Ashgate Primary School
Information for Parents – Coronavirus and Educational Settings
March 15 update – including common questions section.
Clearly, there have been several developments in the Covid-19 Coronavirus status since I wrote to you all last. As before, my aim here is to seek to clarify the position at the school and provide answers to common questions I am being asked. I do so very mindful of the fact that the position changes daily across the UK and that it is likely that there will be changes even within hours or days of this being printed.
The Government / Department of Education Department for Health guidance remains similar
Headteachers are still instructed not to close schools unless directed to do so by Government or by an individual risk assessment completed by the Department for Health. A ‘hotline’ has been set up for headteachers and I continue to receive a daily brief from the Department of Education.
I maintain the view that, owing to the wider impact closing schools would have on the ability of families to attend work/function and the impact on the economy, schools are unlikely to be directed to close unless as a last resort. However, I am setting up a series of contingency actions to support children and families if this is to be imposed soon. This will include access to work online, agreed communication protocols and methods for updating families.
We continue to be pragmatic
We have, for the last couple of weeks now, been reinforcing routines with children to secure good hygiene practices.
There is in reality little that can be done to amend further what we do in school if we are to maintain a functional educational setting. There are however some steps I will be putting in place as of this week. These will not completely remove risk, but are sensible practices to reduce it where possible:
- Suspending whole school assemblies and putting in place ‘class based assemblies’ managed by teachers.
- Cancelling after school clubs and activities where external agencies send staff into school.
- Restricting meetings with outside agencies (those who visit from out of the school community) to those only essential to safeguarding.
- Review the cleaning rotas to ensure an increased focus on cleansing specific contact points (such as door handles, backs of chairs) where bodily fluids may be present. This will mean a less of a focus on cosmetic cleaning.
PARENTS EVENING FOR THIS TERM HAS BEEN POSTPONED
What we ask of parents in the short term.
You too can help.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after coming to school.
- Ensure your child washes their hands regularly at home, including before coming to school and when returning.
- When dropping collecting children, please do not loiter on school site – I am aware that school playgrounds are a focal meeting point for some, but this should be avoided.
- Be prompt dropping and collecting your child off so that you do not have to come in the reception area to collect.
I appreciate that there are many unknowns. Ashgate Primary School will not over react, but I want to do all that is sensible and reasonable and act in a measured way to reduce the risk of infection spreading. I believe the above represents this.
Common questions /anticipated questions
REMEMBER – if your child does not attend school for any reason, you must contact the school office and speak to a staff member or leave a message on the answer machine. 01332 343928. Please be aware that the office lines may become busy. All messages will be picked up.
What do I do if my child or I are ill?
Follow the advice of the NHS. Currently, you should self-isolate if an individual has:
- a fever (high temperature of 37.8c or higher)
- a new prolonged continuous cough.
- Have returned from one of the designated at risk travel areas (updated by gov.uk)
Nor my staff or I can guide you on this; this is your decision. Please do not ring school and present symptoms to us and ask us ‘what do you think?’.
If you are unsure you should consult health care guidance. If the conditions worsen, or last more than 7 days, contact NHS 111. As always, in an emergency you should call 999 – but 999 should not be used for mild symptoms or general queries.
The school does not have the medical experience or systems by which we can individually monitor the temperatures and condition of over 300 children for you. We will of course inform you to collect if we had concerns.
If my child doesn’t come to school because they are ill or are showing symptoms of Covid 19 - Coronavirus, will this this be authorised?
If your child is ill or showing symptoms as described then this will be authorised as normal and you should follow NHS guidance.
If I send my child in, will you check on them for me, take their temperature and call me back (or similar)?
We cannot be responsible for taking the temperatures etc for children in school. It is neither practical or realistic. We will let you know if we suspect your child should come home, but please do not ask my staff to be checking temperatures and ringing you back. This is unrealistic.
What if I or another household member are showing symptoms or in self isolation?
- Another member of the household showing symptoms or in isolation does not prevent your child coming to school. Department for Education advised me on Sunday morning that children are still expected to come to school, even if a household member is affected.
However, this may not always be practical for single parents or where there are multiple isolations in one household:
- If there is guidance led self-isolation in your home and there are no practical or safe alternatives to getting your child to school, your child’s absence will be authorised.
Note: Clearly, if this is abused and you or your child are seen or believed not to be legitimately isolated or not following isolation guidance, the absence will be unauthorised. As an example, you call the school to inform us you are ill and cannot get your child to school, but are subsequently seen visiting friends, in a restaurant or clothes shopping, or alternatively your child is seen out playing at a park or similar– this would lead to authorisation being removed.
What if we are not showing symptoms but I do not want my child to come to school? Isn’t this my choice?
It is your choice of course, but this could will not be authorised – even if I am sympathetic to your reasoning. Regardless of your personal views, this is against the guidance issued by the Department of Education. They are clear that there is no need to self isolate/stay off school unless symptoms are present. This even extends to keeping school open to all even in the case where staff or pupils are self-isolating or diagnosed. ‘Absence under election’ (choosing to do so contrary to the guidance) will not be authorised. This is not my protocol, but that of government.
I have read schools will be sending activities for children who are off school. Is this true?
This will be the case if schools are closed centrally by government. We are, as we speak, looking at a practicable and accessible way of providing online learning. However, the school will not be providing individual learning packs or packages for children who do not come to school when the school is open. This is in line with normal sickness practices.
What will the headteacher do if staff are ill – where do you draw the line?
Staff may show symptoms and then need to self isolate themselves – this is a reality. This would result in fewer staff, which in turn may lead to increased class sizes, amalgamation of groups or a change to the curriculum to meet cross age teaching. It is hoped that this will not be necessary.
If staffing reached such a point that I felt that it was impracticable or unsafe, I would contact the Department of Education for guidance. They in turn would make an assessment. Any decision to keep the school open or closed lies with them, not myself. As I have already stated, this power has been removed from me.
What about SAT exams?
As with all education settings, we are directed to continue as normal and anticipate that the exams go ahead. Clearly, any possible decision to close schools in the future would impact on this. Gut feeling (and it is nothing more than that), is that if the exams did not go ahead, staff would be likely to submit a ‘teacher assessment’ in reading and mathematics, as is already the case in writing and at Key Stage 1.
I have heard that…. Is this true?
Please do not read online blogs that make all sorts of predictions; they are not based around fact. Avoid responding to speculation and gossip, especially on social media. It is unchecked and frankly laughable in cases. I will update you with everything I know as soon as it is available. If anyone tells you that ‘school have said’, ‘have you heard’ etc, please check the school website; if I have said it, it will be on the Noticeboard.
What if I disagree with the guidance?
The guidance is for all and set against government directives. Some may believe it is too stringent, others may believe the opposite. Our school will continue to act in line with guidance and act responsibly and reasonably to what is a daily changing situation. Objections to Department of Education or Government direction should be taken up with them. If you feel that any actions undertaken by the school contravenes government guidance should direct this to myself. I will be happy to cross-reference actions with that recommended or common-sense.
Information is accurate at the point of issue and derived from guidance issued by the Department of Health England and the Department of Education. If you have any medical concerns, these should be addressed and checked through the NHS.