Dear parents, carers and families
As promised in my letter of 26th February, I wish to now outline arrangements for when we at last reconvene Milestone Academy and welcome our wonderful pupils back to school.
So, with regard to this context, what are the key questions and challenges that now face us at Milestone Academy for 8th March 2021 onwards?
- How do we safely reform our community again and then operate safely (at both main site and satellites), whilst we conform to the Government COVID-19 guidelines?
- The second challenge is a combined logistical / operational one set in a COVID context. Since March 2020 we have spent one whole calendar year operating various different versions of our academy – now we must again set about bringing our Milestone community back together so that 100% of pupils and staff are able to attend. We have to also accommodate all the vehicles that are needed to transport our pupils and families in and out.
- Then in parallel we have the short to medium and possibly long-term challenge of delivering an effective sustainable daily education / EHCP programme (academic/personal/social) to our pupils whilst again having to conform to the updated Government guidance when we are operating in full classes again. Please see Appendix 1 to this letter, which summarises the Department for Education (DFE) guidance that we will continue to follow.
- Pupils will once again have to learn to work with their peers and staff whilst establishing daily protocols and rituals
- A number of our staff have received shielding letters, so will not be able to physically attend the workplace.
- We may need to temporarily close classes / bubbles because we encounter situations where staff and pupils need to isolate should we have a confirmed COVID positive case. We may also not be able to open certain classes due to staff absence
- We are already following Government guidelines around Lateral Flow staff testing, and this week we have now been tasked by the DFE to enable secondary aged pupils to undergo these self-administered Lateral Flow tests where consent is given by families, agreed by the school and the pupil is willing.
- We will need to lower the level of totally understandable COVID-19 anxieties that will exist amongst families, pupils and fellow staff.
- We also need to be mindful that, although we are now hopefully starting on the “path out of lockdown”, there is still a long way to go and we must be mindful that the dates provided by the Government for the reopening of particular services / events state that these are “no earlier than”.
The combined potential negative impact of these challenges can be mitigated by us taking actions that include:
- Following the most up to date Government COVID safe school guidance that is in use
- Employing rigorous risk assessments in line with Government, LAT, KCC and Union guidance
- Having defined staggered entry and exit times for our main site pupils (one time for buses, another for parents/carers dropping off pupils) to allow a gap
- Having specific entry / exit times for our satellite pupils – set apart from host academy timings
- The use of pupil bubbles that are now smaller than we previously used. These will be specific groups of pupil classes, be they on main site or at our satellites
- All continuing to ensure that we follow the safety procedures set out in this letter, and on the signage and floor markings displayed around our sites. This will include any visitors, including parents and carers, wearing masks when on site (unless they have an exemption) and following social distancing guidelines.
- Continuing with the time devoted to weekly ongoing training for ALL staff across the main site and satellites on Wednesday afternoons
- Informing parents families carers of secondary aged pupils about the opportunities for their son/daughter (where applicable) to self-administer the Lateral Flow test on three separate occasions across the first two weeks of term before these tests are then administered at home.
- Such Lateral Flow testing information will be sent in a separate letter this week to parents/families/carers of secondary aged pupils.
- Reinstating our ‘’Stepped Approach’’ when we have to respond to a COVID case or because we are suddenly unable to staff certain classes safely because of staff absence due to COVID-related/other reasons.
Whilst I sincerely hope that I will be able to write a letter with a strong thread of “we are now seeing light at the end of this COVID tunnel” before this 2020/21 academic year ends, we must keep “learning to adapt’’ and “adapting to provide an effective learning environment”.
What I do know though is that my colleagues, despite all that has gone on, are nothing but very keen to warmly welcome and then continue to deliver learning to our pupils from 8th March – and what follows is the framework as to how we will set about bringing this to life.
Thank you to families who have already contacted us either to update your child’s Individual Healthcare Plan (IHCP) or inform us that your child is now shielding. It is not too late to update this information – please send any shielding letters to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or IHCP updates to email@example.com
Online learning will continue to be provided for any pupils that have a shielding letter.
Pupils transported by KCC
We have, via our Business Manager, Stuart Norris’ good offices, contacted KCC to confirm the start date of 8th March for Milestone Academy pupils, but there is no harm in families also contacting your provider to confirm this.
Please note that pupils will NOT be travelling in their class bubbles, this is beyond our control. I wish to extend my ongoing thanks to all our drivers and passenger assistants.
Start and finish times for all pupils on main site
For those pupils travelling by KCC transport, we aim for them to arrive by 9:00am and leave from 3:00pm – with a 2:00pm finish on Wednesdays to enable staff training to continue.
For those pupils being transported by their parents, families and carers, I would ask you to aim to arrive between 9:10am and 9:15am. When you come to collect pupils, I would ask you to arrive to pick up between 3:10 and 3:15pm – again, this will be between 2:10 and 2:15pm on Wednesdays to enable staff training to continue. Please bear with us as collection will take time as we have to call children from classes to avoid overcrowding.
I would politely and respectfully request that all adults coming onto site help to ensure everyone’s COVID-related safety by:
- Wearing a mask (unless exempt)
- Following guidelines around social distancing and not lingering on site longer than is necessary to drop off or collect a pupil
- Not engaging in prolonged face-to-face conversations with fellow parents – not only because of COVID regulations but also because we need access to parking bays as rapidly as possible
- Following the guidance on any signage and floor markings around site
- Queuing, at the end of each day, down the side of the Hydro Pool / New Ash Green Sports Centre building using the floor markers (going around the corner if required).
Start and finish times for satellites
Satellite Directors will write separately to families this week confirming the timings for drop off and pick up at their sites, and any other local arrangements that you need to be aware of.
Whilst we are continuing with Milestone being organised in a bubble manner, we will now have no more than four classes in any one pupil bubble on our main site or satellites, and some pupil bubbles will be less than four classes. We are doing this to lower the amount of pupils who will need to isolate should we get a positive COVID case.
As previously advised, school kitchens at both the Leigh Academy and Wilmington Academy will be closed from Monday 8th to Wednesday 10th March, reopening on Thursday 11th March. All pupils at these satellites will need to bring a packed lunch on these days.
All other sites will be providing lunches as normal.
Visits to school
External visitors (including parents and governors) will continue to be limited for the foreseeable future. All visits must be pre-booked and visitors will be given instructions on arrival regarding the academy’s COVID-secure protocols, including social distancing and hygiene expectations. Please use the normal means of communication with staff in school, e.g. teachers, healthcare team or use the firstname.lastname@example.org email address which is checked frequently during the school day.
A broad and balanced curriculum will be offered, although where lessons take place and how they take place may differ. We will not be running off site visits until Government guidance changes. In addition, we cannot currently use our hydro pool and are awaiting further guidance. External sports instructors will begin attending school from 15th March, following all relevant guidelines relating to visitors and specialist teachers.
Mask wearing for secondary pupils
We are following new guidance from the Department for Education (DFE) and where possible encourage our secondary aged pupils to wear masks both in and out of classrooms whilst attending Milestone Academy, be it at the main site or satellites.
Lateral Flow Testing for secondary aged pupils
There will be a separate letter sent out following this letter, explaining options and processes that Milestone Academy will make available for pupils that will need the consent from parents, families and carers along with agreement from ourselves and willingness of pupils.
Temporary closures – contingency planning via our ‘Stepped Approach’
Even though numbers of positive COVID cases have certainly dropped, I cannot in any way give a guarantee that we will NOT HAVE a positive COVID case found in either pupils or staff once we return on the 8th March.
Thus, you may recall the letter that I sent on 20th November 2020, regarding Milestone Academy adopting a stepped approach to initiating a temporary closure of a class / bubble / phase / multiple phases / entire Academy – be it at the main site or one of our satellites. Such a temporary closure could be initiated by staff shortages and / or a COVID-positive case being declared amongst staff and/or pupils.
I need to inform parents / families / carers that from our return I will now need to reinstate this “stepped approach”, and it is laid out in Appendix 2 to this letter.
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 either separately or as a whole.
Closing the whole academy will always be a final resort and will only be done if the situation truly warrants it, and having taken on board Public Health England’s advice. 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.
As I have stated in my previous letters, whilst we will do our level best to follow all of these various arrangements, including those in the attached appendices, please understand that they may be subject to change at very short notice.
Finally, I understand that there is a lot of information in this letter, but I am sure that through working collaboratively we can together quickly open up Milestone Academy again and move to settle our pupils back into familiar routines, procedures and school life.
Thank you, as always, for your support and understanding it is very much appreciated by myself and all my colleagues.