I never expected to ever have to write a letter like this but we find ourselves in a unique situation nationally.
From tonight the function of schools changes until further notice. No longer is our core purpose to deliver education; rather we are about providing childcare and safe supervision of vulnerable students and children of key workers who have no possible alternative childcare arrangements to fall back on.
The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.
That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
The following link will enable you to read the Government’s advice to parents/carers.
Vulnerable children include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.
In the early hours of this morning, the Government released a list of Key Workers – those whose roles are deemed fundamental to the safe, secure running of society as we tackle these critical weeks and months ahead.
Health and social care
This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key public services
This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government
This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms-length bodies.
Food and other necessary goods
This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
Public safety and national security
This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, communication and financial services
This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.
If workers think they fall within the critical categories above they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.
Arrangements for those attending EMS childcare provision
Across Hartlepool it has been agreed that all of the childcare provision in school buildings will run from 08:00 to 17:00. Students who are children of Key Workers using the provision are expected to do so for the full daily session. Vulnerable students will attend only for the duration of the normal school day (08:45 – 15:00). This is a Local Authority wide approach. There can be flexibility around opting in or out of full sessions, for example to co-ordinate with a parent’s shift pattern.
We are pulling together as wide a range of activities as we can safely deliver. Students do not have to wear school uniform for this provision. All students attending our provision will get a free lunch. Students will meet in the main school dining hall and school gates will shut at 08:00 and open again at 17:00. As we have done for this past week or so, we ask no visitors to come onto site, unless in cases of emergency. This is to reduce footfall and enhance social distancing which is a huge factor in keeping people safe.
At the time of writing, the school transport team are communicating that they will have a reduced and amended service running from Monday 23rd March. As soon as I receive the details then I will share them as a separate communication
Free School Meals for those not attending
Our intention is to continue to provide a free packed lunch for all students who are not attending our childcare provision. At the moment we intend to deliver these to home addresses. For those who want this facility, it is vital that you contact the school (via phone or email to firstname.lastname@example.org) before 09:30 on Monday 23rd March so that we can register you with our delivery service. Year 11 students who already registered do not need to do so again.
We are working very closely with the Local Authority and our partner schools. If at a later time we are unable to retain the ability to deliver, then we envisage ‘area distribution hubs’ will be in operation. I will send details about this if and when the time arises.
Local Authority Co-ordinated Plan
This is an unprecedented set of circumstances and the advice and guidance from a range of agencies is evolving almost hourly. Hartlepool schools, authority officers and agencies are in constant communication to ensure that contingency plans are in place to cover every eventuality. If, for example, Government advice re: travel changes or there are too many staff self-isolating to enable a particular school building to operate safe supervision, then arrangements will be put in place for students to attend an alternative school or Local Authority building. Again, full details will be communicated as and when such situations emerge.
I will keep you informed regularly with any changes or additional information as things progress. I am proud of our staff who are volunteering and as a school community we are grateful for the amazing work that Key Workers do to ensure that we are all supplied, protected and cared for. I am reminded of our school motto: “Strength through unity”.
We do not know what the coming weeks and months are going to bring. I think it is safe to assume that it is going to be an anxious, troubling time for all of us. As a school community we will continue to pray for the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, governors and their families.