It's all going very well

In this blog I want to thank the school community for making our full return to school go smoothly so far. There have been changes to get used to, but everyone seems to have adjusted really well. Where we have had relatively small issues these are being addressed with practice adapted calmly and quietly.

Year 3 parents have totally supported our use of the alternative entrance from Tapton field. This massively (25%) reduced the number of people at the top gate and has meant we are not worried about excessive mixing or ‘close contacts.

Our plan for arriving at school for all pupils over a relaxed 25 minute period, rather than trying to manage staggered starts and finishes (and potentially causing huge clashes within school and with other schools), is working very well. After a couple of days right at the start of term where there was a bit of consternation about the size of the first thing rush things have smoothed out. We can see how pupils are now arriving over the longer period rather than all at once – parents and pupils are self-regulating the situation so they arrive at a time when they feel comfortable.

Hand washing expectations were not easy for a few children, but as we have continued our insistence they have come on board and all children now readily accept the expectation and wash their hands with soap and running water every time they are asked to (and some do it a few times more).

All schools are trying to minimise onsite visits; some are trying to eliminate them but we have not quite tried to go that far. Parents are being really supportive of this policy, and happily allow staff at the gates to take messages or forgotten lunch boxes, and they are using telephone calls and emails more than previously. This is keeping contacts as low as possible and reducing risk all round.

Dinner organisation has been a challenge, but we have been determined, along with our very supportive contractor – Taylor Shaw – to offer a proper, full, school meal service while still protecting ‘bubbles’. It has meant a different timing and rolling structure from usual but the children are adapting to it very well. After one or two questions about whether the children were getting long enough to eat we are now seeing children themselves recognise that they do have time (if they do less chat while eating). In fact the children get 1 full 15 minutes in the hall, far longer than they would have taken previously. Staff are working flat out to secure this provision and ensure a positive lunch and play time.

With the changing rooms out of action (no fresh air flow and so we have decided in the risk Assessment that the rooms are not ‘Covid-safe’) changing for PE was going to be a problem. We asked parents to send children to school on the right days already in PE kit, and they are. It is saving lots of time, lots of contact points from occurring, and keeping cloakrooms clear so storage, and hand washing, is clearer.

When we asked that children also come kitted out ready for Clubs and out of hours activities, parents and children supported this too. We have had a conversation or two about football team tops and we have seen great support and understanding on that one – parents, staff and pupils together doing it right.

Every school in the country is probably experiencing higher rates of absence than usual for September – ours is up to 12% when it would normally be as low as 3%. Parents are being wonderfully understanding and supportive when we send a child home after they have been coughing all morning, perhaps, or they are keeping children at home, isolating, with similar symptoms. Parents are accessing tests as soon as possible, and then showing commitment to education by returning their child to school as soon as a negative result comes back and their child feels well enough. I cannot thank them enough for doing this – it is the first of the four most important steps we must take and it is reassuring that parents take it so seriously.

We will be asking understanding for more change over the rest of the term; SEND meetings and Parent Evenings will be online or by telephone as we minimise face to face meetings; swimming lessons, about to start in Year 4, will need children to be ‘beach ready’ as they come to school; the amount we ask as voluntary parental contributions for trips may go up as we have to make travel arrangements that protect ‘bubbles’; and so on.

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