Letter to Parents 13/05/20
Please take some time to read the message from Mr Solly below...
Dear parents and carers,
I hope this letter finds you and your families safe and well.
Today would have been the GCSE English Literature Paper 1 for our Year 11 students. It feels very strange to not be welcoming students into the sports hall, whispering ‘good luck’ to them and watching them plough their way through the literature exam. Instead, I am at home, writing to you whilst balancing my other current job as a Year 6 teacher to my 11 year old son, Joe. I know that over the past 6 weeks many of you will have been balancing work and family commitments alongside supporting your sons and daughters in their home learning. I appreciate and understand how challenging this can be and it is important to remember, there is no textbook for how to do this; everyone will do it differently and I am sure you will be doing the very best for your family in difficult circumstances.
I wanted to write to you today as there have been a number of announcements (guidance documents link here, link here, link here and link here) recently regarding the proposed return to schools. I think it is important that the UCC community know and understand our current thinking and the approaches we will be taking over the next few weeks.
I would like to start by saying this; we want to return to school as soon as we are confident it is safe to do so. We miss seeing your sons and daughters every day. We miss teaching them. We miss watching them happily socialise with their friends at break and lunch. We miss laughing with them. We miss your children and we miss our school. However, the current proposals from the government for Year 10 students to return to school from June 1st raises a number of significant concerns that we will need to resolve before we are able to welcome this year group back to school. We want everyone to be safe and at present there are many unanswered questions that we hope to resolve over the coming weeks. Our main concerns are:
- The education sector have not yet been provided with clear scientific evidence that it is safe for children to return to school.
- We have significant concerns that social distancing is extremely challenging to maintain in schools, which poses a risk to students, staff and families.
- We would require a large number of staff in school to supervise Year 10 students in small groups (as suggested in the guidance) – this would mean that these teachers would not be available to provide online learning for students in Key Stage 3 who are studying at home.
I am working with my team to explore ways in which we could re-open for Year 10 students at some point before the summer holiday break. We currently feel that it is highly unlikely this will be possible from June 1st. We will consider the following as key drivers in our decision making:
- Primarily we will only re-open for Year 10 if we are confident we can secure the safety and welfare of students and staff.
- We will consider how students will travel to school safely.
- We will consider how students will be educated whilst they are in the school building and we expect this will look quite different to what we are used to.
- We will consider how students are able to move around the school site, accessing toilet and catering facilities in a way that protects themselves and others.
- We will consider how many days per week we will be able to have students in school. Our initial thinking is that it is highly unlikely that we would be able to accommodate more than half a year group on one day.
From the announcements and subsequent guidance that has been issued this week, it appears highly unlikely that students in Years 7, 8 and 9 will return to school during this academic year. Therefore, it is important for us to continue to refine and adapt our online learning provision for these students throughout the summer term. We have welcomed feedback from students, staff and parents and we will be seeking ways to further enhance our online delivery.
All of our arrangements and planning are there to protect and save lives. I did not ever think I would have to include such language in a communication to parents, but we are living in unprecedented times. As a result, there are a number of conditions that need to be met in order for us to re-open our school in any way. There are national conditions which have been identified by our professional associations and we will be guided by these throughout our planning process. We will not re-open UCC unless we are confident the systems we have in place can protect students and staff. When we return, we will have to establish new ways of working and this will require everyone involved to cooperate fully in order to protect the welfare of our entire community.
Timing of our return
As you will appreciate, there is a great deal of information to consider and planning to complete before we can welcome back Year 10 to UCC. There are also the aforementioned conditions that have to be met. Considering this, it is really hard to provide you with a specific date for when we can re-open for Year 10. My gut instinct is that it is highly unlikely we will be able to achieve this by June 1st. However, I will keep you apprised of this ever-evolving situation as frequently as I can.
Childcare for Key Workers
We are planning to offer a childcare service for the children of key workers from June 1st. We believe we can safely open for a small number of students who will work independently on a laptop and complete the online tasks set on Show My Homework by their teachers. Please note that students will not be taught under these arrangements and will only be supervised by staff in a way that allows social distancing. If you qualify as a Key Worker (updated definition here) and you require a place for your child from June 1st, please complete this form by Friday 22nd May.
Communication and changes
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to supporting our young people during this challenging period. We receive so many messages of thanks and lots of helpful suggestions that have helped us shape our provision. We have tried to keep you updated as frequently as possible using our weekly newsletter and via social media. However, I expect that I will need to respond to national and regional updates for the re-opening of schools throughout the next few weeks and this will mean that our plans may well change. All I can do is reassure you we will communicate with you as frequently as we can, we will always act in the best interest of our school community and we will only make decisions that will ensure the safety and welfare of your children, our staff and all our families.
Finally, if you are the parent of a Year 10 student, I will be sending out a separate survey for you to complete that will help us gauge the feelings of our parent body towards a potential return to school before the summer. Please take 2 minutes to complete this, your views and opinions will be greatly valued.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.