WEEK 25 - Friday 26 March 2021
I write to you at the end of a very difficult week for everyone associated with Penshurst Primary School following the unprecedented cluster of cases that were reported to us this week. I am pleased to inform you that the rate of cases being reported has slowed down significantly from Monday and Tuesday and that the reports I am receiving from staff and parents is that the adjustment to online learning has been a smooth and straightforward one. I hope that your child has settled into learning from home again and that this transition has not been too problematic for you. As we reach the end of term, the period of time away from school will actually be fairly short but I urge you, if you are affected by self isolation, to ensure that your child, and family members where applicable, observe the full duration of self isolation that has been required. If you are unsure of this, please contact the school for confirmation. By acting together, we can improve our chances of a less disrupted start to the new term after Easter.
I thought I might take a few moments at this time to share with you some insight into the way in which the school operates when notified of a Covid case amongst our community and the steps taken to isolate a year group bubble. This may offer you some explanation for the actions we have taken and the way in which communication has been provided.
Firstly, it is common for new cases to be reported early in the morning, usually as the school is preparing to welcome pupils and parents and when staff are already extremely busy. This means that it may be too late to prevent pupils from the affected year group from coming in. It takes a little time to carry out an investigation which involves speaking in some depth with the parent of the child in question and then to staff in order to trace pupils that may be affected. Whilst this takes place, we have to decide whether to isolate the whole year group until we have all of this information. If this is the case, the priority is to get the children home safely and as quickly as possible. This involves contacting up to 70 families at short notice. The most efficient way to do this is by text or email. We would love to be able to telephone each family with an explanation and a more personal reassurance but there simply is not the time to do so. Once this communication has been sent, parents begin to arrive at school soon after and our staff must then ensure that children leave safely and are all accounted for. At this stage, the safeguarding of the children is absolutely paramount.
Meanwhile, it is common for staff members to also be isolating at the same time, so that means a number of colleagues clearing their rooms and making sure that they have what they need to switch to online learning once they get home. Rooms will then be ‘deep cleaned’ as a further precaution.
As each ‘bubble’ is closed, we are required to notify and work with the local Public Health team, so it is important that we do this quickly and accurately so that they are aware of the situation and can advise on any further measures they see fit.
Meanwhile, understandably, some parents will seek clarification on the circumstances, there will be some parents that cannot pick up their children and so on.
All of this, whilst also continuing to run the school and teach the children that remain in the classrooms! I am full of admiration for the work that staff in school are doing on a daily basis across the entire country to handle these situations; it is an incredible effort.
At the start of the week, this happened several times in quick succession leaving staff reeling and then working long into the night to check that everything was recorded correctly, messages replied to, staff checked in with, and the next day prepared and planned for.
I was dismayed to hear that, despite doing all of this work to keep the children and community safe, some of our staff received some very negative remarks and even abusive comments from one or two parents at the school gate. This is utterly unacceptable and, I am sure that once those parents reflect back on their behaviour, they would agree and seek to apologise.
I prefer, however, to focus on the overwhelming majority of our parents who have been, yet again, incredibly supportive, patient and understanding and whose words of appreciation, when offered to our staff, really make it all worthwhile. To those who have taken the time to offer thanks and a kind word, I truly thank you. You will never know how important it is for school staff to receive that kind of comment.
Mr V Groak