Coronavirus Update – Week 6

May 16

Dear parents and carers, 

Another end of the week update from me and all of the staff at James Calvert Spence College, as the coronavirus continues to keep the vast majority of students away from school, and learning safely at home. 

I wrote to you on Monday evening to say I’d be in touch as soon as I had more detail to give you around the proposed reopening of the school to selected year groups on or after June 1st. Unfortunately, detailed guidance from the government hadn’t been shared with headteachers until 7 pm on Thursday and that was only applicable to our Year 6 children. I had anticipated getting this letter out to you yesterday as my usual Friday update, but then more guidance was published… and then more again after 7 pm last night. 

To say the situation is changing rapidly would be an understatement. We have spent days planning what we think would be an acceptable solution for us all, only to have guidance published that means we are unable to put our plans into place. 

Therefore, we’re still in the planning stage for Year 6 at the moment, and still awaiting further guidance on what we can do to support our Year 10 and Year 12 students. 

There are, however, some things that have been made clear in the guidance that has been released so far throughout the week. Please read the following carefully – school will be a very different place due to the amount of social distancing we have to maintain: 

  • Children will only come back into school when the government’s five key indicators have been met, and this will be no sooner than June 1st 
  • Year 6 students will be the first to come back into school, and they will come back full time 
  • They will be kept in small groups [up to 15 students] throughout the day and not allowed to mix with the other groups at all 
  • They will be taught by the same member of staff all day, every day – and this will probably not be their usual teacher 
  • The groups may be made up of students from several classes 
  • Start and finish times may be staggered so that classes start and finish their day at different times 
  • The groups may be asked to arrive at different entrances and will have regular sessions of handwashing and anti-bac throughout the days 
  • Each group will take their break and lunch at different times in an area that is designated just for them, to ensure they don’t mix 
  • We will have an updated behaviour policy that incorporates the expectations of this new way of working and will not tolerate any diversion from social distancing regulations, for example 
  • Parents will not be allowed to enter the school premises or to gather at the school gates 
  • Parents will not be penalised for poor attendance if they do not send their children back to school 
  • Once Year 6 is invited back into school there will be, at best, limited online learning resources uploaded for that year group as our teachers’ time and efforts revert to their classrooms 
  • Children in all year groups who have key workers as parents or carers are welcome to attend school, should parents wish to send them – please let us know in advance so we can plan a safe and effective environment for them 
  • Year 10 and Year 12 students will be offered some ‘face-to-face’ time with their teachers – more detail is yet to be published around what this may look like 

At the end of this letter is a short pictorial guide to help you visualise the above. As I said, it’s going to be a very different environment, but one we are going to have to get used to. It will be difficult. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive, welcoming school where the staff and students work harmoniously. The lengths we must go to in order to protect us all will feel a lot more austere and regimented than we are used to, and would ever choose to be. 

I’m so sorry that I can’t give more detail right now, as we are still planning exactly how we can do all of the above whilst ensuring the safety of your children and our staff. I realise that detail is exactly what you need at the moment, but the situation is still so fluid that things are changing daily. Please rest assured I will update you regularly. 

Return to School Parental Questionnaire 

What would help enormously in our planning would be to hear from you, the parents.  

  • Are you planning to send your child back once the decision has been made that it is safe to do so? 
  • If not, would you possibly send them back a little later in the term? 
  • Would your child use the school bus? 

Your answers to questions like these will help us prepare for your child’s return, and enable us to have the right discussions with the local authority. We want to ensure, for example, that all our efforts in maintaining separate groups within school are not completely undone when students arrive and leave on the same bus. 

You should receive an invitation to complete an online form, which will help us collate the information we need to make sure we’re as prepared as we possibly can be to welcome students back.  

I know that there has been lots of negativity in some areas of the press around teachers being reluctant to return to work. I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth, certainly from JCSC’s point of view. We can’t wait to get the children back into school and return to some semblance of normality. What we won’t do, however, is rush back without being fully prepared. We won’t put you, your families and ourselves at risk.

We will always do the right thing for our community. I’m sure you know that, with biscuits made and delivered to local care homes, books for students bought and hand-delivered by members of our wonderful team, hoodies bought for our leavers and lots and lots of positive messages on Facebook [including yesterday’s video message which has, as I write this, been viewed more than 5,300 times in just over 24 hours]. And for those of you who have seen the video – yes, that is me at the end and no, the beard won’t be staying! 

Please keep in touch – we are trying to do all we can to support you, your children and each other through this stressful time. Rest assured we’re working hard to be as efficient and effective as possible, and any advice or suggestions you could give us would be most welcome. 

Most importantly, stay safe and take care of yourselves and your loved ones. 

Best wishes ,

Neil Rodgers

Executive Headteacher