Paul Heery, Chief Executive Officer, The White Hills Park Trust writes in Newsletter Issue 248- 15th May 2020
Reopening our schools
I am sure that almost all of you have been following the news with great interest and have been keen to know what will be happening in schools as some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. The picture is changing rapidly, and we are adapting our plans to reflect the expectations set out by the government. Last weekend the Prime Minister announced the broad picture, and over the last few days we have been provided with further advice from the government, as well as advice and opinion from a number of other quarters, including the Local Authority and professional associations.
The specific advice about the provision in secondary schools is that we are ‘to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of Year 10 and Year 12 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups.’
This is the advice that we are currently working towards, but the picture is changing rapidly and we know there will be more detail which may lead to a shift in direction from the government. However, it is our responsibility to plan as carefully as we can, given current information, even if we recognise that the plan will change.
One thing that does seem clear is that it is unlikely that Year 7, 8 and 9 students will be returning to school this term, certainly not to access regular lessons. We will therefore, continue to provide support for remote and online learning, and appreciate the efforts that so many parents and students have made with this. We will also continue to offer the supervision for the specific groups of students identified by the government, including the children of key workers.
Our task is to balance two competing pressures. On the one hand, we are desperate to ensure that our students maintain their progress. We will not lose sight of the importance of your children’s education and will continue to do everything we can to support remote learning. However, we know that in an ideal situation, students would be in their classroom, working with their teacher and that we want to get back to this situation as soon as we can.
We have to balance this against the fact that we are in extraordinary times, and this brings responsibilities towards our students, our staff and the wider community, including friends and family members of students and staff. We know the overwhelming importance of keeping our schools safe – this means making sure that whatever plans we put in place must meet this safe threshold. We have been looking in detail at the layout of schools, making sure we can adapt the curriculum and timetable to reduce risk, ensuring that we have sufficient equipment and
resources, making sure our school stay clean and, and so on. Before opening, we are carrying out detailed risk assessments and are happy to share the key outcomes with parents.
As a Trust, we believe that the people best placed to make the detailed decisions about school opening are the leadership teams and staff at each school – they are the people who know the students best, understand the challenges of the school site, and can adapt and refine plans to meet the objectives described above. As a Trust, we know that the decisions taken by school leaders and governors are based on our strong shared values, and we will provide whatever support we can. As a result, the model across our schools will not be identical, but will be aimed at meeting the same objectives in the context of each school. I know that Mrs Mellors, Mrs Gale and their respective teams have been in regular contact with parents, and we will continue to keep you informed – please keep checking for updates.
Finally, I realise that it’s possible to feel overwhelmed with information. However, the DfE document below may provide a useful summary of the current advice and guidance