I am writing with an update following the closure of the whole academy on Thursday 19th March.
A number of parents have asked about the announcement by Gavin Williamson, secretary of state for education, where he said that schools would remain open for children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans and for the children of key workers.
The Government has now clarified that in special schools the leaders of the school should make a decision, bearing in mind the health and safeguarding needs of individual pupils.
The safety and wellbeing of our school community remains paramount and senior leaders and directors continue to feel that there are significant risks as set out in the letters you received on 16th and 18th March:
- Many of our children and young people are extremely medically vulnerable and should not be in school where they may be in contact with a number of people who may present a risk of infection to them
- Medical advice is that children should maintain the same ‘socially distancing’ regime as adults. This is simply not possible in our schools where many of our students do not understand about personal space and where adults and children need to work in close contact. Adults need to maintain close physical contact to support learning, to help students move around the school, to support positive behaviour and to help with personal hygiene. This creates a situation where it is more likely that any virus will spread. These are risks which we accept and manage in normal times through good hygiene measures but in the extraordinary context of COVID-19 the level of risk is not acceptable.
- Staffing ratios are vital and it is also vital to have consistent staffing to support our children and young people. As staff have been absent to self-isolate or to care for others the level of staff cover has already reached a point which causes concern. Having children in school with inconsistent staffing and routine will leave them distressed and confused and may mean that we cannot safely respond to any issues.
I have therefore decided, in collaboration with senior leaders and the Trust Directors, that the whole Trust should remain closed. I have kept public health and the local authority informed and they are aware of this decision. I will keep the situation under review.
I do know that this is a very difficult situation for parents particularly as none of us knows how long the outbreak will continue. Please do use the phone lines to contact the Family Support team if you have any queries.
You can ring:
- Gill Wadeson on 07871 735358 or Lesley Middleton on 07871 780023 for Whitefield School parents or
- Sarah Bent on 07871 778470 or Angela Norris on 07851 961892 for Joseph Clarke School parents
Ring between between 9am and 12noon, or leave a message or text at any time and we will get back to you by the following day.
We will make every effort to help you continue to educate your child at home and to provide other advice and support.
We will re-open as soon as we possibly can and will let you know as soon as there is any clear information about this. The school website will be updated regularly.
I look forward to being able to welcome the students and staff back to school.
Elaine Colquhoun OBE,
Chief Executive Officer,
Whitefield Academy Trust