Monday, September 7

TODAY should have been the day our oldest year group travelled to Dorset for a week of outdoor adventures. Not this year. The trip has been moved to April. Let’s hope it can happen then.

At the other end of the school, our Early Years team welcome the four year olds for their first taste of school life. Smart uniforms, big beaming eyes and nervous excitement. Magic moments.

The weekly comms email from the local authority includes an attachment which has suggested wordings to reply to parents who are challenging school covid procedures. A small but vocal social media group are basically covid deniers, making life difficult for some schools. One of the issues this group has is they do not want their children isolated in school if they become symptomatic. Well the policy is isolate and send home to get tested. Non-negotiable. Same rules for staff. How else can we contain the virus and keep our schools open?

A parent – a health professional – caught me by surprise at the school gate this morning. She asked what provision the school has in place to look after key worker children in the event that they become symptomatic in school? Apparently she and other healthcare workers are being told they can’t just drop what they are doing and get to schools and that schools will have special arrangements for their children. I tell her this is not a directive I have received and we do not have capacity of staff and space to look after symptomatic children for long periods. I raise this issue with the director of children services during the morning’s conference call. She will advise the health protection board to correct this. Above all else, this expectation is plain wrong - health workers need to get home to isolate asap with their child, get them tested and wait for the results.

Tuesday, September 8

THE six and seven year olds have their first PE lessons. It is lovely to see the children filling the playgrounds with noise and laughter and getting lots of fresh air and exercise. Children have to wear their PE kits to school now. The downside of this practice is that outdoor PE lessons will be brought indoors if it starts to rain because we won’t want the children to be sat in wet clothes for the rest of the day. A pity. There is something exhilarating about running about in the rain!

Wednesday, September 9

UNTIL we get the school running smoothly and everybody is used to the new arrangements and restrictions the wide range of before and after school clubs are on hold. The exception is the Sunrise and Sunset clubs. These are a service for working parents. In the past demand has exceeded supply. Not this year. A sign of more parents working from home – or perhaps worse, having lost their jobs.

The good work sharing assembly worked with children addressing the school from the classrooms and presenting slide shows on Zoom for all to see. The children have been thinking about the past six months, thinking about the positives of lockdown, what they missed most about school and what their hopes are for the coming year. Their hopes range from the exotic, cuddle a koala bear, to the prosaic, going to the opticians. It is always fascinating to see how children try to make sense of their world.

Conference Call with County Hall – budgets. There is no good news. I make the point that schools face great challenges. After years of under-funding budgets are already tight. There are three new pressures facing schools. One - Additional ongoing costs of keeping schools covid-secure. Two - Schools income generating and fund raising streams have all but dried up. Three - The government has said that schools will have to find the money to honour staff pay rises from our existing budgets. Yet again, the sums don’t add up. I was pleased to be told that ECC meet with Essex MPs regularly and they are briefed in full of this worrying message.

The PM addresses the nation this afternoon to introduce The Rule of Six.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

North Primary School, in Colchester

Thursday, September 10

I SEND an email to all parents, entitled, Autumn Term Week 1 – the Covid Story So Far.

Dear Parent and Carers,

As the Government announced new measures yesterday I thought it might be a good time to give you an update on life in (and out) of school.

I am pleased to report that parents are being very cautious. A few children are being kept off school as they are symptomatic. This is absolutely the right thing to do. The children are getting tested and the household is isolating until the results come back, hopefully negative.

Please let us know as soon as you get these results – negative and positive so that we can act quickly.

We will not inform parents of suspected cases, and we will never disclose names.

There will also be situations where children – and staff - cannot attend school because a member of their household is isolating. This will happen. I must repeat advice I have shared with you already – there may be times when it will not be possible to open every class because of staff shortages.

All adults – parents, staff and governors - must play their part by following all the new rules around social distancing, in the playground and in general life.

Please follow the rule of six – why wait until Monday. The virus won’t!

This evening I am told that parents have not been able to get tests for their symptomatic children. One family has to drive to Norwich (other people in Essex have been directed to the Isle of Wight!) This won’t do. We have been told that the only way we can contain this virus, without a total lockdown is through a swift test and trace system. If people have to wait for tests - people who might be positive - they may have infected others who will still be going about their daily business. We will never get on top of it. Then of course, there is the other issue of people travelling miles, if they have the means to travel, when they are unwell. This is a long way from being a “world-beating” system.

Our five year olds meet their new teachers for the first time. They will move up to their new classes on the 22nd. Ordinarily we would be inviting parents in to school to meet the teachers too. This year the teachers will be making video presentations to introduce themselves.

Friday, September 11

THE week finishes on a high with the rest of the children having their Meet The Teacher sessions. Chatting in the playground with parents doing the pick up. We stand in the glorious sunshine discussing what Christmas in school will look like this year. Bazaar? Carol Concerts? Plays? Parties?

Get home. Watch the news. It is announced the R rate is above 1. Maybe the week doesn’t finish on a high.