Open letter to parents and carers

Dear parents and carers,

We are writing to you to confirm arrangements for your child’s return to school or college at the start of the spring term, following the announcements the Department for Education made yesterday.

As you know, your child’s setting has worked incredibly hard and continues to do so to put measures in place to ensure your child is kept safe and well. We are extremely proud of the way education colleagues have adapted and coped through the pandemic to date.

However, with Essex currently experiencing considerably high growth in the rate of Covid-19 and being subject to the highest level of local restrictions – Tier 4 – it is clear that further action is necessary. Not just in terms of education settings, but across the county to reduce the additional pressures on local hospitals and social care settings in our region.

As a result and based on the latest public health advice, we can confirm that the Department for Education has directed that all secondary schools and colleges across Essex will move to remote learning for the first 2 weeks of Spring term. This direction will be reviewed by Monday 18 January.

The Department for Education has also confirmed that primary schools in the Essex districts most acutely affected will also face a delayed return to face-to-face learning for the first 2 weeks of term. This too will be reviewed by Monday 18 January. These districts are: Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Southend on Sea, and Thurrock. This is in response to significantly rising case levels of Covid-19 in these areas and growing demands on hospitals and health and social care services, particularly in Mid, South and West Essex.

Primary schools in Uttlesford, Colchester and Tendring will return as normal on Monday 4 or Tuesday 5 January. These 3 districts are not included in the delayed start to face-to-face learning due to lower numbers of Covid-19 cases in these communities.

Across all secondary schools and colleges, and in the affected primary school districts listed above, only children identified as vulnerable, and those of critical workers will be able to return to school at the start of term. Children in key exam years – primarily in Years 11 and 13 – will be able to return to school on Monday 11 January. Your child’s school or college will be in touch with the specific arrangements around what this will mean for you and your child. All schools will provide remote education for all other pupils.

Early years settings and special schools are not affected and can open as normal. Read the full DfE guidance for parents on GOV.UK

If you are a critical worker, we would ask that you carefully consider whether you do have an essential need for your child to remain in the school setting for the first 2 weeks of term. If home-learning is possible for your child it will help contribute to drive cases down in your community. We appreciate that this may not be possible for primary-age children who will require an adult in the home at all times and additional support whilst they are undertaking home-learning.

For secondary school-age children that can return to school during the first week of term, we are advising that all those parents and carers book an online PCR test before the start of term via the Government website. Please select the option that you have been asked to get a test by a local council (unless your child is showing symptoms of Covid-19). We are not extending this advice to those returning to school at a later date, or to primary school age children.

We appreciate that the above will have a number of implications for you as parents and carers, however we hope you can appreciate why this move has been deemed necessary by the Department for Education. This arrangement will be regularly monitored against local infection rates and we will provide you with any further updates as necessary.

In addition to the above, we must also ask that you and your family continue to follow all current Government Covid guidance:

Social Distancing
We have evidence to show that some young people are not following the guidelines around social distancing when outside of their education setting, either on the way into or home from school or college and at weekends.

For any preventative measures and current guidance to be as effective as it can be, it is imperative that young people practice social distancing at all times while outside of their education setting.  

This is because within the setting there are measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. These measures are not present when young people are socialising together outside of the school or college environment and therefore the potential for transmission is significantly increased – not just between young people, but also anyone else they may come into contact with while out in the community. 

Face coverings
We do encourage you and your child/children to wear face coverings at appropriate times. For secondary aged students, it is compulsory to wear a face covering on transport, when moving around school or college and in communal areas outside of the classroom. For primary aged children, it is not appropriate to wear face coverings at school, but adults may be asked to wear face coverings when entering the school site.   

We appreciate the start of the 2020/21 school year has been difficult for many, and many of your children will have been looking forward to returning to school after the Christmas break. They may, like you, feel anxious or frustrated by the present situation. However, it is vital that we come together to support each other and our education settings so that we can ensure schools can return fully at the earliest opportunity, and we can look ahead to more positive times.

Thank you for your continued support.

Last updated 31 December 2020