ReOpening the Academy

Posted on: 20th May 2020

Dear Parents/Carers,

I do hope that your families remain well.

Things are beginning to change a little and, following my previous correspondence, I write to you with a further update.

Thank you for your trust in NEWA. Unlike other colleagues at other schools, we have not been inundated with questions and requests regarding the wider reopening of the education sector. This has allowed us to spend valuable time creating the right plan for your children without added pressure. This has meant a great deal to us and we are eternally grateful for your faith in us.

We have received an avalanche of communications over the last few days from Government departments. It remains subject to change and we have been told that a final decision will not be made until 28th May 2020. This date provides the Government with an option to cancel these plans if the wider risk of the virus increases. However, we would be negligent if we left our communications and planning to the last minute.

We are planning to welcome the return of year 10 from Monday 8th June for just two hours each week. In addition, we are also planning to have contact time with year 12, commencing from the 22nd June. These two year-groups have key exams next year and this face-to-face contact time will help our transition back to full-time studies at the Academy when the time is right.

All year groups will continue to be taught remotely. In order to allow this to work, we are expecting to stick to the current (remote learning) structure. Our provision for children of keyworkers and vulnerable children remains unchanged.

Year 10 students: From June 8th, there will be small groups (no more than 15) of year 10 students invited into the Academy. Students will attend in the morning from 09:30-11:30. This structure will allow us to have contact with every student in year 10 over a two-week period.

Year 12 students: Furthermore, week commencing June 22nd, there will be small groups (no more than 15) of year 12 students invited into the Academy. Students will be in the morning from 0930-1130.

It will look like this:

Week One (June 1st) – Staff only (staggered contact process throughout the week).
Week Two (June 8th) – Year 10 – staggered through the week (two hours for each student) – contact time – discussing mental health, wellbeing, reviewing work and accessing the VLE.
Week Three (June 15th) – Year 10 – staggered through the week (two hours for each student) – contact time – discussing mental health, wellbeing, reviewing work and accessing the VLE.
Week Four (June 22nd) – Year 12 – staggered through the week (two hours for each student) – contact time – discussing mental health, wellbeing, reviewing work and accessing the VLE.

At this point, the provision in the Academy will be reviewed and we will make further decisions regarding the remaining three weeks of term, when I will write to you again.

There are also a number of other areas that I would like to mention, we have covered these in more detail in our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document:

– Movement around the site will be limited, groups will be assigned their own toilet block and extensive cleaning of toilets and rooms will occur between groups.

– There will be no breaks or lunches. All students on site will be provided with a grab bag lunch to take home with them.

– Students will not be required to wear uniform. However, we do ask that students come in wearing clean clothes and that clothes are washed after they have been in.

– All students who are unwell should stay at home, whether the symptoms they display are ‘covid symptoms’ or not.

– The times of drop off (arrival) and collection (depart) will be staggered.

– If your child needs to be dropped off or collected, only one parent should do this.

– Please do not gather at entrance gates or doors and do not enter the school site unless you have a pre-arranged appointment

– The academy remains closed to all other visitors, however contact can be made with the academy by email [email protected] or by telephone 01902 623 111.

I would like to give you every assurance that we are already working very hard to ensure that when we open, we will be meeting the Government’s guidance on social distancing and infection control. However, we would ask that families who are shielding or students who are clinically vulnerable to take the advice of their GP or clinician and make an informed decision about whether they should attend or not.

We will be writing to you again with further information, including the proposed day when your child is invited to return, about allocated drop-off and collection times, and the process for doing so to help minimise contact. Students may not necessarily be in friendship groups, it is important that students do not see this as a social exercise and we must ensure that after the sessions they return home immediately. At the end of this letter you will also find a list of frequently asked questions you may find useful.

I can’t begin to tell you the extent of planning this has involved, our health and safety audits and risk assessments have been extensive. Given the fluidity of the situation, I thought it helpful if we offered you more direct contact with myself and my team. This is an opportunity to discuss, in confidence, any matter that is important to you and your family. It need not be specifically about the reopening of the school. If you would like to speak to me or a member of my leadership team, please send an email to [email protected] and we will do our best to answer any questions.

It is important to state that schools have not been closed. They have remained open for the children who have needed our support and care, including the children of key workers. Teachers and leaders have in many cases worked harder than any point in their professional lives as they have sought to support home learning and to ensure that those families who needed it, had food. Parents too have been magnificent in attempting to support their children’s learning while in many cases, also trying to continue to work.

For now, we are simply making plans for how we might open schools more widely from 1st June. The Government will make the final decision on whether to open schools more widely when it reviews the latest science, including transmission rates, on 28th May.

There is still a great deal of planning to work through. There are daily briefings and clarity is beginning to be provided by the Government. Matters are becoming clearer.

Finally, I wanted to let you know how proud I have been of the students over the last couple of months. Whether they are among the small number who have been in school or, like most, they have been at home, I know that they have been a credit to themselves.

Many of you have been kind enough to tell me how they are getting on and what learning they have been doing. I do enjoy hearing what they are doing, so please do keep letting me know and please keep encouraging them to keep up with their studies.

Please take care and stay safe.

Yours faithfully,

Craig Cooling
Principal
Ormiston NEW Academy

Please follow Government advice by washing your hands frequently and reduce your social interactions – here’s some Government guidance on staying alert and safe: https://bit.ly/2T0FT7j

FAQs

Why are you opening?
The Government has announced its first steps for learners in year 10 and 12 “to supplement remote education with some face to face support for these year groups from 1 June”. They do not, however, expect the learners to return on a full-time basis at this stage, “so we do not expect a full timetable to be offered as schools and colleges look to minimise the number of pupils in school or college each day”. Therefore we are following government advice and providing contact time for students who have important exams in 2021.

Is this only for year 10 students?
The contact time will be offered to students in year 10 and in year 12.

Can my child see their friends?
In these small groups, students may not necessarily be with close friends. It is important that students do not see this as a social exercise and we must ensure that after the sessions they return home immediately. We are already working very hard to ensure that when we open, we will be meeting the Government’s guidance on social distancing and infection control.

Will I get fined if I don’t send my child in?
You do not have to send your child to school during this pandemic. There are no plans to fine parents of children who do not attend at the present time.

My child is in another year, why can’t they come in?
The Government has asked us to prioritise year 10 and year 12 students because they have important exams next year. Engagement levels with the VLE have been very pleasing throughout all year groups and we will continue to set work in this way. If you think that your child would benefit from some one-to-one time on video or via the phone, contact us and we will try to accommodate this request.

What precautions are you making for children to be safe?
Schools and academies are following national guidance produced by the Department for Education and Public Health England. We will operate social distancing (where possible), keep children in small groups throughout the day, increase cleaning schedules and ask children to follow more stringent hygiene routines. We will also stagger the start and finish of the school day to reduce the number of adults and students arriving and departing at the same time.

When will the Academy open?
It is likely that we will be fully open in September but we have not received any guidance on this and the Government will advise these plans in due course.

Does this replace remote learning on the VLE for year 10?
No, this does not replace remote learning via the VLE. Students will only be in for two hours at first, and they should continue to access and complete tasks set for them on the VLE

What will students be doing during these sessions?
The sessions will run a little like tutor groups where we will discuss mental health, wellbeing, work that has been set and access to the VLE. Further sessions will have more of a traditional teaching and learning focus.

How long are the sessions?
Each session is two hours.

Do students need to bring all their work in?
Students should not bring anything into the academy, all equipment will be provided.

How will students get into the Academy?
If students are able to attend then they would make their way to NEW in the way that they always have done. We’ve moved the start and end of the day to avoid busy periods on public transport. Once at NEW, students should report to main reception.

Can they meet up with their friends after the sessions?
It is important that students do not see this as a social exercise and we must ensure that after the sessions they return home immediately. We will reiterate this with students in the academy.

Are you still open to keyworkers?
Yes. Provision for keyworkers and vulnerable children remains unchanged and available to all year groups.

Do students have to wear uniform?
Students will not be required to wear uniform. However, we do ask that students come in wearing clean clothes and that clothes are washed after they have been in.

Someone in my household is still shielding, should my child attend?
We would ask that families who are shielding or staff who are clinically vulnerable to take the advice of their GP or clinician and make an informed decision about whether they should come in or not.

Someone in my house has symptoms (or has had) symptoms – should I send my child in?
All students who are unwell will be told to stay at home, whether the symptoms they display are ‘covid symptoms’ or not. If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus then we ask that you follow the NHS advice which is documented here: https://bit.ly/368HMnP

When will you let the other groups in?
At the moment we have only been asked to invite year 10 and year 12 in. Whilst we try not to speculate, with just seven weeks left until the end of the academic year, it is unlikely any other groups will return before September.

Will children have to social distance?
We are working very hard to ensure that when we open, we will be meeting the Government’s guidance on social distancing and infection control.

Will you be serving food and where will the children eat?
We would recommend that children come in with a snack (if needed) and a drink in a bottle. Students will be provided with a lunch grab bag on their departure from school. To note, the water coolers will be unavailable but bottled water will be, if required.

My child travels in on public transport, do they have to come in?
There is absolutely no expectation that any student HAS to come in. If you or your child do not feel comfortable coming in using public transport, please stay at home and let us know by writing to [email protected].

Why can’t my year 10 child come in more often – it seems pointless coming in for 2 hours per week?
We have had to plan to bring all of year 10 and year 12 in safely by following key guidance. We do not want lots of students on-site at the same time therefore we have had to create a rota system. Whilst we appreciate that it is not a perfect solution, it is safer and it allows us some contact time with all students. We will review this approach and inform you of any changes.

How can you enforce social distancing with year 10s?
Students in year 10 will already be very familiar with social distancing. However, we have lots of new signage up around the site and will be marking out workspaces to ensure social distancing compliance. It will also be one of the first things that we’ll talk to students about.

Will teachers and staff have to use PPE?
No – PPE will not be compulsory, but will be available for staff to use, at their discretion. If a child becomes unwell and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, staff will have to isolate that child from others and use PPE to protect themselves. In some circumstances, for example, where a child needs personal care or has specific additional needs, staff may use PPE whilst they support a child.

My child is worried about coming back to school, how can I help them?
Talk to your child in a positive way about school, seeing friends and teachers again. Help them understand how social distancing works and make sure that they know about the importance of handwashing. We are also more than happy to speak to the student about their concerns one-to-one.

Will schools be teaching the National Curriculum when children return?
No. We will initially focus on ensuring children feel safe and anxiety-free. We will deliver a curriculum designed to support children back into school routines and classroom learning.

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