CORONAVIRUS (COVID 19) UPDATES
Letter to parents and carers 03 April 2020
I am writing to update you about the school’s provision moving forward through the Coronavirus crisis.
As you know, nearly all pupils are working at home and can access work provided by their teachers via Google Classroom. This is generally working well. As I stated in a previous communication, you have a very significant role to play here. Whilst the health and safety of all of us remains the first priority right now, it is nevertheless important that pupils take some advantage of the work being offered to them in order not to fall behind their peers.
Having said that, we have received communication from a small number of parents saying that their children feel overwhelmed because they are trying to do everything for every teacher. A balance needs to be struck here. I have contacted school staff to alert them to the fact that their efforts to provide work could actually end up causing more anxiety if the volume is too high. Please try to use your discretion as parents and carers to strike the right balance between your children doing some work and getting overwhelmed by it.
Specifically, we are now at the start of what would have been the Easter holiday. I know that this particular holiday will be a very different one, with an element of fear and uncertainty. However, it should still be largely a holiday from work, and I would not expect pupils to be doing school work during these two weeks, unless boredom dictates otherwise. I am sorry I can’t be more specific here; it is almost impossible to regulate the exact amount of work at a distance and with pupils accessing it at different rates and paces. It really is important that you look out for your children in this. Protect them from over-work but encourage them, over time, to keep contact with their studies.
For those pupils who would have been sitting exams, the arrangements moving forward are still not fully clear, although I believe they are imminent. I will inform you once I know. Suffice it to say that I continue to believe that the ‘system’ will ensure that all pupils who fall into this category will not be disadvantaged by this national crisis.
The school is now closed until further notice but, like many schools, we have become an Emergency Childcare Setting. This has allowed us to remain open for those who need us most: key workers. The list of key workers is contained in the following document Key Workers.
Numbers of children accessing this provision have been very low so far, and that is a good thing. We are taking every measure we can to ensure that the setting is as safe as it can be, particularly in relation to social distancing and cleaning and hygiene arrangements. However, this does not mean that Olchfa is a safe place to be. The virus can lie undetected before it becomes symptomatic and we know that it spreads easily. It is entirely possible, maybe even likely, that one of the children or staff present at the setting will already have the virus and be passing it on. This has already happened in other schools.
And so, I urge you, please do not try to access this provision unless you have absolutely no other option. Your children, all children, are safer at home. Please try to ensure that your children stay with you at all times. They should not be meeting their friends or relatives, other than those they live with. You should know where your child is at all times, and this should be with you or with an adult you trust.
For those who do need to access childcare, you will need to book via the online booking system which can be found here. Where there are two parents or carers, you will need to demonstrate that you are both key workers. You will need to demonstrate this status as a key worker, backed up by a letter from your employer. You will need to demonstrate proof that you are actually working on the day you request childcare. You will have to provide contact details and other information and you will have to sign to acknowledge that you accept the risks associated with sending your child to this emergency setting, where safety cannot be guaranteed.
Whilst at the setting, children will be provided with food and drink through the day, but will be expected to sit well apart from each other and from adults. Work will be set online. Regular supervised breaks will ensure that children get some exercise and fresh air, but not at the expense of compromising social distancing. I will be honest with you; this will not be the most enjoyable experience, but it is necessary to protect the health and safety of all. Finally, I need to make it very clear that this is not school. It is an emergency service provided by staff who are putting themselves at risk. It goes without saying that there will be zero tolerance of any behaviour that puts another child or adult at risk. A child who behaves in this way will immediately be sent home and will not be allowed to return. Thankfully, the children who have attended so far have been wonderful. We have actually had some very uplifting times, as we all battle this thing together. Let’s keep it that way.
What can I say? This is an awful time. All of us are well outside our comfort zones and we are all frightened, to a greater or lesser degree. I guess we now just need to follow the guidelines that the government is outlining for us, exercising patience and resilience as we prepare for a long haul. I don’t know when all this will end; your guess is as good as mine. However, there is no night so long that the day does not eventually dawn at the end of it. And so, for now, we must all adjust to the new realities and play our own part in helping to solve this crisis by staying safe, protecting the NHS and saving lives.
I hope that this letter finds you and your family safe and well. I hope that you continue to stay that way through this testing time and look forward to the day when everything can return to normal once more.
With warmest wishes for your continued health and safety and that of your families.
The latest advice on access to schools from Education Minister Kirsty Williams (23.03.2020)
I’d like to thank parents for listening to the advice and keeping most children at home. I’d be grateful if tomorrow morning you only use schools or childcare as a last resort.
The advice has not changed as a result of tonight’s decision to further restrict movement, which our First Minister, along with other UK leaders took with the sole aim of slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Children should be at home wherever possible, critical workers will still need to have safe care arrangements for their children. Our schools and childcare settings are providing a vital service to support critical workers and our most vulnerable children.
Those involved in the current arrangements looking after children should continue. Many thanks to our amazing teaching and childcare professionals for their commitment in this time of national need.
This situation will continue for the immediate term but we will be reviewing with healthcare professionals, local authorities and our teaching unions.
1. The latest scientific advice
The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear.
Everyone must, as far as possible, minimise social contact and make sure that anyone who is particularly vulnerable to the virus is able to adopt strict social distancing.
2. How does social distancing affect schools and childcare settings?
We have advised schools and childcare should only be open to a limited number of children.
We must keep the number of children in educational, childcare and play settings to the smallest number possible.
We also need to make sure children are not left with anyone who should be following strict social distancing guidance, such as anyone over 70 or anyone with the specified underlying health conditions.
Keeping children safely in their home should limit the chance of the virus spreading and protect those vulnerable to more serious illness as a result of the virus.
If your child receives free school meals, this will continue. But the way your child gets this food depends on your school. Please check with them.
3. What is the latest advice on key workers?
A list of categories of critical workers has been published on the Welsh Government website.
Places in schools and childcare will be highly limited and only particularly vulnerable children and the children of critical workers whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response should be attending during this time.
If you are classed as a critical worker but are able to perform the critical parts of your job effectively when working from home, then you should do so.
Even for critical workers, provision will only be made in schools or other settings where there is no safe alternative for your family.
4. I’m a key worker but my partner isn’t. What should we do?
If one parent is a critical worker but the other parent is not then the other parent should provide safe alternative arrangements at home when possible.
5. I’ve seen different advice from different councils. How are local authorities working?
Local authorities are doing everything they can to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. They made and communicated plans based as part of an initial contingency to deal with the spread of coronavirus. Those plans will now adapt and change as they respond to the latest guidance available to the Welsh Government.
Stay at home: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection (Updated 16 March 2020)
COVID-19: guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people