Covid-19 Statements from the CEO

Statement to Parents and Carers                                                                                              22nd May 2020


Dear Parent and Carers,

Further to my statement below, dated 16th May 2020.

As you are aware, the Government has requested schools to expand provision from June 1st, if it is deemed safe to do so, and I am sure that you all have some reservations about this. I can assure you that the wellbeing of your children and our workforce are of paramount importance to us, and considerable work has already been undertaken by the Trust and at each setting to ensure that their environments are as safe as they possibly can be for all, and will continue to be so.

We will continue to liaise with the various Government/Council bodies, Public Health, Trade Unions and other agencies on the matter of safety, and have taken advice on safer working practices within educational settings, to help form our own policy and procedures. Once our settings do begin to expand their provision, whenever that is, this work will continue to ensure that these practices are maintained and improved upon where necessary.

A copy of the Trust’s Covid-19 Reset and Recovery Policy can be found here: Covid-19 Reset and Recovery Policy

Our settings have now analysed the results of the parental survey regarding the potential expansion of provision from June 1st at the earliest, ahead of confirmation that the Government’s five key tests have been met, and have applied the following consistent approach in preparation for this initial phase (list is not exaustive):

  • The safety of everyone in school is paramount;
  • Supporting a consistent and collaborative approach;
  • Following social distancing guidance as far as possible in all classrooms and the school environment;
  • Encouraging all eligible vulnerable children to return to school;
  • Agreement that the year groups prioritised within the government guidance will be the initial focus;
  • Settings may plan for a phased / incremental expansion of pupils in the first two weeks to allow staff time and space to properly train for and test safety procedures and systems;
  • Settings to liaise closely with transport providers as they develop arrangements to allow the transport arrangements to be planned;
  • Individual settings will decide the safe numbers of pupils per group (up to a maximum of 15) and will therefore manage attendance of pupils to reflect this (However, initially, groups should not exceed 10 pupils where possible);
  • Individual settings to manage daily attendance;
  • Staggered starts, breaks and ends to the day to support social distancing;
  • Minimising the number of pupils that each staff member has contact with;
  • Staff and pupils deemed clinically ‘extremely’ vulnerable, or living with someone in this category, should not be on-site until further notice (i.e. people who have been advised to shield themselves by a health care professional);
  • Staff and pupils deemed clinically vulnerable (i.e. at a higher risk of a more serious outcome if they catch the virus), or living with someone in this category, should be encouraged to stay and work from home, where possible, until further notice;
  • If it is deemed by the setting that a child may not be able to follow instructions, then the setting should carry out a risk assessment to determine what mitigation needs to be put in place and whether they should stay at home for their own and others’ safety;
  • For those children with a social worker, the expectation is that they should attend their setting unless a risk assessment concludes they will be safer at home;
  • If a child, member of staff, or member of their household, is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately and be sent for testing.

As you can imagine it has been a mammoth task to properly risk assess and reorganise the settings in preparation for this potential expansion, and I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

As directed by the Government, our settings have prioritised the following year groups for the initial phase of expansion: Nursery and Reception, followed by Year 1 and then Year 6.

Please note that, if you are offered a place, only your children in the above Year Groups will be able to attend, and any siblings in Years 2, 3, 4 and 5 should remain at home (unless classed as vulnerable or those of registered key workers).

If you have indicated you would like a place for your child(ren) from June 1st (and if the Government deems it safe to expand provision from then) either via the survey or in person, and your setting is able to offer them a place, they will now be contacting you by letter to explain the exact terms and conditions of the provisional offer.

Please be aware that, due to availability of staff and health and safety reasons, settings may not be able to provide full-time places for all eligible children, other than for those children classed as vulnerable or those of registered Key Workers.

To minimise the risk to children, staff and parents, and to give everyone the chance to familiarise themselves with the new Covid-19 safety routines, and if deemed safe by the Government, settings will initially expand provision over a two-week period beginning Tuesday, June 2nd.

Please note, all our settings will be closed to children on Monday, June 1st, including those classed as vulnerable and of registered key workers, to enable whole staff training to take place.

Unless you have registered as a critical key worker with your setting or your child is deemed vulnerable (i.e. assigned to a social worker and/or has an EHCP), then please only bring your child to school on June 2nd if:

  • The Government does eventually announce it deems it safe for schools to expand provision from June 1st; and,
  • You have received a written offer of a place from your setting.

Thank you once again for your patience and understanding!

With my very best wishes to you and your own families,

Jon Lovatt

CEO

 


Thank You Message to all Stakeholders                                                                                       22 May 2020


Dear Colleagues

As we now enter our third month of closures I would like to take this opportunity to reach out to all of you on behalf of The Societas Trust. The last few months have been challenging for all of us and the coming months I am sure will continue along those lines.

It is with great pride that we have seen all our settings face these challenges head on and work together to ensure that school provision can be maintained for the vulnerable children and the children of key workers, as well as providing work and support for the children at home.

We have seen technology introduced across the Trust to allow virtual meetings and document sharing to continue whilst we all continue to socially distance ourselves, and I am sure this will have positive impacts on working practices as we start to return to “normal”.

As you are all aware, Government is keen for schools to expand provision from the 1st June, if it is deemed safe to do so, and I am sure that you all have some reservations about this. I can assure you that the wellbeing of our children and workforce are of paramount importance to Societas, and there is considerable work being undertaken by the Executive and at each setting to ensure that a safe environment can be provided for all.

We are liaising with the various Government/Council bodies and the Trade Unions on the matter, and taking advice on safe working practices within educational settings, to help form our own policy. Once our settings begin to expand their provision, whenever that is, this work will continue to ensure that practices are maintained and improved upon where necessary.

With the half term holiday up on us, I again sincerely wish to thank you all for the work you have been doing and the support given to your settings, children and their families.

Best wishes to you and your own families; I hope you all remain safe and stay in good health as we move into the next stage of the Pandemic together, as we all try to recover some sense of “normality” in our lives.

Guy Weir

Chair

The Societas Trust

 


Reset and Recovery Plan – Principles                                                                                             22 May 2020


Context

This statement sets out principles and ambitions for reset and recovery for school settings in Societas, to develop a consistent approach to enable them to interpret and implement the latest government guidance in preparation for expansion of provision from June 1 at the earliest, ahead of confirmation that the Government’s five key tests have been met.

Overarching Principles

Our approach is based on the following principles:

  • The highest priority and consideration is the safety and wellbeing of children, staff and other key stakeholders;
  • Flexibility and local decision making;
  • A collaborative approach involving Local Authorities and professional associations/trade unions;
  • Recognition of the different layers of accountability and responsibility including government, countywide, trusts and individual schools;
  • Supporting each other (e.g. hub arrangements, Emergency Locality Teams in each district, effective practice, talking and sharing).

Specific Principles/Plans for Initial Phase:

  • The safety of everyone in school is paramount;
  • Supporting a consistent and collaborative approach;
  • Following social distancing guidance as far as possible in all classrooms and the school environment;
  • Encouraging all eligible vulnerable children to return to school;
  • Agreement that the year groups prioritised within the government guidance will be the initial focus;
  • Settings may plan for a phased / incremental expansion of pupils in the first two weeks to allow staff time and space to properly train for and test safety procedures and systems;
  • Settings to liaise closely with transport providers as they develop arrangements to allow the transport arrangements to be planned;
  • Individual settings will decide the safe numbers of pupils per group (up to a maximum of 15) and will therefore manage attendance of pupils to reflect this (However, initially, groups should not exceed 10 pupils where possible);
  • Individual settings to manage daily attendance;
  • Staggered starts, breaks and ends to the day to support social distancing;
  • Minimising the number of pupils that each staff member has contact with;
  • Staff and pupils deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, or living with someone in this category, should not be on-site until further notice;
  • Staff and pupils deemed clinically vulnerable, or living with someone in this category, should be encouraged to stay and work from home, where possible, until further notice;
  • If it is deemed by the setting that a child may not be able to follow instructions, then the setting should carry out a risk assessment to determine what mitigation needs to be put in place and whether they should stay at home. For those children with a social worker, the expectation is that they should attend their setting unless a risk assessment concludes they will be safer at home;
  • If a child, member of staff, or member of their household, is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately and be sent for testing.

 


Statement to Parents and Carers                                                                                              16th May 2020


Dear Parents and Carers,

First of all I want to thank you for all the hard work you have been doing with your children; for being so supportive of their school (“setting”) and the staff who are trying their very best to support both them and you.

I’m sure you’re aware of the Prime Minister’s recent announcement indicating that some children might be able to return to school from June 1st, if it is safe to do so. We have since received more Government guidance on how this can be done keeping children and staff as safe as possible, and our settings have now been able to start reading, understanding and begin planning to hopefully welcome some children back to school before the end of term.

The following link is to the guidance for parents and carers that the Government has also issued: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/reopening-schools-and-other-educational-settings-from-1-june

The key messages from the Government are:

  1. Schools should continue to offer places to vulnerable children, including those with Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs), and children of Covid-19 Critical Key Workers.
  2. Nursery and primary schools should look at ways to open to more children from June 1st if is considered safe to do so.
  3. Parents will NOT be fined for not sending their children to school.
  4. Children considered clinically extremely vulnerable should NOT attend school just yet – if you are unsure about this, please speak to your GP.
  5. If a child lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, then they should NOT be in school just yet – again, if you are unsure about this, please speak to your GP.
  6. Groups of children must NOT mix together or come into contact with each other, and children within a group should ideally remain 2 metres apart, if they can. I’M SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THIS WILL BE VERY HARD TO ENFORCE IN A SCHOOL SETTING, PARTICULARLY FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN.
  7. If there is a shortage of teachers, then a teaching assistant can lead a group.
  8. The aim is for all nursery and primary school age children to have some time in school before the summer holidays.

As advised by the Government, from June 1st our settings will seek to welcome back pupils in the following year groups:

Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

If you do have children in the above year groups, any siblings they may have in years 2, 3, 4 and 5 should remain at home for the time being, unless you and / or your partner are a Covid-19 critical key worker, and have already registered with your setting, or your children are deemed vulnerable – i.e. assigned to a social worker or have an EHCP.

However, to try to keep everyone as safe as possible, it may not be possible to accommodate all children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on a full-time basis. This will be dependent on what numbers of children our settings can expect to attend from week beginning June 1st, and how many staff can be available.

Although our settings will try to ensure that your child is with their usual teacher, this may not always be possible. Although the Government, if considered safe, may encourage parents of Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to send their children to school from June 1st, the decision whether to do so or not is purely yours to make, and you will not be penalised for non-attendance.

What do we need to do now?

Our settings now need to comprehensively plan in case they are asked to welcome more children back from June 1st, to ensure all children and staff can be as safe as possible, so they will be doing the following over the next couple of weeks (list is not exhaustive):

  1. Sending out an online survey to find out how many parents may want to take up places for eligible children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from June 1st. This will be sent by Friday 16th May and responses are required early next week.

(NB: Please complete the survey separately for each of your children regardless of their year group. However, unless you are a key worker or your child is considered vulnerable, only children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be considered for a place from June 1st)

  1. Analysing the responses to identify key groups of children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
  2. Reviewing staffing to ensure enough staff are well and available to work.
  3. Ensuring adequate and appropriate cleaning resources are available.
  4. Updating risk assessments.
  5. Moving all desks and seats to provide appropriate separation of children and staff in the classroom (2m apart where possible).
  6. Planning timetables to offer as much outdoor learning as possible, weather dependent of course.
  7. Planning how staff can continue to support ‘home learning’ for children still at home.
  8. Planning for groups of children to be with the same staff members at all times, to minimise changes in personnel.
  9. Re configuring their environments so that groups of children and the staff with them can stay together during the whole day.
  10. Planning for staggered break and lunch times, so the groups are not mixing together/moving around at the same time.
  11. Planning how and where lunches will be provided and eaten.
  12. Planning staggered drop-off and collection times – only one parent can bring their children in, so settings will need to consider drop off/collection points and timings for each group.
  13. Planning for increased cleaning, as toys and equipment should only be used by the same group.
  14. Planning for increased cleaning during and end of each day.

Other Considerations:

For those children who are welcomed back from June 1st, if deemed safe, then there are some strict guidelines we should all follow, specified by the Government:

  1. No unnecessary use of buses/coaches/taxis for children to travel to school – please encourage your children to cycle or walk to school.
  2. No one (visitors/staff/children/families/contractors etc.) should enter the grounds or buildings if they have symptoms.
  3. Only 1 parent/carer should escort their children to school.
  4. Parents/carers should not gather at school gates or entrances to the buildings.
  5. Stationery and other resources should not be shared.
  6. Shared areas and surfaces should be cleaned daily, and disinfected/bleached frequently.
  7. No possessions or other resources from home will be allowed in to school (except for packed lunches).

(NB: SHOULD ANYONE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD DEVELOP COVID-19 SYMPTOMS, AS PER THE HEALTH ADVICE BELOW, THEN YOU MUST NOT BRING YOUR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL. PLEASE CONTACT NHS 111 FOR ASSISTANCE.)

What do you need to do now?

I urge you to complete the survey over the weekend so that our settings can make more detailed plans.

Please complete the survey by 12pm on Monday 18th May.

If you have not received a link to the survey, please contact your setting.

If on the survey you indicate you would like a place for your children from June 1st, then your setting will contact you in due course to let you know more specific details of the provision for them. If you do not complete the survey, your setting will assume you do not require a place for your children from June 1st.

However, please bear with your setting while they carry out the necessary risk assessments and work out all the logistics, so that from June 1st, if the science support this, they can welcome back as many eligible children as it is safely possible to do, and ensure that their experience of being back in school will be a happy one.

I hope that the content of this statement helps to reassure you how important your child’s safety is to us.

With my very best wishes,

Jon Lovatt

CEO

 


Current Health Advice                                                                                                updated 20th May 2020


It is important that we follow the medical evidence and take the right actions at the right time to help and support each other.

Current advice is:

  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms, such as:
    • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature);
    • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual);
    • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

self-isolate by staying at home for 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible. There is more information about staying at home that you can read by clicking here

  • Those who are at increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus (COVID-19), including the over 70s, need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. You can read more about this by clicking here

If you need to self-isolate because of the symptoms mentioned above, please call your immediate line manager and report this immediately, as you would any other absence. 

 


Update – 11th May 2020


Following the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday, we are now focusing on 1st June for a managed and ordered return to school in stages, to ensure we can undertake social distancing and have adequate staffing and health and safety arrangements in place at each of our settings.  Our children’s education and learning is hugely important, and we want their eventual return to school to be successful, positive and safe.

However, as stated by the Prime Minister, reopening of schools will only happen if it is considered safe to do so. Until then, our settings will continue to provide places for workers designated as Key to fighting the Pandemic, and children considered vulnerable.  We will of course keep parents and carers informed of our plans for reopening in a timely way.

 


Initial Statement Issued at the Outset of the Closure of Schools                 updated 16th May 2020


Dear colleagues

We have now moved into the ‘delay’ phase of the Government’s plan to manage the Coronavirus outbreak and further guidance has been issued overnight. This means that new actions will be taken across the country to reduce the number of people who are affected at the peak of the virus and to delay this peak as far as possible into the summer months when the impact on people and the NHS will be reduced. 

What we are doing as a Trust

We have been working with our settings and other partners across the region to develop solutions to the rapidly changing situation to:

  • Identify vulnerable groups;
  • Identify numbers of key workers;
  • Identify the provision of ongoing services, including school meals;
  • Deal with challenges of the health needs of staff in our settings.

The work being done by our settings in partnership together, and with other agencies across the region, is set to provide a strong basis for whatever requirements the coming weeks present. 

To all our staff – thank you for the exceptional pace and professionalism with which you have collectively responded to these unprecedented challenges.

From Monday 23 March 2020, whilst all schools nationally will be closed for the foreseeable future, all our settings will still be open to care for children of key-workers, vulnerable children and children with EHCP’s. The decision to offer a place, and the continuation of this provision, will ultimately rest with the Trust in consultation with Head Teachers. For these children, their setting’s normal school hours will still apply, along with the usual catering arrangements. The Trust will be constantly reviewing the model of provision available going forward.

Since the decision to close schools was announced by the Government on Wednesday, we have been waiting confirmation regarding the definition of ‘vulnerable’ children and ‘key workers’. The guidance was been published this morning. Full details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

It is essential we get the balance right between those children needing to attend school in lieu of child care. We will need as many key workers available as possible to maintain essential services. All our settings will endeavour to offer children of key workers a place in lieu of childcare, where ever possible. However, in-line with Government guidance, where those key workers can establish appropriate care arrangements for their children at home they should do so, and use schools only as the alternative, rather than ‘default’. Where a key worker parent is having difficulty making such alternative arrangements, they should discuss this with the setting concerned. The decision to offer a place, and the scope of that provision, rests with the Head Teacher.

Vulnerable children are those defined as Child in Need, Child Protection, Looked After Children, i.e. those with a social worker; along with young carers, disabled children and those with EHCP’s. Looking after these children will enable schools to support the country through this incredibly and extremely challenging time. However, whatever the definition, our settings know the identity of the wider group of vulnerable children and will, wherever possible, maintain a pastoral relationship with them.

In terms of Free School Meals, we have been advised that government will give schools the flexibility to provide meals or vouchers to children who are eligible for free school meals. The Government are looking to put in place a national voucher system for every child who is eligible for free school meals. Guidance for schools will be published by the DFE shortly. 

In the meantime, our settings are developing their own ongoing free school meals provision and will contact relevant parents / carers about these arrangements as soon as possible.

HR Policy for the Closure Period (updated 16th May 2020)

Whilst the Trust continues to offer care for children of key-workers, vulnerable children and children with EHCPs, all staff who are employed are also considered by the Trust to be key workers and will continue to be required to undertake work, provided they are well enough to do so.

In practice, this means that staff will be required to be available to undertake tasks which are broadly in line with their usual work and commensurate with their grade.   

Staff with children of school age (3 years old to 17 years old), who are having difficulty making suitable childcare arrangements in order to continue to work, should speak to their Head Teacher, as our settings have been asked to make provision in lieu of childcare available to staff where possible. Staff with children under school age (younger than 3 years old) should make their own arrangements; however, please speak to your Head Teacher if you’re having difficulty doing this. Staff who would prefer to stay at home to look after their children, despite the offer of a place or assistance finding one elsewhere, may make an application to their Head Teacher for unpaid compassionate leave. Such applications will be considered on a case by case basis.

In cases where a staff member is having to self-isolate, or has been identified by their setting (or a health care professional) as at significant risk (i.e. deemed clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable), or lives with another adult or child deemed at significant risk, the work may be undertaken from home and would not involve direct pupil contact. Examples of work which may be undertaken would include but not be limited to preparing resources, setting of work for pupils to complete remotely, planning, updating monitoring etc. Staff who are available to work during the school closure period will receive full pay.  If you have any concerns about either your own welfare, or the welfare of anyone you live with, please speak to your Head Teacher.

Staff who have previously been available for work but then become incapacitated by any illness and unable to work, should ensure that they report this in the usual way to their line manager using the correct reporting arrangements for their setting; they will then be considered to be off sick for the duration of their illness and will receive full sick pay entitlement for the period of which they are unwell. Upon recovery, they should advise their line manager that they have returned and are now available to undertake work.

Where it is not possible for an employee, either in self-isolation or in a high risk group, to complete any work from home during the school closure period due to the nature of their role, the employee will continue to receive full pay and their attendance record will not be affected.

As already stated, school employees are key worker staff and able to access school provision in lieu of childcare. For our staff, their children of school age (3 to 17) can attend the setting at which they work if this is appropriate; the preference of the parent/carer; and with the permission of the Head Teacher.  

 


Current Health Advice                                                                                               updated 20th May 2020


It is important that we follow the medical evidence and take the right actions at the right time to help and support each other.

Current advice is:

  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms, such as:
    • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature);
    • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual);
    • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

self-isolate by staying at home for 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible. There is more information about staying at home that you can read by clicking here

  • Those who are at increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus (COVID-19), including the over 70s, need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. You can read more about this by clicking here

If you need to self-isolate because of the symptoms mentioned above, please call your immediate line manager and report this immediately, as you would any other absence.