for remote learning, as it is uncertain if schools will have to close their sites again due to COVID. For this reason, we will be talking to your children about their remote learning experiences very early in September. We also know ourselves what has worked well or less well. In September, we will also write to you for feedback on your thoughts. Collectively, this will inform our plans for remote learning moving forward.
Remote learning for such an extended period of time, without the ability to prepare our children and families for it, has no doubt been a challenge, especially as the novelty may be wearing off as it has been full time for such a sustained period of time for so many of our children. However, it has also provided some very positive experiences.
- It has enabled families to be involved in their child’s learning.
- It has created time together for families.
- Parents have a better understanding of how their child learns and the curriculum we are following.
- Many children have become more resilient, more independent and more creative as a result of having to work in this way.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGE to the timetabled school week
As a result of responding to the DfE guidance, our children will be accessing up to an additional 30 mins of learning time a day, at least an additional 2 hours of learning time a week. We are also required to do what we can to maintain the integrity of the bubbles, meaning that where possible, we should reduce the amount of mixing of children and staff across school.
All staff have a legal right to PPA time. Until now, their PPA time has been covered by a range of staff moving between year groups, on different days across the school week.
Our plans for the timetabled school week from September involve our children in Reception – Year 6, being offsite on a Friday afternoon. Our children will be given remote learning, which will need to then be submitted.
The benefits of this approach are:
- By PPA now being completed through remote learning, as well as all of the additional teaching time we have added in each day, PPA staff will not need to cover full classes for full afternoons throughout the week. Instead, they will be available for an additional 40 hours a week to offer targeted support to children across school or to allow specialist staff or a child’s previous teacher to work on identified gaps in learning, offering flexibility of support and the best chance of ‘catching up’.
- By not using staff for PPA, children will also have the continuity of their whole week in class being with their class teacher and year group staff, not being taught by staff that are unfamiliar to them. This is especially important given the challenging time children have spent away from school and the exceptional circumstances in which they are returning.
- Teaching staff being able to have PPA together, means that when they are having to identify gaps in their prior knowledge and teach any content from the previous year group, the whole staff team will be available and able to have detailed discussions as a team.
- Having a small but continued experience of remote learning will be invaluable to our children in case schools need to close again. It would mean that children and families will still be familiar with our systems. Schools are being required to have remote learning systems set up. Although ours is established, it would make it much easier for children and families to revert to remote learning, should school sites need to close for any period of time. As mentioned above we will be reviewing what we have done in September.
- Children would be able to continue to have the experience of some independent learning, which has helped many children to become more resilient, more independent and more creative.
- Parents would be able to continue to have a much more active role in their child’s learning and a much better understanding of how their children learn and the curriculum they are being taught.
- Families would have some flexibility about when to complete the remote learning which is set. As long as the remote learning is completed and submitted as required, it would give families the opportunity to use a Friday afternoon creatively and flexibly, if they chose to do so.
- After being off site and away from a full day of structured learning for such a long period of time many of our children may struggle as the week goes on. The opportunity to work off site at the end of a very long week of learning, is an opportunity for us to support our children who may well find it difficult. If they are struggling to build up and maintain the stamina needed to return to 5 full school days of learning, this will be a positive change of pace at the end of a long week.
- From a mindfulness and well-being perspective, this end to their working week may be a good lesson in life about the importance of thinking creatively and differently about how to manage workload.
Why a Friday afternoon?
We recognise that many of our children are going to find coming back to school full time, 5 days a week a challenge. This has never happened before and we have an opportunity to rethink and be creative to help them and our staff to manage this challenge. By the end of the week many children may be very weary. A Friday afternoon means that parents may also find it easier to work from home, or make alternative arrangements for the end of their working week, than if the afternoon off site were to be in the middle of a working week.
Are other schools doing this?
We are aware of some other schools who are doing this or something similar. But each school has to make plans for their own school. What is right as a COVID 19 response, will be unique to each school. This is our plan, for our school, for the reasons above.
Will staff be onsite on a Friday afternoon?
We intend that staff will work in school and onsite on a Friday afternoon. This will be hugely important during the Autumn term to enable quality interactions and discussions between all staff, as we look to support all of our children, across all year groups. Children will have different gaps in their learning. The opportunity for high quality discussions about their learning as a whole staff team will be invaluable to our COVID response. This will enable us to support each of our children as they move from their current year group into their new one.
Nursery children will not be able to be offsite on a Friday afternoon, as it would mean the afternoon children would have a different experience to the morning children.
What if you want your child to remain in school on a Friday afternoon?
All of our Reception – Year 6 children will be accessing up to an additional 2 hours of learning time a week through the changes to the timing of the school day and to lunchtime arrangements. As such, we feel that our children would appreciate the opportunities that will come with being offsite on a Friday afternoon. Then along with their remote learning for a Friday afternoon as well, our children will have even more learning opportunities in September, not less. The opportunity this then gives for our PPA teaching staff to be reallocated to provide additional learning support across school will be huge. However, if your child needs to remain onsite for whatever reason, then we aim to support that as well.
In order to help us plan for this approach, we will send you a link to complete a survey, to let us know if you think you need your child to remain on site on a Friday afternoon. We know you may need some time to think. But we would appreciate an early indication for planning reasons. If your child remains on site, we plan for them to be in a group with a member of support staff. They will complete the same remote learning as the children who will be offsite.
I am hoping that parents will see the many significant benefits as to why we are looking to organise our timetabled week this way. The valuable chance for staff to work together to address learning needs, the time freed up during the week to support our children, PPA staff won’t need to cover PPA across the whole school week. Alongside the extra time in the school day for learning due to changes to the start of the day and at lunchtime. We are aware that despite the significant benefits, remote learning offsite on a Friday afternoon will not be possible for all families due to work commitments. Which is why some support staff will be available for anyone who needs their child to remain in school while they complete their remote learning.
We will also ask for your comments and thoughts in our survey. We appreciate that your views on this may vary, but we hope that the majority of you will see the positive benefits for your children through the extra learning onsite each day, the continuation of a small amount of remote learning, as well as the flexible end to their working week for both them and you as a family, to use as you wish. There are benefits for our children for both their well-being and for their learning.
Out of school club
We know many of you rely on our OOSC. I am working out ways in which we can begin to reopen OOSC in the Autumn term. This will be a challenge, as it will not be able to be organised as it was before, due to bubbles. However, I am increasingly confident that we will be able to offer an OOSC provision in some form. We will send you a link to a survey before the end of term, to help us plan. Once we have gathered that information, we will then be able to begin to plan. We will update you when we can. This may be after the school term ends. OOSC will not open at the start of term, as we will be focusing our energy on reopening the whole school site with the challenges above. However, we hope to open in some form as soon as we can. We are aiming for the end of September at the latest, but earlier if at all possible
Our children will be able to have a school meal from the start of the school term. This will initially be a packed lunch. But we hope to be able to offer a hot meal, possibly from around week 4. We will give you more information about school meals before September. We are waiting for the LA catering team to provide us with some more information.
These continue to be challenging times. But it is lovely to finally be able to make plans for all of our children to return to site. The plans we are making are designed to give all of our children the best chance of being supported, both emotionally and with their learning. We have had to be creative and responsive throughout this crisis. I hope that you can see that our emerging plans for September are considered and designed to support our children as much as possible.
We will share more information about the details of the plans above, before the end of term.