The TILT senior leadership team have worked solidly on requests for places for ‘keyworker’ children. We have appealed to parents to consider very carefully whether they have a genuine need of this facility: we are unable to meet the expectations placed on us and maintain any semblance of safety for both the staff and children that attend.
The government key worker guidance gave some very good advice in the introduction:
‘the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society’
Unfortunately, many people scrolled past this, went straight to the list and then assumed that they would get a place. To be clear we are being asked to provide places for ‘a limited number of children‘ and have tried to prioritise the most needy and those families with two key workers, working full time.
If we run a large provision it is clear that children and the staff looking after them will not be safe – that is the whole point of closing the schools.
Over 30% of our staff are already off work as they are pregnant, self-isolating, live with elderly or vulnerable relatives or have pre-existing medical conditions.
We are acutely aware it would only take one child or member of staff in that provision to have the virus to pass it to others and then affect a whole group of the most needed keyworkers – mainly medical staff. That is plainly counterproductive and dangerous. This is not in any way ‘business as usual’.
We have had to ask some very blunt questions to try to tier applications but are not getting straightforward or honest answers from all parents. All guidance is crystal clear
-the safest place for children to be is at home.
These places are for the very most needed staff in the emergency services and at the critical care end of emergency work, dealing with Coronavirus who have ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER ALTERNATIVES. They are not for:
· families where one parent/carer or older sibling is actually available but just doesn’t want to look after the children;
· families who could use other sources of childcare – aunts, uncles, friends, neighbours or childminders but don’t want to ask or pay;
· families who work part time but are asking for full time places;
· workers whose managers are putting pressure on them to physically attend work when they could actually work at home; or could vary their working hours to enable their children to be at home;
· those whose work at this time could be feasibly delayed until the emergency has passed (e.g most students)
We have offered 80 spaces at Minster, 60 at Halfway Houses and 20 at Sunny Bank Primary School. These numbers are far higher than expected (30 in the larger schools) and absolutely puts children, families and staff at risk: This is not social isolation in the spirit of the government direction. As this crisis unfolds, I fully expect that we will cease to be able to offer care to anyone because of the numbers we are being asked to manage.
I appeal to every parent, to consider if you really need the space you have requested. If you accept a place because you qualify but you could make alternative arrangements then you are taking a much needed place away from another applicant and placing your child at risk. Please think about the morality of this in a time of national emergency. We want to sustain this provision for weeks and even months and school staff need to stay well to ensure they can do this.
From Monday (March 23rd) there will be an offer of childcare from 8am-6pm at all TILT schools for children who need and are eligible for it on any given day. Children should attend for the minimum time possible. Vulnerable children should only attend for normal school hours: 9- 3.20 pm To start with, we aim that the provision will be staffed beyond the requirements of the number of children we expect to attend. For some age-groups, we may not be providing the normal pupil:staff ratios, but we will ensure that all provision is fully risk-assessed to ensure a safe environment for all children at all times;This will not be a ‘drop-in’ facility. Children’s attendance will only be by advance arrangement or, in emergencies, with an agreement from the headteacher A guiding principle will always be in place that the safety of the children is paramount, if we are unable to provide safe care for any given child due to staff shortages, lack of expertise, we will not be able to cater for that child until we can make it safe to do so. This will apply to children who pose a risk to themselves and others: normal behaviour expectations will apply.
We are a community, and we will pull together to support the effort to keep society safe. Therefore, we will remain open for children who need it, but I strongly urge you to think very carefully about whether this is really necessary for you.If you wish to reconsider your position please do contact the relevant school.
I need to make sure that my staff are well protected as key workers themselves, all of whom have families and many of whom have children of their own.
I know that this time causes much anxiety, and as a result, we can all be a little more on edge. We all need to take care to choose our words carefully. I know that we will all do our best to support each other through this time and I thank you for your ongoing support for me, my team and our schools.
CEO The Island Learning Trust