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COVID-19 Letter 10 - 28.05.20

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Please see COVID-19 letter number 10 below.

28 May 2020


Dear Parents and Carers,


I hope this letter finds you all fit and well and that despite the ongoing challenges of a lockdown and reaching the mid point of Lockdown Week 10, that you remain optimistic that things will change for the better, eventually.


Over the last 2 weeks we have been very busy trying to get our heads round the implications of the Prime Minister’s statement 2 weeks ago in which he indicated that the Government wanted primary schools to begin a phased open from 1 June and other schools to follow this lead off later in June.


Unless you have deliberately shielded yourself from watching the national news you will have seen the ‘fall out’ that has developed on the back of that announcement. Emotions have run high as the principal education unions have challenged the Government’s decision making. Local authorities have waded into the debate. Our own Council, Calderdale MBC, issued this guidance note just a week ago, on 19 May 2020


‘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.


So where does Ravenscliffe stand at the moment within this debate?


We are a school who have never closed our doors. We have opened to some of our community from Lockdown Week 1 but only to those who have a requirement for a school provision as they are the families of Key Workers. We have also offered some provision to those families who have particularly struggled with the long term impact of Lockdown and those with young people who we feel are potentially more ‘vulnerable.’


Every week we discuss the 188 students on our books. We discuss whether they are safer at home or in school and often hold follow up communication with their parents or carers.


Staying at home remains the safest of all options for most of our community. By doing so, you are reducing the inevitable social contact that occurs with a larger group of people in school, and as a result, the potential for transmission of this vicious illness into your family home.


We also hold regular discussions with our staff team. Please remember that staff as well as student families are challenged on a daily basis in this pandemic. We are not immune from tragedy and challenge. Sadly more than 10 of our staff members have dealt with a significant loss during this 10 week period. That is our reality too.


I have been straight from the outset that my/our sole focus is keeping Covid 19 out of Ravenscliffe. If we have to be cautious in the expansion of our education offer to more students, then we will be so. This isn’t because we want to avoid contact with your children. We love working with your children and it breaks my heart that in the final weeks of my own career I can’t do so safely. This hard decision is made because we want to preserve life: plain and brutally simple!


Our offer to increase pupil numbers will not increase significantly over the next 2 weeks. We will wait and see and scrutinise carefully what happens as the UK starts to creep out of Lockdown. I maintain strongly that after the initial chaos of entering Lockdown in the last week of March, many families have managed to cope and significant numbers have coped really well. For those who have struggled there is no criticism from me. We are all tested in this. We don’t always have the personal resources and circumstances available to us to ride through and survive the test. ‘Phoning a friend’ for help is always an option. We hope that we remain that ‘friend’ to you all.


Please continue to pat yourselves on the back. As a collective body, our 188 families are doing superbly!


Entering Lockdown was probably easier than we thought. Staying in Lockdown the same. CREEPING OUT OF LOCKDOWN IS A SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE AND LOADED WITH RISK IF WE MOVE TOO FAST TOO SOON?


‘Baby steps’ is probably the best description I can offer to describe our strategy over the next few weeks.


Next week we will test our systems out as the small cohort of students currently in Ravenscliffe return.


We will implement our 1 way systems more rigidly, we will test the set up through the return of a key member of staff who has been briefed to ‘test us out’, we will share our ‘Risk Assessment’ for the return of some more students with all our staff and try to support them with their own anxieties, worries and concerns. We will implement the safe and considered use of Personal Protective Equipment including the use of face masks and visors where necessary, we will liaise with transport and we will continue to work on the the one thing in this whole business, that is so alien to our special school world and my 34 year career in the sector: SOCIAL DISTANCING! Within that challenge we don’t want to lose the joy of school that is so dear to our students. Taking the fun out of our offer, something so central to our school focus and the next weeks will be a tough, joyless and gloomy process for those in school.


This week, thanks to the acute goodwill of a number of staff we have trialled with 12 families a weekly swim or cycle ‘Respite Activity’ where a single family has sole access to our hydro pool at Skircoat Green and/or our cycling provision at SpringHall. These sessions have been well received and the feedback from families, deliberately chosen because they are ‘Shielding’ and so won’t be in a position to reconsider Ravenscliffe before 1 September, has been brilliant. We will continue to trial these with more families and if possible will try to make you an offer. Clearly though, we can’t offer 160+ students a shielded swim.


Once again though, we have had to build a series of measures within these Respite Activities that first and foremost protect the student and their family from infection and which also allows for us to manage the loss of key staff should they show any symptoms.


The ‘NHS Track and Trace’ measures announced last night by the Government also indicate how cautious we need to be. It magnifies our challenges even further.


Effectively now, if a student or staff member from RHS, who is in school, develops symptoms we could be faced with the prospect of sending home a large proportion of their fellow students or staff who will have come into close proximity with them. They would all then need to self isolate for 14 days. The whole process is a minefield, which is why I am asking for you to keep your expectations measured and proportionate over the next few weeks and help us to collectively achieve our number 1 goal: an infection free Ravenscliffe.


We will keep you posted as things develop. Please feel free to join us in our next online assembly tomorrow, Friday 29 May at 2pm.


I hope you can understand our thinking? It appears that you do. We have received feedback from 54 families on our recent COVID 19 parental survey. We cannot please everybody, we realise that, but the fact that we have received a 93% approval from our families so far is an encouragement. Of course we would like 100% and will continue to ‘reach for the stars’ with that almost impossible aspiration. 


Thanks for the significant support You have shown along this journey so far.


Best wishes to you all.


Please remind your son or daughter that we are missing them greatly!