Dear parents/carers,

I hope this letter finds you safe and well; thank you all for your continued support and patience during this very difficult and worrying time. I would like to reassure you that as a school, we have been using the last week to risk assess and try to put in place plans to develop a phased return to Pear Tree in line with government proposals. Guidance and documentation has been changing almost daily and I am sure you recognise that these are unprecedented times and as such, there is no clear plan as to the best and safest way to re-open schools to more children. As a school, we still believe that the safest place for your child is at home with you and as a Headteacher, it worries me greatly that I cannot guarantee to you that we will be able to keep your child safe from the risk of picking up the virus from school. We will be doing our upmost to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children and staff but as I am sure you will appreciate, social distancing within a special school is virtually impossible.

I would like to highlight once again that during this time, we fully support any families who are choosing to keep their child safe by keeping them at home for the remainder of this academic year. There will be no consequences or fines from school or the local authority should your child not attend as we also believe that your children are safest at home with you.

As you know, throughout the pandemic, Pear Tree has remained open to children of key workers and those at risk of significant harm. In addition, staff have been providing home school learning, support for pupils and families, weekly phone calls, delivering resources and ensuring those families, who are entitled, receive free school meal vouchers. These have been challenging times for us all and I am proud of my staff team who have tried to adapt to this new situation and provide the best they possibly can for all our children whilst also trying to juggle their own health, wellbeing and families.

Wider-opening planning

Over the last week, I have held numerous meetings with my senior leadership team, governors, school nursing team and school advisor and have liaised closely with all other Lancashire special school Headteachers. We have risk assessed all of our pupils for both risk to themselves and risk to others should they be in school and weighed this up with their risk of being at home. We have undertaken a whole school risk assessment (available to view on our website) to determine how we can create social bubbles in school and make the whole school environment as safe and healthy as we possibly can for all children and all staff.

Please click on link below to read current Risk Assessment:

Updated Whole School Risk Assessment

Although we still have measures to put in place and guidance may possibly change over the coming days, I would like to share with you our current plans to move forward, how we intend to meet government guidance and safely increase numbers in school.

  • Encourage parents, who can, to keep their child at home with them as this is the safest place.
  • Continue to regularly update the individual pupil risk assessments in order to allocate places in school. The risk assessment also takes into account the view of parents and other professionals.
  • To increase numbers extremely slowly to ensure we can manage risk and maintain bubbles.
  • To only begin to increase numbers from the 8th June allowing us time to put additional safety measures in place
  • From the 1st June, identify as far as possible, consistent groups of pupils, in consistent bases supported by a consistent group of staff members who are familiar to them i.e. trying to work in a social bubble. Additional children will be added to these bubbles extremely slowly from the 8th
  • To keep numbers down and allow for more children to attend, children will only be offered part time places.
  • Review the impact each time we increase numbers. We will increase numbers in waves and leave at least 14 days between each wave to ensure the school continues to be safe for those attending.
  • Continue to update our school-based risk assessments to ensure safety is paramount for all those onsite. These will be made available on the school website once they are completed.
  • Notify parents if they have been offered a place at school.
  • Notify parents if their request for a place has been declined and the reasons why from our risk assessments.

School transport

One thing I must ask you to carefully consider if your child has been offered a place is transport and getting your child to and from school. Risk assessments are showing that the safest way for your child to get to and from school is to travel in the car with a family member. Transport is available for those families who can not transport due to having no vehicle or working shifts making pick up and drop off impossible. However, transport is working at 25% capacity to try and lower the risk of spreading the virus so pick up and drop offs may not be as early/late as normal if there is a high demand. Therefore, you may find your child is being picked up later than normal or dropped off earlier than normal.  Transport staff will be wearing aprons and masks during this time and if using school transport, you may wish to prepare your son/daughter for these changes.

If allocated a place and you decide to bring your son/daughter into school yourself, you will be allocated a drop off and pick up time to limit the flow of people entering school.  I would also ask that only one adult accompanies each pupil to further reduce numbers on site.

Resources from home

Any pupil attending school must still arrive in clean clothing daily – this does not need to be school uniform.  An additional clean set of clothing should be sent into school which will be kept in your son/daughter’s personal area.  If possible, we would appreciate it if children could come to school without bags to avoid further risk of contamination.  Any home school communication should be done via phone or email and any packed lunches sent in a plastic bag that can be then thrown away.

School and classroom structures and routines

As mentioned by Justin, our Chair of Governors, in his letter to you all last week, school will look different to how it looked in March.  As much as we are trying to ensure that Pear Tree continues to be an engaging, fun and inclusive place to be, we obviously have to ensure that each individual’s safety is paramount.  Therefore, when pupils and staff are in their ‘social bubbles’ they will only mix with that particular group.  There will be staggered breaks throughout the day and the pupils will eat lunch in their own classrooms.  Shared resources will be removed and each pupil will have personal resources and stationery allocated to them.  Very strict hygiene routines will be adhered to, particularly at the start and end of each day and before and after consuming food.

Finally, I would like to remind all parents that if your child, you or a family member are showing symptoms of the virus then please adhere strictly to the government guidance and do not send your child into school. We need to protect all of our children but also my staff team as without them, I can not open the school for children and this will have a great impact on many families.   Whilst I do not have all staff available to work due to a number of health related reasons,  it is important that your child is supported by familiar staff however this may not always be the class teacher.  My staff team have been unbelievable throughout this whole time and I am so grateful to work with such a dedicated, committed and passionate group of people.

Thank you once again for your support and understanding. We are all missing the children so much and can not wait for school to return to some kind of normality.

Stay safe

With the warmest of wishes

Kate