26th February 2021
Dear Parents/Carers and Families,
Following the announcement from the Prime Minister, I am delighted to write to you regarding the full reopening of The Chiltern School. Everyone has faced enormous challenges since January, we all recognise how different it felt from the first lockdown. Many of our own staff are parents too and have had to juggle work and remote education whilst we have all wrestled with our own emotional health. The impact it has had on us cannot be quantified but hopefully we can now start to move forward with greater confidence as we look forward to the wider opening of society. Again, I want to express my thanks to Parents and Carers, pupils and staff for their hard work, resilience, kindness and humour. We have really had to dig deep somedays to keep going.
You may be aware that full school opening presents many challenges for schools, for us the most difficult challenge is staffing arrangements, ensuring we have the appropriate staffing levels for each class and staff with the right experience and training. This is likely to continue whilst shielding remains, which is currently until 29th March. Unfortunately, we still have 15 members of staff who are currently shielding and several members of staff that are on long term sickness absence, this means that we only have 75% of our staff available for work on site. We have pursued all immediate options but continue to be concerned about staffing capacity, therefore, until the Easter break we will need to work flexibility to allow all pupils access to face to face education. Some classes may face changes in staffing on their return, where this is the case, individual parents will be contacted by the Pathway Lead.
We will be operating a staggered start for our pupils in the week beginning the 8th March. We expect to have all pupils back in face to face lessons by Wednesday 10th March. From the 8th March, if your child has been accessing onsite provision, they will access this from the date that their class returns.
On Friday 5th March there will be no live lessons, class teachers will provide learning through google classroom allowing our school site team to ensure any physical changes can be undertaken before Monday 8th March.
Bumblebee and Ladybird classes to start full time on Monday 1st March.
Butterfly, Grasshopper, Caterpillar and Dragonfly classes will return full time on Monday 8th March.
Communication and sensory:
Poppy, Sunflower, Willow, Daffodil and Daisy classes will return full time on Monday 8th March.
Physical and Sensory:
Lavender and Pine classes will return full time on Monday 8th March.
Cognition and Learning:
Tiger and Elephant classes will return full time on Monday 8th March.
Giraffe, Keller and Joyce classes will return full time on Wednesday 10th March.
Communication and Interaction:
Bear, Wolf, Leopard and Camel classes will return full time on Monday 8th March.
Einstein, Grandin, Simmonds, Beethoven and Kahlo will return full time on Wednesday10th March.
Nash, Gates, Packham, Adepitan, Hawking and Tajiri classes will return on Monday 8th March. There are some changes that will be communicated separately for individual classes. Phase 3 pupils will attend onsite provision Monday – Thursday only and access remote learning on Fridays, this will continue up until the Easter break.
All pupils are expected to be back at school from 8th March. Some pupils have received shielding letters and we know that some parents will still be concerned about their child returning to face to face education. We aim to work collaboratively with you where these concerns are shared, please contact your child’s class teacher and Pathway lead so we can ensure pupils have a smooth transition back into school.
School transport will be made aware of wider opening plans, however, if there are any individual changes you will need to make them aware of these.
Before Christmas we wrote to you about Phase 2 and 3 pupils accessing rapid testing using Lateral Flow Devices (LFD), this was a measure recommended to support the wider return to face to face education. Current guidance from the DfE is that schools will test students in Year 7 and above, 3 times as they return and this will be done on a voluntary basis, for special schools we have greater flexibility. Over the last 6 weeks we have trialled the use of tests with pupils in school and have decided that it is not effective, it causes more distress than necessary. From 8th March DfE will be providing the school with home testing kits for pupils, once we get further guidance on the use of these we will share this and look at a process moving forward. It may be that next week we receive the kits so that you can test your child before they return.
Staff have continued to be tested twice weekly and we will continue with this practice.
When pupils return, we will still be implementing the COVID measures we had in place during the Autumn term. We will simplify this information and send out some bullet points next week. In addition, we have implemented some additional control measures and changes that we feel will help support the whole school community and minimise the risk of transmission.
For pupils in Year 7 and above, it is recommended that pupils moving around school wear face coverings. They do not need to be worn outside. Face coverings are recommended in the class for this group of pupils too up until the Easter break. However, they can be removed for activities that require physical activity in the classroom and where it is felt to impede on pupils ability to communicate or they cannot tolerate the covering. Before your child returns please ensure they have a good supply of face masks, but also items such as hand sanitiser and tissues.
We will work with pupils and take into account their individual needs on this. If your child is exempt from wearing a face mask please let the class teacher know.
Our curriculum will run as normal, just as it did in the Autumn term. The focus of the curriculum up until Easter will be founded on emotional health and wellbeing, communication and independence. We recognise that pupils will need to learn how to be together again and adapt to the changes in routines, we also need to recognise the physical demands of being back at school. We will ensure there is a focus on re-establishing routines whilst recognising the different experiences every young person has had. Specialist teaching and specialist areas outside of classes current zones will not be in operation until after Easter, this will then be reviewed. Class timetables will remain as close as they can to their current timetable, using outside space where they have this available to them.
A number of pupils were allocated laptops/chrome books or iPads to work on to access remote learning. We will be making arrangements for these to be returned to school once pupils have returned to normal lessons and will be in touch with further details regarding this. Please can we remind you that all items including chargers must be returned in good working condition.
We are really looking forward to being back together again as a whole school community and can’t wait to have all children onsite. Further information will be provided next week but in the meantime, I wish you a very lovely weekend.
“In a short space of time, the school’s new headteacher has sensitively galvanised the whole school into action. The clear direction given to the senior leadership team is having a very positive impact”.