Information regarding partial re-opening in June 2020

Important Announcement ‐ 15th May 2020

Dear Parents/ Carers

I am sure that you will have watched and/or read about the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy and the details that have been provided on the phased approach to the recovery and the stepped approach to the adjustments on social distancing measures.

The roadmap to the lifting of restrictions contained in the strategy clearly states that at this time we are in Step One and the rate of infection is too high to allow the reopening of schools for all students yet.  The Cooper School remains partially closed and only open to vulnerable children and the children of Key Workers who cannot be kept safely at home. It remains vital, at this time that wherever possible children remain at home.

Step Two of the adjustments is planned to occur no earlier than  Monday 1 June and is particularly pertinent to schools as it highlights a phased return for early years settings and schools.  Specifically, for secondary schools, the request to, ‘prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and Year 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning’.  The strategy document makes it clear that the timing of the second stage adjustments will depend on the most up to date assessment of the risk posed by the virus and that the fulfilment of the five tests set out in the document must warrant the adjustment to the social distancing measures.

The leadership team and the governors at The Cooper School are currently absorbing this latest information to update our plans for when and how we as a school can reopen to a greater number of students.  The final decision to reopen The Cooper School rests with me as the Headteacher in consultation with the leadership team and the governors, not the Department for Education (DfE) or the Local Authority (Oxfordshire County Council).  In making our decision we will take in to account our individual context and particular circumstances, as well as consideration of the guidance from the DfE.

I am sure that all of our staff are keen to return to school and for the school, as soon as possible, to be operating normally, again.  I am equally certain that this feeling is the same for almost every child!  However, it is vital that when students and staff do return in greater numbers that the risks associated with this virus being transmitted in school have been minimised.  The suggested mitigation of the risks highlighted in the document, ‘implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings’ will present a significant operational challenge for all schools.  Disappointingly, it is clear at this time that the normal operation of The Cooper School (like all other schools) is some way away at this moment in time. 

I will share with you as soon as possible our plans to receive greater numbers of students after the 1 June and mitigate the associated risks but it is unlikely I will be in a position to share any plans before Thursday 21 May.  All of which will be subject to change following any updates from the government or any changes to The Cooper School’s specific context.

The government have made it clear that their intention is that eligible year groups (i.e. Years 10 and 12) and priority groups that are invited to attend school should do so. However, it is important to note that any parent/ carer that chooses not to send their child(ren) to school will not be pursued for non-attendance.  At this time, in these exceptional circumstances, you as parents/ carers are best placed to decide if school attendance is in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of your family.

In the same context, it is highly likely that we will have some members of our school community that will be required to self-isolate or household isolate because they have symptoms or a confirmed case of the virus.  This will in turn, impact on any individuals or groups that they have come in to contact with.  In addition, we will have members of our school community who themselves have or family members with pre-existing medical conditions that will mean they continue to shield. 

The governors and senior leaders have a responsibility to manage the wellbeing of staff, as well as the students; this will be a key consideration as part of the resource and curriculum planning for the partial reopening of the school.  Unfortunately, it is likely that this hybrid of in-school learning for greater numbers and the continued remote learning for the majority, coupled with the adjustments to the social distancing measures is potentially going to be even more challenging than the current situation.

At this point, I would like to thank you once again for your continued support and appreciation of the efforts made by our individual teachers and their teams to produce work for your son/daughter. It has been a challenge for all of us, including yourselves as parents and, of course, your children. I have been immensely proud of the whole The Cooper School community throughout these strange and difficult times.

Finally, I would like to be clear that, nothing would give us greater pleasure than the return to normal operations as soon as is practically possible but the health and wellbeing of students and staff just has to take precedence at this time and into the near future.

Ben Baxter
Executive Headteacher