Dear Parents, Carers and Families
As we move through the second half of Term 6, I wanted to write to you again about our Covid procedures. I have written to you many times about this over the last 16 months and, as you know, we have been constantly monitoring and reviewing our risk assessments in line with current guidance.
Our goal, as always, is to minimise the risk of infection and ensure that our school is as safe as it possibly can be on all sites.
As you know, 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 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. Over the last couple of weeks of Term 6, we have seen a growth in the number of staff needing to be off school often because their NHS Covid app has alerted them to self-isolate, which is a reflection of the infection rates in the wider local community.
With these challenges in mind, I want to reiterate my plan for Milestone staying open safely, which was originally circulated last year. 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.
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.
I propose to continue to apply any closures in the gradual stepped way that we outlined last year:
- 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 experiences since March 2020 tell 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 to the end of this 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 appear 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. More information on different types of testing can be found on the GOV.UK website.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this letter please do not hesitate to contact the school directly.
Finally, I sincerely hope that I do not have to apply any of these measures between now and the end of this academic year. As ever, thank you for your ongoing support and collaboration in this area of Covid mitigation and Covid response.
Nigel Jones | Principal