These are exceptional times. This country has not experienced anything like this for centuries. We are living through a global crisis which has been ongoing for nearly twelve months. Sadly, with the new variant of the Covid-19 virus spreading rapidly in the community, it is estimated that one in fifty people in the UK are infected with the virus.
The NHS is at breaking point and the number of people, including more and more young individuals, hospitalised with Covid-19 is increasing alarmingly. This is on top of all the usual winter pressures that seasonal illnesses like flu and pneumonia bring every winter. Routine operations and treatments are being cancelled meaning that serious illnesses like cancer are not being treated or diagnosed as rapidly as would otherwise be the case. This is why the four UK devolved governments took the drastic decision on Monday to bring in a new lockdown which included the closure of schools for the majority of pupils.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, described schools as “vectors of transmission” that is, places where the Covid-19 virus spreads easily and, probably now due to the new variant, rapidly. By reducing the number of pupils and staff in school it is hoped that the transmission rate will drop, that the virus will not pass from pupil to pupil and that it will not be transmitted in to our homes and between family members and friends.
From 6th January 2021, schools in Wales moved to a blended learning model to educate our pupils. This involves a combination of an online learning programme as well as other, non-screen based, activities. We understand how difficult this will be for parents who will be home schooling. Many of us here in school are parents ourselves and can identify with the challenges you face. However, as the guidance from the Welsh Government and the Local Authority suggests, the safest place for children at the moment is at home.
We have to reduce the number of pupils and staff in school as much as we possibly can. We have a duty to provide childcare for the children of Key Workers. The Welsh Government has published guidance as to who qualifies as a key worker and that list can be found here: Identifying children of critical workers: guidance | GOV.WALES.
Last night we received guidance from the Local Authority which included the following:
Being included on the above list does not mean children of all workers in these categories can or will be able to continue to send their children to school. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. However, if a parents/carers work is critical to the COVID-19 response or is in a key sector such as health and social care and the child/children cannot be kept safely at home, then priority should be given for continued education provision.
The important phrase within this guidance is “every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.” Please think very carefully before registering your child for attendance at the school during this period of lockdown. We have already adjusted our rota to increase staffing as numbers of pupils attending is higher than we expected. The purpose of this school closure is to reduce the numbers attending in order to stop the spread of this disease. The sooner this happens, the sooner we get back to normality and the sooner all pupils will be back in school on a permanent basis. So again, please think very carefully before registering and sending your child to school. Do you really need to use this provision of last resort? Do you need it every day? As the guidance clearly states, if you can safely care for them at home, then you should do so.
Thank you all for your patience and understanding.