COVID-19 school guidance
Returning to school - A Guide for Families
The government has expressed its ‘firm intention that all children and young people return to school ’ in September and has asked schools to plan for this.
We welcome this, as we think it’s best for children to be in school, and we can’t wait to have our school back up and running with a return to the closest to ‘normal’ as is safely possible.
The purpose of this page is to outline how we will return to full school opening as safely as possible while ensuring our vision and values are maintained for the children and community around us.
We are aware that these are uncertain, anxious times and that we may not be able to reassure all of you to an extent that all of your worries are alleviated. We will continue to work with you so that we can facilitate your child/ren’s return to Brandlehow as soon as possible and to full engagement with the curriculum and their learning.
We’re also working on our off-site learning offer and this will continue to develop. This is to support the learning of those not able to return for medical/quarantine reasons and also to support us in the event of further lock downs.
With all of these things, we’re building on the knowledge and experience from Brandlehow’s phased opening between March-July last academic year, which saw one of the highest numbers of pupils* returning that we’re aware of. We learnt so much and we are confident in using this and the feedback you gave us for our planning.
We are SO excited to open Brandlehow’s doors again and – whilst we know nothing will feel quite ‘normal’ for a while yet, many aspects won’t be far off.
All the very best,
The Leadership Team and Governors
The following aims to summarise the steps we are taking to support a full return. Please read it in as much detail as you wish to familiarise yourself with the procedures and routines. We will also be discussing these new routines with your children as they start, both in person and through Seesaw.
In Guidance for full opening: schools, the DfE states:
Returning to school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. Time out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children. This impact can affect both current levels of learning and children’s future ability to learn, and therefore we need to ensure all pupils can return to school sooner rather than later.
The risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) is very low and there are negative health impacts of being out of school. We know that school is a vital point of contact for public health and safeguarding services that are critical to the wellbeing of children and families.
Lower academic achievement also translates into long-term economic costs due to having a less well-qualified workforce. This affects the standard of living that today’s pupils will have over the course of their entire life. For many households, school closures have also affected their ability to work. As the economy begins to recover, we need to remove this barrier so parents and carers can return to work.
In relation to working in schools, whilst it is not possible to ensure a totally risk-free environment, the Office of National Statistics’ analysis on coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths linked to occupations)* suggests that staff in educational settings tend not to be at any greater risk from the disease than many other occupations. There is no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults. Given the improved position, the balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children returning to school. For the vast majority of children, the benefits of being back in school far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), and this guidance explains the steps schools need to take to reduce risks still further. As a result, we can plan for all children to return and start to reverse the enormous costs of missed education. This will be an important move back towards normal life for many children and families.
We are, therefore, asking schools to prepare to welcome all children back this autumn. While coronavirus (COVID-19) remains in the community, this means making judgments at a school level about how to balance minimising any risks from coronavirus (COVID-19) by maximising control measures with providing a full educational experience for children and young people. Schools should use their existing resources to make arrangements to welcome all children back. There are no plans at present to reimburse additional costs incurred as part of that process.
We are working from the guidance available to us, which states that
‘In all education, childcare and social care settings, preventing the spread of coronavirus involves preventing (as much as possible)
- direct transmission (for instance, when in close contact with those sneezing and coughing) and
- indirect transmission (via touching contaminated surfaces).
A range of protective measures, approaches and actions should be employed to do this. These can be seen as a system of controls that, when implemented, creates an inherently safer system, where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced.’ – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safe-working-in-education-childcare-and-childrens-social-care
These controls are as follows (more detail is in our Risk Assessment – which will be available on our website - and in the documents referenced on the first page of the detailed return guide):
- Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell
- Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual
- Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
- Introduce enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach
- Minimise contact between individuals and maintain distancing wherever possible
- Where necessary, wear PPE
- Engage with NHS test and trace process and respond rapidly to confirmed cases
How will the overall return to Brandlehow look and feel?
- The aim is for as ‘typical’ a return as possible for our children, whilst acknowledging that it can’t feel quite normal whilst this is going on
- Our new ‘normal’ will feel much like it did during our partial opening (which felt great, overall), but with more of us in the building
- We will focus on the measures mentioned on the previous slide to protect those in the school building, with the rest of our attention focused on enabling ‘catch up’ or ‘boosting’ of learning depending on how individuals have got on, and on supporting wellbeing and anxiety issues
- Full classes are expected and prepared for. We have created as much room as possible in each of our classrooms, with all unnecessary furniture removed, and all children will face the front. Owing to space restrictions in classrooms, children will not have an individual desk to themselves except where a risk assessment determines that this is necessary
- Adults will keep as much distance between one another and the children as possible
- New routines and processes will support hygiene and reduce transmission risk
- Masks and face coverings can be worn (within recommended guidelines of putting on and taking off) but are not required (though this guidance may change, as has been seen for secondary schools)
- We will no longer be taking the temperature of children on arrival as it is not Public Health England’s recommendation that this happens. Temperature checks of adults will be part of our routines
Timing of the school day and arrangements for drop off and collection
We are avoiding congestion at the busy times of the day by:
- Spreading arrival/dismissal across three gates. Those of you whose children were in school before the summer will know this worked well; we are now implementing it with more children ☺
- Allowing 30 minutes in total for drop off and for pick up; this will allow for natural staggering without reducing curriculum time in the school
- Drop off – 8.30-9am (breakfast club still runs from 8am)
- Pick up – 3 – 3.30pm (after school club still runs until 6pm)
How are you maintaining distance between pupils and staff?
- Staggering of all aspects of the school day
- Start times and finish times (three gates and half an hour for drop off and pick up)
- Break times (Zoned areas and staggered timings)
- Lunch times (each POD will have their own tables, in four sittings, between 11.30 and 1.30pm)
- Movement around the corridor (timed to avoid more than one bubble whenever possible)
- Removing unnecessary furniture and arranging desks with children facing forward as per guidance (full class sizes resume)
- Corridors are clear of furniture and we’re using tape to mark off the space for travel which allows for more than a metre between those passing one another
How will the team interact with children given the current pandemic?
There are two key areas that require committed focus as we safeguard the children returning to school with us:
- Infection restriction/reduction in so far as this is possible. We want to keep the whole community as safe as possible from transmission. This will be done through regular handwashing, regular cleaning, hygiene practices (such as catch it, bin it, kill it), keeping groups in ‘PODS’ (also known as ‘BUBBLES’) and distancing between the adults on site.
- Just as important is the emotional support of our young people as they try to cope with these unprecedented times. This means life at school being as ‘normal’ as possible. If children are distressed, we will comfort them. If they come close to us or to one another, they will not be told off (though we will stay vigilant about this and encourage it). If they (the younger children in particular) wish to hold our hand or request/require physical comfort, this will be given in so far as the above procedures and safeguards are maintained and with regular hand hygiene underpinning all that we do.
In short, we want to keep things as natural and as normal as possible for these young minds so that positive relationships are fostered and anxiety is minimised.
- Brandlehow has been having kitchen works over the summer holidays and whilst we were hopeful that this would be finished, there has been a delay
- A temporary cold menu will be served – delivered to Brandlehow from another site – until the works are complete (likely to be 14th September). It will then return to the new menu
- Edwards and Ward, our school meal provider, will be serving a menu with two options to those who choose school meals. This is in line with all Wandsworth schools served by E&W
- We will continue to work with families to support dietary needs with support of our fabulous kitchen staff team – please get in touch in September to discuss with them when the unknowns (below) are more clear
- We will stagger lunches in the hall across two hours, restricting 5 to a table and implementing distancing so that children are not opposite one another; a small number of children will eat in classrooms. We will also utilise the picnic benches outside in good weather
- Children will wash their hands on the way out to and back from lunch, as well as before and after eating
- Please send your child in with a named water bottle each day. This can be re-filled in the classroom
Uniform – will be back in September
- The revised guidance is that clothes need not be washed daily
- Our uniform forms an important part of our discussions with children about our ethos:
Our top half is the shared jumpers, t-shirts, PE tops, hoodies, polo shirts etc… this reflects our COMMUNITY and our shared/linked experience, celebrating what brings us together and contributes to our similarities and unity
Our bottom half can be anything (school appropriate!) that the children want to wear… this reflects our DIVERSITY and our unique contribution to the whole, celebrating what makes us different and special and one-of-a-kind
- It will therefore be back in place formally from September
- We understand that some families have struggled to access the uniform ordering website, so please don’t worry – we’ll help as much as possible and be flexible in the short term if required
- A huge amount of re-cycled, freshly washed uniform is being prepared for re-sale/donation
What to do if you suspect someone in your household has symptoms of Covid-19
In line with guidance:
No child should be sent to school if either the child or someone in the household has the symptoms of COVID-19, which are defined currently by the NHS as:
- High Temperature – this means feeling hot to touch on the chest or back, or testing above 37.8 degrees
- New Continuous Cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if there is a usual cough, it will be worse than usual)
- Loss or change to sense of smell or taste – this means noticing that nothing can be smelt or tasted, or things smell or taste different to normal
In the event that symptoms exist in the child/ren or a member of the household, we expect that the family group self isolate and request a test by telephoning your GP or click on the link below:
- Please do not send the child/ren back to school until a negative test has been received and evidence provided to school.
- Where a positive test is received, the school must be informed immediately and the school will seek and follow guidance from the Local Health Protection Team in response to this on a case-by-case basis.
We know that things have been hard for almost everyone since the pandemic began and continue to be so.
We’re also aware that some families have had/are having a particularly hard time. Please remember that we are here to help. Get in touch with us with worries or concerns.
Parents/carers are not currently able to come onto the school site, so please contact us via email on email@example.com or call school reception 0208 874 5429
Our Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and safeguarding team are:
A reminder of Brandlehow’s three mantras:
1. There are no silly questions – every single person in this building and community is on a life-long learning journey and must feel confident to ask what they need to in order to build knowledge and confidence – so please do ask if there’s something you’re not sure about
2. We are human, so we will make mistakes. We encourage those of you who have concerns about anything here to tell us (as gently as possible please) and we will do what we can to fix things or at least to reflect on what you’re telling us
3. Less is more. We felt – even before the pandemic – that young people and their families were exhibiting more and more anxiety and mental health issues due to the frantic and demanding nature of life at its most busy. Our aim – always – is for Brandlehow to be a haven of calm and to focus on the important things so that all who are within our building feel safe, happy and can learn