You may be aware that on Friday, the government u-turned on the re-opening of schools in London, extending the partial closures to primary schools in all London boroughs. There have been many questions and concerns raised by the local community about a similar situation in Hertfordshire, involving St Albans primary schools, including from Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans. Currently, all Hertfordshire schools are in Tier 4. However, primary schools in the neighbouring ‘contingency areas’ of Three Rivers, Hertsmere, and Watford are to remain partially closed for face-to-face teaching but St Albans primary schools are expected to open to all pupils from tomorrow (Please be reminded that Bowmansgreen is closed for an INSET day tomorrow, re-opening on Tuesday 5th January).
There has been no new guidance from the DfE to suggest – at this stage – that the expectation to fully open schools in St Albans will change before tomorrow.
Decisions to open or close schools are complex. It is a very complicated situation with no best outcome that I can see, that will please or benefit all members of a school community, at once. There are many factors to consider and decisions to make, some of which are out of the control of the school leadership team and governors. The health and safety of all pupils and all staff is however, very much my responsibility and one that I do not take lightly.
A range of factors could affect how Bowmansgreen will open to pupils on Tuesday. They include a change in the law; a change in government policy or HCC guidance; staffing levels; and if our own school risk-assessment highlights any serious health and safety concerns that we cannot remove or mitigate. During our INSET day tomorrow, we will be reviewing our school risk-assessment, taking into account the local situation regarding cases of coronavirus and the health and safety concerns of the whole school community.
I have been contacted by families who have been worrying about sending their children into school whilst the number of cases are high and the new variant of COVID-19 is so virulent in the local area. I understand your concerns and the dilemmas that you face and would want to support your decisions to do what you feel is best for the health and safety of your family.
Whilst wanting to remain positive and optimistic, I also want to be honest and realistic and warn parents that we may face a scenario where the health and safety concerns of individual staff members mean that we cannot open fully, to all pupils. A situation where face-to-face teaching is not available for some classes is a likely possibility, from Tuesday. I will have a definitive picture tomorrow morning and will update families accordingly.
It is likely that for some classes, most pupils will need be taught via remote learning, which will continue to be published weekly, on our website. If this becomes the situation for your child, you will be notified as soon as is practicably possible. As was the case during the national Lockdown, school would continue to provide face-to-face teaching for a limited number of pupils.
I appreciate that this will immediately cause concern and worry relating to childcare, your children missing out on more time in the classroom and with their peers and the prospect of more home schooling. I am very sorry that this might be the situation but I cannot currently see an alternative solution that does not compromise the health and safety of members of our school community.
I will update families as early as possible tomorrow, once a review of our risk-assessment has been completed and the reality of the situation is known.