Dear parents and carers,
I wanted to write to you to explain the current Covid-19 situation in our school, and to express my understanding of the difficulties that families are facing due to children having to self-isolate. As you will be aware there has in recent weeks been a sharp increase in the numbers of Covid-19 cases in our school and community, leading to many of our pupils being forced to self-isolate as potential close-contacts of confirmed, positive cases. This of course reflects the increasing case numbers in Bristol and throughout the nation, where the increasing transmissibility of the Delta variant, together with the opening up of society means that every day many hundreds of thousands of children throughout the country are isolating and not attending school.
We are very conscious of the impact that having to isolate, sometimes repeatedly, is having on both you and your children, and we are extremely sorry for this. We are doing everything that we can to reduce the numbers of pupils and staff who are forced to isolate. Our Covid-19 processes are based on government guidance to schools that we are expected to follow; this guidance asks schools to do everything that we can to reduce viral transmission, including having bubbles, contact-tracing, and isolating close-contacts of confirmed cases.
Due to the large numbers of our pupils isolating and the impact that we know this is having, yesterday (08/07/21) we again spoken to Public Health England (PHE) to ask whether it is still advisable and necessary for us to isolate whole year group bubbles when a single pupil or staff member in a class bubble tests positive. PHE confirmed that, despite the reduction in restrictions due on 19th July, we should continue to follow current government guidance, and that as whole year-groups must mix outside due to limited space and staffing, we have no choice but to continue to follow this process.
We also thought it worth pointing out that we are also very conscious of the impact of having supply teachers and different staff in your children's classes. We are doing everything we can to reduce the numbers of supply teachers we have in school. This includes, again in line with government guidance, only asking staff to isolate where we cannot rule out close-contact with positive cases. In the majority of cases this therefore means that only class teachers and support staff in that particular class bubble, rather than year-group bubble, are isolating. This has allowed us to minimise the numbers of supply staff in school. It does however remain the case that providing daily home-learning to multiple year groups at the same time as keeping the school open to others means that we have to juggle staffing on a daily basis, and sometimes move staff around the school at very short notice. Please continue to bear with us on this!
You will also likely be aware that, upon current plans, things will be very different from the 19th July and for the new academic year starting in September. Revised government guidance confirms that, in the interests of our children and their education, the risk balance has tipped strongly in favour of a return to a much more 'normal' school day. Therefore we will no longer be required to operate bubbles, isolate whole classes or year groups, or contact trace in school. The vast majority of all the other restrictions on school life, for example assemblies, are also removed.
Although this new guidance is effective from Monday 19th July onwards, schools have the discretion to not apply this guidance until September. We have therefore, in consultation with our governors and upon the strong recommendation of Bristol City Council and their Public Health experts, taken the decision to retain our current virus risk measures for the final 3 days of term from 19th to 21st July. This will give us the opportunity to thoroughly review the revised guidance, complete our revised risk assessment and consult with staff and other stakeholders, as we have throughout the pandemic. Many of our parents and staff have not yet been vaccinated, or have had only one dose, and we feel that the extra weeks over the summer will allow us to come back in September as preparedly and safely as we possibly can, whilst ensuring that our pupils benefit from the broad, balanced and thorough curriculum that they deserve.
It has been a challenging year for all of us. We would like to sincerely thank all of our community, including parents, carers and staff, but most of all our pupils, for the amazing patience, understanding and support that you have given us. We very much look forward to a new start in September and hope that you are able to have a relaxing and enjoyable summer.