Back to School 1

It seems funny to look back on the coronavirus blogs to see how little we knew all those weeks ago and how much our lives have changed…

In school today, we have the keyworker children and some from Reception, Y1 and Y6. It’s nice to hear a bit more noise around here. We also have the new double classroom in use for the first time – and that’s a good thing as it means more toilets and washing facilities for children.

We are maintaining current numbers for a two week period and then we will be looking to expand for the last three weeks of term – though we are not yet sure how that should be done (we could open up another year group or perhaps ask which parents would like their children back at school).

I was quite surprised that fewer than half of the Y6 are in – that suggests that a lot of parents are not yet ready to have children back in school. I guess that even though infection rates are dropping, parents are considering that safety comes first.

My other guess is that the government will decide to reduce social distancing to 1 metre in order to get more children into school in September – but like everything, they tell us when they tell us and certainly don’t include schools in their thoughts or discussions.

Take care everyone…

Coronavirus 11

We might well be taking part in a wider opening of school in a week’s time. The government were keen for a wider opening of primary schools from June 1st, but the Local Authority considered the move too dangerous. The obvious main issue with reopening schools is that social distancing cannot occur appropriately at a primary school – and the other issue is that infection rates in the UK are still extremely high. It’s a difficult position.

Today I will be writing to parents to ask them to ‘book’ a place for their child for the two weeks after the 15th June as life will be easier (and safer) if we have exact numbers of children in each group in school. We cannot social distance, but we can minimise social contact outside the ‘bubbles’ of children that will be taught.

All this will depend on Doncaster schools actually opening on the 15th – but we will have to wait and see for that.

Coronavirus 10

We are now at the point where the government had hoped that schools would reopen on the 1st June, just a few days away. Doncaster LA has taken the view that based on the evidence and taking scientific advice into account, the risk to children and staff is too great to open. I think the opening point will move to 15th June for Reception, Y1 and Y6 – and I think most of us are relieved at this postponement because we all thought it was a dangerous move. The big sticking point for most people is that the government has clearly stated that children as young as four and five cannot socially distance, and yet they want to cram them into classrooms where they will all mix. This would be easier with Y6, but even then it would not be possible to enforce social distancing. Teachers wonder why it is essential that Primary children are in schools whereas Secondary children are not, and we are not really sure of the answers.

On Monday 1st June, all teachers will be in school to look at the Risk Assessment that has been drafted. We will also be planning next steps for the school and talking about how to provide online work for all children, whether they are in school or not. On Tuesday, LSAs will be in school looking at the Risk Assessment, after which, it will go to governors and then onto the website and out to parents. Writing the risk assessment has been very time consuming as there are so many points to cover as all we can do is make the school safer, we cannot make it safe in terms of coronavirus – and that is basically because we cannot make children socially distance.

I believe that in September, the school will be open to all children – but by then the incidence of the disease should be very low and the track and trace system should be working in a swift and sophisticated manner. I do think that next year will be a strange one – the after-effects of such a disruption to a school year may well be felt for quite a while… but we will have to wait and see.

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(Written on a Monday again) Most of my thoughts at the moment are about the question of schools reopening on June1st to Reception, Y1 and Y6. And when I say ‘most of my thoughts’ I really mean it: my waking hours including those when I should be asleep! When I wake at 3.00am, for example, the first thing I think of is school and how we manage to keep it safe!

Speaking for the government this weekend, Michael Gove said definitively that schools would be safe – but then a minute or so later, he said ‘you never can eliminate risk.’ And that is what keeps me awake. Unlike every other industry, it is accepted by the government that ‘social-distancing’ cannot happen with Reception and Y1 children – but the government clearly accepts that the risk is worth taking. Indeed, the government has decided that these are the first children back to school.

Later this week, we will have a risk assessment from the Local Authority based on discussions with teachers, unions and the Health and Safety Executive which I will share with parents by email.

I hope that everyone is keeping well in these strange times.

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Well – it seems strange to have a Bank Holiday on a Friday and it seems strange to be in school on a Bank Holiday – but it is a strange year.

Something will happen on Sunday and we may have a suggestion of what schools will look like in June/July. I asked parents if they would share their thoughts and this is a summary of those replies: A parent suggested alternate weeks for each part of a year group which would effectively reduce numbers by 50% which would make social distancing easier. Another suggestion was for half the school in Monday and Tuesday and half in for Thursday and Friday, with Wednesday being deep clean day. Shorter school days was another suggestion. One parent pointed out what we have already been discussing, which is that Y6 in particularly need some sort of decent closure to their primary school education, so they might receive preferential treatment in terms of a return to school.

As Headteacher, and talking to staff, we are very concerned about the idea of children coming back into school as we know social distancing will be extremely difficult to manage. I think that we are also pretty sure that we cannot have school dinners for the rest of this term – too many opportunities for cross-contamination, but we could manage packed lunches, continuing to pay for FSM out of our budgets.

I guess we will know more on Sunday – and I assume that I will be writing to parents on Monday or Tuesday with our response to whatever the government say.

Stay safe.

Coronavirus 7

It now seems to be Monday! And although not many people are blogging back, I don’t think it hurts to carry on for the duration of the period when the school is closed to most children.

There is lots and lots of chatter at the moment about schools reopening in June – but as yet there are not details. We will have to wait and see what is expected of us and then we will try to proceed as safely as possible.

I will be writing an email for al parents today letting them know all I know ( not much) and asking them their views. Please to let me know those views because understanding all the issues will make life easier.

I really would recommend that all parents look at the masses of photos on the website of children using their time well… and take a look at twitter, Facebook and YouTube to see what everyone has been up to.

Take care.

Coronavirus 6 (Pot Noodle)

I’m sitting at my desk at school and I have just eaten my first ever pot noodle. I brought it in to school because the preparation and eating of it was so simple. I’m not sure about the taste but I do feel full up.

I see in the news that there is a little chatter about schools opening again. I am really not sure how that would be possible whilst maintaining the 2 metre rule (social distancing). If you need to be two metres away from everyone then each child would need to be at a desk on their own – which would mean class sizes about half of what they are at the moment… so I guess it would be one day on and one day off school. I also guess that we would not serve school dinners as that necessitates close contact – so I guess we would continue to provide vouchers and ask parents to give children a pack-up for school which hopefully could be eaten outside. There is lots to think about.

I have been recommended (By Rachel Simpson) the Oak National Academy, which is the website set up by the government to provide lessons for children. I have just had a look and it seems ok: real teachers giving real lessons – Rachel’s kids are really enjoying it and learning Spanish too!

I hope that everyone is keeping well – check out or social media link for all the things that staff and children are doing – and look at the pictures (that have replaced Picture of the Week) – and please keep sending them in to me at head@ivanhoeprimary.co.uk.

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Coronavirus 5

We continue to adjust to the new reality. I’m sitting in my office having just recorded another Michael Rosen poem for our YouTube channel – my fifth, I think. Poor Michael Rosen has been in hospital for a long, long time. It’s funny that we think the internet can tell us everything – I can’t find ANY new news about him at all…

One of the ways in which this coronavirus will change us is going to be the way we think about life. We all lead incredibly busy lives and even at the weekend, we are busy, busy, busy: I know for myself, I’m always trying to get my children out to experience this or that or to do this or that – but now I wonder if we shouldn’t all just chill a bit and slow down and enjoy what we have in front of us rather than going looking for experience. I have been walking (and running) in my local woods for over three weeks now (having never been there before) and it’s lovely to see how change occurs – even in a small time – so now I walk amongst a sea of bright bluebells, whereas three weeks ago, they were just green leaves…

I am sure that when we are all back to school again, our philosophy will change. I think that we need to help children value the here and now – really value it – as well as the learning to read and write: I think we need a more rounded approach. I think there is already evidence to suggest that people in the UK see positives in this massive and frightening pause for thought and don’t want just to go back to ‘normal’ life: I hear a lot of people saying ‘take care’ and I see a lot of people being kind – as well as showing appreciation for those who serve us, whether in a hospital or in a supermarket… perhaps schools will reflect these changes in the months and years to come.

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Easter Saturday (I missed Friday as I was in Sheffield Children’s Hospital with Jude, who had broken his leg on the trampoline: the trampoline we bought at the beginning of the lock down…)

It’s a beautiful day. At our house, we have planted runner bean, pea, snap-pea, broccoli, sweetcorn, radish, tomato, potato, watercress and herbs as the boys like planting. I have also been cutting the grass and looking for an excuse to cut it again as I want to do something!

School was quiet this week – it’s a big place when there are so few children. We are really disappointed that the government have gone on and on about vouchers for free school meals (including over the Easter holidays) but haven’t managed to communicate how we actually get them and then get them to parents – but the government are better at saying than doing things just now.

There has been some chat online about schools opening again, but it is obvious that we are still not at the peak of the virus and it will take a long time after the peak before it comes down to something manageable – and it seems to me that opening schools, especially for the very young children, will just start it right up again.

It’s been lovely to see every thing that children are getting up to on Facebook, twitter, the photos on the website and on our YouTube channel – I just hope that Jude is the only child who has broken something!

Take care everyone.

Coronavirus 3

It’s strange to think that the term, ‘social distancing’ was so little known until just recently. Looking at the term, it seems that the theory of social distancing really came into its own in 1918 when Influenza was raging around the world: Philadelphia had its first cases but then went ahead with a planned parade of over 200,000 people – and pretty soon the hospitals were full and many people died. St. Louis, on the other hand, had its first case and the city took two days to implement several social distancing measures, including closing schools, theatres, and other places where people get together. It banned public gatherings, including funerals. The actions slowed the spread of influenza in St. Louis and a spike in cases and deaths, as had happened in Philadelphia, did not occur.

Anyway, we are all social distancing now! I know there are lots of complaints about people not doing it properly – especially at first – but it seems to me that everyone takes it very seriously… people are keeping well away from each other.

The strange thing about all this is that at the end of it all, many people will be very much fitter than they have been in their lives (thanks to Joe Wicks, in part), the world will be much less polluted and people will be appreciative, especially of those people who serve us (NHS, bin collectors, shop workers, postal workers – even teachers!) and people will have been through a period of being kinder towards each other and much more spiritually aware – and it is a pity that it has taken a crisis to make this happen. I hope that schools and society can learn lessons about what really is important (love, decency, creativity – and not just testing!)

I hope that everyone is enjoying keeping in touch through the YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter and the website. Stay safe.

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