SECAT Letters to Parents
Please click on this link to access all recent communication from SECAT regarding school closures.
Dear Parents and Carers
If you have been following the national news, you will know that yesterday the Department for Education released its “Guidance for full opening – schools”.
Sections of the guidance had been previously leaked, so some elements come as no surprise. Other aspects of the guidance have been very selectively reported: this has not always been helpful. It is, of course, highly likely that this guidance will be altered or supplemented before the Autumn. Local conditions may also necessitate additional constraints, as has been the case in Leicester – let us hope not.
The full 35 pages are publicly available. I and your child’s headteachers, read them very closely, paying careful attention to what schools ‘must’ do (requirements) as distinct from ways in which schools ‘might’ achieve it (guidance).
Our duty continues to be to ensure the requirement that ‘Schools must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing while delivering a broad and balanced curriculum’. There are many different ways that might be achieved and headteachers have discussed this at length with me and amongst themselves.
For now, we will continue to plan for as normal a delivery of the school provision as possible, albeit adapted to suit the needs of your children and to concentrate on ensuring the focus is on the mental health and well-being of the children and staff.
Staff, in due course, will be involved in what will become the offer for September and in the organisation of this offer. The headteachers have also already begun work on further risk assessments in line with the DfE document.
As well as this, we will be developing a contingency plan that allows us to adapt, at short notice, should a local lockdown become necessary. Again, this will be shared with you when it is worked through.
I would ask for your further patience at this point because, as mentioned above, the guidance will undoubtedly change again before the end of the summer. The headteachers and I do not intend finalising these exact details until all the details are known and this could well be at the beginning of the autumn term. You will, I am sure, appreciate that we have already had to put together numerous plans and alter them as has been necessary to date. I do not consider it helpful to publish and then withdraw even more proposals one after another.
Throughout this unprecedented period, we have asked that staff all fully continue to fulfil their normal professional duties: as a team, they have been and continue to be superb.
You and your children have been overwhelmingly impressed and appreciative and have told staff, headteachers and indeed me, on numerous occasions. None more so than when staff have used the precious time they have available to make your children’s learning at school and at home as interesting and exciting as possible.
You too have told us how much you have enjoyed working with and supporting your children throughout this time. Both of these aspects must be the real bonuses of this difficult and challenging period.
Your headteachers and I will be in touch again in the very near future with appropriate updates and, as always, if you have any queries or questions, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher initially.
Wishing you and your family good health and continued safety at this time.
Ruth Brock | Chief Executive Officer
Dear Parents and Carers
Over the last three weeks we have welcomed back lots of our Nursery, Reception, Year 1, Year 6 and vulnerable and key worker children. It has been wonderful to hear the school filled with the sound of excited, happy children. However, we are very aware that our whole school community is not back together which is difficult for us all.
The last few months have been ever changing for us at school, as they have been for you in your working and home lives. As school leaders, one might assume we are informed of decisions made by the government regarding education prior to televised announcements; unfortunately, this is not the case. We sit and wait to find out what it is that we need to do next, the same as you, in front of our televisions. We then usually wait a further day for the government to publish their guidance documents, which we then use to inform our decision making.
The government updated their planning guide for primary schools on Monday to provide information on how primary schools can welcome back additional pupils this term, if they have the capacity. We are aware there are many families with children in years 2, 3, 4 and 5 who would like to send their children back to school. This is something that we would love to do, but unfortunately we cannot due to the safety of our children with regard to social distancing, lack of classrooms, space required and capacity of teaching staff. Therefore, we are unable to bring back any more children without compromising the safety of children and staff under the current guidelines.
With more children and staff on site, we are taking a cautious approach ensuring that our safety measures are working and are being adhered to by children, parents and staff. In order to maintain the safety of the children and staff, we will not be accommodating any more ‘return to school requests’ for Nursery, Reception, Year 1, Year 6 or our vulnerable and key worker children after Friday 26th June. The rationale behind this is to maintain the integrity of the existing bubbles.
It saddens me that we are unable to offer places to our years 2, 3, 4 and children and that we cannot have the traditional leavers’ experience for our year 6 pupils. However, I would like to reassure you that we are currently exploring different options regarding the transition of your children from their current teacher to their new teacher. We will send out details of what this will look like in the coming weeks.
As all teachers are now back in school and teaching, we will continue with the home learning grids sent out every fortnight. Teachers will continue to answer any queries when they have an opportunity, either at lunchtime or after school. We will also be adding to our website some of the work that is being taught in school in the bubbles, to ensure there is as much equity as possible at this time.
Now that we know that the year 2, 3, 4, and 5 pupils will not be returning to school before September, at the earliest, our normal form of communication will continue via email and the school newsletter. Teachers are now in a position where they can use the school’s telephone to contact all children who are not in school. They will make an informal call to you and your child on one occasion before the end of term. If you have a concern, please do not wait for the teacher to call you. Please ring the school and we will do our utmost to support you.
If you need any support with the home learning tasks set please email the home learning email address and we will do our best to assist you. If you are finding it difficult to keep your child motivated, then we would ask that you continue to read with and to your child and help them learn their tables as a minimum, as these are key skills for them to continue with in preparation for when they return to school, as well as some form of daily exercise.
I hope that you continue to stay safe and well and I look forward to seeing you all, once it is safe to do so.
I would like to start with a sincere thank you for your patience, resilience, home teaching, refereeing and support at the most difficult of times. I appreciate that the past months have not been easy on anyone and on behalf of the Trust Board, we recognise and appreciate these efforts.
Our teaching staff and non-teaching colleagues in our schools have all played their part. Our school leaders have also worked tirelessly to ensure there is provision across the Trust to maintain delivery of education for vulnerable children and those of key workers whilst also ensuring remote learning resources are being provided for all other pupils. There has been a great deal of work behind the scenes to ensure we are taking the actions necessary to safely open to greater numbers of students in our community and for some children that will be next week.
I know that headteachers have communicated their plans with schools and these plans are significant with risks managed to ensure our learners and colleagues are safe. I trust you have found this information helpful in deciding whether you wish your children to return. We completely respect your decisions, though we can promise to do everything we possibly can to keep them safe whilst they are with us.
In order to strengthen our governance arrangements further, two new Trustees (Simon Gush & An Margison) have recently joined the board which provides our schools with further, expert knowledge and oversight on HR and finance matters. We are really pleased with that. Despite the departure of Mr Sweeting & Ms Pallas-Clark from the board, we are confident in continuing the good work of supporting our SECAT family of schools.
Thank you again and please continue to communicate with your school through publicised channels.
I wish you well at this time and trust you will continue to be safe and healthy.
Interim Vice Chair of the Board
I am writing to you to inform you of the plans to re-open Hinguar Primary and Nursery School, after half term, as outlined by recent Government guidelines, for identified year groups within the school. I would like to thank you all for your patience whilst these plans were being finalised and your understanding during these unprecedented times.
There will be a phased re-opening of the school from Tuesday 2nd June, as Monday 1st June is a planned inset day, of which you were made aware at the beginning of the academic year. This day will be used to finalise plans with staff in preparation for the children returning. The rationale regarding the phased re-opening of the school is set out below:
Tuesday 2nd June
Return of key worker/vulnerable pupils whose parents have contacted the school to let us know their children will be returning. This will initially be run the same as the Hub at Richmond until the children move into their ‘bubbles’ when their identified year group returns. For those key worker/vulnerable pupils in Y2, Y3, Y4 and Y5, they will become their own ‘bubbles’ from Monday 8th June.
Return of Nursery pupils to their ‘bubbles’ including those who are key worker/vulnerable pupils whose parents have contacted the school to let us know their children will be returning.
Thursday 4th June
Return of Reception pupils to their ‘bubbles’ including those who are key worker/vulnerable pupils whose parents have contacted the school to let us know their children will be returning.
Monday 8th June
Return of Year 1 and Year 6 pupils to their ‘bubbles’ including those who are key worker/vulnerable pupils whose parents have contacted the school to let us know their children will be returning.
Room allocations and staffing
Nursery will be based in Nursery and Reception area with Mrs Whitehead, Mrs Brant, Mrs Loe and Mrs Bowser.
Reception will be based in the Year 3 and Year 4 classrooms (upstairs) with Mrs Newman, Mrs Smith, Miss Fulford, Mrs Penny and Mrs Allen (from Extendables).
Year 1 will be based in the Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms with Mrs Oakley, Mrs Mackay, Mrs Rawlings and Mrs Tarling.
Year 6 will be based in the Year 6 classroom with Mrs Ali and Mrs Hardy.
Key worker / Vulnerable pupils will be based in the Year 5 classroom and overspill classroom between Year 5 and Year 6 with Mrs Emmings, Mrs Russell, Mrs Edwards and Mrs Allen.
We will aim to group the children in their friendship groups, where possible but this cannot be guaranteed as not all pupils are returning to school in the identified year groups. There will be no more than 15 children in each bubble.
For those pupils who are at home, home learning will still continue to be sent out as has been the case since we went into lock down. This will be planned by Hinguar teaching staff who are not currently attached to a bubble within the school or are shielding and continuing to work from home.
We have set up a triage room in the George Suite for anyone presenting with the symptoms of Covid-19 so that they can be isolated from their bubble whilst waiting for parents to collect them. If any child/member of staff does display symptoms, the following must be implemented:
Masks will not be routinely worn by staff or children as is recommended in the guidance. This is so that we create as normal an environment as possible but PPE will be worn in the triage room when looking after children/staff who are displaying symptoms. We will be in constant contact with each bubble through the use of ‘walkie talkies’ so that the bubbles are not breached unnecessarily.
The office will also be a medical room where pupils will be treated for the normal cuts and bruises that occur. PPE is provided for the office staff to treat pupils accordingly.
Cleaning throughout the day will be as the guidance states ‘more regular than normal’ but within the ‘families’ of bubbles where toilets are in the same bubble. Where they are not, they will be cleaned regularly but not necessarily after each use.
Within the bubbles, the children will have their own desks, situated 2 metres apart, which has their own pack of resources, a box of tissues and a waste bag attached. Tissues will be disposed of in a lidded bin which will be regularly emptied throughout the day. All rugs, soft furnishings and soft toys have been removed from all classrooms. Each class will have its own set of PE equipment and other necessary equipment, appropriate to that year group, which will remain within the bubble and be thoroughly cleaned after each use. Desks will also be constantly cleaned by staff within the bubble at regular intervals throughout the day. Children and staff will be encouraged to wash their hands approximately every half an hour and when they enter the building at the beginning of the day, before and after break and lunch.
At the end of the day, all rooms will be thoroughly cleaned in preparation for the following day.
Break and Lunchtimes
Breaks and lunchtimes will be staggered to ensure social distancing. Furthermore, each bubble will have its own identified area in which to play. A packed lunch will be provided for those who are eligible for Free School Meals (not Infant Universal Free School Meals) as there will no hot lunches provided at this time. Children not entitled to Free School Meals should bring a packed lunch. The children will all eat their lunches in their bubbles and then go onto the playground via their allocated exit point.
Nursery: play on own deck
Reception: 10.15 – 10.30 playground
Key workers/vulnerable (from other year groups): 10.15 – 10.30 playground
Year 1: 10.30 – 10.45 playground
Year 6: - 10.30 – 10.45 playground
Nursery: 11.30 – 12.30
Reception: 11.30 – 12.30
Key workers: 12.30 – 1.30
Year 1: 12.30 – 1.30
Year 6: 12.30 – 1.30
We request that the children bring their own disposable bottle of water each day and that they do not bring anything else into school from home, apart from their packed lunch.
Entry and Exit to the School
To ensure that we maintain social distancing, we request that only one adult attends the site when dropping off and collecting the children. Please do not come to the school if you are displaying symptoms. Please adhere to the social distancing markers on the fences and floor when dropping off and picking up and please do not enter through the gates to the playground. The children will be collected from and brought to their allocated entrance/exit and will be 2 metres apart. No scooters or bikes will be allowed on site.
We will be implementing a staggered start and finish for the different year groups, as below. Please ensure you are clear as to which entrance/exit to use when dropping off/picking up.
8.30am – 3.15pm Year 6 (main gate LH side west stairwell doors to school building)
8.30am – 3.15pm Key Worker children/vulnerable from other year groups (main gate RH side main stair case to school building)
8.45am – 3.00pm Nursery children (Nursery entrance via a one way system up the ramp and down the stairs. Please adhere to the social distancing signs. Nursery children will be handed over to staff at the main gate).
8.45am 3.15pm – Year 1 (Main gate LH side main door into school building)
8.45am – 3.00pm Reception (Main gate RH side east stairwell doors to school building)
Emergency Escape Routes
In the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, each year group will be given an emergency route map with social distancing being a priority, as much as it is safe to do so.
• Nursery – East Wing stairs, single file with maximum adult support.
• Reception – Central stairs, single file staying on their LEFT hand side with maximum adult support.
• Year One – Central stairs, single file staying on their RIGHT hand side.
• Year 6 – West Wing stairs, single file
• Key workers – West Wing stairs, single file
There will be a fire drill each week and as each new year group arrives to practice evacuating whilst maintaining social distancing.
We would ask that you ensure we have the correct contact details for your child in school. At the beginning and end of the day, staff will continue to maintain social distancing and will therefore not engage with parents as we would normally do. If there is anything we need to know about your child, then please contact the school office via email or telephone. We will also make contact with you should there be anything we need to make you aware of.
We will constantly review our processes and procedures throughout this time to ensure that we adhere to the Government guidance as well as the health and well-being of all within the school, whilst maintaining good practice.
At the time of writing, the Department for Education has yet to publish final guidance for the wider opening of schools. As and when that advice is available, we will work swiftly to consider further its implementation.
It is also clear that any extension of our existing provision depends on the Government confirming that their five key tests have been met. They do not intend announcing this until May 28th.
In these circumstances, and given that any extension to our provision will require detailed logistical planning and a full risk assessment; we are not yet in a position to fully confirm the detail of the nature, form or extent of any additional offer on-site.
It is quite likely that any wider opening (apart from for those children whose parents are key workers and those children who are vulnerable), will not take place until sometime after June 1st, and quite probably week commencing 8th June.
Any of our plans will need to consider so many factors including: dropping off and collection of children; transport and journeys to/from school (mainly for secondary pupils), classroom sizes and building space; access to and quality of cleaning; staffing levels; physical distancing; numerous health and safety risk assessments; social mixing; welfare support and our curriculum offer.
You will no doubt have heard through the news and in the daily government updates, that there are priorities that we have been asked to adhere to. The first is to ensure that any key workers’ children and children who are vulnerable or have an EHCP, are given access to school first. Whilst we have already been accommodating children whose parents have chosen to access this provision within our HUBs, we are now being asked to ‘actively encourage as many of the children within these groups to return to school’. That is quite a considerable number of children across the 6 schools.
After the above priority groups, the next is – in this order – Nursery, Reception, Y1, Y6, Y10 – Y12 (of which most will now be virtual with some contact).
I am sure you will appreciate that this is quite a feat to achieve when all other current DfE guidance is also adhered to. It will mean that each school within its own buildings (and we have even considered how we might be able to accommodate more children across the MAT), will be looking carefully at capacity.
Your individual Headteachers will write to parents at the earliest convenience about the detailed plans that each of them is doing as part of the Executive Team. When they have probable numbers of take-up of the offer, the schools will be in a much better position to confirm their own plans.
In the meantime, remote learning will be sustained with a team of our teachers from each school across the MAT supporting each other to provide appropriate resources.
As always, we review our provision almost daily. When we implement the phased re-opening of our schools, we will continue to review and re-evaluate each school. The situation will change, of that I am certain, dependent on take-up and updated DfE guidance.
Thank you once again for your patience and for your many emails of support.
I wish you and your families good health.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday, the Department for Education published revised guidance on Monday evening (which is constantly being updated as we speak) outlining a ‘route map’ for the gradual and phased re-opening of schools for more groups of children.
I know that everyone in our school community – children, parents and staff – is eager to see us return to a full and normal pattern of school provision as soon as possible. We are determined to make this happen but must remain mindful of the challenges that are particular to individual school environments.
We need to develop any new model of provision in a way that is achievable within existing staff resources, and – most importantly - safeguards the health and well-being of all involved. We are planning how best we can achieve this. As you can imagine, there are many aspects and details to consider. We will contact all parents before half-term and as quickly as we are able, with arrangements that will be introduced from 1st June.
We envisage that there will be no immediate change to the provision of remote learning for all year groups who will continue to remain at home. We are also aware that some parents have already expressed that they do not wish for their children to return to school at this point, which is of course, currently your prerogative.
Imminently, we hope, and will strive to provide a more developed on-site offer for groups of children in Years Nursery, Reception, 1, 6, 10 and 12, alongside their sustained involvement in home study.
We are sure you share our determination to open again as fully as we can, whilst at the same time guarding the safety and well-being of your children and our staff.
In the meantime, thank you for your continuing help, support and encouragement.
With continued best wishes to you and your families.
First, I do hope that the Easter holiday has been as enjoyable as possible for you all. Secondly, may I once again thank you for the many and varied messages of support and appreciation that we have received. We all recognise the many challenges that families are facing and admire the sustained contributions of the very many individuals who are sustaining vital services for us all.
I am sure you would want to join me in taking this opportunity to thank staff who managed a ‘holiday club’ facility during the Easter break. We achieved what I wanted; to give the majority of SECAT’s full and part-time staff a well-earned holiday. However, some peripatetic staff and sports staff who operate out of Shoeburyness High School, have done a sterling job at giving the 28 or so, pupils activities they have all clearly enjoyed.
You will all now know that the government has enforced the ‘stay at home’ rules for another three weeks. This will take us up to 7th May, when a further review will take place. We continue to adhere to and follow the government and DfE advice.
Today, Monday 20th April, begins SECAT’s HUB working about which you are all now familiar. As always, we reiterate that children are safest at home. However, Richmond Avenue Primary School and Nursery is well prepared for the small number of your primary-aged children that we are expecting from any of the five schools. Leaders have gone to great lengths to ensure that social distancing is securely observed and that children are catered for in their familiar, school groups by adults they know and with other children they would normally see at school. There were 42 children from all of the primary schools. They settled brilliantly in their separate rooms with the teachers they know well and with their friends. All very happily telling me about the Easter egg hunts they have taken part in and how many eggs they all ate! Good to see them all and to greet so many of you at the gate.
Shoeburyness High School will continue to be open to the secondary pupils who cannot be accommodated at home. Once again, all social distancing rules are being strictly adhered to.
In both HUBs, only certain areas of the schools will be used. Other areas have been cleaned in preparation for the inevitable – even though no date can be given at present – reopening of schools.
The schools at Bournes Green, Thorpedene and Hinguar have all now been cleaned and are ‘no-go-zones’ so that they are immediately ready for reopening at any point.
I am immensely proud of all our staff members who are working on our on-site supervision rota. Some at Easter and all who are able, during term time. Not to forget of course, our many teachers and members of support staff who continue to work on all manner of vital functions that are essential to our continued provision. Including keeping in regular contact, where appropriate, with vulnerable children or those children who have special educational needs or disabilities and supervising on-going essential building works.
On Monday 20th April, our provision for remote learning will resume. Individual schools have been providing activities for pupils to do – some with you – at home. This will continue and you will no doubt have updates as the week begins.
Valuable learning activities – with the focus very much on next steps, will continue to be provided for Year 11 and 13 for the time being. This does not prevent students in those year groups of course, using their time, beyond this, to look ahead to the subjects and topics that they might wish to begin in the Autumn.
Exam grades for SATs, GCSE, AS and A-level
We have carefully reviewed and will continue to review any further updates, the guidance from the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) and OfQual, regarding the process that will be used to determine GCSE, AS and A-level grades. Parents and pupils may wish to remind themselves of the arrangements that were shared with you all prior to the Easter break and when SECAT received the guidance from the DfE. The school will apply the relevant procedures and submit for consideration, for each individual in each subject, grade information that is consistent with the ‘highest grade that the candidate had a realistic chance of securing: based on prior assessed tasks and tests’ – in this way, there will be no detriment to any individual. Guidance has been very clear that this grade information will not be shared with students or parents.
As it stands, the only proposed route for appeal for secondary students – if a student is dissatisfied with a grade ultimately awarded by OfQual – will be through entry to a formal written examination in the Autumn. The details have not yet been published.
Return to ‘normal’ school attendance
There has been considerable speculation in the media regarding the re-opening of schools, not least as other countries across Europe have made their initial steps in this direction. In the absence of a published plan or clear national leadership announcements, there will no doubt be much debate. England has amongst the highest class sizes, lowest staffing ratios, and most densely filled school buildings in Europe: it will simply not be possible to follow, for example, the German or Danish approaches because of social distancing.
I will be in touch again when we have further guidance from the DfE and government about plans of how SECAT will reopen our schools, albeit in phases I have no doubt, and with any further details about examination and transition arrangements.
For the time being, do take good care of yourself and your families and friends. Be safe and stay at home.
Chief Executive Officer
Firstly, I would like to reiterate my thanks to you all for taking seriously the government’s advice to keep as many of your children at home during this current crisis. The numbers of children coming into school have dropped dramatically because you have managed to make alternative arrangements for their care. Where you have not, we have been pleased to accommodate your children and our staff have provided the children with many exciting and stimulating activities to do, many of which mirror those sent home for children to do with you.
I am delighted and humbled that so many of you have been in touch, personally, to thank me, the central SECAT Team and headteachers/senior leaders/teachers and support staff for, as one parent said ‘going the extra mile’ for your children. You have also commented on the quality and amount of ‘excellent communication coming from everyone that has kept us really well informed’, quoted from another parent which mirrored several that have spoken to us on the telephone or in emails. That certainly was and always is, our intention.
At a time when the situation is tough for everyone – be they at home, at work or at school – it can be easy to be downhearted or think only of oneself. Not a bit of it! The whole SECAT Community has pulled together, ‘stepped up to the plate’ (as another parent stated) and has shown what being part of this community is all about. I thank you for that, and actually never doubted it despite some people’s opinion of our community. Some parents have asked if they can share their good wishes and thanks to all of SECAT staff, with the local media. I cannot stop you doing that; but be mindful that so much reported is often not what was intended or even said.
Having tracked carefully the numbers of children attending the 6 schools recently, we collectively made a decision to make two HUBS for after the Easter holidays – one for Primary and one for Secondary. The majority of the 50 or so children taking up the offer have been those of key workers. We want to continue to support that group and any of the vulnerable children who have been unable to remain at home.
From April 20th, Richmond Avenue Primary School and Nursery will be the HUB for key workers’ children and those children who are vulnerable from all of the primary schools. Some 30 – 35 children have been accessing our provisions to date. The kitchen at Richmond is one that is able to be open and staffed adequately which was a primary consideration for the choice of Richmond as the of HUB. Shoeburyness High School will remain as the secondary HUB – and actually will also be providing a different offer for key workers’ children, as the government requested, akin to Holiday Club and during the Easter Break – excluding Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Whilst at the Primary Hub, if your child / children would like school dinners, then there will be hot food available. Just let the staff on the gate know that your child will need a hot lunch when coming into the school in the mornings. (The menu will be on the gates to the school each week for parents to review). Details on paying for meals, if applicable, will be given to you at Richmond.
Children will continue to be taught in their school groups with staff from their own schools, everyone observing the stringent social-distancing rules. Children should wear their school uniform at all times. As children arrive they will be directed to the named classrooms by the staff with whom they are familiar.
As always, we repeat the government’s statement; if you can accommodate your children at home, this is undoubtedly the safest place for them to be at this time.
We are now approaching the end of the Spring term in a somewhat different way than any of us could have anticipated or even imagined in our wildest dreams.
However, as Easter approaches I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a restful family time and to those who celebrate, a good Easter.
With best wishes