Dear Parents and Carers,
Over the last few weeks, we have seen a growth in the number of positive cases in school, which is a reflection of the significantly higher rates of infection in the wider local community.
These have been challenging times for us all but, despite this, we have pulled together as a single school community to respond and adapt to these challenges as and when they have arrived.
I am extremely grateful for the patience and understanding that our parents and families have shown and the dedication and resilience that our staff have displayed throughout this pandemic. It is evident that the virus is not going away and, in the absence of a vaccine in the coming weeks, it is likely that we will have further challenges ahead before Christmas.
With this in mind I wanted to write to parents with an honest assessment of the situation and outline my plan to get us through and out the other side of this pandemic.
We must accept that despite our best efforts and all of our rigorous Covid-secure measures, the virus will continue to penetrate our walls and infect a small proportion of our school community. Our goal must therefore be to minimise the risk of infection to those most vulnerable and ensure that our school is as safe as it possibly can be for everyone there.
In addition to the risk directly from the virus there is also the challenge of staffing the school when staff are unavoidably absent either due to shielding, self-isolating because of contact with a confirmed case, them or a family member having possible Covid-symptoms or having childcare issues linked to Covid related school closures elsewhere.
With these challenges in mind I want to outline my plan for Milestone staying open safely. This plan outlines the steps we will take to manage cases and staffing challenges in school as and when they occur and involves us working together to keep everyone safe.
It is essential that going forward there is a constant sharing of information between the school and families. We appreciate that families want to know when there are positive cases and we will commit to inform you of them as soon as practically possible once we receive the information. To deliver on this commitment we need families to inform us as soon as they take a child for a test and then let us know the result as soon as it arrives.
To speed up this process we have an out of hours telephone number that you can call should you need to inform us of a case and the school is closed. In these circumstances you can call 07834 417977, please do leave a message if the call is not answered as this phone is checked regularly.
Temporary closures – contingency planning
Closing any element of our school is never an easy decision as we know that it puts pressure on families who rely on us to educate and care for their children. We will therefore only close parts of the academy when it is no longer safe to remain open.
Closing the whole academy will always be a final resort and will only be done if the situation truly warrants it. In reality what is most likely to happen is that we will decide to implement a partial and temporary closure that allows us to isolate groups or to manage specific staffing shortages.
I propose to apply any closures in a gradual stepped way as outlined below:
- Step 1 – We temporarily close a specific class because of a confirmed case in that class or due to staff shortages that mean we are not able to safely operate that class.
In either case we will inform families of the reason and whether children need to self-isolate or not.
- Step 2 – We temporarily close more than one class because of a confirmed case in a single or multiple classes or due to staff shortages that mean we are not able to safely operate those classes.
In some cases, the reason for closure could be a combination of positive cases and staff shortages so, again, we will inform parents of the situation so they know whether to isolate their children.
- Step 3 – We temporarily close a bubble/phase due to multiple cases or significant staffing issues. Closing a bubble/phase will only be done if it is not safe to keep it open and again parents will be informed of the reason and the duration in writing.
- Step 4 – We temporarily close more than one bubble/phase due to an outbreak in multiple areas or significant staffing issues. As at previous steps, we will ensure parents are fully informed of the situation.
- Step 5 – If we have a significant outbreak and/or severe staffing issues that mean we are unable to open any part of the academy, we will liaise with Public Health England and the Local authority to close the whole academy, including our four satellites if necessary (Milestone@Wilmington, Milestone@Leigh, Milestone@DPA and Stepping Stones) as a final resort. In this situation we would write to all families and explain the reasoning for the decision.
A summary of these steps is also attached as an annex, in case you would like to keep these to hand to refer to as required.
Should we need to follow any of these steps, the pupils who are affected by the closure will then receive remote learning.
Advisories regarding the Step Process
- It would be ideal if we could apply these steps in a linear, one step after the other manner. However, my experience since March tells me that Covid-related events may well conspire against us both in terms of speed and complexity, so that we may be applying one of the steps in one area of Milestone and in parallel a different step in another area of Milestone – be that on the main site or at one of our satellites.
- As with all Covid response plans, I have to say that our step plan may need to be amended / updated as we move through the rest of the academic year.
I hope you will appreciate that I am being upfront and open with parents and carers about the steps that we will take to keep the school open safely. It may also be the case that at times your child has an unfamiliar member of staff working with them directly or generally as part of the class team. These are, however, unprecedented times and they require us to take significant but proportionate measures in the best interests of the physical and mental wellbeing of our whole community.
Please remember, if your child develops symptoms of Covid-19, they must remain at home for at least 10 days from the date when their symptoms appeared and you must arrange for them to be tested, not only for your own peace of mind but also to protect the wider school community.
Finally, I would like to wholeheartedly thank parents and carers for their messages of support over the past few weeks, your kind words have kept us going on the darkest days and your continued support and collaborative working is truly invaluable to us.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this letter please do not hesitate to contact the school directly.