You may be aware that on the 7th of January, after all our arrangements had been made for the remote learning offer within the Trust, the Government updated their guidance on nursery classes in primary schools as follows:
- School based nurseries should remain open as normal. (This is contrary to the guidance that was in place on Monday 4th January, within the contingency framework, which indicated that school based nurseries could follow the same principles as the rest of the school);
- Groups of children on-site should be kept as small as possible;
- Parents and carers should “Keep their children at home if they can”.
In order that our parents and carers can fully understand the current circumstances it is useful to add some context. The present situation within the Trust is as follows:
- All schools currently have issues with staffing capacity. As you will be aware, Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff are not able to be in school and, given the high rates of infection within the borough, there are also staff who are unwell, have tested positive for Covid or are isolating;
- We are providing an online education for all age ranges, including nurseries, but at present need nursery staff to cover staff absence or work in our critical worker provision. Nursery provision is non statutory but other year groups are not;
- Nursery care requires the highest adult to child ratio of all the children we have in schools and it is not possible to meet these legally binding ratios in any of our schools at present;
- Even in critical worker provision if one child or member of staff tests positive for COVID we will almost certainly have to close the whole bubble for 10 days;
- Teaching unions have advised staff not to attend sites in some situations;
- Levels of COVID in Croydon are much higher than they were in April when no nursery provision was offered nationally.
As a result of the information above it may not be possible for all our schools to offer the full range of provision that has been set out by the government in the 7th January guidance, particularly in respect of our on site nursery offer. Our schools will need to balance the demand for on-site provision for children of critical workers with the need to provide effective teacher-led online learning. We will also need to continue to be mindful of reducing the risks of transmission in school and supporting the national initiative to reduce cases during the current lockdown.
We are grateful for the support we have received from our school communities over these first days of the second national lockdown. We are also thankful to our staff and leaders for the speed of their response in switching to online learning and providing places for critical workers. We are mindful of our Health and Safety obligations to provide a safe school for children that are on site and for those who work for us. We very much hope that the situation improves with the national vaccination effort and have the situation under weekly review. When we can expand our offer we will. Thank you for your understanding