Hello and welcome once again. Another very busy week, it seems like only yesterday that we last spoke.
For so many of you, of course, that’s actually the case. Thank you for such an excellent response to the Headteachers’ conference yesterday. Nearly 200 leaders of schools and settings logged on for a timely and thoroughly relevant meeting in which the main topic was the wellbeing of yourselves and your teaching staff. Several of you were among the speakers so a special thanks to all who contributed.
As we approach the wider opening of schools, colleges and settings, achieving an effective return for pupils and staff is absolutely at the forefront of our thinking. We know that, for some of your pupils, and perhaps some staff, the experience of returning to school may be difficult. That’s why we have worked hard to ensure there is resource that you can draw on to help to steer them through the first few weeks if they do find the experience challenging.
Our pupils and students are fortunate in that regard insofar as they have one priceless resource at their disposal to help them in the coming weeks and that is you and your teaching staff. It will be a source of comfort to parents and carers that, when their children go back to school, they are leaving them in such capable, trusted and dedicated hands.
Remember that you and your staff have exactly the same resource – each other. The conference was notable for the togetherness that was prevalent, even in the virtual room. There was a sense of purpose and unity that you can draw on in the weeks ahead if the path becomes a little rocky.
The focus of wellbeing should also draw attention to how important this is to us. Leaders can only be pillars of strength if they are strong yourselves so do bear in mind all that was said and make use of the support that is available.
In a sense, we have been here before and that again should be helpful and we now have the tools of testing and the increasing rollout of the vaccine to help us to contain the spread of the virus. There is an attachment provided by Public Health in this edition that will help to clarify the guidance and what it means. It has not been an easy set of rules to comprehend but the document does lay out clearly who does what, when, where and how.
Understanding the new guidance will help schools and settings to update risk assessments and contingency plans. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting your risk assessments onto your websites to increase community confidence.
As well as testing, two major changes have come into place. The wearing of face coverings indoors at secondary schools is now strongly recommended so we would urge you to encourage your pupils to do that. Also, the new variants’ increased infection means that the rule of those within 2m of a positive case on transport having to isolate has been changed. Now, all passengers on a bus where a positive case is identified will need to isolate. Again, following the guidance will be key to keeping the numbers down. Encourage the wearing of face coverings on buses and stress the importance of sitting in the same seats. The simple steps remain among the most effective.
In other news we are still unpicking what the announcement of £700m Education Recovery Funding (catch up support) will mean to Warwickshire’s schools. Rest assured that we will have a team ready to work on making whatever we receive go as far as possible towards addressing the gap in education that lockdown has created so that we maximise the resource made available.
The work that has gone into the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme has been a good way for us to be ready for making the best use of government resources. This week we were granted the first wave of funding to help us to set this up. Thank you to all who responded to last week’s expression of interest in terms of either being a provider or putting providers in touch with us. We have been able to establish a range of provision, both of activity and food, and I am confident that we will meet our aim to offer a pilot programme ready for the four days it is operating during Easter.
That’s it for now. Do get some relaxation in readiness for Monday. So much has been put in place and we are in a very strong position. It might be that your school or setting experiences an outbreak in the coming weeks, such is the nature of the virus and you mustn’t feel that is down to you or your planning. It’s a pandemic and, as we have seen, that can happen. But whether or not it does, you know where we are.