22 May 2020
We hope that you and your families are safe and well at this time. We wanted to thank all those who have responded with their thoughts regarding their children returning to school.
We write to inform you of a decision taken by our Governing Board in response to the Government’s ‘ambition’ to open schools on 1 June 2020 for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children.
Following the 14 plus guidance documents issued by the government in the past week and the publicly available BMA medical information, we have decided that, as a Governing Board we will not be opening our schools to any children other than those of key workers, and vulnerable learners at the beginning of June.
The National Governance Association have been clear, although the government have shared their ‘ambitions’ to get the children in Year 6, Year 1, Reception and Nursery back to school as of 1 June 2020,
“The final decision on whether to invite pupils back will rest with schools... Schools should only invite those pupils back when and if their assessment of the risk is that it is safe for both children and staff to do so.”
We think it is important to be clear, there is no cowardice in wanting to guarantee safety for our children, their parents, our staff and their families. The staff at Foxdell have been, and will continue to be, exemplary, and have children at the heart of all that they do, as do we, as governors.
Having taken cognisance of the government ‘guidance’, and with the knowledge of our school, our views are that:
We have a duty of care to our staff and our children and this is compromised with the current intentions shared by the government, which do not provide any evidence that it is safe for children. On balance, to send children back to school at this time, and in the way that has been suggested, means that they, the staff dedicated to teaching and caring for them, and all of their families, are at increased risk. It is a risk that we cannot mitigate for, and it involves at best serious illness, at worst, death.
School sent out an ‘early indication’ email 14 May 2020 to parents of the government identified year groups and the indications are that approximately: 90% of Reception, 90% of Year One and 80% of Year Six parents would not be sending their children back to school as they feel it is not safe and the national guidance is not clear enough for them to make an informed decision. Of the parents who indicated that they may send their children in, some said so tentatively, wanting to know the realities of the proposal, and the abnormal situation their children would be in, several thinking that it would be back to ‘business as usual’ for their child based on the lack of published information for parents indicating otherwise from the government.
The learning environments in any school opening at this time, in order to attempt any semblance of social distancing, would have to be drastically different. Children would not necessarily be with friends and the capacity to physically comfort one another, play or interact as they usually would, will not exist.
They would have to stand/walk 2m apart in corridors, impossible in our schools so a one way system would have to be implemented; sit at desks (where they would also eat lunch) 2m apart.
We believe that many parents are not aware of the stringent practices schools would have to have in place as per the school guidance issued. Some parents, notably in Year Six, were under the impression that the children would all be in together and enjoy celebrations, shirt signing, final assemblies, and so on, and this would simply not happen.
We feel that any proposed plan discussed is not safe at this time. Any plan that follows the expectations of the government in terms of opening schools, does not follow the national guidance for every other aspect of society on social distancing in the same way that we must behave with our families, our friends, when shopping etc.
Thus we cannot say to you as parents that it is safe for your child to come to school, or for you, should your child bring the virus back home unwittingly.
Thus we cannot say to staff that it is safe for them to come back to school with the proposed number of children, or for their families, should they take the virus back into their homes unwittingly.
We all know that schools WILL reopen fully although nobody yet knows how, or when, but it is evident that all school leaders, both at strategic and also at operational level, want pupils, staff and families to be safe when this happens. Our school staff and leaders have never had a greater level of trust from you and our community because we have lead calmly, with sensitivity and pragmatism and we have communicated honestly.
We want to re-open when it is safe for our pupils, staff and their respective families.
Before we can consider re-opening, we would need greater transparency and clarity about what is possible and about level of risk for those in our school.
We will continue to revisit this position, as new evidence is shared, and will keep you as informed as possible.
We feel that we will not be in a position at the beginning of June to be confident that we can keep children and staff safe, and opening would compromise our excellent relationship with you, our moral obligations, and also our obligations in relation to employment law statutes and our ethical leadership.
We hope that you appreciate our view and would ask that you continue to give us your support. In return we will continue to be honest and open with you and regularly review our stance as more information is made available to us from the government.
Please be assured that home learning will continue for all year groups.
We will continue to provide essential childcare to the children of key workers and vulnerable children, as we have done these past 8 weeks, taking into account updated guidance from the DfE regarding social distancing and hygiene practices etc. This will continue after the half term week.
Mrs A Khan Co-Chair
Ms J Abbott Executive Headteacher
Foxdell Schools Federation Governing Board Foxdell Schools Federation