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Update from Mr Walker - The First Federation Trust

Dear Parent/ Carer


Happy New Year!  I hope that you and your families were able to have a good Christmas holiday and managed to stay safe and healthy.


As we are about to start the new term, I thought I would take the opportunity to write to you regarding the current Covid situation. There has obviously been a lot of news, in recent days, about the rise in cases. All of our school’s communities are now in Tier 3. There has also been a lot of speculation in the news about further restrictions, including the potential for more school closures.


As I explained last term, we will continue to do our very best to keep our schools open for our children. Clearly the situation is changing rapidly, and this may well have an impact on how our schools work in the coming days and weeks. We will, as we have done over the last 9 months, continue to follow the requirements set out in the DfE and Government guidance. 


At the moment, all of our Trust schools will reopen as planned tomorrow, Tuesday 5th January. Our hope is that we will be able to provide in school education for all of our pupils.  However, there are a few challenges, which may mean your children might have to work from home.


Each class bubble will be taught by their usual teacher. If that teacher is unavailable, then we will always try and arrange a cover teacher. Due to rising cases nationally, it is likely that we could have some staff who might catch Covid and need to be absent from work. 


It is also still the case that staff may need to isolate should they develop symptoms or have been in close contact with someone else that has symptoms, as identified through the Track and Trace system. You may also be aware that several teaching unions are advising staff that if they are concerned about health and safety challenges, they are able to stay away from work.


All of these challenges combined do mean that we may see higher levels of staff absence than we did last term. Higher levels of teacher absence may mean that there could be fewer cover (supply) teachers available.  If this is the case, we may be in a situation where we have to ask pupils in a class to work from home.  This will be the last resort.  If we do need to take this action, we will give you as much notice as possible.  However, this could well still be quite short notice. If pupils have to work from home, home learning will be provided.  All pupils need to access this and need to do the tasks set by the school. Staff can assist if technology is a barrier. 


If a class group is sent home due to a lack of staff rather than to isolate, we will make arrangements for Key Worker provision in school. This will be on a similar basis as it was in April.  Please only use this if you really cannot make any other arrangements.  If a class is sent home to isolate, then all affected pupils must remain at home.


The strict measures that we have in schools will remain for the foreseeable future. Children will be kept in their bubble groups throughout the day.  They will be required to keep washing and sanitising their hands. Rooms will continue to be ventilated; pupils are encouraged to wear extra layers.


We continue to ask for your help. Parents can only come on site to drop off and collect children. When doing this, only come in your allotted time, wearing a mask.  We request only one adult per family on site. Please follow the designated routes and avoid congregating on pavements outside school.  Staff will not be available for quick messages. If you need to pass on an urgent message, please phone the school office, or email the admin email address.


Current DfE guidance is clear that all pupils should be at school. Therefore, we cannot authorise any absence for pupils being kept at home as a precaution. Pupils who are unwell, or have symptoms need to remain at home. Likewise, any pupils who are in an enforced isolation need to remain at home.  In these cases, staff will make home learning available. We are not expected to produce home learning for pupils being kept at home by choice. Please do not ask staff for work for this reason.  If the guidance changes, we will of course make any alterations to this approach.


We are clearly in a very uncertain period. As already stated, we are following national guidance. This may well change in the near future.  There is lots of speculation in the media. At this stage, it is only that and is not guidance. Should there be any changes, I will write to you again.  If schools are required to close, we will continue to be open for key worker families as previously.  You may have lots of personal opinions about the current situation. These views may differ to the approach we are taking to keep our schools working. My staff and I are implementing the guidance we have received. We ask that you support us to support you and your children.


If you have any questions, as usual, please speak with your child’s teacher or Head of School, in the first instance.


Thank you all for your continued support. I will write to you again should anything change in the coming days.


Yours sincerely,


Paul Walker

First Federation Trust