Coronavirus pandemic from the chalkface

The message on Tuesday 17th March was headed ‘Protecting Staff’ and thanked parents for their messages of support.

Meetings with parents were cancelled and volunteers stood down: with phone calls with parents and staff rather than face-to-face meetings. Parents requested to ‘spread themselves out’ at pick up time in the playground and all-weather sports area.

Wednesday 18th March: Seven ParentMail messages sent out during the day, the first at 8.05am and the last at 7.29pm. The first, headed ‘Home Learning’, said: our best wishes to those families in self-isolation. Teachers will start sending work by ParentMail (Yr 1 – 6) or Tapestry (Nursery and Reception) either today or Thursday. The third of the morning said that the school had food bank vouchers for families in need.

The Government still wanted schools to remain open but the 14-day family isolation immediately led to schools loosing not just pupils but staff too which, of course, led to the announcement on Wednesday 18th (at 5.00pm) that UK schools would close 2 days later, with Friday 20th March the last day.

The final message of the day, in the evening, confirmed the school would close after Friday for most pupils with some exceptions of ‘key workers’ and other specified categories.

Thursday 19th March: Teachers started to email home learning information via ParentMail messages, the first at 7.41am, specifically for Year 6 with a Home Learning Daily Task. The staff had also created home learning packs comprising an exercise book, plain paper, a pencil, rubber and spelling list for every child. This was a fantastic effort from all the staff to get this organised so quickly. It was greatly appreciated by parents.

Families and schools keen to find out who the key workers would be and how many children we would have to plan for from Monday. We waited and waited. School phones around the country were ringing constantly as anxious parents needed to know if they would be able to send their children to school or have to make alternative childcare arrangements. Head teachers were geared up to turn this information around quickly. It was a huge frustration to get to the end of the day and still not be told. A whole day of contingency planning was wasted. The key worker document was published by Gov.UK after midnight. It also confirmed children eligible for free school meals should still have a lunch provided even if they weren’t in school.

Friday 20th March: My working day began at 2.30pm to prepare for these changes. Six ParentMail messages, the first at 7.31am and the sixth at 5.09pm. Parents advised about how they could keep in touch whilst the school was closed. Another message said that all before and after school clubs will stop indefinitely. And another advised parents the key worker school place request form had to be submitted no later than 5pm. Tables were put in the playground for parents to fill the forms in on arrival at school to speed up the process. These, plus emailed forms received during the day amounted to approximately 70 pupils. Parents returned their free school meal request forms. All staff were briefed at 3.45pm about how school would open on the 23rd. Staff were advised to keep checking their emails over the weekend.