Our letter to support schools

Published Thursday, 21st May 2020

School stationery in shades of blue

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has expressed its full support to all state funded schools in the borough confirming trust in their professional judgement as they are due to reopen.

Following the Government’s recent decision that schools are to reopen from 1 June 2020, for select year groups, school staff have been busy carrying out important risk assessment and making plans so pupils in reception, year 1, and 6, plus year 10 and 12, can return safely.

Each individual school has its own challenges in terms of facilities, staffing, logistics and students. The council is clear that headteachers and their staff are best placed to make the decision on how to respond to the Government’s request in a way that is right for their staff, their children and their community.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has written to every school to let them know their position.

Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “We are incredibly lucky that we have such fantastic schools in the borough whose primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of the children and the staff. No one understands the schools better than the staff that work within them, therefore their judgement as professionals on how to implement the safe return of students is essential. Every school has our full support – whatever their decision.”

Here is the letter in full:

Dear colleague,

Firstly we would like to thank you again for all you are doing to support pupils at this unsettling time for everyone.

Following on from the publication of DfE guidance regarding preparing for a wider opening of schools, we have held a number of meetings, including the three webinars on Friday, with headteachers and unions, both in Southend-on-Sea and regionally. We recognise the issues that the latest guidance created to your emerging plans, and that like us, you will all have the safety and wellbeing of your staff and pupils in the forefront of any revised plans.

We want to take this opportunity to reiterate that our expectations have not changed - we support your judgement as professionals to implement a safe and purposeful return to school.

On the basis of the risk assessment that you will be undertaking, you will come to a professional judgement on how best you can meet the Government guidance in the best interests of your staff and pupils.

You have our full support as fellow professionals in the way you implement the guidance. In addition, this approach has the support of Michael Marks the Council’s Director of Children’s Services (DCS) and Executive Director for Children and Public Health.

You know your school, the buildings, the staff and the students better than anyone. Each school is different, with individual health and safety risks, and each school needs to create and adapt its own plan accordingly.

Whilst the expectation is for schools to offer full time provision to nursery, reception, years 1 and 6, alongside vulnerable pupils and the children of key and critical workers, I appreciate this simply won’t be possible in all cases. Nursery and Reception should be the priority, followed by year 1, then year 6. We are currently awaiting further guidance on Secondary and Special school provision from the DfE. If you still cannot meet the expectations of a full time offer then you will out of necessity have to consider a partial offer, recognising that this is not within the spirt of the guidance. If your risk assessment clearly indicates that on the grounds of health and safety for staff and pupils you cannot open on the 1 June, then you have the support of the council in this decision. If this is the case in your school, it would be good to understand how you may work towards a wider solution over time. Most schools are planning for provision from 1 June, or very soon thereafter. 

We appreciate how hard everyone is working, whilst also balancing the needs and safety of the children, families and staff.

With this in mind we would urge you all to take time off over half term to allow yourselves and your staff, time to recharge and look after their ongoing wellbeing.

These are challenging times, but ultimately we must work together to do what we can to keep our children and staff safe. We have secured additional capacity by working with officers seconded from Her Majesties Inspectorate to support this challenging period. Michelle Winter will be working to support the wider return to school, and we will be contacting each school later in the week regarding your intentions. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to discuss the circumstances in your school.

Again, thank you for not only all you have done so far, but also your continued efforts to ensure that our children continue to thrive in your schools.

Yours sincerely

Brin Martin

Director of Education and Early Years

Cllr Anne Jones,

Cabinet member for children and learning

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