We have now almost finished what has been the strangest half term in my entire teaching career. I first took on a headship role in September 1987 and in the 33 years since then, I have known nothing like the last month or so. Hopefully we have weathered the main storm and, providing everyone is sensible and is able to bring themselves to stick to the recommendations we have all been given, we will not have a second peak to contend with, before some form of vaccine or treatment becomes available.
The last four weeks have seen constant changes to all aspects of our lives and the same has been true here at school. It feels like no sooner have we put into place an organisation and structure that works, than we have to change and adapt this to meet different and. sometimes unsettling. new directions and circumstances.
I do not think I have ever written and altered so many timetables in such a short period of time. Thankfully the staff here at school have been magnificent in the way they have responded to the challenges we have been faced with each week. In the last weeks of the Easter holiday it was unclear as to what would be needed and how we could support for the pupils here at Park House. Yet, here we are, a month on, with a structure that is enabling pupils and staff to work together either face to face or over the internet and that, whilst far from the ideal, is working effectively and efficiently, at least 95% of the time!
I would like to thank the staff here at school for their support as we have, together, come to grips with new ways of working and a new structure and organisation. Although many had their own worries and anxieties about returning to work at the start of the term, they have been unfailingly positive and cheerful around each other and the pupils in school and online. Their flexibility and creativity in responding to the new challenges, to preparing work for pupils to do at home, in taking on the transporting of some pupils from long distances, to delivering affirming and engaging sessions online, in keeping the pastoral support going and in reassuring our pupils about their own worries and anxieties through online, phone and e-mail tutorials, has been inspiring for me as their leader.
I would also say a huge and heartfelt thank you to you as parents and carers and to the pupils themselves. You have all been faced with difficult and demanding decisions over the past 6 weeks or so and have also adapted to a very different way of working. Together we are all doing the best we can, in the situation we are in and doing it with energy, enthusiasm and a commitment to doing the best we can for the children and young people who are the very reason for our existence as a school. Well done to everyone!
Next half term
- Timetable changes
In the week beginning 1st June we will be welcoming back an extra three pupils for 2 days a week each. This has necessitated an organisational change to enable us to maintain, as far as is possible, appropriate social distancing. Instead of the pupils in the main school coming in all together on a Tuesday, the children in Claire’s Maths groups will now be in on a Monday and a Wednesday instead of Tuesday and Thursday. This change is reflected on the new timetables that will be either taken home tonight, if the children are in school, or delivered to you tomorrow. As a result the online Zoom sessions for the children who are in Claire’s Maths groups will also move to a Monday and Wednesday.
These changes to the organisation of who is in school when, also mean that there will now only be one timetable for each child/young adult as the Therapy sessions, that were necessitating a two weekly timetable, can now be delivered each week. Please check the timetable that is sent home to see if you need to make any adjustments to your routines after the holiday week. If, for any reason you do not get a timetable home, please e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will e-mail you back with the timetable attached.
By changing to this way of working, I can create two distinct teams of staff who will not cross over between the two groups of pupils. Even with the reduced number of pupils in school, this stretches our staffing considerably because, at the moment, I have eight members of staff who are either on maternity leave, are themselves shielding, or cannot be in school because they are caring for elderly and infirm relatives.
- Staffing changes
Kristina, our Speech and Language Therapist, who has been on maternity leave will return in late June for two days a week. It will be great to have her back with us again.
Sadly, we will be losing Susan, one of our Occupational Therapists on 11th June. Susan is returning to the NHS. I would like to thank Susan for all the hard work she has put into the school during her time here, particularly in the areas of transition, mental health and welfare and preparation for adult life. No decision has as yet been made about replacing her and this remains with the Directors, awaiting their decision as to the way forward in this area. As an interim measure I am appointing a Transition Mentor who will work with those pupils who will be moving on to college or other courses in September 2021. Susan will be in touch with the parents of these pupils in the first week of next term to tell them what is in place to support their child and them, in this area, during their last 12 months in school.
- Returning to school before the end of the Summer Term
At the moment, it is difficult to see how we can return fully to school, if pupils and staff are to respect, as far as possible, the social distancing expectations. Should more pupils want to return to school before the end of term, we will only be able to offer two days a week, for the majority, at the most. I am not anticipating any revisions to the arrangements that will be in place from 1st June until at least the end of the month, when the 12 week shielding period comes to an end and, no doubt, we will have further guidance from the Government regarding their expectations for schools.
- Summer Holiday Activity days
The Summer holiday Activity Days are scheduled for the first three days of the week beginning Monday 17th August. At the moment, I am hoping that these days will still be able to go ahead in some form or other, even if we have to spilt the school into two groups. This way we would only be able to offer two days not three. It is too early, as yet, to make a decision about, but please plan as though this is going to happen, until, and if, you hear differently.
Hopefully the weather will be kind to us all next week and we will be able to get outside into our gardens and, respecting the social distancing rules, perhaps to head out somewhere for a day, for the first time in several months.