I hope this email find you and your families safe and well.
There are uncertain times ahead, and once again, my team and I are facing some difficult decisions which only a year ago, nobody would have believed we would be thinking about. However, the government is looking to the future, and the reopening of schools is a key part of their plan to get Britain moving again.
There is a lot of speculation in the media about what's going to happen and how it's going to work. At the moment, the truth is that nobody is completely certain what is going to happen. The teaching and support staff unions are meeting to decide what advice to give their members. They may say it is unsafe for staff to return. The infection rate may increase, leading the government to say it is unsafe. The advice that I have been sent from the DfE has already changed twice since Monday. I am in contact with several local headteachers who do not know whether they will be in a position to open. Every time I switch on the television, someone is talking about schools going back in other countries, or I see a health professional saying it is, or is not, safe to reopen schools. The sand seems to be shifting beneath my feet!
However, I have been a teacher since 1996. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee a situation like the one we find ourselves in today. But what all those years of teaching have taught me, is that a school is more than just a place that teaches children. A school is a safe place where children belong. St John’s is a school family, and we care for your children as if they were our own. I want you to know that it is from this place of care that we make all our decisions.
I am not a doctor, a public health professional, or a politician. I am a teacher and a leader of other teachers. The governing board and the leadership team will follow the advice sent out by the government and we will try our utmost to make it work, in the best interests of your children and the staff who care for them.
The DfE sent additional guidance to schools yesterday. Since then, I have met with the school leadership team and other local headteachers, to discuss the way forward. I will be meeting with the local authority and Headteacher groups from across Birmingham in the next few days. In all of these meetings, I have one thing at the forefront of my mind: the safety and wellbeing of the children and staff for whom I am responsible.
I am going to be entirely upfront and honest with you about how we plan to open and what we will be doing to try and make it safer. I will also be totally honest with you about what we won’t be able to do. Everything I have read at the moment is suggesting that parents will not penalised for keeping their children at home which means that ultimately, you will be able to make the decision about whether or not to send them.
The DfE have set up a media blog in order to answer questions you may have. The blog can be found here: https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2020/05/12/5292/
On Friday, I will email you to share our initial plans for reopening. Thank you to all of you that gave us feedback on life in lockdown and returning to school. I will be addressing some of the things that you have said in a letter tomorrow, but the staff have been overwhelmed by some of the positive things that you have said.