16th March 2020
As we prepare to shut the school down for the foreseeable future, this will be my last daily update. Late last night we finally received some clarity from the government on key workers and expectations for schools over the next few weeks. Here is what the government have said about schools and children:
The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
It is important to underline that schools, colleges and other educational establishments remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.
Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.
Please, therefore, follow these key principles:
- If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
- If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
- Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
- Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
- Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.
The full guidance can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/...
My staff have been working at pace over the last few days to contact families who fall into the key workers category and determine which of these require us to supervise their children. I want to say a big thank you to the community who are clearly taking this threat seriously and who have, wherever possible, made arrangements for their child(ren) to be supervised outside of school.
It looks like we will have up to 20 students who we will still have to supervise from Monday onwards and we are happy to do this to support the community through this unprecedented time. We have had to prioritise students where both parents or a single parent is a designated key worker, due to our reduced capacity. Other than this, the school will be closed and we will be working with a skeleton staff with no more than five adults on site at any one time. Phones will not be answered and reception will not be manned, other than at key times of the day. This is following government guidelines to ensure employees work from home wherever possible.
Please be aware that Baysgarth will not be able to enforce social distancing with the students who are on site and there is a high probability of the virus spreading around this group of students. Therefore, it is not wise to send students into school if they come from families where they are in contact with anyone from a group that is vulnerable to the virus, as defined by the government and who is self-isolating for the 12 weeks recommended.
Many families in our community will have been waiting anxiously for news about how Free School Meals will be organised for students who are eligible but not in school. So far, we have had no details from the government about the voucher scheme they mentioned in the press briefing on Wednesday. As soon as we do we will pass this on to parents and carers. We have contacted the major supermarkets and they are still equally in the dark as to how the voucher scheme will work, so we assume the government will issue more details over the coming days. In the meantime, the school will be preparing a packed lunch for students who are eligible for Free School Meals. Unfortunately, we do not have the facility to deliver this to families but they can be collected on a daily basis from our Reception between 11.30am and 1.00pm until the voucher scheme is up and running. Any meals not collected will be donated to the local food bank to support the community.
Today, we launch our distance learning resources. Students will all have an assembly during the day, outlining our expectations for them and they have all been sent detailed instructions. Their teachers have created Google Classrooms for them to join where work will be issued and checked. The information sheet for students and parents and carers can be download below:
Our expectation is that they complete 15 hours’ worth of work every week in Year 7 and Year 8, and 18 hours of work every week in Year 9 and Year 10. As parents and carers we need your support to keep the students in good routines and support them wherever possible, showing an interest in their work and having a shared sense that this is valuable and will ensure they don’t fall behind with their studies. Our teachers will be on hand remotely to support and will deal with any enquiries within 24 hours.
This will be a difficult time for our students, our families and our community. Weeks and months of isolation will take their toll on our mental health, causing stress and anxiety and putting strains on our family units. Our students have all been signposted to places they can go for support and our vulnerable students who are not coming into school will be contacted twice every week by key staff to check that they are ok. The same applies to families as a whole. We know that prolonged periods together can increase the risk of depression and domestic abuse. More families will fall into financial hardship and this will place further strain upon the family unit. Support is available to families and organisations with contact details are included on the attached information sheet.
I’ve now been at Baysgarth School for longer than I have been at any school in my career. I am passionate about our students, our staff and this community and want to make this my base for the rest of my career. I have total faith in this community to rise to the challenges that face us over the next few months. We teach our students about the importance of resilience and responsibility and over the coming months we will need to be resilient as we face challenges that most of us have never faced in our lifetimes. We also have to take responsibility for those in our community who may be isolated or in a vulnerable group and may need our support to shop for them or look out for them. At times like this we either see the best or the worst of humanity and I am confident that this community will pull together through these difficult times and show what an amazing corner of the world we are.
Finally, we are still in shock from our Year 11 students leaving school in March and it is taking some time for staff to process this. They have worked tirelessly for many years to produce outstanding young people and for them to leave so abruptly has left us all reeling. I received the email below from one of our Year 11 students last night and thought I would share it with you to show how proud this community should be of our young adults and the teachers who support them:
'Dear Mr Briggs
Firstly, I would like to start my letter by saying thank you for everything that you have done to help not only me but my whole year and driving us to succeed. I will never truly be able to show how utterly grateful I am for my time at Baysgarth and the wonderful things I have learnt along the way. Baysgarth has not only taught me the knowledge I needed to know but the important lessons of becoming an adult and growing up and using pride in everything I do. Along the way I have learnt to take pride in myself and my work or the decisions I am making. I have also been able to learn the importance of respect and most importantly always showing respect. Baysgarth has also encouraged me to be independent and believe in myself. Not only to believe in myself but to openly make mistakes and improve by seeing how I can better myself. My 5 years at this school have definitely taught me how to show determination. Although I wasn’t always positive and believed in my abilities I always tried to show determination and get to my goal of succeeding. Without a doubt this school has taught me excellence and the many different ways to show it and see it in myself and others. The challenges we have faced and the many hours of learning we have gone through, I have tried to accomplish with excellence. Although not everything you do can be successful I still believe that I have shown excellence in my work and in myself.
Baysgarth has taught me everything I needed to know and has given me the best chances to be what I want to be and achieve what I want to. You and the incredible teachers have given me the best pathway into having a successful future and also valuable lessons to help me grow as a person. Every single teacher I have been taught by have been incredible role models who I looked up too and was willing to learn from and take advice from.
I will never forget my time at Baysgarth and the wonderful lessons it has taught me. I truly wish I wasn’t leaving as it has been the most memorable experience. Thank you for everything.
Take care of yourselves and each other. Have a restful weekend.
I’m sure that you, like me, were glued to your TV sets last night to see what the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary were going to announce about schools. We now have some clarity about what will happen over the coming days and weeks and I hope today’s letter will provide you with detail on how it will impact us at Baysgarth.
At the time of writing this morning, the school has had no official communication from the Department for Education, so the only details I know for certain are the ones relayed in the press conferences last night. There are some things that were announced last night about which I simply do not know the answers yet. For example, the voucher scheme for children eligible for Free School Meals and the occupations that are on the key workers list that the Cabinet Office is due to release later today. Hopefully I will learn more today and will be in a position to update you tomorrow.
The first important point is that the school will be closed after 2.40pm on Friday. There is no further information from the government on how long this will be for. The Prime Minister simply said ‘until further notice’ and Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, said ‘this is something that will not last for just a few weeks but take place over a sustained period of time’. It is difficult to deduce from this when we will reopen but I think there is a very real possibility that schools will not be open again until the start of the new academic year in September. This shows the seriousness of the national emergency that we are facing.
The second key point is that all exams are cancelled for students. As a result, today will be the last day of school for our Year 11 students. We spoke to them in a special assembly this morning, which was very emotional. I want to pay tribute to this fantastic year group. They have worked incredibly hard and are devastated that they won’t get the opportunity to show off in the summer exam season. We were expecting our sixth year running of record-breaking exam results, so for their school careers to end so abruptly feels very surreal today. They are a very special group of students and I want to thank them for the joy they have brought to the school over the last five years. I want to particularly thank Cameron Booth and Olivia Dalton-Goldspink for their efforts as Head Boy and Head Girl - they have been brilliant role models for all of our students.
Their teachers have also done an incredible job and are similarly devastated that the exams will now not take place. I want to thank them for all their efforts in preparing the students brilliantly for their exams. At the point of writing, we do not know how grades are going to be awarded this summer but the likelihood is that schools will be asked for their predictions of how the students would have done. Again, I will confirm when we know more but parents and students should be reassured that students will not be disadvantaged by this decision.
The third key point made last night was that schools will remain open for students with a Social Worker, students with an EHCP and students whose parents are both key workers or a key worker in a single parent household. The definition of key workers has not yet been made clear. but the survey we sent out yesterday requesting details of parents and carers professions will provide us with the information we need to come up with the list of students for whom school will still be open. This survey will close at 5pm tonight and we will assume that those who have not responded are not key workers.
These key workers do not need to contact the school. We will be contacting them to discuss whether they want their child to be in school from Monday. School Transport have confirmed that they will support students who require this provision and we will collect such details from parents when we make contact directly. If circumstances change for families, parents and carers of eligible students can contact the school to request or cease support. If your child has an EHCP, please contact Mrs Megson via email@example.com. Parents of students without an EHCP should contact either Miss Driscoll or Mr Barton via firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The government has asked that we play our part in supporting these key worker families by opening for these students during the Easter holidays and we will step up and take on this responsibility in a time of national emergency. For these students, staff supervision will be provided but no teaching will take place - they will be expected to work independently in school on the same work set for all students by the school.
The school site itself will be closed from Monday to all other than this small group of students. The school will be locked down and there will be no access to any school facilities, such as the skate park. We ask that parents and carers instruct their children to stay away from the site. We will be operating a skeleton staff on site with most staff working from home, so there is no guarantee that phones will be answered. Communication is better through the school email as this can be accessed by staff working from home. Details can be found on our website: https://baysgarthschool.co.uk/contact-us/staff-contacts
Tomorrow we will be releasing details of our distance learning packages. These will all be accessed via your child’s Baysgarth email address so I advise you to make sure this address and password is written down and kept somewhere safe so that students always have access to their account. Students in Year 7 and 8 have had their passwords reset and have been provided with this information during Tutor time today. Any queries regarding accounts and passwords, including requests to reset a password, should be sent to Mr Roberts via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This level of disruption to the whole of society is something we have never experienced before and there are numerous ways in which our lives will be completely different over the next few weeks and months. It will be a difficult time for us all and we have to work together for the national interest. From the school’s perspective I am very pleased to tell you that we have made all of our staffing appointments for September already. We have appointed fantastic new teachers in Drama, History, I.T. and R.E. to pave the way for the increased numbers of students that will be joining us in September, so whatever short-term problems we are going through, please be assured that Baysgarth is brilliantly placed to continue to provide fantastic quality education for our students.
We will continue to write to you on a daily basis to update our stakeholders on the latest developments on how COVID-19 is impacting upon the school.
I am very proud of our staff and students who are adapting very well and showing resilience in the face of these unique circumstances. We currently have 11 members of staff who are self-isolating but the rest of our team are really rallying around to cover for absent colleagues and allowing us to stay open for all year groups. As I mentioned yesterday, this can change on a daily basis and we know of many other schools who have had to partially or fully close over recent days, so please make sure you stay tuned to our social media sites, our mobile app or website for the latest information.
Although we remain open to all year groups, our capacity to support the community in other ways has been diminished and we are continuing to make changes to our ways of working to adapt to the situation. After today, we will not be running any after school clubs, sports fixtures, intervention or enrichment activities. Therefore, there will be no late buses running from tomorrow. This minimises any unnecessary social contact and allows our staff more time to prepare the online resources that may be necessary to support distance learning if the school has to close partially or fully.
We are also having to close our Headway Alternative Provision centre with effect from tomorrow. Staffing levels here are critical and, having completed our daily assessment of risk, we have no choice other than to close this provision. Those families affected have been contacted directly.
As you will have read, the government is about to mandate 12 weeks of self-isolation for vulnerable groups, including those with underlying health issues. We have taken an audit of our staff to see how many of them fall into the categories listed by the government and it amounts to approximately one-third of our teaching staff. The Prime Minister has said these restrictions are likely to come into force at the weekend, so realistically, on top of the staff who are already self-isolating, it is difficult to see how the school can remain open to all year groups from Monday onwards. We will continue to update you on a daily basis but families should expect partial or full closure of the school from Monday 23rd March onwards, and begin to prepare for this.
In the event of a partial or full closure, communication between the school and parents and carers will become even more important. To ensure we will be able to contact you during such a time, we are carrying out an audit of parental contact details. Earlier today we sent a test email and text message to all families, using the primary contact information we hold. If you did not receive one or both of these communications, please contact the school immediately so we can update our records. Please call our admin team on 01652 632576 or email details to email@example.com. Please note, we can only update contact information at the request of a parent or carer with parental responsibility. Other forms of communication, including our mobile app, Facebook page and website will remain active and will be updated regularly throughout any closure.
We have also sent out a Google form to parents to complete to aid us in preparing for a school closure. Please check your email for this. It is optional for parents and carers to complete, but we encourage you to do so, to allow us to put in place suitable provisions for students in the event of a partial closure.
As we look further ahead and review the school calendar, it is clear that future events will be cancelled or are under threat. The Year 11 revision and PGL trip scheduled for the Easter holidays has had to be cancelled. The Year 11 Prom, scheduled for June, is under serious threat and may need to be postponed until later in the year. We have had no information from the government about the summer exam season and we know how anxious our Year 11 students are about their exams and their futures. We will inform parents as soon as we know anything more.
Our staff have been working hard during a very uncertain week to prepare additional materials to ensure the continuity of education for every student. All of the resources, tasks and materials are going to be available online, mainly through Google classroom, to ensure we still maintain teacher student contact and feedback. Students over the next few days will be asked to check they have their log in details for their school email so they can access this. All students in Year 7 and 8 will have new passwords issued by the end of the day. If we have to implement distance learning due to a full or partial school closure, we will ensure that work is provided for every student in their main subjects through Google classroom, which every student can access anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection and suitable device. If any parent has concerns or needs support with regards to work, please contact the school urgently.
Since I wrote to you yesterday, new advice has come out from the government so I wanted to update you as to the school's position.
Baysgarth School is remaining open as per the government's directive. However, we expect to see significant disruption over the coming days. The new rules on self-isolating for whole households for 14 days if one member of that household has a persistent cough will have a big impact on our staff. Already we have had several members of staff who have had to self-isolate because one of their own children has been sent home from nursery or school with a cough.
This will escalate quickly and we expect that at some point in the next few days we will have to start a phased closure, as we will not have enough staff to deliver lessons. This will begin with Year 7 and Year 8 being asked to stay at home and could continue up through the school. We will stay open for as long as possible for our Year 11 students to give them as much support as they approach their exams - they will be our priority. I apologise in advance if we cannot give you much notice about when this phased closure might begin, as it will depend completely on which staff are in school.
As part of our precautionary measures, we will be stopping all non-essential activities. This unfortunately, will include all parental meetings and the Year 7 Parents' Evening on Monday. If you have an appointment with a member of staff over the next few weeks, the school will endeavour to be in touch and conduct as many phone meetings as possible. For those meetings that are required face to face, these will be postponed until the situation allows non-essential social contact. All appointments for Parents’ Evening on 23rd March will be cancelled, and if any parent has an urgent issue they wish to discuss, they can contact the relevant staff via email. Details can be found on our website: https://baysgarthschool.co.uk/contact-us/staff-contacts
As parents and carers, can I urge you to be vigilant and follow the advice given by the government. Do not send a child into school who is displaying any of the signs of the virus, such as a persistent cough or raised temperature, and if anyone in your household has these symptoms, ensure the whole house self-isolates for 14 days.
Thank you for your support and understanding during these unique and challenging times. We will continue to update you when we have more information.
These are testing times for our community and we want to help steer families into making the right decisions to keep themselves safe. As you might expect we have been inundated with enquiries, mainly relating to absence for students.
The school will remain open until the government instructs otherwise. Students are expected to attend as normal. However, we are well aware that some of our students live with parents, carers or relatives who fall into high risk groups, such as those over-70 or with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems. We are also aware that some of our students have underlying health conditions themselves and therefore are considered to be at risk.
If your family fits in with one of these categories and you feel that for a child to attend school would put themselves or others at risk, even if they are not displaying any symptoms, we understand this decision. In this circumstance, contact the school and speak to Mrs Cruickshank, our Attendance Officer. Explain the situation and the reasons behind your decision. This will not be recorded as an unauthorised absence and you will not be fined.
If your child has a cold or displays any of the symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19), do not send them into school. They should be self-isolating for 14 days, along with all other members of your household. The school will send students home with persistent coughs, colds and other symptoms, and will not allow them back into school until the full self-isolation period has ended.
We know some of our parents have received letters warning them about attendance levels and risks to graduation in Year 7 and Year 8 in relation to our Expert Learner Framework. Please be reassured that absences in relation to the current situation will not be counted against our graduation criteria.
The situation is changing fluidly and we will update parents and carers whenever we have more information.