I am writing to let you know about our plans to reopen the school following the outbreak of Covid 19 at the end of last week and the consequent closure of the school on the advice of Public Health England.
I have been working closely with Public Health England, Suffolk County Council, the DfE and the NHS since Sunday morning to contain the outbreak and resume education as soon as possible.
Steps to contain the outbreak
We have tracked the movements of all the staff who have tested positive to identify their contacts around the school.
All of the staff affected are Learning Support Assistants. Their job is to support students’ learning in lessons. It was very difficult to be sure exactly where they had stood or sat during the lessons they supported last week, so for safety we had to ask all the children in those classes to self-isolate. There will be no in-class support from LSAs for the next two weeks, and when it begins again it will be with new procedures to ensure that in future we would be able to identify individual students within a class who had been in close contact with an LSA. I have not heard of any child testing positive for Covid 19 this week. I am very hopeful that there has been no onward transmission to students. The period of isolation we have asked those students to undertake will ensure that if there is, it does not come back into school.
All staff who were in the proximity of infected individuals have had to isolate and test. Affected classes have also had to isolate. In addition, many staff have chosen to take a test, largely for their own peace of mind. We are not testing all staff because the advice from Public Health England is clear that there is no need to do so. Over fifty staff have had tests. There have been no new positive results this week.
All areas visited by infected individuals have been "fogged" by professional cleaners. The school has been cleaned again this week, with especial attention given to door handles, light switches, banisters and sanitiser dispensers. We have been given the all clear by Public Health England to open again.
Systems of control
Before we opened we put in place appropriate systems of control as suggested by the government guidance for schools. However, in the light of the recent outbreak we will be increasing our systems of control. Those include new guidance for staff on increased social distancing, including amongst other things a blanket ban on making anyone else a drink or sharing food or snacks.
We are removing any large-scale gatherings. All staff meetings, including full staff meetings and department meetings, will be held virtually. All assemblies will be held virtually.
We are also asking that from now until half-term, all staff and students wear face coverings in public places. That means corridors, stairwells, toilets and washrooms, sixth form study rooms, changing rooms and canteen queues. Masks will not be worn in lessons unless an individual has a specific and compelling medical reason to wear one. If your child has a medical reason for wearing a mask in lessons, please speak to the year team.
We will limit the number of seats available in canteen areas. This will mean more students will need to take their food outdoors. We will review this as the weather grows colder.
There will be a significant number of staff self-isolating until Sunday 20 September. With that reduced number of teachers, we won’t be able to open fully until Monday 21 September. Until then we will operate a rota system.
We will open to Year 9, Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13 for the next four days – Wednesday 9 September to Monday 14 September. During that time, work will be set for Year 7, Year 8 and Year 10 to do at home. That work will be set through Go 4 Schools and also via email for Year 7 in case they are not yet confident accessing Go 4 Schools.
We will open to Year 7, Year 8 and Year 10 for the four days after that – Tuesday 15 September to Friday 18 September. During that time work will be set for Year 9, Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13 to do at home.
Please accept my deepest apologies for this very disrupted start to the school year. We had high hopes for the return to school and I know I speak for the entire staff when I say we are extremely disappointed to find ourselves in the position we are now in.
I hope I have been able to reassure you that we acted swiftly and effectively to control this outbreak and that the additional measures we have put in place will substantially reduce the chances of another one.
This is going to be a difficult year for all of us. We will continue to do our very best to provide the best education we can whilst keeping everyone as safe as we can.
Samuel Ward Academy