We would like to thank our community for the response to letters from our school leaders describing our thinking about how to manage the start of the new school year. The majority have been supportive of the two week transition period, recognising the need for caution in managing reopening. We recognise, however, that for some this is seen as an unnecessary way to mitigate the risk of the virus.
Across the primary phase many parents have supported the importance of a gradual transition back to school, helping children to feel safe and confident in the systems that have been implemented across all the school sites. The opportunity for teachers and children to complete extended transition will support the development of positive relationships and firm foundations for the year ahead. The scale of our GFM schools and the risks associated with bringing thousands of people onto our sites in September makes the management of having our schools Covid-secure a vital consideration because we want all to feel confident about being in school.
Please be assured that it is certainly our intention, as far as possible, to have all year groups return to on-site teaching every day after the two week transition period. Staggered start and finish times may mean, for example, that a short period of personalised online learning takes place either at the start or at the end of the school day. We recognise that whilst many children and families have told us about their positive experiences of online learning there have been some challenges with this provision and we are keen to learn lessons from this period.
Please be assured that our priority is to keep your children safe as well as to provide them with the best school experience we can in these uncertain times. However, we accept that we have not communicated clearly enough to explain the complexity of the decisions we are having to make.
The government guidelines about a safe return to a ‘Covid secure’ school include the necessity for staggered start and finish times, staggered breaks and lunch times. Each ‘bubble’ must also have its own social space and strict hygiene routines around toilet facilities. The DfE has published detailed guidance about the health and safety ‘system of controls’ that schools must implement but acknowledges that there cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach where the system describes every scenario. We are working to make informed judgments about how to balance delivering a broad and balanced curriculum with the measures needed to manage risk. Both Bay House School and Sixth Form and Brune Park Community School are very large schools with seven year groups (including the Sixth Form at Bay House) and the logistical challenges this represents are, of course, considerable.
We are currently exploring different models to secure the best education for our young people. The situation is made more complex as we do not yet know how prevalent Covid-19 will be in the community in the winter months.
We are keen to give you more information as well as consult with you on our dynamic risk assessment and ongoing decision-making. We think the best way to do this would be through an online video broadcast. Details of this broadcast and the method by which to offer your feedback will be published on our website shortly.
Our apologies for having added an element of increased uncertainty in these challenging times.
I wish everyone a restful and safe summer.
Ian Potter, GFM CEO