Enhanced Covid Safety Measures during Partial School Closure in January 2021
As you are all aware, we have taken our responsibility in the management of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic extremely seriously. This position has not always been popular and has received criticism from some.
In our Federation, we work as a leadership team. A key part of our approach is to look ahead at the range of possible scenarios that might affect our schools, focusing on those areas over which we have little or no control. At the very beginning of the lockdown, we looked carefully at the possible risks to our school community and made the decision to proceed with extreme caution, so that we could protect as many people as possible. Our aim has been to be as proactive as possible, rather than wait to respond to a catastrophe after it has happened. This is particularly pertinent in this situation as the potential risks are known to us.
Over the period of the past 10 months we have had to adapt our approach as everyone’s understanding of the novel coronavirus has developed over time. We are now dealing with the coronavirus variant B117, the fastest-growing strain in London, south-east of England and east of England. It is not good enough for us to be behind the curve, playing catch up with new strains of COVID; we need to do our part in supporting our colleagues in the NHS and help prevent a rise in hospital admissions.
As I write this, in Croydon, the case rate was 836 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week 22 Dec-28 Dec. The average area in England had 307.There were 3,231 cases in the latest week 22 Dec-28 Dec +388 compared with the previous week.
A report published by Imperial College London this week has found that the new variant may be 70 percent more transmissible. Analysing the data up to mid-December 2020, the report demonstrates that the more transmissible variant of this disease “is higher for those in the 0-9 year and 10-19 year group”.
Professor Axel Gandy of London’s Imperial College, described this as “the most serious change in the virus since the epidemic began”.
Whilst this means that the virus is going to be more prevalent in our pupils, it also means that this will inevitably spread to older people. Ultimately, this could have a devastating impact on our whole community.
Knowing this information, it is imperative that we take further action. Unless we do something different, this new virus strain is going to continue to spread.
Our local authority has been identified as an area with extremely high case rates and as such, the government has closed all London primary schools for at least two weeks. In other words, the government do not think our schools are safe to open to all children and staff.
There is no doubt that the safest place for children right now is at home. However, we need to offer places in school to vulnerable children and the children of critical workers who do not have any other childcare support.
It is now widely accepted that the virus is readily transmitted from children to adults. In the absence of mass testing it is impossible to know those children who are healthy from those who are asymptomatic carriers. Our staff do not have the choice about whether to come into school or not; I am sure that you will all support our efforts to make sure that we are making sure that they are as safe as possible, every day.
To support the protection of our children and staff, we are introducing a number of new measures. These are:
- No parents/carers or other adults will be permitted on site for any reason during the school closure period. The adult from your child’s year group bubble will collect and drop-off your child from the school gate.
- Only one school gate will be in use during the school closure period. At Selsdon this will be the main school gate (apart from Nursery who can use their own gate). At Heavers this will be the Dinsdale Gate. These gates will remain closed apart from when the adult from each bubble comes to collect or drop off the children.
- All adults and children should wear warm winter clothing at all times, even inside the building. This is due to the increased ventilation in school. Windows and doors will be kept open.
- All adults, and children in year 1 and above, must wear a face covering at all times on the school site during the school closure period. Face coverings should be removed for PE, drinking and eating.
- Strict social distancing will take place with all adults and children, even within each bubble.
- Children will not be allowed to bring anything into school other than their water bottle.
- A free, hot school lunch will be provided for all children in school during the school closure period (no packed lunches will be allowed during this time).
- Absolutely no contact between anyone in a different bubble in school.
We appreciate that some of these measures may make the children and staff in school less comfortable, particularly the use of a face coverings and the increased ventilation measures. However, when setting this against the very real risk of severe illness and the possible death of members of our community, this seems a very small price to pay.
These measures will remain in place whilst the government has asked for our schools to be closed for safety reasons, and attendance at school is not compulsory for all pupils. We will review this guidance when the government has notified us that our schools are safe to open to all pupils. I will update you about this when we have more information.
I would like to thank you all for your ongoing support in these most worrying of times.
With best wishes,