Plans for full opening of Foxfield School in September 2020
Plans for full opening of Foxfield School in September 2020
On 2nd July 2020 the Government published guidance for the full opening of special schools at the beginning of the autumn term. This contained advice for special schools from Public Health England. The rest of this guidance focused on how the Department for Education expects settings, including special schools, to operate while the Covid-19 crisis continues.
This document sets out the planning and arrangements that will be in place at Foxfield from September 2020. It is supplemented by a comprehensive risk assessment document and a dynamic risk assessment process that this ongoing in school.
The key points from the Government guidance include the following:
- The Government has set out its intent and plan for all children to return to school full time from the start of September. It is based on a twin strategy of limiting contact between pupils and implementing hygiene measures.
- Schools are told that "all elements of the system of controls are essential", but "the way different schools implement some of the requirements will differ based on their individual circumstances."
- Schools will be familiar with many aspects of the system of controls already, e.g. thorough and regular hand washing and promoting good respiratory hygiene (the 'catch it, bin it, kill it' approach)
- The main changes relate to how contact between individuals is to be limited in schools. Contact is to be limited in two main ways:
1. By ensuring pupils remain in consistent groups ('bubbles') wherever possible, thereby minimising the number of contacts between different people across the school
2. By maintaining distance between individuals wherever possible ('social distancing'). How contacts are reduced will depend on the setting’s circumstances and will (as much as possible) include:
- grouping children together in consistent groups
- avoiding contact between groups
- arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
- staff maintaining distance from pupils and other staff
- The Government recognise that maintaining distance or forming bubbles could be particularly difficult in special settings, given the need for staff to administer care support and provide therapies to the pupils. However, the average number of pupils attending a special school is much lower than the average number in a mainstream school, and this in itself, will help to limit the number of contacts for any individual.
- The Government say that they recognise that younger children and those with complex needs will not be able to maintain social distancing and it is acceptable for them not to distance within their group.
- Groups should be kept apart, meaning that settings should avoid large gatherings such as assemblies with more than one group
- Schools may keep children in their class groups for the majority of the classroom time, but also allow mixing into wider groups for specialist teaching, wraparound care and transport.
- Pupils on dedicated school transport services tend to be consistent and they do not mix with the general public on those journeys. This means that the advice for passengers on public transport will not apply from the autumn term on dedicated transport.
- Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual.
- Schools must ensure that pupils, staff and other adults do not come into the setting if they have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or have tested positive in the last 7 days. Anyone developing those symptoms during the day must be sent home.
- The majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work.
- Shielding advice for all adults and children will pause on August 1, subject to a continued decline in the rates of community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) -this means that even the small number of pupils who will remain on the shielded patient list can also return to their setting, as can those who have family members who are shielding. The Government expect that most staff will return to work.
- DfE continue to advise against domestic (UK) overnight educational visits. Settings should consider resuming any after-school provision, where possible, from the start of the autumn term
- The DfE states "if schools follow the guidance set out here, they can be confident they are managing risk effectively."
- Schools are told that it is a legal requirement that they now revisit and update their Covid-19 risk assessments
- Schools are also being asked to prepare a 'Plan b', i.e. arrangements to allow remote learning to take place should a partial or full closure of the school be required, at any point in the next academic year.
The arrangements and planning in place at Foxfield School
At this time the Government’s clear expectation is that the vast majority of pupils and staff will be able to return to school in September 2020 and the current shielding arrangements will end on 1st August 2020. If there are any specific medical reasons why this is not possible the pupil’s parents or member of staff would have to contact the Headteacher to discuss their situation. Written confirmation from a doctor would be required to confirm that a return to school remained unsafe for the person concerned.
Many parents and carers may have anxiety and worries about their child returning to school. This is understandable. If so, they should contact the school and discuss their concerns with the Headteacher or another member of staff. Hopefully then they can have any questions they may have answered and get some reassurance that their child will be safe back in school.
The Government have announced that parents who do not send their child back to school could face fines for not doing so. Every effort will be made by staff at Foxfield to avoid this situation. Staff will do their very best to help pupils and parents to gain the confidence that the young person can safely return to Foxfield and benefit once again from all that school can offer.
Pupils at Foxfield already work in discrete class groups so creating the recommended ‘bubbles’ is straightforward. The pupils will be taught and supported by a consistent, limited number of staff during the week in their class. There may be times however when individual pupil needs or activities within the timetable involve other staff working with the class e.g. when the pupils go swimming they will still work with the school’s Swimming Coach. This is seen as safe and appropriate to do so.
Classes will not mix with lots of pupils from other classes or bubbles during the school day. They will work in separate groups and rooms. This includes not mixing at break times. Pupils will also eat their lunches in their classrooms for the time being instead of all gathering together in the school dining hall. Other times when pupils would have come together, including school assemblies, will be cancelled until it is safe to do so again.
During the school day pupils may leave their classroom so that their group can use one of the specialist rooms in school such as the gym, sensory room or cookery room. Where this happens they will still avoid contact with other classes and will only go into a shared area when it has been properly cleaned and prepared after being used by a previous group.
Many pupils have missed a term or more of their education and are not in the routine of coming to school and taking part in lessons. They will need to be supported to get back into the stable routine of school life and to engage in learning activities that develop their skills and understanding. Some pupils will have huge anxiety about returning to school and others may still be traumatised by the experience of lockdown or as a result of serious illness or death in the family. They will need lots of practical and emotional support.
The response at Foxfield will be to have a strong emphasis during the autumn term on pupils’ wellbeing, mental health, emotional regulation and re-engagement with school life. Staff will undergo additional training which builds on their existing knowledge and experience in order to enable them to effectively support the pupils during their return to school. This will include bringing an international expert in SEN into school to train staff on recovery work with pupils.
To provide more stability and security for pupils in their first crucial weeks back in school their timetable for the first half of the autumn term will be altered. There will be less delivery of discrete subject lessons, some of which may have been taught by specialist teachers, and instead there will be a more thematic approach to planning and delivering lesson. Pupils will still cover literacy, numeracy, creative arts, physical education and life skills work but much of this work will be taught by staff within the class group. Other activities will be undertaken to restore emotional wellbeing, positive relationships, communication skills and good mental health.
Day to day measures to protect everyone
In order to minimise the risk of infection coming into Foxfield and cross contamination parents and carers must ensure that their child wears clean clothes to school every day.
Parents and carers should regulate the number of personal items a pupil brings to school with them each day and limit these to those that are essential.
School dinners will continue to be cooked in school but the pupils will eat in classes. The Midday Assistants will help to deliver these to classrooms. If a pupil has a packed lunch that’s fine but pupils’ lunchboxes must be washed daily.
Staff at Foxfield do not wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) unless it is essential to do so. Public Health guidance clearly states that this is not needed and can get in the way of effectively working with a pupil, Staff routinely wear aprons and gloves if changing a pupil and there may be times when wearing a face mask or visor is considered necessary but at other times PPE will not be worn.
If a pupil started showing symptoms of Covid-19 in school the child would be isolated and staff would need to wear full PPE while they remain with the pupil and until the room used had been thoroughly cleaned once the child had left the building.
Pupils should not wear PPE including masks or gloves in school. Scientific evidence indicates that this is not necessary and may create a greater risk to the pupil and those around them. It is much safer to encourage social distancing where possible, regular hand washing and maintaining good respiratory hygiene.
The Local Authority’s transport department are working extremely hard to arrange transport for as many pupils as possible to get to and from special schools where this is required and can be done safely. Present social distancing requirements limit the number of pupils who can travel together on a vehicle but the latest Government guidance suggests that a full education transport service may be able to resume in the autumn. Further guidance is due to be sent to LA’s shortly. If a full transport service cannot be offered parents and carers may be asked if they are able to assist in transporting their child to and from school unit a full service can resume.
For those parents and carers who bring their child to school or collect them at the end of the day, the new arrangement wherein parents drive onto and park in the main playground will continue. This avoids lots of pupils and family members being close together in the confined foyer area at the front of the school.
Meetings in school.
School staff want to continue to work closely with parents and carers. Staff are happy to speak to parents on the phone, communicate with them by email or meet them in person to discuss particular issues. Clearly more preparation may need to be given to identify where in the school meetings between staff and parents can be held to ensure that as much social distancing as possible is maintained.
Where meetings about a pupil involve a lot more people it is unlikely that these can be held in school for the time being. Social distancing guidance would indicate that it was unsafe to hold a meeting between six or more people in the school’s conference room. School staff will instead continue to attend larger group meetings held online when they can.
Extra-curricular and off site activities.
In the autumn term school staff will consider how and when after school clubs could safely start again.
Foxfield will follow the Government advice regarding overnight activities. At present the recommendation is that these should not be undertaken and this would apply to both residential trips for Foxfield pupils and overnight stays in the school’s life skills base.
Foxfield staff will work with partner secondary mainstream schools to determine when it would be safe to resume mainstream inclusion links for our pupils. Such links will not take place in first half of the autumn term.
Developing pupils’ independent living skills remains a priority for Foxfield. This includes giving pupils the skills and understanding to deal with a variety of situations within the community. Over the course of the school year pupils will gradually resume activities such as going to local shops, supermarkets, cafes etc. providing that the necessary safety measures are in place. Wherever possible pupils need to be taught how to protect themselves and others within the community and how to follow the new rules and requirements in various settings. We do not want Covid-19 to limit pupils’ growing independence skills or to result in them becoming more isolated and unable to use community facilities.
Catch up work
The Government has announced that it is giving schools money for catch up activities to compensate for the time that children have not attended school. At present the amount of money Foxfield will receive and the requirements for what it can be spent on are unknown. As these details emerge school leaders will decide how to use any funding received to achieve the biggest impact and to benefit pupils as much as possible.
Arrangements should a partial or full closure of the school be required in the future
It is possible that at some point in the future a full or partial closure of the school may happen again. This could be as a result of a national directive from the Government, a local lockdown or due to an outbreak of cases of Covid-19 in school. There are very clear procedures in place for all schools if any pupil or member of staff starts showing symptoms, is tested and confirmed to have this virus. In that event the Test and Trace procedures and Public Health will instruct Foxfield as to whether the whole school or certain parts of the school need to close for a fixed period.
If there is a whole or partial closure of Foxfield the school’s leaders will follow the guidance and requirements given at the time. These will dictate which pupils are safe to continue coming to school, if provision for key workers’ children needs to be maintained or if any pupils and staff need to shield once again.
School staff will work to try and maintain support and distance learning opportunities for pupils who are not in school at that time. Teachers will continue contact with pupils’ families and will provide work and/or suggested activities that the child can do at home. This will be done using the Class DoJo School Communication App, through email or if appropriate through direct mailing of materials.
If possible the school will also once again resume offering any pupils not in school who receive Free School Meals a good packed lunch which will be delivered to their home each weekday.
Andre Baird, Headteacher, July 2020