And so we come to the end of the first full week of majority remote learning in this second partial closure of mainstream schools in England. I am so pleased to hear of the ways in which the children have adapted once again to new styles and routines of learning, and that we have been able to enhance the remote learning experience for our pupils. On behalf of colleagues, may I also thank parents and carers for the many kind words and messages of support as we swung with great speed and at short notice into a new way of doing things, once again!
One of the flaws in these lockdowns is that they can have the effect of not just isolating us from transmission of viruses, but also isolating us from the reality of the situation right here in our local area. By sticking to the rules of staying at home and only venturing out for the truly essential, and one could be forgiven for choosing not to tune in to daily news bulletins, we can be shielded from the stark horror of Covid’s impact in our community.
Several families who have needed to make use of the emergency in school provision for essential workers are employed in the health care sector, and in particular the Queen Alexandra hospital in Cosham. I have been a customer at this stunning establishment many times over the past 21 years, ranging from routine matters and family member check-ups, to trips to paediatric A&E (on one occasion as a parent and Headteacher at the same time when my daughter sprained a wrist in school – how embarrassing!) and a 9 day stay thanks to a burst appendix in 2017. Whilst experiences will differ, I have to say that I have never once been disappointed by the entire staff and their absolute professionalism throughout every contact I have had there. And right now, the staff at QA and other health and care settings, amongst whom we can all count family members of our school community, are under immense pressure, greater than was ever seen in 2020.
To that end, I urge everyone to act not just to the letter of the law, but also within the spirit of the law, when it comes to following the latest lockdown regulations. Whilst it is permitted to exercise with one person from another household, is that absolutely essential for people to do at the moment? Whilst a range of shops remain open for necessary products, do we need to shop as a family group at the weekend? We should all reflect upon the words of Professor Chris Whitty when he said last Sunday that “Any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person.” (Full statement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-from-chief-medical-officer-professor-chris-whitty-on-national-alert-levels ) If we stay at home and, as the Government says, manage our behaviour to “act like we’ve got the virus”, then we will do our part to protect the NHS, save lives, and bring schools closer to full re-opening for all pupils.
And to close by bringing it back to school, thank you to families of essential workers who have had a really hard look at their weekly routines and only made use of the in-school provision when absolutely necessary. This is a key part in keeping the school staff safe, and so making them more able to keep the school open in these emergency times. Looking ahead, please only make use of the in-school provision when no other option is available, and let the school know immediately if you need to cancel booked places due to changing work patterns. A huge amount of planning for the following week goes into the numbers submitted by the 1:00pm Thursday deadline, so we are not able to accept any late requests made after that time.
Your patience and support are, as always, much appreciated by everyone at St Peter’s.
Mr R Cunningham
This is not the start of term that I would have wanted, or indeed that I expected given Government assurances at the turn of the year that schools were a priority and that primary schools would remain open. However, we find ourselves in lockdown 3 and working exceptionally hard once again to meet the needs of all in our school community. Do please be aware that the staff in the office are exceptionally busy fielding calls and emails on an enormous range of issues. Occasionally it may take time to get through on the phone, and requests made by phone which require a response by email may take some time to action given the current workload. Your patience with and politeness to our colleagues in the office is appreciated.
Equally, all classroom staff are now operating in two learning environments; the real here in school and the virtual on-line. This is alongside planning and resourcing all of the children’s learning and then assessing the work that is submitted by all of the pupils. Families who are learning remotely are asked to pose any questions about learning tasks using the chat function on Microsoft Teams rather than ‘dialling in’ using the call function. Teaching staff will then work through the requests as they come in with replies that may be through the chat or the call function as appropriate. Please remember that colleagues are juggling a number of demands with their classes, so responses to queries will not be immediate.
Having both professional and domestic experience of remote learning, I know that it is challenging for families and can at times be stressful. Please be assured that all colleagues are working as hard as they can, and are constantly exploring new avenues of learning and communication which may take some time to bed in, so again your patience and politeness is appreciated.
With this latest enforced partial school closure we are seeing immediate high demand for in-school places to allocate to the children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable. Indeed the anticipated pupil numbers on site could very soon be so high as to defeat the very purpose of a partial school closure as a means of securing social distancing and household lockdown. Therefore, please remember that in-school provision should only ever be used by those who qualify where it is absolutely necessary, and where adults are engaged in essential work leaving them with no alternative but to send their child to school. Adults who work part time should only book on the days when they are at work, and families should try their utmost to secure domestic arrangements before reverting to booking a school place. Whilst this may sound restrictive, it is an essential element of keeping the school site, with the children and the staff in it, as safe as possible.
Finally, looking back to last term, may I offer huge thanks and congratulations to all in St Peter’s for all the fundraising they undertook. The staff raised £107 for Macmillan nurses through a socially distanced coffee morning in September, Year 4 raised over £40 for Guide Dogs, the school raised an impressive £605 for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, and over 400 cans of food were donated to the school to pass on to the Waterlooville Food Bank. Many thanks to you all.
Mr R Cunningham