14th May 2020
Dear Parents, Guardians, Carers,
I write as Chair of the Aspire Community Trust and on behalf of our family of schools which include:
Bassett Green Primary, Bevois Town Primary, Cantell School, Highfield Church of England Primary, Mansbridge Primary, Maytree Infants and Nursery, Mount Pleasant Junior, Swaythling Primary and Vermont School.
Firstly, we hope you are all well and staying safe in what continues to be challenging and unprecedented times.
Whilst our school buildings, across the Trust, continue to be closed to the majority of students, our communities remain very much open ‘remotely' and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support with your child’s home learning.
Every Headteacher in our Trust, together with their staff teams want nothing more than to go back to normality; to welcome your children at the gate every morning, to teach and care for them face to face, to hear and see their happy and smiley faces in and around our schools. Our priority, however, continues to be the safety of our community - staff, students and parents/carers/guardians; with decisions being made being based on a triangulation of public health, data and science.
On Sunday 10th of May, The Prime Minster announced that Pupils in Year R, Year 1 and Year 6 would go back to school on the 1st of June. He went on to say “our ambition is that secondary students facing exams next year, will get at least some time with their teachers before the summer holiday” On Monday 11th of May, the Department for Education confirmed what the PM said regarding Primary aged pupils but also stated that Secondary schools should prepare Year 10 and 12 for “some face to face contact” with their teachers.
So in summary, the Government have stated they would want Years R, 1, 6, 10 and 12 to return from June the 1st with the latter year groups receiving some “face to face contact”. In Special schools, there is no focus on a particular year group. For the last two weeks, our schools have been carrying out risk assessments and making plans for a phased opening at some stage in the Summer Term.
We have reviewed these plans against those proposed by the DFE guidance and note some inconsistency with guidance issued by the Government for other workplaces - notably no requirement to social distance in Primary and no requirement for PPE. Insert text here… We have thought carefully about and discussed with colleagues the academic, social and well-being costs of not being in school against their safety, the safety of staff and your safety as parents, guardians and carers. We have considered the level of debate between the Government and the Education Sector and unfortunately our voice - our questions, queries and concerns to support a safe and effective phased transition have not been heard, let alone acted upon. The Government state they “have medical and scientific advice saying that it is the right time to start bringing schools back in a phased manner”. Schools, however, have not been provided with this information and we are reliant on public briefings which continue to confirm that the evidence is not entirely clear yet on how children transmit the disease.
Having discussed this as a collective group of Headteachers, we are of the opinion that the information we have received to date does not point to a safe phased wider reopening of our schools from June the 1st. We hope to receive more information from the Government that will provide us all with a greater level of confidence and in the meantime will continue to work on our robust plans to receive your children back as soon and as safely as possible. Each individual Headteacher will write with more details of the contents of this letter and to share initial plans on how each school will operate a phased return.
Please can I take this opportunity to thank our staff teams across the Trust, those who are in school and those who are creating home learning for their dedication and stoicism over the last few weeks.
Please can I also take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and your support. We are in this together more than ever before. Stay safe and well. Warmest Regards, Harry Kutty Chair - Aspire Community Trust Headteacher - Cantell School