Today’s message relates to recent government announcements…
Socially distanced in school
Since the government announced that from Saturday 04 July, the two metre rule would be relaxed a little, some parents have asked if this means we can accept more children back at school. Sadly, the answer is no.
There may be spaces for a small number of individual children in a bubble, but generally speaking, there are no more spaces. Recent messages refer to a ‘one metre plus’ rule, but the guidance talks of ‘mitigation’, which includes:
- maintain 2m where viable (we’ve organised classrooms to do this)
- maintaining hand hygiene and cough etiquette (and we can’t ensure children maintain ‘cough etiquette’ – coughing into a disposable tissue or at least into their sleeve, not hand)
- staff minimising duration of contact at less than 2m with people outside their household (in a small classroom, and with young children, this is really hard)
- wearing face coverings when distances of 2m cannot be kept in indoor environments where possible (school staff are advised not to wear masks or other coverings because they hinder effective teaching)
Because these precautions can’t really happen in school, our current circumstances are the right ones, and Leeds City Council advice (26 June 2020) backs this up: ‘Schools should continue to implement and maintain the 2m social distancing measures already in place and not plan to reduce this to 1m+.’
We know the government guidelines are complicated and appear to be forever-changing, but be assured we’re following them closely.
(If it helps to know, sometimes school leaders are confused by the messages, too: current guidance for primary planning advises heads ‘if you can keep older children…two metres away from each other, you should do so’. However, on 24 June, the daily email and a blog from the Department for Education stated something apparently quite different: ‘primary schools do not need to keep children 2 metres apart from each other – this has been the case throughout the outbreak’.)
On Friday evening, the DfE confirmed that there is no expectation that schools should open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers over the summer holiday.
They stated: ‘Teachers, support staff and school leaders deserve a break, to recharge and rest.’
They further added: ‘We can confirm that providers offering paid childcare will be able to operate over the summer holidays, in line with protective measures guidance. Additional funded activities may be available in local areas, such as the Holiday Activities and Food scheme.’
It’s great news that children entitled to free school meals can benefit from enriching activities throughout the summer. The Holiday Activities and Food programme will support up to 50,000 disadvantaged children across 17 local authority areas, including Leeds, and help them to stay healthy and active over the summer.
Ten providers, including the Leeds Community Foundation, were successful in their bid for the programme and will be supporting families in need with activities and healthy meals. Activities will include a variety of online and directly delivered physical activities such as dance, yoga, HIIT and adventure play.
September and beyond – plans
The government has not yet published its plans for schools opening in September, but its intention is clear: that all pupils will be back for all the time.
Draft plans have been leaked and published yesterday on the Huffington Post.
These plans are still very much subject to change, but a couple of things are encouraging, including the ability to adapt the curriculum so that we can make sure our pupils catch up on valuable skills in reading, writing and maths. Please be assured we’re committed to doing this in a way which means our children can continue to enjoy a broad and balanced curriculum with enriching and enjoyable experiences.
The plans also raise questions, too. For example, there is a strong emphasis on class bubbles of 30. This means we’ll have to carefully consider how we plan the school day and week, and it might mean we still need to close early for one half day each week. Hopefully, the government’s full plans will provide lots of guidance and detail.