Dear Parents and Carers,
I very much hope that this message finds you and all of your families remaining safe and well.
I hope you will forgive the frequency of my communication with you, but I do wish to further update you around the ongoing planning that is happening to, hopefully, reopen schools across The Canterbury Academy Trust for more of our students.
Firstly, if I may remind you of some of the key headlines from the Department for Education’s most recent guidance documents:
- The government has advised schools to plan for the possible return of students in nurseries, year R, year 1 and year 6 from 1 June, if the 5 key COVID tests have been met.
- There is an ambition for primary schools to welcome back all year groups before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible, although this will be kept under review.
- From 1 June, schools have also been asked to consider how best to provide some “face to face” contact for students in years 10 and 12 before the summer break. It remains unclear what this might look like.
- Provision for children of key workers, and for vulnerable students, should continue, alongside remote learning programmes for students who are unable to attend and learn on campus.
- Families should be encouraged to send children in the identified categories and year groups to school, if it is safe and possible for them to do so. There will be no fines or penalties for non-attendance.
- Schools should review and adapt their curriculums and learning programmes to best support their learners, and all examinations and accountability measures remain cancelled until further notice.
As you know, it has remained the case since lockdown on 23 March that both The Canterbury Primary School and The Canterbury Academy have been open, including through holiday periods and Bank Holidays, for the children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable. It is now some time since I felt it necessary to remind you of who may fall into these categories, but with the language from central government beginning to change around what will be “expected” or “encouraged” from students and parents from, potentially, 1 June, I felt it pertinent to revisit.
If your child has been classified as vulnerable according to a combination of the government’s and our own definitions, we will already have contacted you privately. However, as I have often said, vulnerability is not always visible and neither can it be simply defined. It remains the case that if you feel your child to be vulnerable please contact us and we will do all we can to support.
If you are classified as a key worker it remains the case that your child, in DfE terms, is also “eligible” for a place in our provision, should you wish to accept it. The government’s definition of key workers remains available via this hyperlink Key Workers for your information.
Where previous DfE guidance stated clearly that;
Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.
Going onto ask that parents abide by one overarching principle in the ongoing battle against COVID-19;
If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
This guidance has now changed to say that;
Now that we have made progress in reducing the transmission of coronavirus we are encouraging all eligible children to attend – it is no longer necessary for parents of eligible children to keep them at home if they can. In particular, as per the existing guidance on vulnerable children and young people, vulnerable children of all year groups continue to be expected and encouraged to attend educational provision where it is appropriate for them to do so.
With that said we shall continue to keep our schools open and offer provision, at this time, for those eligible children through the May half-term, including the Spring Bank Holiday on Monday 25 May. If you have not already done so and wish for your child to attend through the holiday period, w/b 25 May, please can you let us know by contacting:
- If you attend The Canterbury Primary School, contact email@example.com or call 01227 462883
- If you are in years 7 or 8 at The Canterbury Academy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01227 463971
- If you are in years 9,10 and 11 at The Canterbury Academy, contact email@example.com or call 01227 463971
- If you are in the sixth form at The Canterbury Academy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01227 463971
It remains the case that Stagecoach are not running any dedicated school buses. However, ordinary bus services are still running. The number 22, for example, stops almost directly outside the campus on Knight Avenue. Students can catch this service to and from the main bus station in Canterbury. I can only advise all parents and carers to check the Stagecoach website on https://www.stagecoachbus.com/regional-service-updates/south-east/canterbury as regularly as possible, just to make sure that the services you may require continue to run.
As regards the government’s proposed date of 1 June, you will be aware that there remains much discussion between teaching unions and central government around the reopening of schools to more children. At the time of writing this message I understand there to be around 1,500 primary schools nationally who do not feel they are able to open safely on 1 June. Likewise, there is a growing number of regional councils up and down the country who do not feel they can support the government in safely opening their schools on the same date. The press, media and social media coverage of this, of course, will not be helping the situation for anybody; but most importantly it will not be helping our children and our families in terms of the assurances we all need. Whilst we continue to acknowledge and respect the decision making of others, The Canterbury Academy Trust shall also remain consistently and positively focused on the health, safety and very best interests of the children and families that we serve across our Trust community, as we have tried to throughout this crisis: our students, our staff and all of our families and loved ones.
The only certainty, horribly, is that there can be no certainty. I hope that you will continue to support my honesty when I remind you that schools will be forced to be very different places for the foreseeable future. Further to my previous message around what schools and educational settings will or will not able to do and the precautions we will take, I must tell you now, and I don’t like myself for saying it, but I will not be able to guarantee protection from COVID. I cannot make that guarantee for children, parents, my colleagues or our families. As has been reported nationally, the only guarantee of protection is to remain in lockdown and at home until the virus has gone away, if it ever goes away. I cannot guarantee that students, some as young as four years old, will socially distance or even begin to understand the concept when their entire curriculum should be underpinned by social interaction and communication. I cannot guarantee that one child will not go near another, fall over and need to be picked up, treated with first aid, hugged and comforted. The only thing I can do is to continue offering assurances that we will take all reasonable steps to prevent it:
- Most importantly, we will continue to follow all of the DfE guidance given to us as sensitively and supportively as we can.
- Children and adults will continue to be supported fully, either in their learning and work in school, wherever it is safe and possible, or alternatively in their remote learning and work at home.
- Thorough COVID risk assessments and adaptions to learning/working practices will be in place for every aspect of this return to school and work. These risk assessments, in due course and in line with government guidance, will also be published on our website(s).
- Again, in line with DfE guidance, COVID protective measures will be fully implemented, including support mechanisms and processes. These will cover vitally important areas such as cleaning and sanitising, any movement around the campus and all social distancing guidelines.
- Class sizes, groupings and staffing, as well as the organisation and structure of learning and the school day, will be reviewed and adapted sensibly and supportively. We wish to ensure that the safety and well-being, and not just the education, of everybody remains our highest priority.
As we prepare together for this next phase, all of these important aspects and sources of information continue to be collated calmly, carefully and methodically. I would like to thank the parental body at The Canterbury Primary School for so promptly replying to Mrs Farrell’s questionnaire. Your views, opinions and thoughts are very much welcomed and incredibly useful in shaping what we can offer from, hopefully, 1 June. As we continue to assess the capacity of our staffing levels across the Trust, it will be our intention in the coming week to voice the parents of children in Years 10 and 12 at The Canterbury Academy, to get a sense of how they are feeling about their children potentially returning to school at some point in June, in line with the government’s ambition to have some “face to face” contact before the summer break. All of this valuable information will allow us to make informed, balanced and objective decisions, underpinned by all of our very best and safest interests.
With everything being considered by our government, teaching unions, councils, The British Medical Association and various sources of scientific advice, all of this planning, of course, must remain completely flexible and fluid. It is expected, I believe, that there will be more announcements around the proposed opening of schools by the government tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. With the ultimate caveat that they will make a “final” decision on whether schools should open or not on 28 May, the Friday of half-term, and leaving only that weekend before 1 June.
I certainly do not envy the government their task and I should not wish to try and second guess their next decision. All we can do, as a Trust community, is keep on keeping on; calmly, sensibly and safely.
I shall write to you all again at the end of this week, which would have been the end of term 5, with a further update on our planning and any more news following the government briefing of Thursday afternoon.
My very best regards to you all,
Trust Executive Principal