The DfE expects schools to "minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible... schools must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing... reducing the number of contacts between children and staff through keeping groups separate (in ‘bubbles’) and through maintaining distance between individuals... for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children it will be on distancing. (Ideally, adults should maintain 2 metre distance from each other, and from children.) For children old enough they should also be supported to maintain distance and not touch staff where possible." The DfE goes on to say: "[bubbles] should be kept apart and movement around the school site kept to a minimum... schools should avoid creating busy corridors, entrances and exits. Schools should also consider staggered break times and lunch times... [and bubbles] should be kept apart, meaning that schools should avoid large gatherings such as assemblies or collective worship."
Operationally, where bubbles exist, our aim is to keep them as self-sufficient as possible: the staff within them will generally supervise their children throughout the whole day, including breaks and lunchtimes, and will provide first aid cover and emotional support as well as teaching and learning. While the normal number of adults in one class, at any time, are insufficient to deliver this degree of cover - the adults would not have capacity to take any breaks over the whole day - we can achieve the cover by two classes forming a bubble with each other and the shared adults are able - through staggering their breaks - to provide the cover the whole bubble needs. Equally, we will not be having assemblies where the whole school or several classes gather together: instead, these will be held remotely and parents will be invited to share with class assemblies online - more details nearer the time.
The DfE suggests that bubbles are classes or whole year groups: as Years 4 and 5 are a joint provision in 2020-21, with some mixed classes, year group bubbling has not been feasible, equally, the layout of the building is such that classes are set out in pairs, not threes - hence our compromise of 2-class bubbles. The bubbles for 2020-21 are:
* 3.1 & 3.2
* 3.2 & 5.1
* 4/5.1 & 4/5.2
* 4/5.3 & 4/5.4
* 5.2 & 6.3
* 6.1 & 6.2
The classes in each bubble are adjacent to each other, meaning that adult support can flow across the rooms with little need for wider movement across the school building.
Generally, children in each bubble do not mix with any others in any other bubble - all bubbles have separate breaks and lunchtimes and are designated separate parts of our external space. Unavoidably, a few staff - including all the school's Senior Leaders - do work across more than one bubble: for these staff, social distancing will be strict with 2m separation between them and other staff or children maintained as much as possible. Equally, the times staff do work across bubbles will be kept to a minimum.
At the start of the day, children free-flow directly into their classes - no general congregation in the playground is being permitted. Equally, parents cannot congregate on site and cannot have ad hoc meetings with teachers are the classroom door - instead, appointments must be made; although, I hope that most issues can be dealt with by a quick exchange of direct messages here on ClassDojo.
With approximately 300 children and their accompanying adults and, when staff are included, there are approximately 500 people passing through school gates inside 45 minutes - this makes start and finish times very high risk for the potential infection of people with the coronavirus and robust measures are being put in place to mitigate against this - so, on "normal" school days (the first day for your child - either 2nd or 3rd September - will have different timings - please see the Class Story of your child's new class for specifics) children start and finish at the following times, according to their family name/surname:
Surname in the range A - F:
* start time 8.25am - 8.40am
* finish time 3pm
Surname in the range G - O:
* start time 8.35am - 8.50am
* finish time 3.15pm
Surname in the range P - Z:
* start time 8.45am - 9.00am
* finish time 3.30pm
At the start of the day, your child will go directly into their classroom using the most direct external door. During the day (weather permitting), movement around the school building is by going outside (our corridors are too narrow and poorly ventilated for all but absolutely necessary internal traffic and the layout of the building does not support an internal one-way system).
During peak arrival and departure times, the flow of people into and out of the grounds has to be strictly controlled and, as our pedestrian gates are narrow, it would be highly risky to allow a two-way flow of people through them - consequently the school is imposing a one-way flow through the school grounds. This one-way restriction applies between 8.25am and 9am and 2.55pm and 3.40pm.
Entry into the school grounds is via the pedestrian gate in the lower playground (off Denham Close/Wentworth Crescent) and there is no congregation on the playground - children go direct to their classrooms, put their belongings away, wash their hands and start their independent work. The grounds may only be exited via the pedestrian gate on Westborough Road.
We fully appreciate and apologise for the fact that this will inconvenience many. However, while COVID-19 endures and with reference to what has been pointed out above: the risk is far too high to have a two-way flow at the pedestrian gates with the better part of 500 people trying to get in and out of the grounds at the same time as each other. The one-way flow means that, generally, people all face in the same direction and not head-on, thereby reducing significantly the risk of any infection in our community being spread. While individual families may be inconvenienced over their parking and greater walking times around the block, if even one life is saved through such measures, the reduced risk to the wider community far outweighs temporary inconvenience.
I am also aware that there is a call for our one-way system to be in through the Westborough Road pedestrian gate and out through the staff carpark gate, or vice-versa. This was considered and rejected as unsafe: the carpark is in use at all times - having both vehicles and large numbers of pedestrians moving within it would be an unacceptable risk, does not pass our risk assessment and would not be supported by our insurers. Equally, focusing all traffic onto Westborough Road would not be supported by local residents or the local authorities given the additional congestion it would create.
I know too that the start/finish times and extra journey time to get in at only one gate and out of another is giving concern to some, especially for those who have children in different settings or are, themselves, tight on time. Again, I can only apologise - to coordinate staggered start and finish times that work for all families across multiple settings would be impossible. However, we are not ogres and understand that - for our whole community to make this work - flexibility is key. If the majority can work with the new arrangements, it will mean that we can accommodate those who truly need to negotiate some movement - contact your child's Class Teacher via a direct message on ClassDojo and we will see what we can do. The main thing is that children are in school and that they, and the wider community, are kept as safe as possible while the coronavirus persists.
Please be reminded that Breakfast Club and Energy Kidz will be phased back in during September and may help some families with start/finish times - each needs booking in at least a week in advance. For children attending these provisions, mixing will be inevitable - however, they will be encouraged to play with children from their own bubbles and to maintain 2m social distancing with others. Disadvantaged/Free School Meal families are entitled to free places in the Breakfast Club - please contact the School Office (Mrs Deal in ClassDojo direct messages or email firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your continued support of the school and the sometimes difficult decisions I am making to keep everyone as safe as possible.