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Elms School

Staggered Start to Term

Dear Parents/Carers

You will all be aware that the Prime Minister held a briefing on Wednesday 30th December stating the contingency plans for the return of children to school from January 2021. This was due to case rates rising across the country, mainly due to the new variant of COVID-19. The current Government thinking may well change over the next few days, however, for now we are following guidance issued on 30.12.20.

The guidance states that secondary schools and colleges will extend the staggered return of their students to give more time for the rollout of testing, which will help find asymptomatic cases and break chains of transmission, making it as safe as possible to return to face-to-face education.

Whilst the guidance is clear that special schools should be open to pupils from the beginning of term, it also allows special schools ‘greater flexibility on face-to-face attendance of pupils and students in the first week of term’ in order to ‘appropriately mobilise their mass testing programme’.

I have looked at the guidance and consulted with the Local Authority. As you can imagine, this has been a challenging time with the guidance coming out a few days before the beginning of term however, we have planned for a safe and staggered return of our pupils/students over the first week of term in order to plan and implement testing to our staff and secondary pupils, which means that we will be taking Monday 4th January as a staff training day.

In order to support this programme, we have staggered the beginning of term for all pupils/ students:

Monday 4th January 2021 – Staff Training Day. No pupils to attend.

Tuesday 5th January 2021 – All primary pupils (P1, P2, P3 plus years 5 and 6).

Wednesday 6th January 2021 – All Primary pupils plus the Upper School (Years 9 – 11).

Thursday 7th January – All pupils in school.

Please note – home learning will be available to all pupils from Tuesday 5th January. Teachers will be in touch with full details. If you require paper versions of the home learning please contact the office or speak to your child’s teacher when they call.

Parents/carers who are Key Workers may send their children into school from the beginning of term (from Tuesday 5th January) regardless of their child’s proposed start date (above). If you are a Key Worker parent of a child in our secondary phase, please email us on the generic email account or telephone the school on 01304 201964, to inform us that you would like your child to attend from Tuesday 5th January and we will make the necessary arrangements.

This staggered return will allow us to deliver rapid asymptomatic testing for staff and pupils. Full details on the testing, including consent forms, will be sent to all parents/carers in due course. Consent will need to be obtained prior to any tests being undertaken. No child will be denied access to school should their parents/carers refuse to allow their child to be tested.

We fully understand that some parents may wish to keep their child at home due to the increase in infection rates, and we want to be supportive of these requests. If you do wish for your child to remain at home for the first part of the term, please contact the school on Monday morning and we will be in touch to discuss options. Please note, there is an expectation that any child not in school, unless they are ill, will engage with home learning.  

If your child is classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) you may have received shielding letters/texts/emails over the Christmas period. Anyone who has been told that their child should be shielding should not attend school. Remote learning will be made available to these pupils/students. If you have received such communication, please let us know. If you feel your child comes under this category but have not received notification, please contact your medical practitioner.

If your child is entitled to free school meals, we will make payments for the days that your child is not in school due to home learning next week.

Please continue to encourage your child to wear a face covering on transport and while moving around school.

I hope you will agree that these arrangements have been put in place to promote the safety of our pupils, students and staff. We believe that attending school is vital for our pupils’ education and wellbeing, therefore, I hope you understand that the measures we have taken are to safely support your child’s continued attendance at the school.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.

Yours sincerely

Juli Timoney