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COVID-19 Letter 9 - 20.05.20

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Parent letter 9

20 May 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I hope you and your family members remain well and that despite the challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic and having entered Week 9 of Lockdown, you continue to remain optimistic for this ending soon. After 58 days of Lockdown we have to keep believing that the end is approaching.

After the announcements of recent days where the Government has hinted at some small steps at easing Lockdown, we wanted to update you on our plans and challenges as a school. Our default position, before any new guidance is considered, remains:

We want to keep Covid 19 out of Ravenscliffe. We must not be deflected from keeping this as our perspective and our ultimate target over the next weeks. We are therefore committed to a very cautious approach towards any thoughts of a wider reopen. 

I hope you as families understand this caution and can remain committed to supporting us with this?

As a Leadership and Governing Body team we have been studying and analysing a mass of guidance documents from the Department of Education. Finding a safe way through that mass and maze of information is challenging for us and will still take more time. We have to get any changes to our offer right  and communicate them well!

In our pastoral telephone calls this week we have asked our staff to ask each family a fundamental question and one which will help us to start to plan how and when things might change. You are being or have been asked:

‘Given that we cannot guarantee social distancing in our environment, what is your view on sending your son / daughter back before school breaks up for the Summer holidays on FRIDAY 17th JULY?’

We are still waiting for all our staff to report back, but it is already clear that a vast majority of our parents/carers are not yet confident enough that it is safe for their son/daughter to return to school after half term. We thank you for articulating that position so clearly and we fully support it. 

Our stated position as a school as of 20 May 2020 therefore continues to remain: Home is the safest place to be for the vast majority of our students.  This week this cautious approach has been supported by Calderdale Council who have sent out the following statement:

Consequently Calderdale Council are advising schools not to open more widely until we can be confident that children, young people and staff are able to return to classrooms safely.

Julie Jenkins 19.5.2020.

Please be assured that the safety of children, families and staff is our number 1 priority. 

At this time, primary schools alone have been put on standby to start to reopen to a small targeted number of year groups from 1 June 2020

Our judgements for every student at Ravenscliffe, (in accordance with Government and Calderdale Council guidance), continues to be made on a case by case basis. We try to decide whether home or school is the safest environment for each pupil, every week. Hopefully, as the spread of the virus in Calderdale starts to recede the conclusion we reach in weighing this judgement may change in some cases provided, operationally, the school can remain a safe environment for all.

The discussions we are holding day by day have to be influenced by some additional factors, some of which I have detailed below. I hope it helps you to understand the challenges we also face, as we try to consider how to make Ravenscliffe a safe environment when our students do finally start to come back.

  • Many of our families have chosen to ‘shield’ or ‘isolate’ because of the “clinical medical vulnerability” of a student or a close family member. By returning their child to school, that family significantly increases their own risk. Simply put, however safe our practice and measures in school, we cannot guarantee to keep Covid out of Ravenscliffe and therefore out of your home. 
  • Ensuring ‘Social Distancing’ remains by far the biggest hurdle facing our school. We have calculated that we cannot safely accommodate a large percentage of students even if both of our buildings were open. Our teaching areas are small, particularly in Skircoat Green and classrooms that previously accommodated up to 11 students plus a staff team, would now need to accommodate a maximum of 3 or 4 students whilst these social distancing measures remain such a key anti Covid measure. Our students are still struggling to understand and apply this Social Distancing concept.
  • Initial discussions with Calderdale Transport have indicated that they can now only carry a maximum of 2/3 students in their minibuses. This has a clear impact on just how many students could be transported to school. Yellow Buses are also clearly affected. Recent guidance has indicated that a single decker bus should carry no more than 5 passengers. Yellow Bus 2 as an example, had previously carried 19 students before Covid 19 arrived.
  • We have implemented a ‘one way’ system in our Skircoat Green site and this will eventually be matched at SpringHall as and when that re-opens. This will hopefully help us to attempt to manage social distancing better on busy corridors but we have no qualms that this whole social distancing issue is, and will remain, the hardest concept of all for our community to understand and apply. 
  • Our staff team are also struggling with the same issues as you. We have staff who have experienced tragic bereavement over the last 9 weeks, staff who are shielding or isolating because of serious medical vulnerability. We also have staff who have genuine child care issues themselves. Just like our families, we all carry anxieties and worries in this uncertain time. Consequently our staffing resource now and into the immediate future has to be very fluid. We want to support our students and their families well. We also have an equal desire to look after our staff and their families well.

So I thank you again for all your support and patience at this time.

School will be closed for the half term period beginning Monday 25-Friday 29 May. We would like to thank our Key-Worker families who have given this decision their 100% support.

The closure over half term and our deliberate  ‘wait and see’ approach during the first week in June, when not much changes operationally at Ravenscliffe, will allow us to see the reality of Covid in two weeks time. Crucially, it will also allow us to monitor the impact of some sort of return for the Government’s targeted sector of primary schools and for us to make measured and informed decisions, “led by the science”, that helps us to protect your child and our staff team. 

Every one of our students and staff is precious to us. I hope this letter and the deliberately cautious approach we are taking  can help you to understand that keeping everyone safe and well is our overriding aim.  Thank you once again for your continued support over recent weeks. I can say this with complete conviction. As a body of families, you have remained resolute and determined within the most testing of circumstances. The school staff and Governors are so grateful for the way you have supported us.

In the meantime please continue to take care, stay safe and keep doing what you are doing. I repeat what I said at the beginning of this letter: you have all cleared 58 days of lockdown well. That is an excellent achievement and one to be seriously proud of. 

Please note that the Free School Meal vouchers for the relevant families are not provided over the half term week they will be sent out for the week commencing Monday 1 June.

Best wishes to you all

Yours sincerely

Martin Moorman


and the school Leadership Team and Lead Governors.