Key Questions About Return to School
Dear Parents / Carers,
I hope that you have had a good Summer, the weather has certainly given us a bit of everything. I do hope this letter finds you safe and well, and looking forward to the challenges of a new school year. It will be great to see all children return to school.
As you will know, the government are expecting all children, from all year groups, to return to school in September. The purpose of this letter is to give you the detailed information you will need regarding the start of the school year and what the plans for this are.
Schools have been issued with government guidance on how we should plan for a full return in a safe manner for children, parents and staff. Our school leadership team has carefully considered this guidance and completed detailed risk assessments, taking into account the current situation and updates to this guidance. The planning we have in place is there to ensure that school will be as safe as possible.
In line with the guidelines, we are able to welcome all the children back, but will have to put into place a series of measures to enable this to be done safely. There will be many things about school life that will be as normal as we can possibly make it, but there are still a number of additional measures, and differences in operating the school, that are necessary in order to keep everyone safe.
Below are the key pieces of information that you will need (presented as questions and answers), to be ready for the return. Please be reassured that many parents whose children already attend school have given us very positive feedback about how safe it feels. We are confident that we can replicate this positive experience for all our returning pupils.
Which day do the children return?
All Year 1 - 6 and Reception children will return to school on Thursday 3rd September. Nursery children will return following their own start dates, which parents and carers have already been informed of.
Will the children be in for a full school day / week?
Children will be in school for the whole day and the full school week and will not have reduced teaching time. We have to have a staggered start and home time for each class group in line with the guidance in order to limit the numbers of children and parents arriving and leaving the premises at any one time for everyone’s safety and to ensure social distancing. Please ensure that you make yourself aware of the start and finish times for your child’s class. It is important that you respect these timings, so that we can manage the number of people on the premises and the potential for children in different classes to mix unnecessarily. However, to accommodate this, we have reduced lunchtimes so that children do not lose out on any teaching hours- these are maintained through the school day and week.
What is a class bubble?
Each class will be in their own bubble. This means that during the day the children will only meet and have contact with a consistent group of children and adults allocated to that class. The children will not move around school apart from to use the toilet, to go outside to their allocated area or to collect their lunch from the hall (see below). No gatherings of more than one class are allowed at any point at this time.
Classroom staff will, as far as is possible, be allocated to a single class, and remain with that class consistently.
What are the arrangements for the start and end of the school day?
In order to keep children and their families safe, we will be having a staggered start and finish to the school day. We will need everyone to maintain social distancing of two metres. There will be posters reminding you of this, as well as markings on the floor which are distance markings on the appropriate entrance / exit points around school, and on pathways. When walking on the pathways please try to keep to the left of pathways and where needed use the grass to ensure social distancing. There is also now an entrance and exit gate to ensure social distancing. Please follow these arrangements in order to stop any crossover or congregating. Thank you.
Each class will be in their own classroom. A copy of the stagger times will be re-sent separately. There is a slower stagger on the first morning as children are going to new classes; staff will be outside helping them know which rooms to go to. When you drop off or collect your children please leave the premises as quickly as possible. Also please do not wait in the area outside the gates as this will make social distancing impossible and put everyone at risk. Please do not arrive early as this will cause unnecessary congestion, which we all need to work together to avoid. Ensure you closely supervise your children. Encourage them to stand with you while they wait to go into their classroom. Please talk to your child before their return so that they know what they need to do.
Staff in EYFS and Year 1 will be wearing PPE equipment on the door in case they need to support children. Please ensure that two metre social distancing is maintained between parents and staff for everyone’s safety. Any messages needing to be passed on can be passed on by email using the year group emails which we will send out again at the start of term, or by phone.
What if we are going to be late and can’t arrive on the allocated time?
If you are running late please contact the school by phone to arrange a time to bring your child to school. Do not arrive at a different time to the staggered time for your class unless arranged with the school beforehand.
What are the arrangements to ensure good hygiene and hand cleaning?
Children will wash their hands on arrival at the school. Luckily we have facilities for washing hands near each class entrance, and where this is not the case (nursery and Mr Heath’s class) hand sanitiser will be made available at a sanitisation station near the classroom door. Children will regularly wash their hands during the day including on entering and leaving the classroom, before and after eating and when they have been outside, as well as before leaving school. Hand sanitiser is available in a number of locations around school.
Children will be given a safety announcement at the start of the school day alongside very regular reminders about social distancing where possible, and about regularly washing hands. The rules of ‘Catch it, bin it, kill it!’, and coughing into elbows (rather than into the air) will be reinforced. We would appreciate your support in reminding children about these rules each day.
Where there are any issues over hand cleaning or where this causes skin problems, you can provide a soap or hand sanitiser that you know is suitable for your child. If this is the case please contact the school in advance to arrange it. Please ensure these are labelled with your child’s name.
Extra cleaning has been arranged during the school day focusing on toilets, contact surfaces, children’s tables and resources, this is on top of the cleaning at the end of each day. All our staff are absolutely dedicated and are working continuously to ensure that the school is a safe environment in which to learn and work.
What will happen at playtime?
Each class group has their own dedicated area in which to play at playtimes and lunchtimes, with social distancing paths to be able to access these areas. There are two metre gaps between each of these allocated areas. Classes that share an external door will organise times so they are not using the doors at the same time.
What about lunchtime?
As children cannot meet up with other classes of children, they will be eating their lunch in their classroom and not in the hall. Each class has a dedicated time to collect their lunch from the hall, no two classes will be in the hall at the same time. Staff will support children with this. This means we can offer the normal options for lunch, including hot options. A menu will come out to parents before the children start back to school. Children can bring packed lunches into school.
For children who have means tested Free School Meals, the voucher payments will cease in September and those children will be entitled to a free school meal as normal. This also includes all children from Reception to Y2, who are entitled to a Universal Free School Meal. If you think you are now entitled to Free School Meals and not currently in receipt of them please contact the school office who can advise you of how to register for free school meals, if you need to pay for school meals this now needs to be done through Parent Mail as no cash will be accepted in school at this time. If you need help with this please contact the school Office from 1st September.
Every class will have their own outdoor lunchtime break timetabled and will be using the areas dedicated for their class as at playtimes. Each class will have their own dedicated member of staff at lunchtimes. Lunchtimes will now be 45 minutes allowing a lunch-eating period and a playtime, this ensures children do not lose any teaching time with the staggered start.
What will classrooms look like?
It is expected that all children will return to school in September and so every class will have their full number of pupils in it. In line with guidance, children will be seated at tables in rows facing the teacher at the front. (This is, of course, age related and we do not expect children in Foundation Stage to be seated like this throughout the day). To allow this, some furniture may have been moved out of classrooms.
Children will have their own books, writing equipment and general resources. This will be kept on their desk and not used by any other child. No pencil cases are allowed in school at this time.
Any shared resources will be disinfected after use before other children have access to them, or taken out of commission for a week before used by anyone else. Where possible, children will be expected to stay seated at their desks and movement around the room will be kept to a minimum. Our youngest children will be able to access outdoor play etc. following appropriate hygiene measures. Our expectations will be age appropriate, so that children have a positive experience.
Children and staff need to maintain two metre social distancing from each other. Where this cannot be maintained for any reason, PPE equipment will be worn by staff. At times staff may be wearing face visors, especially where there are vulnerabilities.
Interventions will take place to support children maintaining two metre distances which will mean smaller groups. Where children get individual support linked to special needs where two metre distance cannot be maintained PPE equipment will be worn by staff.
Can I or others come into school at any time?
Apart from the staggered drop off and pick up times no parents / carers should come into school without appointments. If you need to come into school, for example to pick up your child for an appointment, please contact school beforehand to arrange this. When you come into school there is an intercom system outside the main entrance. Do not come into the school building but use the intercom to speak to the school office and follow any instructions given. Hand sanitiser is available near the intercom.
Certain people need to come into school for statutory or safety reasons. They will only be able to do so if arranged beforehand and a risk assessment is put in place which is signed off by the head teacher or his deputies. They will not have contact with the children. Any maintenance will be arranged when children are not in school wherever possible, hygiene procedures will be followed. If this is not arranged beforehand and approved they will be turned away.
What about Breakfast Club and After School Clubs?
At the moment the guidance says that the individual class bubbles should not be mixed wherever possible, which means that we will not be able to offer Breakfast Club and after-school clubs to begin with. We need to focus on settling all the children back into school in the first few weeks. Whilst we understand that this may prove more difficult for some families, we hope that you will bear with us, and we will look to start breakfast club as soon as we possibly can. We are currently exploring any ways we would be able to offer this.
What About School Uniform?
If you have school uniform that fits, we encourage you to send children in wearing school uniform, but at this point this is not compulsory. We are aiming to implement full school uniform from Monday 5th October, following our promise to give you a month’s notice of when uniform is expected. This gives you time to get this sorted if your child’s uniform does not fit.
The Government’s regulations and information encourage ‘all schools to return to their usual uniform policies in the autumn term. Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more often than usual, or in any different way to normal due to coronavirus (COVID-19)’.
Can children bring in a water bottle?
Please ensure children bring in their own named water bottle. This is vitally important as it will not be possible for children to have shared access to water and cups, for obvious hygiene reasons. Water bottles should be brought home and thoroughly washed every day. The water bottles will stay on your child’s desk.
What about PE lessons?
Each child will have one hour long PE lesson each week, which will take place outside. No shared resources will be used during this lesson and no contact sports will be involved. Sports coaches will run these sessions supported by school staff, but will maintain distances of 2 metres with children at all times. These lessons will only happen outside at this time so please ensure your child has suitable PE clothing on their PE days. Teachers will inform you of the day, and PE clothing must be brought to school on that day and taken home at the end of the day, and not left in school.
Does my child have to attend?
The government has said that from September all children should be attending school. If you have any particular worries about anything to do with school, please contact us. We would be happy to address any concerns that you have so that children can be back into school and begin learning again with their friends.
What about masks?
The Government are not recommending children under 11 wear face masks in schools, however this is a matter for parents to decide. Likewise with staff.
What happens if my child is ill?
Any child complaining of feeling ill or who has a temperature or any other of the key Coronavirus symptoms will be cared for following our usual procedure, but will need to self-isolate in the meeting room if showing the recognised symptoms of Coronavirus; parents/carers will be contacted to pick the child up as soon as possible in order to minimise contact with others. We have been instructed that if children are showing any symptoms of COVID-19 the member of staff dealing with the child will need to wear a mask/ gloves/ apron for their own safety.
Please ensure that your emergency details are up to date and that you have adequate additional arrangements in place if you are unable to pick your child up straight away.
A test should be arranged for the child straight away and the school informed as soon as the result comes through. If the result is positive all of the members of that bubble will need to self isolate for 14 days, and a test arranged for them. At that point the school will work with the local Public Health Department and Test and Trace as to whether any other action has to be taken.
If your child or someone in your household is unwell or shows any of the symptoms of Coronavirus, then please do not send them to school under any circumstances in order to prevent the spread of the illness to other children and staff. The child should be tested as soon as possible and school informed of the result.
In this instance, the person being unwell should be self-isolated for 10 days from the onset of symptoms and all fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. Please let us know urgently if this is the case. Should a child or anyone in the household then have a positive test it is essential that you also inform us straight away as ‘where a child tests positive, the rest of the class/group should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days’. The other household members of that wider class do not need to self-isolate unless the child they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.’ (DfE Guidance). School is able to advise on procedure, and will follow the most up to date advice from Public Health England.
Good communication with the school and the family at this stage is crucial.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it has answered a lot of your questions.
Please feel welcome to e-mail or ring us to discuss any concerns or questions you may have and we will respond to them before school reopens to children on Thursday 3rd September. Should you wish to email they can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing everyone back.