22nd May 2020
Dear Parent and Carer
Wider opening of services in the Doncaster Deaf Trust
Following the most extraordinary 2 months that any of us can remember in education I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the tremendous efforts you are making whilst your children or young people are learning at home and for the support you have shown to our Nursery, School, Children’s Home, College and staff during this exceptionally difficult time.
I would also like to recognise the challenges, frustrations, and concerns that you as parents and carers will almost certainly have faced during lockdown. As a parent of 2 children in Primary and Secondary school, we have had a challenging time in our home. Many of you will be working from home yourselves and supporting home learning which I know is difficult. A number of our parents and carers are key workers who are trying to balance their professional lives with the need to care for their children or young people. Some of you may be in self-isolation or shielding due to your health conditions adding to the complexity of current life. We are all living life in exceptional circumstances.
Currently, we are planning the possible phased wider opening of the Nursery, School, Children’s Home and College. Since the start of lockdown, all of our services have remained open to those children and young people whose parents and carers are key workers. We are now considering how we can open up our services to a wider cohort of children and young people. I can now update you on how this process is being managed and provide information on how decisions are being taken in order to ensure the safety and well-being of our children, young people, staff and their families.
Firstly, it is important to point out that we are planning for the possible wider opening of our Nursery, School, Children’s Home and College on the 1st June. It is the Government which will make the final decision which will be taken approximately on the 28th May.
Throughout the lockdown period, we have been careful to follow the Government’s guidance and in the last 2 weeks the Government have issued a series of guidance documents which describe how educational and care settings should re-open and increase attendance. We have worked collaboratively across the Trust in order to develop a consistent plan to increase attendance in all of our services. Risk assessments are crucial to our planning and following the Government’s guidance.
The health, safety and welfare of our children, young people and staff is the most important aspect of our planning. The risk assessments carried out have allowed our staff to produce clear actions and specific measures that will be put in place to ensure everybody’s safety whilst on our site.
The Government guidance states that we need to encourage children and young people back into our services and states what criteria we need to design our plans with. They have also stated which groups we should prioritise which are: Reception, Year 1, Year 6 in Primary education and some support for Year 10 and Year 12 in Secondary education. Our School, Children’s Home and College are regarded as Special Institutions and therefore have been directed to ‘encourage’ children and young people back into the learning environment. The views of a parent and carer are critical in making the decision to return and the staff are ready to discuss your individual concerns, requirements and needs with you. Equally important is the risk assessment of your child or young person and the environmental risk assessment across our site. We need to adhere to the Government’s guidance on social distancing, protective measures and health conditions.
All of our services have applied the same principles to their planning and different levels of provision will be possible depending upon the individual and environmental risk assessment measures, the specific service circumstances and the staffing capacity. We will continue to provide for the children and young people of key workers and for those regarded as vulnerable.
The Unions have now released a joint statement on the planned re-opening of schools on the 1st June and have provided advice to their members which has added to the complexity of the planning process.
The decisions our staff have made in recent days, weeks and months have not been easy. All of our staff are dedicated professionals who are committed to offering the best possible education and care. The fact that some children and young people continue to learn remotely whilst some learn on site does not sit comfortably with us. However, in these challenging times, we must continue to follow the guidance we are given and work to ensure that the education and care we provide continues to be the very best that it can be. We all look forward to the time when we can all be safely back on site again.
On behalf of the Trustees, the Governors, staff teams and myself we wish you all the very best.