The Safe Reopening of our Schools – FAQs

Last Updated 5 June 2020

Below are some frequently asked questions about how we have planned to safely reopen our schools. You can also download our Penk Valley Academy Trust Covid-19 School Reopening Risk Assessment 05.06.20

We would also like to share this Open letter to parents and carers from Staffordshire County Council

[1] Is opening schools safe?

Our schools are already open for some children and we currently have rigorous programmes in place to maintain safety such as regular hand-washing, workstation cleaning, limiting the movement of children in school and keeping children in small groups so if an infection was detected we know who has been close to who, allowing for the  ‘test and trace’ method of prevention the government will be following.

By following the guidelines that the government has published to schools (you can read them here – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings ) we are risk assessing each and every school, classroom and learning space. The bottom line is if it isn’t safe, we won’t do it.

[2] Who will return to school?

The government has announced the first year groups to return will be Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Year 10 and Year 12 students will also be given time in school – although this won’t be full-time. The expectation is that for the children in these year groups they will all attend school.

As we have a three-tier system with Middle Schools, Year 6 may seem like an unusual choice. However, as this is a crucial year in which children are completing Key Stage 2 of the Primary National Curriculum, ready to start their secondary education in Year 7, it is important that they have secured all the key knowledge and concepts to build upon.

Alongside these children, the vast majority of our staff will return to school.

[3] What times of day will school be open?

For First and Middle Schools, the times of the day will be broadly normal, although we are planning how to have slightly staggered drop-off and pick-up times to ensure different groups don’t all bottleneck at the school gates.

Part of the reason for reopening schools for the younger children is so some people can go back to work where it is safe to do so. These core hours will support this.

For High Schools we will operate a different model with some part-time learning for our Year 10 and 12 students.

[4] What size groups will children be in?

Children will be divided into smaller groups than usual of no more than 15 children. These children will spend their days together and not mix with the other groups. This is to reduce the spread of any infection.

These groups will be like small families – you may hear them referred to as ‘bubbles’, ‘cocoons’ or ‘hubs’.

They will have certain members of staff allocated to them and will stay with these staff members over the course of their time in school. This is very different to how we usually run but we believe children will feel relaxed and safe in these groups and will form strong bonds with each other. We have seen in this with our groups of key worker children who have been attending school since March.

[5] What about shielded / vulnerable people? **updated 5 June 2020**

Some people have been identified by the NHS as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions. These people are often referred to as shielded. These people (whether they are children or staff) will not be able to return to school.

The government has also issued specific guidance for the immediate family members of these shielded people. The government guidance on this is available here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings#shielded-and-clinically-vulnerable-adults

**update** We ask all families who have a shielded person in their immediate household to complete the following online survey by Friday 19 June to aid with our planning. Many thanks. Click here to access the online survey for shielded families.

[6] What are the rules about attendance?

The government has already said there will be no penalties for families who do not send their children to school, however we would encourage you to take up these places. We will be in touch with all families whose children do not attend but please rest assured this is simply part of the standard safe and well checks that we are required to carry out.

[7] What is the plan with Home Learning?

All year groups not in school will continue to be set with appropriate school work to complete at home. This will continue in the same format as it has since March.

[8] Will there be before and after school clubs?

No. Following government guidance we won’t be able to safely provide this service.

[9] Will children wear normal school uniform?

Each school is making an individual decision about this. It is important that children have clean clothes each day to minimise the spread of any infection and this may not always be possible wearing full uniform. Your school will inform you over the next couple of weeks what the expectations will be.

[10] Will lunches be provided?

We are evaluating this based on the guidance provided by the government. We know it won’t be safe to provide normal cooked dinners to eat together in the dining hall so it may well be that cold food such as sandwiches are provided. Each school has a very different layout and kitchen set-up so your school will be in touch about how lunches will be arranged. For High Schools, students may be in part-time so there may not be any need for lunches.

[11] What will happen with school transport?

School transport will not be provided by Penk Valley Academy Trust until a further risk assessment has been conducted. We are also in close contact with Staffordshire County Council who are also risk assessing their school transport provision. We will tell you more when we know more – you can check back on this page regularly for further updates.

[12] My child is entitled to Free School Meals and I have been receiving a weekly voucher. Will this continue?

Any eligible children attending school will be provided with a meal. All other eligible children will continue to receive the weekly voucher via our provider Wonde. Once all children are able to attend schools the voucher system will close and things will go back to normal.

[13] Why have Year 6 been selected to return when they are not a transition year in our three-tier system?

When the decision was being made nationally about which year groups should return, the Department for Education consulted with the National Middle School Forum who represent schools like ours. In the end the decision made was that the same year groups across England would return – these being Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

As we are following all government guidelines this is the reason we are welcoming back Year 6 children on 1 June and not children in Years 4 and 8. Please rest assured we are already planning a full transition programme for children transferring to Brewood Middle School and Penkridge Middle School and for children transferring to Wolgarston High School and The Rural Enterprise Academy. You will receive more information from the school your child is joining over the coming weeks.

[14] What should I do if my child is due to attend school but displays symptoms of Covid-19?

Under no circumstances should any child displaying symptoms of Covid-19 attend school. This is crucial to keep the other children in their small group safe.

The main symptoms are a high temperature, a persistent cough and the loss of smell or taste. If in any doubt we would rather children were kept off school – we must all err heavily on the side of caution.

[15] What will happen if the government’s five tests are not met before 1 June? **updated 5 June 2020**

We understand the government will make a confirmation announcement, potentially as late as 28 May, to confirm whether schools will reopen on 1 June. As things stand we must plan that they will as per the guidance from the government.

This confirmation announcement will be a widely broadcast public information statement but we will make sure we pass on the news either way via our various communication channels as soon as we can.

**update** The government did announce on 28 May that the five tests had been met and schools would re-open from 1 June.

[16] What would happen if my child began displaying symptoms of Covid-19 while at school?

We have a full process in place for any child displaying any symptoms of Covid-19, including the loss of smell or taste, a high temperature or a persistent cough, to be safely isolated from the remainder of the school under the direct supervision of one of our trained first aiders.

Parents will be immediately contacted to collect the child and a test for Covid-19 will be requested (for children under 5, parents would need to ring 111 for medical advice). Depending on the severity of the symptoms we would follow processes to determine if the remaining children in their group would need to also leave the school with immediate effect for a period of self-isolation. This would be constantly monitored in light of the test result of the affected child.

We will display a flowchart in schools of the process we would follow, and all parents would be made aware if a group in school had to close.

[17] What will the behaviour expectations be?

We will still follow our three key behaviour principles: ready, respectful and safe. However, we recognise that children returning to school will struggle with the change and we will be mindful of this.

Each school will communicate any changes to its behaviour processes to parents directly, but at this stage our policies and expectations remain the same with a key focus on ensuring the safety of all.

[18] What happens if we are contacted by the Test and Trace service?

If you are contacted through the test and trace scheme you will be required to self isolate.

If you go on to develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household must self-isolate immediately at home for 14 days and you must book a test at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access. At this point you must not send your children into school. Please inform the school as a matter of urgency.

You can find out more about the test and trace process on the NHS website – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/nhs-test-and-trace-if-youve-been-in-contact-with-a-person-who-has-coronavirus/