I am delighted to be able to tell you that all of our primary and secondary schools have now finalised their ‘return to school’ plans. Consequently, we are now in a position to confidently tell you that we will begin the phased return of the majority of our students to school on Monday 25 May – with some of our senior, secondary students coming back on Friday 22 May.
As I told you in my message last week, we have been working to three key principles in constructing our plans to bring students back: we will ensure everyone’s safety by being fully compliant with the guidelines from the Government; we will continue to deliver our world class ESF education so that every single student can continue to progress and that we will be consistent where it matters, but ensure that schools have flexibility to meet their individual needs.
This has been an incredibly complex issue to navigate our way through, and I want to thank you all for your patience while we worked everything out. We have now found a concept that delivers on all of these principles, in all of our schools.
We call this concept ‘100 percent of our students learning, 50 percent in school.’
As this name suggests, while the challenge is a complex one – the solution is relatively straightforward. In order to ensure that we have the space in our schools to maintain social distancing, we will only have half of the students attend on any given day.
On the days that the students are not in school, they will continue to learn using the online, at home systems that have been put in place to such great effect these past few months.
Each one of our schools is different, so individual schools will have different ways of making this happen – and your school will be speaking to you about that from tomorrow. They will tell you the dates that specific year groups will be coming back – and how they intend to manage the 50/50 split between ‘in school’ and ‘online, at home’ learning.
As we move towards the resumption date, we will get you more information about areas such as lunch arrangements, temperature checks and other health and safety measures. Rest assured, a great deal of planning is going on to make sure that your children are kept safe and well while they are in school.
In order to make sure that we are fully prepared for the return of your children to school, we will be having a planning day for our staff in advance of the resumption date – with no online lessons for students taking place on that day. Your school will let you know the exact date of this planning day – but it will be on either Thursday 21 or Friday 22 May.
I know that this has been an incredibly challenging period for you. While we are all incredibly proud of the way in which we have kept learning going these past few months, all we have really wanted is to have our students back in school. We miss them – and I know that they miss their teachers and each other.
It does now feel that the day we have been long dreaming of is finally approaching.
Thank you for your incredible, unstinting support.
Chief Executive Officer
English Schools Foundation
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Will students be attending school for full or half days?
We believe that it is best for students and their families if we deliver a ‘full day’ model. Having students travel to school – and then leave a few hours later does not allow us to deliver the learning that we want and would cause a great deal of inconvenience for you, our families.
We are still to receive formal approval for our full day plan from the Government, but we are confident that we have put everything in place to allow that to happen.
Why are you waiting until 25 May to reopen, when other schools are coming back earlier?
When our key consideration is safety, our approach will be to do things right – not to do them quickly. The various requirements that are, rightly, being placed on schools by the Government to ensure that this is all done properly do require careful consideration and planning. We believe that we will have everything in place for 25 May.
Is the ESF concept as simple as ‘one day in school, one day at home?’
In essence, yes.
Your school will give you specific details on how they will be applying our concept – for example, your child could spend one day in school learning, then spend the next day at home using our online systems. Crucially, your child will still have contact with their teacher on the day that they are not in school.
Will the school look totally different as a result of imposing social distancing measures?
Wherever we can, we are going to keep the school as normal as possible. Only having half of the students in school at any one time means that we have more space to carry on teaching the way that we know has the greatest impact. Students will be seated at least a meter apart – but they will still be able to move around the school.
Will students have their temperature checked on arrival at school?
Yes – and your school will contact you to let you know how that is all being managed. In addition, we will be asking all families to fill in declarations before the resumption of classes in school. This will be compulsory for all families: if it is not completed to our satisfaction – and if all the necessary requirements are not met, then the child will not be permitted to return to school. We will be getting you information on this shortly.
How can you guarantee that students will be a meter apart at all times?
We are reconfiguring our schools so that the classroom layouts support social distancing. We will also make sure that lunch and break periods are properly staggered and supervised. Children being children, there will inevitably be times where they want to congregate and play with their friends. Alongside all our various health and safety measures – temperature checks, travel and health declarations etc, we will be doing everything we can to make sure that all aspects of the school day is organised in a safe and controlled manner.
Will you still be having graduation events in school?
Our priority for now is to get the students back into school – so all of our energies are focussed on that. However, we know just how important graduation events are to students and their families – so we are looking to find ways in which these events can still go ahead – even in a modified form. Your school will discuss that with you in more depth in the coming days.