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Elms School

Update from the Headteacher regarding Home Learning

Dear Parents and Carers

I hope you are all safe and well and that anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 is making a good recovery.  Thank you for your patience and support throughout this difficult period of time.  I would like to give you some updates regarding Elms School.  Having carefully considered the latest advice from the government along with consideration to the local situation we face, the decision has been made to continue with Home Learning for all pupils until the end of term on Friday 18th December.  We will aim to reopen to all pupils on Monday 4th January.  This decision was made taking into account many factors, including the following:

  • So far, we have heard of 16 positive cases of Covid-19 in our community.  This comprises 9 members of staff and 7 pupils.  The figure of sixteen cases represents just over 5% of our Elms community. 
  • Dover has the tenth highest rate of Covid-19 infection in the country at the moment.  Our pupils travel from all over the eastern side of Kent and some other towns have even higher rates of infection.
  • Several schools in Dover are currently closed, which means that many members of staff have to stay at home to self-isolate with their own children or simply to provide childcare. 
  • We feel that it is in the best interests for the health, safety and mental wellbeing of all pupils and staff to stay at home for the next week.

Your child’s class teacher will have been in touch with you to see how you are as a family and to see whether they can support with learning.  Please be aware that many teachers are using their personal phones and have been advised not to give out their personal number.  For this reason, you may see calls appear as “number withheld.”  Teachers will leave a message if your phone has this facility and they may suggest a time to call back.  If you prefer, we can use emails as a means of keeping in touch.

I realise that some pupils may be reluctant to work at home during this last week of term, however, it is important that they maintain a routine as far as possible.  There is a variety of home learning available on our website as well as in the paper packs of home learning that we sent out, so please encourage your child to have a go at doing some work each day.

The Covid-19 situation is an evolving crisis which none of us have experienced before.  As a school, we have learnt some useful lessons which will help us plan ahead for January, including the following:

  • The government has maintained that children do not spread the virus and that only children in Year 7 and above need to wear a face covering.  At Elms School to date, all the pupils who have tested positive are in Year 6.
  • We have done our best to we maintain “bubbles.”  At Elms, most children are in two bubbles:  one is their year group bubble and one is their transport bubble.  Although several of us have had some contact with more than one bubble, the outbreak has remained confined to Y5/6 and associated transport bubbles.
  • Several members of staff (myself included) had direct contact with the children in 6B who subsequently tested positive on the day they went home.  Although we had to self-isolate, none of us so far have tested positive.  We were all wearing face coverings when we went into the classroom.  The staff who have tested positive are either members of the transport team or class-based staff who worked directly with Y6 pupils.
  • PHE were very clear that wearing face coverings does not count as personal protective equipment.  However, we believe that wearing a face covering may have helped us contain the virus to within the bubble.

In light of our experiences at Elms mentioned above, I would urge you to encourage your child to wear a face covering on transport and when moving around school, whatever their age.  Please note that we will NOT refuse transport or a place at school if children are not wearing face coverings.  Some of our pupils have sensory issues and face coverings increase their anxiety, however, if your child is willing to wear a face covering, please encourage this as our own experience has shown that this MAY help stop the spread of the virus.

As stated above, we aim to re-open Elms School on Monday 4th January.  Please bear in mind that this is the first working day after Brexit comes into force, so journeys may take longer to Dover.  The transport team are busy working on alternative routes to school and they will be in touch with you to let you know the pick-up time for your child.  Each vehicle, along with the usual face masks, hand sanitisers, thermometers etc will have a supply of bottled water and some cereal bars in the event that the vehicle is delayed in traffic.  We are looking at routes that can avoid the M20, A20 and A2.

When we return in January, we will ensure that bubbles remain intact as far as possible.  In the event of an emergency, members of staff may have to work across bubbles, however, we will keep this to an absolute minimum.  Clare Eldridge and I have been updating the school’s risk assessment, a copy of which will be on our website next week.  This gives lots of information regarding our cleaning regime, how we plan for movement around the school etc and may help alleviate some of your concerns.

From January, we will do all we can to keep the school open and maintain education for your child, just as we have done all through the pandemic.  However, we will always prioritise the health and safety of our pupils and staff and, until the situation in Kent eases, we may have to consider further closure of bubbles if we have more cases of Covid-19 within our community.  Hopefully the vaccine will be available soon and we can begin to return to some sort of normality. 

In the meantime, please get in touch if there is anything we can do to help support you or if you need any more information regarding how we are planning to keep pupils and staff safe at school when we re-open. 

I would like to thank you for your continued support and understanding and to wish you and your family a safe, healthy Christmas.

With very best wishes

Juli Timoney