Very recently, the Government released guidance for the full opening of schools from September. This has confirmed that all pupils/students, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the Autumn term.
We are now finalising our plans, in line with Government guidance, to ensure the re-opening of our schools can happen as smoothly as possible.
Implementing measures to create a safe environment within schools remains a central focus of the guidance but it is clear that many of the existing measures we have grown used to this term will change significantly in response to the decreased prevalence of Coronavirus.
Our schools have played a critical role in supporting all children and young people throughout the different stages of the pandemic that we have so far experienced, including providing provision in school for vulnerable children and those of key workers, supporting home learning for all pupils/students and more recently welcoming some year groups back into school where it has been possible.
This next phase will be the most challenging as we move from 50% of our children attending school each day to 100% in less than 3 months’ time. Whilst some of the challenges will be common to every school, their range and scale will vary across the phases and localities; particular operational challenges will be faced by our secondary schools.
The Government guidance establishes a universal framework to put in place protective measures, leaving a considerable amount of flexibility for judgements to be made at school level about how best for these to be implemented. We will publish our plan over the forthcoming weeks, but hope that you will understand the need for us to complete comprehensive Risk Assessments as part of our ‘first steps’.
To summarise the Government’s plans, please note the following information, which we have split into sections (click on the section you wish to read to expand the information):
Prepare for all pupils to return in Autumn
School attendance will be mandatory in Autumn and the usual rules on attendance will apply. That includes a school's responsibility to record attendance and follow up on absence.
On 1 August, the government will pause its advice for vulnerable people to shield, if there's a continued decline in Coronavirus transmission rates. This means that students affected by those rules should be able to return to school.
However, some students may still be unable to attend because they are complying with clinical and/or public health advice given to them (e.g. if they're self-isolating and waiting for a test result). In that case, schools should not penalise absence and will be expected to offer them access to remote education.
Staff returning to work in September
Most staff are also expected to return, however, in line with wider government advice, staff who can work from home (e.g. some administration staff) should continue to do so.
Our schools will be flexible about how we deploy staff who are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable.
Class groups may need to increase in size
Our schools may need to increase the size of 'bubbles' to allow everyone to return to school.
- In early years settings, our school will not need to arrange children in small consistent groups in Autumn, but we will reduce mixing and may want to keep age groups apart.
- In our primary schools, 'bubbles' may be the size of a full class.
- In our secondary schools:
- For students in Key Stage 3, 'bubbles' may be the size of a full class.
- For students in Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5, it will likely need to be the size of a year group to allow ours school to deliver the full range of curriculum subjects.
There are no firm rules on group sizes though, and it is not an 'all-or-nothing' approach. We are aware that it will still bring benefits if we implement it partially. So, if some mixing were necessary, such as for specialist teaching or by putting siblings in different groups, this can still bring benefits.
Whatever the size of the group, we hope to keep them apart from other groups, where possible.
Older students will be encouraged to keep their distance within groups.
Staff will work across different groups in order to deliver the school timetable, but they will keep their distance from pupils/students and other staff as much as they can (ideally 2 metres apart).
Equipment and resources can be shared within groups
Classroom-based resources like books and games can be used and shared within a group. We will clean them regularly, as we will do for frequently touched surfaces.
However, students and staff will not to share individual and very frequently used equipment like pencils and pens.
Any resources shared between groups, such as sports, art and science equipment, will be either:
- Cleaned frequently and meticulously, and always between groups using them; or
- Rotated so they can be unused and out of reach for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different groups
Our schools will follow similar rules for books and other shared resources that pupils/students might take between school and home. We will encourage everyone to avoid unnecessary sharing, especially where it does not contribute to pupil/student education and development.
New measures for responding to infections
If someone has symptoms:
Our schools will be provided with a small number of home testing kits which we can give to parents collecting a child with symptoms or staff with symptoms, if we think providing one will increase the likelihood of them getting tested.
We will ask parents and staff to inform us immediately of the results of a test.
If there is a confirmed case of Coronavirus
If one of our schools become aware that someone has tested positive, we will contact our local health protection team. This team will also contact us if they become aware that someone at the school has tested positive.
The team will carry out a rapid risk assessment to confirm who has been in close contact with the person when they were infectious, and make sure they are asked to self-isolate.
Close contact means:
- Direct close contact - face-to-face contact with an infected person for any length of time, within 1 metre, including:
- Being coughed on
- A face-to-face conversation, or
- Unprotected physical contact (skin-to-skin).
- Proximity contacts - extended close contact (within 1 to 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with an infected person.
- Travelling in a small car with an infected person.
To help our local Health Protection Team, our schools will keep a record of pupils/students and staff in each group, and any close contact that takes place between children and staff.
If there is a possible outbreak
If there are 2 or more cases within 14 days, or an overall rise in sickness absence where Coronavirus is suspected, our schools will work with our local Health Protection to decide if additional action is needed.
In some cases, the team may recommend that a larger number of other pupils/students self-isolate as a precautionary measure, such as the whole year group.
Whole-school closure will not generally be necessary, and we will not consider this except if our local Health Protection Team advises it.
If an outbreak is confirmed, a mobile testing unit may be dispatched to the school.
New Expectations for our Curriculum
Our schools will likely need to modify the curriculum substantially at the start of the academic year, but with an aim to return to its normal curriculum for all pupils/students by Summer term 2021.
Each school will assess pupils’/students’ starting points and address gaps in their knowledge and skills, and use this to inform changes to its curriculum. Our schools will make effective use of regular formative assessment, along with assessments completed at the end of this academic year.
For pupils in Early Years:
- For children in nursery: focus on the prime areas of learning, including communication and language; personal, social and emotional development (PSED); and physical development.
- For children in Reception: focus prime areas of learning, including communication and language; personal, social and emotional development (PSED); and physical development. We will aim to address gaps in language, early reading and maths, particularly ensuring children’s acquisition of phonic knowledge and extending their vocabulary.
For pupils in Key Stage (KS) 1 and KS2, we will prioritise:
- Identifying gaps and re-establishing good progress in the 'essentials' (phonics and reading, increasing vocabulary, writing and maths).
- Identifying opportunities across the curriculum so they read widely.
- Developing their knowledge and vocabulary.
We will keep the curriculum broad, so that the majority of pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year (e.g. sciences, humanities, the arts, PE, RE).
The Department for Education is planning on the basis that statutory primary assessments will take place in summer 2021, although it has delayed the introduction of the new reception baseline assessment until September 2021.
For students in KS3, our schools will keep the curriculum broad, so that the majority of pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year (e.g. sciences, humanities, the arts, PE, RE).
We will address gaps in English and Mathematics in Year 7 pupils by teaching essential knowledge and skills from the KS2 curriculum.
For students in KS4 and KS5, we will continue to teach their examintion subjects. Ofqual is currently consulting on how to run exams next year. As soon as we know we will, of course, let you know!
Some trips can start again
We can now resume non-overnight domestic educational visits. We will make sure any trips are in line with protective measures, such as keeping pupils/students in their 'bubble'. However, please note that as part of our Risk Assessment, we are currently reducing all our trips to avoid disappointment and refund issues.
Return to usual school uniform
We will be returning to full school uniform for all our schools. Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more than usual, or with methods different from normal.
Review of Risk Assessments
We will review our Risk Assessments to ensure that we consider the additional risks and control measures that we will need to return to full capacity in the Autumn term. This will include a review of our Behaviour and Child Protection policies. We will also have a contingency plan in case of a local outbreak. This will include a return to our current online and virtual school provision with blended learning.
COVID-19 Risk Assessment document
A COVID-19 Risk Assessment document has been put in place by Valley Invicta Academies Trust (VIAT) in response to the Government’s announcement for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020.
You can read our COVID-19 Risk Assessment document here.
Department for Education Helpline
The Department for Education launched a helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:
- Phone: 0800 046 8687
- Email: DfE.email@example.com
- Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)
Please note, if a student is sick or self-isolating, they MUST report absence by emailing attendance to ensure the school is informed.