Dear Parents and carers
As we are sure you are aware, the British Government announced yesterday that all schools will close from Friday due to the increased rate of Covid-19 infections. Although schools are awaiting further clarification from the Government about how this will work, we would like to update you on what we know so far.
Why are schools closing now?
In his announcement yesterday, Boris Johnson said the public health benefits of keeping schools open had shifted and the scientific advice was that schools should close to slow the spread of the virus. Merit had already closed so that a deep clean could take place but will now not reopen on Monday as planned.
What does it mean for parents?
Parents will have little choice but to take time off work to look after their children at home. The measures apply to state and private schools alike, nurseries and sixth-form colleges. The advice is to not ask grandparents to help with childcare, because of their vulnerability to the virus.
The government said it plans to provide a school service for parents who are key workers – including doctors, nurses, and food delivery workers – so they can stay at work. Vulnerable children, those who have a social worker, and pupils entitled to special needs support will also be able to stay in school. Where possible, special schools and residential schools will continue to look after children and young people. We are awaiting further clarification on how this will work and what it will mean for our school.
Is it safe to send my child to school if I am a key worker?
The government has emphasised throughout that children do not appear to be severely affected by the virus, and with only small numbers of pupils and staff attending school in the coming weeks and months the risk of transmission will be much reduced. The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has stressed that schools are not dangerous for children and the decision to close now is to “knock down” transmission and delay the progress of the virus.
What if only one parent is a key worker?
If one parent is a key worker, the government will expect the other parent to have their child at home. Single parents who are key workers will obviously be entitled to a school place.
What about the summer exams?
GCSEs and A Levels have been cancelled and it’s not clear exactly what will replace them. In England, almost all qualifications are now assessed by end of course exams so there is no coursework to rely on. The education secretary has said that every child will get “the proper recognition” they deserve. “We’re working very closely with Ofqual to have a detailed set of measures that make sure no child is unfairly penalised,” he said.
All schools are waiting for further clarification on what this means but it is most likely that teacher assessments will be used in place of formal examinations. To allow Merit teachers to make accurate teacher assessments is it essential that our Year 11 students complete and submit the work which is set on our website.
Is there any special provision for children eligible for free school meals?
Emergency plans are being drawn up and the government is planning a voucher scheme to make up for free school meals but we do not know how this is going to work yet. We will update you as soon as we know more.
How long are schools likely be closed?
At this stage no-one is able to say exactly how long schools will stay closed, though it seems clear it’s more likely to be a matter of months rather than weeks. The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, told MPs he would be “guided by scientific and medical advice” on reopening. Schools could potentially remain closed until the start of the next school year in September.
What will children be able to do while they are off school?
The teachers at Merit will be setting work through the Merit website: www.meritpru-stoke.org.uk. Work for this week is already loaded onto the students section together with personal messages and email contact details for all our teachers. All students were shown how this will work on Monday before they were sent home.
Thank you to those students who have already emailed us completed work. Please ensure that your child is accessing this week’s learning and please get in touch via email if you have any questions or need support.
We understand that this is a very difficult time and we will continue to provide therapeutic support for all our students and families. Helen Brunt our School Counsellor will be available to answer your calls at the following times:
Helen can be reached on 07824 867652 at the times given above or, alternatively, can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are working very hard behind the scenes to set up further support for Merit students. Starting on Monday 24th March, senior staff at Merit will make weekly calls to every student so we can support in every way possible.
Mrs M James
Teacher in Charge