Latest Information from the Trust 09.01.2021
Families, staff, governors and directors of Kingsley Learning Foundation Trust.
These are dark and desperate days indeed. Over the past nine months we have all been engaged in a titanic struggle with an invidious and relentless enemy. Throughout this time the optimistic, compassionate and resilient characteristics of our school communities have carried us through. It is our commitment, our pledge, that we will come through this together, that we will find a path that cherishes and protects every individual within our Trust to the very best of our abilities.
Over the past week political leaders, in responding to this evolving crisis, have issued reams of guidance and advice. We acknowledge that they are seeking a societal solution on a scale that is far beyond our local context. However, it is our responsibility to attend to our 'here and now', our community. In the 3 hours following the Prime Minister's announcement of Lockdown 3 at 8pm on 4th January, we had 4 separate recommendations from the DFE with seesawing guidance for special schools. While the children (key workers and vulnerable) who returned to the schools, did so with their usual carefree and joyous manner, staff returned in confusion and anxiety while school leaders were reduced to managing and responding to the flow of information and changing circumstances on a moment by moment basis.
On Thursday night, within a document titled 'Restricting Attendance during the National Lockdown’, special schools received the following message:’
Special schools should continue to welcome and encourage pupils to attend full-time where the parent/carer wishes for their child to be able to attend. Special post-16 settings should continue to welcome and encourage students to attend as per their usual timetable where the young person wishes to attend.
The implication here is that special schools could, in theory at least, open to their entire cohort, admitting every single child on the register.
The DFE's daily guidance of the following morning however, altered the message fundamentally with the following statement:
Primary, secondary, alternative provision and special schools will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers only (recognising that the characteristics of the cohorts in special schools and alternative provision will mean these settings can continue to offer face-to-face provision for all pupils, where appropriate)
The phrase 'where appropriate’ passes the judgement call to school leaders, governors and directors to evaluate their local context and respond accordingly. But what does ‘appropriate’ look like in a society where all other gatherings have been shut down and where mixing and social contact are to be avoided at all costs.
On Friday it was announced that 1300 people had died in 24hours in the UK and there were over 60,000 new cases. This was followed by a reversion back to the message of Lockdown 1, 'that every child who could safely stay at home should stay at home':
Updated ‘Critical workers’ section to clarify that parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can. (Time updated: 5:26pm, 8 January 2021)
With confusion reigning in relation to what we are actually being required to do, it falls on us to determine our own path. Across both schools in the Kingsley Learning Foundation, we are re-evaluating risk assessments. Our current risk assessments were designed to facilitate the operation of the schools with all children and all staff attending and built on systems that reduced risk as best we could. The prevailing circumstances today are more severe and we need to revisit our planning and evaluations against a backdrop of much smaller on-site population and far graver risk.
Being naturally forward-looking and optimistic, at the same time as reviewing risk assessments, we are also devising a plan for a return to full operation. While national restrictions are likely to remain in place for many weeks yet, we envisage that, subject to key events (e.g. vaccination of the schools workforce, dramatic decline in incidence in the general population etc) we would like to put in place a roadmap of increasing attendance, driven by local and national data, and with safety remaining the primary consideration.
Across the KLF we place our faith in community, having each other's backs. The success of the schools is utterly dependent on the goodwill and support of families, working alongside our teams. However the success of families is also, and equally, dependent on the goodwill and resilience of those staff members who daily go into classes and interact in ways that would be illegal 50 yards from the classroom i.e. no PPE, no social distancing and no limit on the number of people who can occupy the space.
At this moment, and more than ever before, we are asking for the compassion and understanding of our families. The statistics issued on Friday have turned anxiety to despair amongst staff, and those of our teams who have underlying health conditions, or are protecting family members who are vulnerable and extremely vulnerable, are at the point where they are indicating that they can no longer bear this burden. While some of our families are struggling desperately with the challenge of home learning and pleading to be offered a space at school, teams are telling us that the addition of any further children at this point would leave them wishing to withdraw. This is not an industrial action, a withdrawal of labour, but simply the recognition that they are being asked to choose between the health of their families and the responsibilities of their jobs. To this point they have shown an unprecedented courage and to ask more of them is unreasonable in the current circumstances.
We ask families to consider their current situation, and, where it is safe for your child to be at home that you take the decision to keep your child at home for the moment. This will allow us to significantly reduce the number of adults on-site, ease the fear of staff who are in school and maybe even allow us to offer some relief to a tiny number of families who are simply not coping at the moment. We are not asking for frontline medical staff to revise their approach but amongst key-workers, especially where one or two adults are at home, we plead that you take account of other struggling families and fearful staff.
This feels like the deepest point of the crisis, and the sooner we take a stronger stance, the sooner we can begin a return to normality. Please trust us that we remain as committed and as passionate as ever to supporting all of our families as soon as we possibly, and safely, can.
We know that this message is not one you want to hear, we know and appreciate that each and every one of you is facing your own battles, your own worries and your own stresses. But this moment is the testing point for 'together'. The 'together' that we preach will generally give, but on occasion, like today, the 'together' asks something of you. We are confident that your love and compassion will get us through.