Yesterday, we outlined our plans for how we might open up our schools more widely. These plans aren’t fixed: the situation we’re in right now is changing all the time. However, regardless of any new government announcement, things are unlikely to differ for next week and the week beginning 01 June:
On Monday 25 May, we’ll be closed for all children. This is because so few people needed to be in school on the Bank Holiday. For the rest of the week, Scholes (Elmet) Primary will stay open for children who are attending regularly at the moment.
During this week, there will be a break from the daily home learning activities that teachers set, but we’ve put together this menu of optional activities.
Week commencing 01 June 2020
On Monday 01 June, we’ll be closed for all children. This is so that we can prepare for increasing numbers over the following weeks.
From Tuesday to Friday, school will be open for those using it as they are already and for some additional children. By now (or very soon), you’ll have been contacted and you’ll know that your child is expected. By 3.30pm tomorrow, we can’t accommodate any additional children.
Some principles for children returning to school
During lockdown, we know that children may have had very different experiences in terms of family life (for example, they may have experienced bereavement) and in terms of learning (for example, some will have been able to access the home learning enthusiastically, and others less so). As a result, we know that lessons in school won’t be as they were before, though many of the same good teaching principles apply.
Some of our priorities will be:
- the safety and hygiene of children and adults, a priority above all else
- the wellbeing of children: we’ll talk, play games, read stories
- to establish rules and new routines, but in a gentle way
- to wash hands frequently: we’ve timetabled many key points in our day when this must happen
- to get outside as much as possible (and when this happens, high-touch areas, such as tables, chairs, door handles and taps, will be cleaned)
Our learning priorities will be the core skills of reading, writing and maths, but there will be time for other, enriching/relaxing activities, too. Lessons will be shorter to allow for handwashing and other practical considerations that weren’t needed before lockdown.
We’ll let you know more specific details as soon as we can.
Two important things to be aware of…
For all parents: We’re going to close school at noon each Friday for the next few weeks. This is so that rooms can be deep-cleaned, and so that teachers have a chance to plan and prepare some of the home learning activities.
For children in Nursery (Foundation 1): We’ve no plans at the moment to re-open Nursery. This goes against a priority that government has set out, but is in-line with Leeds City Council’s support for a phased re-opening. We’ve made this decision based on concerns about safety and social distancing for our youngest children.
The Leeds position
Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, and Sal Tariq, Director of Children and Families, set out this position on schools re-opening in an email earlier this week:
Last week the Government declared which year group cohorts (Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6) will be eligible to return to school from June 1st at the earliest, joining those pupils who have been eligible to attend school throughout the past two months (vulnerable children and children of key workers). The Government have stated that when pupils return, they should be in school full time and that the rotation of year groups should be avoided.
As Leeds City Council, we believe that it is important for children to resume their education so they can learn and interact with their peers. However this needs to be done in such a way that the risks to pupils, staff and parents is minimised as much as possible.
Due to a variety of factors, it would be impossible for all schools to operate to the Government’s timetable of opening Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from June 1st. While some schools will begin to gradually expand their intake from this date, Leeds will not be expecting all our schools to be open to all those pupils from day one.
In deciding what is feasible, schools are being asked to carry out an initial comprehensive risk assessment so that leaders can evaluate potential solutions on how they could safely and effectively accommodate eligible pupils. We would ask schools, in the first instance, to take a phased approach to how many pupils they take back and from when schools are ready.
Every school has a different number of vulnerable and key worker children, every school has a different number of staff who will not be able to attend school in person because they or a family member are in a vulnerable category and therefore shielding, and every school has a different layout and therefore has differing abilities to implement social distancing measures for its staff and pupils.
It can be expected, therefore, that there will not be one city-wide model for the initial phased re-opening of schools. However, Leeds City Council will support schools to work towards gradually increasing the number of pupils they receive at the pace that their individual circumstances will allow.
It is clear that there are a number of clarifications and actions are still needed from the Government before numbers returning to school can substantially increase. We have been consistently asking for the scientific advice that has informed the Government’s position, we are demanding that this be published immediately.
There must be clarification around the appropriate levels of social distancing that will need to be implemented, and schools must have flexibility as each school will have a different layout and therefore will have differing abilities to implement social distancing.
There must be comprehensive and regular testing made available for school staff, as well as for the children and young people attending school, linking into a local tracing programme
Staff who are social distancing because they, or those they live with, are in vulnerable categories must be given national guarantees that they can continue to work from home and not be expected to physically come into school.
We support the Local Government Association’s call that local authorities be given the power to close any school where there is an outbreak of cases. Given the disparate rates of R across the country, it is right that this power should sit locally and be done in consultation with Directors of Public Health.
And finally the new case count must be much lower than it is currently, with a sustained downward trend.
We are working in consultation with schools and the Department for Education to gain answers to questions which still remain.
It is important to note that schools have been open throughout the past two months, providing education in person for vulnerable children and the children of key worker children – in addition to providing education and pastoral care to those children at home. This has been a phenomenal task and we thank everyone involved.
We understand that this is a difficult time for parents and Leeds recognises the urgency in returning children to education. This urgency should not overlook local level factors, nor should it be done until these points have been addressed. Safety of staff and pupils should be at the heart of all decision making and decisions should be kept under constant review.