Returning to School Confirmation Letter 21.05.20
I hope you are well and managing to find positives in the current situation. The Elms remains an eerily quiet place which longs for its purpose to be fulfilled and the hustle and bustle of children to make the buildings feel alive again.
At this point I wanted to write to you with what I feel needs to be a very honest view of how children will return on the 1st of June. You might ask why I am writing to you all rather than just the parents of our Early Years and Year 6? I am doing so because I feel we are all in The Elms boat together and we all need to understand what it will be like and could potentially be like for our children and teachers in September. I hasten to add that we are hopeful that although some restrictions are likely to be in place, they will not be as stringent as current ones.
The plan I explain below is after careful examination of advice from the Government, Department of Education, IAPS, ISBA and BSA. Discussion has also taken place with school insurers and legal advisors.
The school day will run from 08:40 to 15:30 on Monday to Friday. We do not have enough children currently returning to warrant a staggered drop off, although this could change if numbers were to increase after this communication.
Parents are asked to follow the one-way system around school and drop children outside the dining room. Parents are asked to stay in their cars.
Children will have their temperatures taken by a member of staff who will be wearing a mask, gloves and an apron. No other staff will wear PPE as a norm in school. Parents will be asked to remain at school whilst the temperature is taken; it should not take long. The temperature will be recorded. Any child with a temperature of 37.8 C or above will be given back to parents to take home.
Staff working in school will also have their temperatures taken and recorded on a daily basis.
In school there will be major restrictions on movement around school. This is to ensure that cleaning can take place at the standard it needs to and to ensure that our different “bubbles,” do not mix with each other. If children are in different “bubbles,” to their friends, they will not be able to socialise.
If a child in a “bubble,” becomes ill with Covid-19, the entire “bubble,” will be asked to stay at home and quarantine for 14 days.
If a child falls ill at school they will immediately be isolated with the care giver wearing PPE for their own protection. Parents will be contacted and it will be expected that the child will be collected as quickly as possible.
At school children will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines. We do recognise that for the age groups we are welcoming back this will be very difficult. We ask parents to understand and agree to the fact that we will do everything we can to follow guidelines and safeguard all children but in sending their children back, parents recognise that there is a risk of a child contracting Covid-19.
Children returning to school will be asked to bring packed lunches and water bottles. Water bottles must be clearly named; they will be replenished through the day as required.
There will be no sport, music, art, drama, farm or equine activities during the day. Children will be given a ball to play with during the day but it will be theirs and they will not be able to share it. This will be cleaned at the end of the day.
The majority of soft furnishings and all excess teaching materials will be removed from classrooms and learning environments to ensure that cleaning to the required standard can take place. If a case of Covid-19 is found to be in the school a deep clean will be required.
No school buses or boarding will be provided.
Break times will see children maintaining “social distancing,” which will be encouraged by teachers.
Children will see cleaning taking place around them. Our Covid-19 Risk Assessment will be placed on the “About Us,” page of the website with an archive of all communication parents have received since the start of the pandemic.
We require parents of Early Years and Year 6 who plan to return to school to let us know HERE if any of the family living with the child due to return to us has suffered Covid-19, or if the family know they have been in contact with anyone who has had Covid-19. Please can I also ask that you ensure we know of any underlying medical issues your child or children may have
Please can I ask all Early Years parents and all Year 6 parents to re-confirm HERE if they intend to return to school on the 1st June. Currently we have one child returning in Year 6 and sixteen in Early Years. Please could you let us know your decision by Tuesday 26th May at 9:00am.
I apologise if this e-mail seems cold and clinical but I believe that in this situation we all need to know exactly what we are facing.
As ever please do contact me with any questions you might have and thank you for your continued support in these most difficult of times.
Mr Chris Hattam
Letter to parents 21.05.20
We now have some guidance from the Government about what the return to school for Year 6 might look like and, as I have suggested previously, it will pose some logistical issues for us here at school, which we will work to get around.
I must stress that it will not be a normal Elms school day. A major limiting factor will be that our teaching staff will be teaching not only Year 6 but also Year 5, 7 and 8. We will also potentially not have all of Year 6 back in school so some will need to continue to be taught at home.
At this point I think that we will be teaching the children here at school via Teams. Although they will not have a traditional class room experience, they will have the all important socialisation and you will have some respite.
Fees will remain the same.
We will not be able to provide food so children would need to bring their own snacks and packed lunches.
Sport won’t happen and break times will follow social distancing regulations.
Buses will not run and boarding, at this point, will not happen. The day will run from 08:40 to 15:40.
We will have to send you far more detailed information nearer the 1st of June but I hope that this gives you an outline of what we hope to provide and what we are allowed to provide.
Mr Chris Hattam
Letter to Early Years Parents 21.05.20
I hope you are well. Excuse me for sending yet another email, but I hope it is one that might bring good news or relief to some.
We now have some guidance from the Government about what the return to school for Year One, Reception, and potentially Nursery children might look like.
As Chris has suggested previously, returning to school will pose some logistical issues for us which we will work hard to get around.
I must stress that any return, will not constitute a normal Elms Early Years day. There a number of scenarios which will affect how we implement the return, which I will attempt to outline:
If the vast majority of you decide to send your children in to school, myself and Mrs Jones and a supporting member of school staff will provide classroom experiences during the day. A significantly reduced offering of Remote Provision would continue for those not attending.
If only around 50 percent wish to return, myself and a supporting member of school staff will provide classroom experiences during the day for Reception and Year One. Mrs Jones would continue to provide a significantly reduced offering of Remote Provision for those not attending. And Remote Nursery Provision would continue as now.
Early Years children attending school will be based in the Early Years classroom, and depending on numbers, may spread out into the art room and Year Two classroom. Although they will not be taught a full curriculum, they will be able to access our classroom equipment and have the benefit the all important socialisation, and you will have some respite.
Lessons and activities that usually occur out of Early Years will not take place as we work to minimise the areas being populated around school. We will, however, use outdoor spaces and offer outdoor play and activities.
All areas, activities, break times etc will be managed as far as practicable to follow social distancing regulations.
We will not be in a position to provide cooked meals. You will be responsible for providing snacks and midday meal for your child.
Fees will remain the same as present.
Buses will not run.
The day will run from 8.40am – 3.340pm.
We will have to send you far more detailed information nearer 1st June but I hope that this gives you an outline of what we hope to provide and what we are allowed to provide.
Please could I ask you the following?
Will you send your child back to school on 1st June?
Will you expect staff to use PPE?
Will you want your child to use PPE?
Gigi and Chris
Thoughts on returning to school - letter to parents 05.05.20
I hope that you have had an enjoyable weekend and that the problems of the world were somehow kept at bay for a period of time.
Thank you for all your feedback. I am slowly working my way through it; please do accept my apologies that I won’t be able to reply to you all individually. I am sure that you would agree that my time will be better spent reading your comments and thinking about how we can improvise what we are doing. Suffice to say you all expressed a great deal of gratitude to our staff for what they are providing which I know is greatly appreciated.
My intention is to recognise common themes in your feedback and talk to our teachers about this. I will then get back to you with what we will look to alter. As ever there is a vast amount of thought and some suggestions counter each other. I will look at what we can implement practically and well.
However I would like to mention two areas here that I feel are vitally important.
Clearly at the moment there is a great deal of speculation in the press and very generalised information from the Government regarding return to school. Many are asking about how we will return to school, or if we will. As it stands, I have no more information than you pertaining to a return.
We will maximise what we are able to do within the Government legislation as to what we are allowed to provide. If next Sunday, the Government were to give us three weeks’ notice that all schools can open, then we will be open as soon as possible. We are hoping this will be the case, as you will see from our half term plan.
Should the Government give us a phased return to school i.e. some year groups before others, or insist upon social distancing at school, we will work within the guidelines to get as many children back to school as possible. If needs be, we will have to work out how we will continue learning at distance for those unable to return to school.
It is possible that some activity will be affected as far ahead as next term, and we are planning for this, just in case.
Social distancing in school may involve one way systems for pupils moving around school, maximum class numbers and no sport. It is all conjecture but we are trying to think of all eventualities.
Some parents have asked if we can have summer holiday now, or if term can simply be extended and teachers continue to teach into what is calendared as the summer holiday.
I don’t feel that either is a plausible option. If we did bring the summer holiday forward and then could not return in a full manner over July or August, we would find ourselves in a pickle. We also have to keep in mind that our Year 8 pupils have to be taught so that they are in a position to sit their Common Entrance, which all our senior schools have asked for.
As you have all been so quick to recognise, the teaching staff have had to work extremely hard through the Easter holiday period and are now working incredibly hard to maintain the best standard possible in lessons at distance. The shorter days do give the children respite from the screen, but the teaching staff continue planning, reviewing and marking into the evenings. I have to ensure the welfare of our schools most precious resource and believe that extending the term would be counter to this.
I am, however looking at what we might be able to offer at The Elms for children over the summer holiday. Again this will be dictated by restrictions that may be placed upon us.
I am sorry that I am unable to give you more clarity at this point but I know that you will welcome transparency of thought from me at this time.
My final thought is to say how grateful I am that all thoughts you have offered have been solution focused and collegiate. I know that other Heads are having a difficult time and this has not been their experience.
As ever, please do get in touch with me if you have any questions or thoughts.
Mr Chris Hattam
Half Term Plan (Covid-19 willing) 03.05.20
Thank you for the feedback that was given to me at the end of last week. I have to say that I am very grateful to have a parent body who are so willing to not only identify an issue but also to suggest potential solutions. In a world where all too often we simply hear moaning I am very grateful for the opposite.
I write to let you know of an intended plan of action here at The Elms should the Government say that we can return to school prior to our half term break. Although I have absolutely no reason to believe it is the case, I feel that the week after the state schools half term might be a natural point of return for schools. A phased return or a return which sees the need for social distancing will serve us curve balls that we are trying to plan for.
If (I repeat “if,”) we are allowed to be back at school our currently furloughed staff have agreed to be in school for the entire week of our half term. There will be no academic lessons, however there will be a rigorous and exciting programme of activity.
There will be swimming, riding, cricket, art, drama, rounders, tennis, music, forest school, rural studies, and most importantly time with friends. Mrs Smedley is hoping that children who can will want to board and we will have a programme of activity in the evenings. Our kitchen team are chomping at the bit to be back in.
More detail will follow but this will be open to all children and it will be free of charge. The sessions will be split into year groups and there will also be activity for the appropriate standard. By this I mean there will be happy hacks through to serious riding, swimming training through to a pool party.
We are anticipating a good take up for this and would ask you to let us know which days you might be interested in and if boarding would be attractive. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO REPLY. Due to the numbers we are expecting we think that we will have to be fairly prescriptive about which sessions will involve which activity. We recognise it is a way off yet and plans might change, but we will ask for more definite replies nearer the time.
We are desperate to get the children back as soon as possible; please do keep everything crossed that we will get them back.
My thanks go to all our staff who have offered their time over half term. We will keep you in touch with all developments.
Mr Chris Hattam
Covid-19 update 18.03.20
Due to the growing concern caused by the Coronavirus, and after much discussion with Robin Fletcher Chief Executive of the Boarding Schools Association, our Chairman of Governors, The Senior Leadership Team and fellow Heads, I have reluctantly decided to close the school a week early.
Having seen a number of other larger and better resourced Senior schools closing on the 17th March I have decided that The Elms and our staff have given this a very good go indeed and left nothing undone in our efforts to stay open. We will close at 17:40 on Friday 20th March, for a week of home schooling with the Easter Holiday starting on Friday 27th March.
To avoid a mass of congestion on Friday, if you would like to collect any of your children’s belongings from upstairs please do this.
A number of children are already at home, as are a number of staff, and this has meant that it has been difficult to get work to the children already at home due to the pressures of work load on the remaining staff. Thank you for your understanding in this. This decision means that staff have until Friday afternoon either to pass children physical copies of work, or until Sunday to send the work via e-mail, to children whose parents have already decided to keep them at home.
Mr Levings will inform parents as to how best to return work to teachers so that it can be marked.
I recognise that this extended period at home may well cause some practical difficulties at home, please let me know if I can offer any help. My advice would be, where possible, to stick as closely to a child’s timetable as possible. This may help to alleviate the strain of introducing a new routine and will help our boys and girls recognise that this is not an extra week of holiday but a different format for school. Please do try to stick to bed times, wake up times and exercise if you can. Please do enjoy the experience and be aware that the lessons are forty minutes long. If the children have not completed work in that time, it is OK, it can be finished in the next timetabled lesson. Positivity is key and we must remember that for our children this will be a difficult period. Change always is.
As regards next term and the start date we will keep you abreast of information when we have it, but we will continue to be guided by the Boarding Schools Association and Public Health England.
It has undoubtedly been a very trying time, and one has a feeling that there will be difficult times ahead.
We will produce reports and please keep in mind that our teaching staff will be trying very hard to keep on top of their work load in what will by testing circumstances for them as well.
Please can I take this opportunity to thank all Elms staff. They have been stoic in their response to all I have asked of them.
Lastly I want to thank you all. You have been overwhelmingly supportive of us and the difficult decisions we have had to make. Your children have been superb and I know will continue to be.
As ever please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Mr Chris Hattam
Wednesday 18th March 2020
Covid-19 Update 16.03.20
We have informed parents today that a member of our resident staff is feeling unwell, and as a precaution is in self-isolation on site, as advised by NHS 111. The member of staff has not been tested for COVID-19.
We have informed parents today that the school remains open and children returning today and tomorrow will be welcome until advice to the contrary is received from the Public Health Authorities. Parents have been advised that if they choose not to bring children in to school this will be supported by The Elms. We are of course continuing with enhanced hygiene measures already introduced.
We continue to take all advised and necessary precautions and adhere to enhanced hygiene measures in order that all our children and staff remain safe. This includes cancelling planned school trips in line with the latest Government advice. We will continue to take advice, and speak to parents regularly as the week progresses.
We are preparing to continue teaching and learning remotely in the event that, for whatever reason, the School has to close or partially close.
If the school does close we will ask parents to take responsibility for their children as quickly as possible, however in the event that there is no Coronavirus case in the school but the school is closed, we will isolate children in a “lock down,” for a period of three days to help any parents who mighty struggle to collect children as soon as possible. I do this particularly with our overseas families in mind. After a period of three days we will expect children to be at home with parents or guardians.
Should there be a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus within the school community parents will be asked to take responsibility for their children as soon as possible. For children unable to return home the school will look to work in cooperation with parents and guardians to house children in quarantine off site.
As ever, thank you for your support and understanding in what are unprecedented and difficult times. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.
Mr Chris Hattam
Monday 16th March 2020
Covid-19 Safeguarding Policy
To view the safeguarding policy and child protection at The Elms school during the Covid-19 school closure and the risk assessment for the return to school, please click on the links below.