Communication from school
2nd September 2020
Keeping in Touch - 16
Dear Parents and Carers,
I really hope that you and your family are enjoying the final week of a wonderfully restful and safe summer holiday. I am sure your thoughts are now turning to school – both excited and nervous thoughts I am sure!
We are SO excited and ready to welcome the children back to school, and to support them as they continue, or indeed begin, their educational journeys at Russell. We have really missed everyone and are looking forward to getting back into a more familiar routine!
I want to reassure you that we remain absolutely committed to school being a safe and happy place, with a strong, caring and inclusive community where academic and personal progress and achievement is made. We are proud of our collective achievements during this challenging time so far, and extremely grateful for our wonderfully supportive school community.
The beginning of the new school year is an exciting time, but we must, and do, acknowledge that, in this time of ‘new normal’ the beginning of the school year can also be a time of concerns and worries. Please try not to overly worry (although it is the most natural thing in the world!): we are ready and waiting.
As you know, we will welcome Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 back on Monday 7th September, with our new Foundation Stage children joining us the following week. I am also delighted that, we have a huge number of in-year applicant children (14 new children) joining us across the school this year. To all our new parents and children: know you are not alone and very, very welcome. We hope you will be very happy, and thrive here at Russell.
In order for school to have a calm, orderly and safe start to term, could you please re-read the letters sent out at the end of last term (I attach the last Keeping in Touch letter 15 and the Class arrangements for September letter too) so we are all doing everything we can, and need to? Thank you.
Please ensure that you:
- Know the time your child needs to start and finish school and which gates to use, and be prompt, without being early or late. Please only send one adult and leave the site quickly (even if your child is distressed. This is quite normal and we will ensure they are ‘scooped up’ quickly and supported)
- Do not try to have conversations with staff or other adults on site. This will lead to potential social distancing concerns and safety issues
- Only keep your child away from school if they are unwell or showing any Covid-19 symptoms
- Reassure your child (and yourself), it will feel very much like ‘normal’ school, (with more handwashing!), it is safe, and we have not had any cases at all even though we have been open since March
- Get your child back into a good sleep routine if they are out of it
- Make sure your child has what they need for the day (see previous letter)
- Not linger on site to chat to other parents or allow children to play on equipment. The equipment will have been cleaned ready for the next day and this could contaminate it again
- Please call the school office (01525 755664) or email instead of speaking directly to the school staff (either office@ or class@ email addresses). We can pass messages on quickly
- Some queuing will be inevitable; please observe the social distancing rules when this is necessary
- Please leave plenty of time to find parking spaces around the school site, and either park and stride, walk/scoot or bike to school wherever possible. It will be busier than it has been for months around the school gates, please take care and keep your distance
- Please make sure your child is washing their hands JUST before they leave the house in the morning, and as soon as they come home in the afternoon/evening
You may have heard all sorts in the national press over the summer. Please do try not to worry. I don’t even recognise a lot of what I have heard and read! For example, we will not be testing your child for Coronavirus at school! The letters we sent out in July are still totally correct, and map out our intentions as a school. Nothing has changed for us. We will continue with a very similar system, following a very successful period of opening for Key Workers, Foundation Stage and Year 1 children in June and July. The best possible testimony is how happy the children (and staff) were using this system. We are confident your children will be safe and happy at school using it too!
The government has also asked us to share this source of information with parents. This link is below:
As always, please do not let anything worry you. Do not hesitate to get in touch and we can put your mind at rest.
Stay safe and well and enjoy the last few days of the holiday. I will continue to update you as necessary, as well as returning return to the more usual monthly newsletter later this month.
We all really look forward to welcoming you back to school on Monday.
Many thanks and kind regards,
16th July 2020
Keeping in Touch - 15
Dear Parents and Carers,
Welcome to our final Keeping in Touch letter of the year. We are hoping to return to the more usual monthly newsletter from September, if things remain steady.
There are genuinely no words that could possibly capture and adequately describe everything that has happened this year, but one thing I do know is that we couldn’t have done it without you all. Please accept our most enormous, heart-felt thank you for your patience, kindness, understanding, support and generosity through these extraordinary times. We are certainly all ready for our rest and I am sure you are too!
As any academic year comes to an end it is always sad to say goodbye to the Year 4s as they move on to Alameda, or indeed to other middle schools, but this year is particularly heart-wrenching as you can imagine. It was wonderful to see them all this week and a real credit to them to see the way they simply fitted straight back in to school life for the day. They all looked very smart in their Year 4 Leavers’ Hoodies (HUGE thank you to the PTA for those!) The Year 4 children have been a fantastic year group with many wonderful characters. I am really going to miss them. They have been supportive Sports Ambassadors and super Year 4 helpers around the school. The children have been the Russell Rights role models, and have become more resilient than any of us expected they could be. I wish them all the very best in the future. We hope to be able to invite them back for one last party (the leavers’ party they missed), as soon as the weather and government rules allow!
I would also like to take this opportunity to say goodbye to our Year 4 parents, some of whom have their eldest child leaving Russell, and we realise we will be losing you too. Thank you for the huge contribution you have made: many a PTA event and fundraising, classroom support, helping on trips etc. Simply, thank you: we are really going to miss your incredible support at Russell.
Friday 17th July – Children break up for the summer holidays
Summer Holidays Monday 20th July – Monday 7th September (Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th September are INSET days – no children)
Monday 7th September – Year 1, 2, 3 and 4 children return to school, ‘Home’ Visits for new foundation stage children begin
Wednesday 16th September – Half of new foundation stage children start school
Thursday 17th September – All foundation stage children in
Thursday 17th September – 7:30pm – PTA meeting (virtual)
Tuesday 22nd September – Phonics for Y1 and Y2 parents 2:30pm (virtual)
Thursday 24th September – New Intake Meeting (Sept 2021 starters) 9:30am (field)
Thursday 1st October – FS reading and writing workshop for Foundation Stage Parents 9:15 – 10:30am (virtual) and New Intake Meeting (Sept 2021 starters) 2pm (field)
Monday 12th October – Parents’ Evening 4:30pm to 7pm, Finance and Resources Governors meeting at 6:30pm (likely to be telephone/virtual)
Tuesday 13th October – Parents’ Evening 3:45pm to 6:30pm (likely to be telephone/virtual)
Wednesday 14th October – New Intake Meeting (Sept 2021 starters) at 9:30am (field)
Friday 16th October – Possibly a PTA Halloween Discos from 3:45 – 7pm (dependent on guidance at the time)
Friday 23rd October – School breaks up for half term
Please see the school website for more dates beyond this
More detailed information on the above events will follow in due course
Message from the PTA
Uniform request - calling all year 4 parents! We would very much appreciate a donation of any school uniform you will no longer need for our ever-popular uniform sale (fingers crossed we will be able to hold one in Sept). Unfortunately, at this current time, we can only collect from Year 4 leavers but all other years please do hold onto any unwanted uniform for a little longer, as we always appreciate all of your donations. A box will continue to be available in reception from Mon 7th Sept for any year 4 parents having a sort out of uniform over the summer.
Amazon Smile – Do you order a lot from Amazon? Russell Lower School can really benefit from Amazon Smile - a small donation from every purchase goes to school so that your children can benefit! Go to your account and enable it now, its even available on the app! Thank you
9th July 2020
Keeping in Touch – 14
More information about the full opening of Russell Lower School in September
I hope this letter finds you all safe, well and continuing to cope in these extraordinary times.
Firstly, thank you to those of you who are continuing to support your children’s learning from home. This will make an enormous difference to their confidence levels when the children do return in September. Also, for your support with all our transition events this week. We have held 9 transition events across the week, and have particularly loved seeing our Year 3 children back in school, albeit briefly.
Secondly, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you will all have been desperate to know how school plans to ‘look’ and ‘work’ in September, but following yet more government guidance last Thursday, we have had to carefully consider what is safe and possible.
School will look very similar to how it does now in September, so will be quite familiar to our new Year 1 (old FS) and new Year 2 (old Y1) children and parents, but will be very different for our new Year 3s and 4s.
Infection control measures
At all times, we will be adhering to the government’s guidance. Our infection control and protective measures will continue to be based on the government’s 5 key approaches to minimising transmission in schools: anyone with Covid symptoms, or who lives with someone with symptoms, must not attend school; frequent handwashing protocols; good respiratory hygiene (catch it, kill it, bin it); frequent cleaning of ‘high contact’ surfaces and areas through the day, creating ‘safe bubbles’ in school, and, via staggered lunches, play zones etc, minimise wider contact.
We will continue with specific safety routines, such as comprehensive cleaning regimes, timetabled handwashing, staggered playtimes in set zones, parents being asked to enter school through a specific gate, drop children at a particular classroom door and not enter the building, class bubbles, seating children at tables facing the front and staggering the beginning and end of the day times to reduce crowding.
Equally, we will adapt the curriculum so that we are prioritising ‘settling in’ and reducing anxiety activities, building in time for handwashing etc. We will be quickly assessing gaps in the children’s knowledge and skills and planning to address them, but don’t worry – the children won’t even know we are doing this – they will be ‘activity based’ and part of a normal lesson.
We will continue to teach an ambitious and broad curriculum in all subjects in the autumn term, but we will use the existing flexibilities within this to cover the most important missed content. We will of course re-establish good progress in the essentials of phonics, reading, language and vocabulary acquisition, writing and maths. However, we will use the full curriculum to achieve this.
The government has always made it clear that early years and primary age children cannot be expected to socially distance from each other and staff. Remaining in a bubble for the core day, and rigorous hand washing will help to minimise the risks.
During the core day, children will remain in their class bubbles and not mix with other bubbles. For example, they will not attend physical assemblies (these will be remote) and they will continue to play in zones. However, for extra-curricular clubs or for Aviary (Before and After School Club), government guidance allows us to put the children into year group ‘bubbles’, which means that these things can resume, with some changes, in September. The government have asked us to advise parents to limit the number of different wraparound providers (different clubs) they access, as far as possible. We would therefore suggest that you do not enroll your child in more than 2 ‘clubs’ a week (for example Aviary and Drama)
Aviary – Before and After School Club
Aviary Club will return with year group bubbles within the main hall
The Aviary will operate its usual hours, from 7:45am to 6pm
Breakfast will only be served up until 8:20am. If your child arrives after this time, they should have already eaten their breakfast
Cover will be seamless within school i.e. if your child starts at 9am or finishes at 3:10pm and will be attending Club, you do not need to worry about any ‘time gaps’, we will staff these.
We will have to limit the numbers of children attending club due to safety requirements. We will not be able to take as many children as we have been able to before. We will be unable to be so flexible with ad-hoc cover. You will be required to have booked a place in advance
Once we are full, we will operate a waiting list system and notify you when a place becomes available
You MUST reply to Mrs Appleby’s Aviary email to secure a space, even if your child has been attending the Aviary Club previously, please do not assume your child has a place
You will be notified by email by Thursday 16th July as to whether your child has a place, or is on the waiting list. Please also check your junk/spam mail. If you haven’t heard anything by this time, please do email Mrs Appleby to check. We are hopeful that we will be able to accommodate the vast majority of children and will do our very best to make this possible.
If you have any queries about the Aviary Club, please email: email@example.com. This will put you in direct contact with Mrs Appleby who administers everything to do with the Club
Other key information:
School will start at either 8:40, 8:50 or 9am. It will finish at either 3:10, 3:20 or 3:30pm Monday to Friday, to enable staggering.
School will NO LONGER close on Friday after lunch as staff can now move between bubbles to provide cover and PPA.
A full school meals menu will resume. For most year groups (Y1 to Y4), lunches will be eaten in the classroom, not the dining hall. Alternatively, as always, your child can continue to bring their own packed lunch from home. Our new Foundation Stage children will eat in the dining hall and will have their own class ‘bubble’ tables. As before, meals that require paying for (Year 3 and Year 4) will be paid via Parent Pay. New parents, and New Intake Parents (new Foundation Stage) will be sent Parent Pay log in details once their child is officially on roll in September. This allows you to pay for anything school related. Please be reminded that you will need to log in and activate this before it can be used.
Children will be expected to wear school uniform as usual please. Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more often than usual, nor do they need to be cleaned using methods which are different from normal.
Parents will be notified by a further letter next week, about more details such as what time their class start/finish school, how to get in touch, which gates to use, where to drop off etc. Don’t forget there are also the Class Welcome videos coming to the Kids Area of the website next week.
Bags, reading books and reading diaries etc. can, from September, move freely between home and school
We totally understand that this will already be a time of high anxiety for you and the children, and by not being able to come into the school and chat to the teacher, will only make this harder for everyone. I can assure you that all the staff at Russell are excellent, and your child will be really looked after and supported in their new class bubble. We will also be continuing with the class email address to facilitate direct contact with the class teacher. These are all in the same format firstname.lastname@example.org (please substitute your child’s class at the beginning – no capitals, no spaces, no plural i.e. dove/penguin not doves/penguins).
Safety – Covid-19 specific actions
We have a duty to ensure that parents/carers and staff understand that they will need to be ready and willing to:
book a test if they are displaying symptoms. Staff and pupils must not come into the school if they have symptoms, and must be sent home to self-isolate if they develop them in school. All children can be tested, including children under 5, but children aged 11 and under will need to be helped by their parents/carers if using a home testing kit
provide details of anyone they have been in close contact with if they were to test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or if asked by NHS Test & Trace
self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who develops coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or someone who tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)
Anyone who displays symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can and should get a test. Tests can be booked online through the NHS testing and tracing for coronavirus website, or ordered by telephone via NHS 119 for those without access to the internet.
Parents and staff should inform school immediately of the results of a test:
if someone tests negative, if they feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19), they can stop self-isolating. They could still have another virus, such as a cold or flu – in which case it is still best to avoid contact with other people until they are better. Other members of their household can stop self-isolating.
if someone tests positive, they should follow the ‘stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’ and must continue to self-isolate for at least 7 days from the onset of their symptoms and then return to school only if they do not have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell/taste. This is because a cough or anosmia can last for several weeks once the infection has gone. The 7-day period starts from the day when they first became ill. If they still have a high temperature, they should keep self-isolating until their temperature returns to normal. Other members of their household should continue self-isolating for the full 14 days.
Regrettably, again this does mean that we may need to close a whole bubble at very short notice and send the children home. Thankfully we have not needed to do this at all yet, but it remains highly likely that we will have to do this at some point, and parents will need to be ready to collect children very quickly please.
As you may have read in the press, from September, the government has made it clear that they expect all children to return to school full time. Now the circumstances have changed; it is vital for all children to return to school to minimise as far as possible the longer-term impact of the pandemic on children’s education, wellbeing and wider development. Missing out on more time in the classroom risks pupils falling further behind. It is very well evidenced that those children with higher overall absence tend to achieve less well in both primary and secondary school. School attendance will therefore be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term. This means from that point, the usual rules on school attendance will apply, including:
parents’ duty to secure that their child attends regularly at school where the child is a registered pupil at school and they are of compulsory school age;
schools’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
the availability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct
Obviously, if you have any concerns about this, please do contact us and we will work with you to allay any fears or concerns you have.
The Department for Education is providing additional support for both pupil and staff wellbeing in the current situation. Information about the extra mental health support for pupils and teachers is available using this hyperlink.
Please note that Mrs Brown has put the Foundation Stage Spellings and Sight Word lists on the school website as some parents have requested these for use now, and over the summer. These are now on the Kids Area – Foundation Stage – Reading Sets (Sight Words) - Spelling Sets. These might also be useful for our new intake Foundation Stage parents, Year 1 parents and Year 2 parents.
Next week our ‘Russell Summer Challenge’ will be out for your child to have a go at over the summer, if you would like to.
I will be in touch with you again next week, giving you more detailed information about returning to school and your child’s class bubble. Please continue to be patient whilst we work out detailed operational plans, as I am sure many more of your questions will be answered in the next letter. Thank you.
To everyone, a really HUGE thank you for your on-going patience and understanding. It continues to be the most challenging of times, but the safety and well-being of our children, parents and staff are paramount. This must always be our first concern.
If you have any other queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch using the email@example.com address.
Stay safe and well everyone.
Many thanks and kind regards,
1st July 2020
Keeping in touch 13
Dear Parents and Carers,
As you will all know, the Prime Minister has said that the government intends for all children, in all year groups to return to school, full time, in September. As I said in my last letter, this is the basis that Russell is working on too. However, as I write this letter, there has been no further guidance from the government on what this should ‘look’ like, or what principles we should follow. This includes knowing whether we will need to continue staggering starts and finish times, breaks etc. and whether we can run a before and after school provision (which would require children to ‘move’ bubbles). I fully appreciate that everyone would just like to know what September will be like when we return, but we simply do not know yet. Thank you for your patience. As always, as soon as we have the guidance we will work on a Russell plan and communicate that to you as quickly and clearly as possible.
Farewells and Transition
Our first transition on the field event took place on Monday, seeing almost all our Year 2 children returning to school on the windiest day ever it seemed! I can’t tell you how absolutely amazing it was to see them all again. We couldn’t believe how much they had all grown! The Year 2 teachers loved moving around the bubbles to say goodbye and the Year 3 teachers were very excited to meet their new classes – albeit in 2 bubbles. Thank you so much to all our parents for supporting this bitter-sweet event. Next week (w/c 6th July), we will be holding transition events for our Year 3 children and our Foundation Stage and Year 1 children. You should already have received letters about these. Please do let us know if you haven’t. We cannot wait to see our wonderful Year 3’s back at Russell, as well as any FS and Y1 children who haven’t been able to join us yet – let’s hope the weather is kind to us.
Teachers are about half way through making their ‘End of Year’ consultation phone calls home. If you have not received one of these yet, please do not worry as they will take us until the end of term to complete given the need to staff our bubbles too. Please remember that this call could possibly come through as a ‘No Caller ID’ call due to safeguarding procedures. Of course, if you feel you need a call more urgently, please do let us know and we will call you sooner rather than later.
Teachers have also made their ‘Class Welcome Video Messages’. These video clips will be available on the school website (Kids Area) to aid transition in the final week of term.
As I mentioned last week, in the final week of term (w/c 13th July), we will be holding our ‘Return to Russell’ days for our Year 4 leavers. Alameda staff have confirmed their attendance and we are busy planning how this day will run. Again, there will be a separate letter with all the details you need regarding this event next week. I have never written so many letters in my life (I can only apologise to you all for having to read them all!)
We have also been told that Alameda intend to run a ‘virtual’ New Intake Meeting on the evening of 13th July (6pm or 7pm I believe). Do look out for more information about this and try to join the meeting to get some valuable insight into Alameda from Miss Warner.
End of term gifts
As children attend school for transition events we will send their school work and exercise books home. Please be assured that these have been prepared and packed at least 3 days before sending them home to you, and only your child will have then touched the package afterwards. Some parents have already asked if they can give staff ‘End of Term’ gifts. Yes, of course – and thank you. However, any cards or gifts will need to be clearly labelled and left in the office foyer for 3 days before we collect them and pass them on to the correct adult to ensure they are Covid Secure. Alternatively, some parents have suggested a ‘contactless’ donation to something of the teachers’ choice. We ran a staff poll last week and the majority of staff said they would like any money that would have been spent to go to buy additional reading books for the children to enjoy. If you would prefer to ‘give’ a gift this way, please transfer your donation to account number: 62411756, Sort Code 60-02-13 using the reference: Leaving gift. Thank you very much!
Classes and teachers for September 2020 – an update
As I have mentioned in a previous KIT letter, Mrs Hale is expecting her second baby in the autumn term. As you will be aware, Mrs Hale is having to continue to shield. We are extremely grateful to Mrs Clark and Miss Chrusciak, who are both doing a brilliant job of leading the Dove Class bubble, but from September we have been able to recruit an experienced maternity cover teacher, Mrs Peace, so that the children have a consistent adult from day 1 at this time of continued uncertainty. I am very grateful to the governors who sanctioned the ‘spend’ of the additional money to enable Mrs Peace to start in September rather than wait until October half term. This is absolutely the best decision for the children. We are really looking forward to working with Mrs Peace very soon.
School meals from September
We currently do not know what we will be able to offer in terms of school ‘dinner’ in September, as we do not know if the shared use of a dining room is acceptable yet (which limits what we can provide in classrooms). However, what we do know is that the meal price will increase from the current £1.92 to £1.95. Obviously, this only applies to Year 3 and 4 children (as all meals are free to YR, Y1 and Y2 children under the Universal Infant Free School Meals provision). Can I also take this opportunity to request that all outstanding lunch and Aviary Club fees are paid as soon as possible please? Due to Covid-19, school has lost some significant income streams (for example, running a before and after school club), but also had many increased costs (for example, additional staffing and cleaning), so we really appreciate your prompt payment of any ‘debts’. Contrary to what you may have heard in the media, we do not qualify for any additional support from the government with these costs. Thank you for your support.
Reading and Library Book Plea
Thank you so much for all the books that have already been returned to us in the ‘drop boxes’ both at transition events and in the school foyer (labelled boxes). Please do continue to return any books you find at home as we want replenished shelves for September. Thank you.
Thank you for continuing so diligently with home learning. It really will make a huge difference as your child returns in September.
By now, you might be looking for a bit more inspiration for different things to do. If you haven’t already, you could try some of these simple, fun activities – even if your child is over 5 they will love them!
Hungry little minds is a collection of simple, fun activities for children, from new born to five, and even older.
Many little things light up hungry little minds. Children take everything in, and even the smallest things you do with them can make a big difference. They are learning all the time!
They love it when you chat, play and read with them, even when they’re too young to understand everything. Whatever the time and wherever you are, you can turn almost anything into a game with some learning. And every little thing you do together will help set them up nicely for going back to school.
Understandably, many parents are worried about the ‘lost’ learning over the last few months.
Please don’t be anxious about ‘lost’ learning and trying to ‘catch up’. Try just to think about keeping everything ‘ticking over’, with some fun games (as above), some regular reading, spending time together on home learning packs or on recommended website, such as Oak Academy and Bitesize and doing fun things like cooking, nature walks, planting etc.
If you can keep home learning going until the summer, that would be ideal. Then just focus on regular reading, games and fun activities together with lots of great talk and language development.
When we get back in September, our ‘Recovery Curriculum’ will begin based firmly on rebuilding relationships, feeling safe and building back that sense of belonging. Without these things, we cannot begin to learn effectively. This is what matters most. I will tell you more about this in one of my next KIT letters.
New guidance for parents regarding ‘out of school’ clubs over the summer has been published by the government. You can find it here:
Keeping children safe
As children continue to stay off of school, or return to school, there may be specific concerns about their safety and wellbeing. You may find the Home Office’s new children and young people safeguarding resources helpful, which includes posters and guidance for parents and carers on keeping children safe from abuse and harm. Attached to this KIT letter is also one of the guidance documents.
The Home Office safeguarding resources can be found here:
The advice to parents and carers on keeping children safe from abuse and harm can be found here:
If you have any concerns about a child, please do follow the guidance. Our safeguarding team at Russell are:
Designated Safeguarding Lead: Louise Bunney
Designated Safeguarding Deputy Lead: Nicki Walker
Designated Safeguarding Governor: Keith Redman-Henry
This information can also be found under the ‘Safeguarding and Child Protection’ tab on the school website.
These members of Russell can be contacted on 01525 755664, or via the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
As before, I will continue to write to you at some point each week and keep you up to date with any developments and all of our transition events, but equally do feel able to get in touch with any queries.
Thank you for your on-going support.
Take care and stay well.
Many thanks and kind regards,
25th June 2020
Keeping in touch 12
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope this latest letter finds you all well and enjoying the heatwave. There is always something!
As you will all know, there have been further ‘relaxations of the lockdown’ announced by the Prime Minister this week. Although the new 1m+ social distancing sounds like it might change things significantly in schools, the other guidance around schools (such as consistent bubbles of 15) has not. This means that nothing has really changed in terms of the school position this term. We would also like to continue with all the 2m safety measures we have put in place around the school and the site as these are working well in terms of keeping all of us safe.
You will also know that the Prime Minister has said that the government intends for all children, in all year groups to return to school, full time, in September. This is the basis that Russell is working on too.
Farewells and Transition
Teachers have begun making their ‘End of Year’ consultation phone calls home. If you have not received one of these yet, please do not worry as they will take us until the end of term to complete given the need to staff our bubbles too. If you feel you need a call more urgently, please do let us know and we will call you sooner rather than later.
Teachers are also busy making their ‘Class Welcome Message’. These video clips will be available to aid transition in the final week of term.
Our first transition on the field event will take place on Monday 29th June, with Year 2 children invited back to join us on the school field in the new Year 3 bubbles. Thank you to the enormous amount of you who have already confirmed that your child will be able to join us using the Google Form. If you have not already let us know, could you please complete this form as soon as possible as we will follow up anyone we have not heard from. All the Year 2 and Year 3 teachers cannot wait to see all the children again – and even the weather is looking favourable!
The following week (w/c 6th July), we will be holding transition events for our Year 3 children and our Foundation Stage and Year 1 children. More information about these will follow next week in specific ‘Transition Event’ letters.
In the final week of term (w/c 13th July), we will be holding our ‘Return to Russell’ days for our Year 4 leavers. We have already asked Year 5 Alameda staff if they can join us, and are desperately looking forward to seeing all the children again. Again, there will be a separate letter with all the details you need regarding this event over the coming week or so.
As I have said before, we only wish we could offer your children much more, but due to all the safety guidance and local conditions, we still cannot relax any measures. We will also have to hope this settled weather holds out for us.
For all the ‘events’ or ‘sessions’ mentioned above, we will write to you nearer the time with more details and ask you to confirm, one way or the other, whether you intend to send your child in to Russell to take up this opportunity. Again, this must be entirely your own free choice.
Classes and teachers for September 2020
The planned transition events will enable the children to meet their new teachers. We know that this is a very exciting, but also a very anxious time. Please do try not to worry. All the teachers at Russell are superb (I know I am biased!) and your children are more resilient than we give them credit for. The teachers will do their very best to support an effective and smooth transition, even in the challenging circumstances. The grid below sets out which class will be taught by which teachers:
FS - Swans
Mrs Brown – new class
FS - Doves
Mrs Hale – new class
FS - Swifts
Mrs Moore – new class
Y1 - Owls
Mrs Milligan – receiving Swan Class
Y1 - Puffins
Mrs Cox -receiving Swift Class
Y1 - Wrens
Mrs Jochacy and Mrs Rogers-receiving Dove Class
Y2 - Greenfinch
Mrs Johnson- receiving Owl Class
Y2 – Penguins
Miss Sensoy -receiving Wren Class
Y2 - Robins
Mrs Hitchings receiving Puffin Class
Y3 - Goldfinch
Miss Walker - new class
Y3 - Blackbirds
Mr Syrett - new class
Y3 – Nightingales
Miss Thompson -
Miss Rawlings -receiving Blackbird Class
Y4 - Kingfisher
Mrs Tuck - receiving Goldfinch Class
Y4 – Starling
Mrs Moffat – receiving Nightingale Class
All the teachers met with each other (socially distanced of course!) on Monday evening to further their transition conversations. Both Miss Sensoy and Mrs Rogers (our new members of staff) also joined us, and are fully up to speed already. They are excited and looking forward to joining the Russell team.
The summer holidays
School has been open for longer than any other school year this year. Russell has provided on-going Key Worker provision since March, only closing for 4 days over Easter. In that period, we have been open for more than 4 weeks longer than some other local schools. As a result, our site staff, cleaners, office staff, teaching assistants, teachers and leadership team have worked incredibly hard and need the planned summer holiday to both have time with their families, rest and prepare for the next academic year, which in itself will provide many challenges. I know that many of you will be wondering if there is going to be any ‘summer school’ or catch up planned over the summer at Russell and I want to be incredibly honest and upfront with you and let you know that school will only be providing a ‘pay as you go’ summer camp provided by our sports and PE partners Premier Sport for the first 3 weeks of the school holiday, after this the site will be closed. This will enable everyone to come back refreshed and ready in the autumn term. We are already formulating ‘catch up’ plans with governors, and these will be implemented with fresh energy in the autumn. Please do not think the children will miss out. Thank you for your support with this. We really do appreciate it.
We are busy planning a simple ‘Russell Summer Challenge’ over the holidays, which will be purely optional, but will also hopefully provide you with some really rewarding shared activity ideas to continue ‘learning’ in the broadest sense of the word. Watch this space!
I attach a copy of the 2020/21 academic year calendar which I sent out earlier this year again for your reference.
Reading and Library Book Plea
As you will be aware, with the speed of closure in March, many of the children still had Russell reading and library books (either colour banded or Accelerated Reader - number coded, inside front cover). We desperately need these books returning to us please, or our shelves will be empty in September! There will be ‘Book Drop Boxes’ at all of our transition events and up by the main foyer (a box under a table outside the school office) from Monday next week. Could you please return them to us? Thank you so much.
Bringing things into school and taking things home
As you will be aware, we must minimise the number of items coming into school and going home to you. This is to minimise cross-contamination and is why we cannot have reading books and diaries going between the two. For this reason, I must ask you NOT to send bags into school with the children please. Although caps (if required), sun cream (if required), water bottles, snack pots and lunchboxes are needed, can we please request that these are not put into bags that come into school. You are welcome to bring the items to school in the bag, but remove the items and give them to your child before they enter the classroom. I know this may feel like a lot of items for tiny hands to carry, but it is a part of the very careful risk assessment that we had to complete prior to opening and must insist that is adhered to please. Thank you for your support with this.
As you know, we do not routinely send things home to you any more – which is such a shame and the children produce some lovely work which now adorns their classrooms! However, we will be sending your child’s school books home to you in one ‘pack’ at some point later this term. These packs will be Covid-secure as staff will have packaged them and left them for 3 days to ensure there is no risk of cross-contamination.
Thank you for the enormous efforts you are making with your home learning. There is some phenomenal work coming in via email. We couldn’t be prouder of everything you are all achieving under incredibly difficult circumstances. Please do continue to use the resources that are available. For example, Mrs Hale’s phonics videos and Foundation Stage learning is often getting very few views now. We are delighted that so many children are in school now (almost 90%), but please don’t forget the resources are there, and keep learning going right up to the summer holidays if you possibly can. Thank you SO much.
E Safety, Games/Apps and devices
We know that, especially during the lockdown period, there will have been a lot of pressure on parents to let children have ‘screen time’. Equally, we know that children want to play games and on sites/Apps that are too old for them. Fortnite and Tik Tok are two that come up regularly.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer has provided advice on screen time. Here are a few of the tips to help your children strike a balance:
- Sleep matters Getting enough good quality sleep is very important. Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
- Sharing sensibly Talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents and carers should never assume that children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone – when in doubt, don’t upload!
- Talking helps Talk with children about using screens and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed – make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
- Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen. It’s good to get up and move about a bit.
- Family time together Screen-free meal times are a good idea – you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.
- Use helpful phone features Some devices and platforms have special features – try using these features to keep track of how much time you (and with their permission, your children) spend looking at screens or on social media.
To ensure your children are safe, try and make use of parental controls
- If you have downloaded new apps or bought new devices like web cams or tablets, remember to adjust the privacy and security settings to suit you.
- There is technology to help you manage the content your children can access:
- Government has encouraged Internet Service Providers to help parents easily filter content. Switch on family friendly filters to help prevent age inappropriate content being accessed on devices in your home.
- Parental controls put you in control of what your child can see. Internet Matters has step by step guides on how to set these up.
As before, I will continue to write to you at some point each week and keep you up to date with any developments and all of our transition events, but equally do feel able to get in touch with any queries.
Take care and stay well.
Many thanks and kind regards,
8th June 2020
Keeping in touch 10
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I know that the Foundation Stage and Year 1 children who were back with us last week, were all very ready for it by the time it arrived.
FS, Year 1 and Key Workers
I wrote to our FS, Y1 and Key Worker families at the end of last week to say what an absolute pleasure it was to be ‘back’ at school. The children were incredible, adjusting to different routines very quickly. Equally, parents were phenomenal, preparing their children effectively, arriving ‘just in time’ at the correct entrance, and leaving the site quickly. All these things help to keep our community as safe as it can possibly be – thank you!
Our numbers of FS, Year 1 and Key Worker children continue to grow each day. We now have 71% of our children back in school in these year groups. I understand that some parents and children may continue to feel anxious at this time, and attach a resource ‘Separation Anxiety’ that may support you in talking to your child(ren) at this challenging time. In addition, do get in touch with us at school if we can be of further help.
As children return to Russell, we are sending home ‘Impact questionnaires’ which help us to ‘RAG rate’ how children have been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and absence from school. There are a few simple questions to help us find out about health, anxiety levels and home schooling amongst other things. The information in these questionnaires is then being sent to our teachers and pastoral team so we can put in place suitable support and strategies, both within classes and for individuals.
Thank you so much to all of the parents and carers of children in Foundation Stage, Year 1 and Key Workers. The information you have provided has helped us shape the ‘returning to school curriculum’, PSHRE lessons and individual support. If you have not yet completed these, it is not too late to send them in to the email@example.com email address. Thank you again.
For children in Year 2, 3 and 4, these questionnaires will be sent to you with re-starting school information, as soon as we have it.
Year 2, 3 and 4
As we mentioned in our last Keeping in Touch letter, we are continuing to review our ‘home learning and contact’ offer.
I am aware that some children are getting ‘tired’ of the Home learning packs, of Oak Academy and of BBC Bitesize. What we all really want it to get all the children back at school! I really do empathise.
We are continuing to develop our use of Loom and will post these links to the Kids Area of the website so anyone can access any teacher’s ‘posts’.
For example, Miss Walker will be posting Maths Loom videos daily (that go with the Y3 home learning packs). Both Y2 and Y4 would be welcome to try these in addition to their own year group’s packs. Go to ‘Kids Area’ then ‘Miss Walker’s Loom Videos’ and click on the link to view them.
These have been very popular so please bear with us while we ‘roll them out’ further. In addition, Mrs Wolf is being used full time to deliver intervention to some of our Year 3 and 4 children. We wish we could offer it to everyone, but as you can imagine, our resources simply do not stretch far enough!
As I also said in my last letter, Mrs Knight, Mrs Bunney, the Pastoral Support Team and myself will continue with weekly telephone contact with some children and families and If you feel your family or child needs this for any reason at all, do let us know and we will do our very best.
We anticipate hearing more from the government, possibly this week, about how their ambition to get all primary aged children back to school before the summer holidays will be achieved. The minute we hear anything we will begin making plans to get your children back to Russell. We really cannot wait!
In the meantime…some new resources which may help ‘mix up’ home learning a little
Conductive Music – some exciting programmes for Y1, 2, 3 and 4 children (see attached)
Government Recommended Resources - The government have asked us to remind parents about the following resources and guidance:
Year 4 Transition
As you can imagine, at this time of year we are very conscious of the need to try to address the transition needs of Year 4 pupils, despite the very challenging circumstances. We are keeping in close contact with the other FARM schools and Year 4 parents should have already received an email last week containing some information from Alameda about the transition process, and today with a link to view a ‘Welcome Video’.
Thank you to all of you who have sent in your friendship letters too. Mrs Sibley, the Head of Year 5, is coming in to school to collect those on Wednesday as she begins to prepare form groups.
Classes for next year
As you know, the classes will all be ‘moved up’ as they are, with the exception of Year 2.
We thought long and hard this year about whether to continue to mix the Year 2 to Year 3 classes in the light of the prolonged absence from school and the pandemic. We know this is overwhelmingly beneficial for the children in the longer term as knowing a greater ‘pool’ of friends before leaving for middles school, and learning to take ‘safe risks’ now is so important to building children’s resilience.
Thank you for getting all your friendship letters in. Teachers are currently spending time putting together new class lists for Year 3 and we will get that information to you shortly. This will include balancing the number of girls and boys, the terms of birth, ability levels, special educational needs and friendships. This is never an easy task and we spend a long time making sure we have got it as right as possible. Please be assured we will do everything in the children’s best interests whilst making sure the classes are evenly balanced. In addition, we do plan to keep as many of the familiar teaching assistants as possible with this group of children too, which will further support them as they move into Key Stage 2.
I am delighted to inform you that two brand new members of our teaching team will be joining us in September. Mrs Emma Rogers will be joining the Year 1 team covering Mrs Athanasiou’s maternity leave in Wren Class, and Miss Inci Sensoy will be joining our teaching team so that we can release Mrs Knight to be full time in her Inclusion Lead/SENDCo role. This is wonderful news which allows Russell Lower School to further increase its resources to support children’s learning and welfare at a time when we really need to ‘be there’ for each other.
We have also had some good news over the ‘lockdown’ period. Mrs Hale is expecting her second child. We are really delighted for her and her family, and it is so lovely to have something wonderful to celebrate. For the meantime, Mrs Hale will continue to ‘shield’ and we will begin the process of recruiting a maternity cover teacher for her class. I will keep you updated.
We are currently reviewing the staffing structure for September and will shortly publish the completed teaching team and class responsibilities. I can however, tell you that we do not plan to make any huge changes.
New Intake – Foundation Stage September 2020
I am delighted to say that Russell remained as popular as ever this year with almost 80 first choice applications for places! We are delighted that so many families have chosen to come to Russell, and look forward to a slightly different ‘welcome’ process over the next few weeks as we cope with remote and virtual meetings, and socially distanced question and answer sessions!
Support for parents
We know how hard it is continuing to juggle working from home and home-schooling, in addition to having children who may be beginning to go ‘stir crazy’. We are really sorry that you are having to continue to do this. Please find attached details for a couple of resources that may help:
1) a FREE ‘Being a Parent’ course which will run via Zoom and begin in July
2) a virtual well-being drop in
CBC Parent/Carer SEND survey
CBC would like to hear from parents and carers about their experiences with education, health and social care support and services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Following the CBC Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) Joint Area Inspection of SEND provision in November 2019, a SEND Partnership Programme has been established to develop and implement the Written Statement of Action. The Programme is governed by a SEND Partnership Board, jointly chaired by Sue Harrison (Director of Children’s Services) and Anne Murray (Chief Nurse, Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)) and membership includes senior leadership from across the Council, the CCG and the SNAP Parent Carer Forum.
To ensure CBC’s improvement journey is developing the right services and support for families, please could you use the following survey link to share your views and suggestions:
The survey is open until 5.00 pm on Friday 19th June 2020.
Any questions, please email Send.Feedback@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk
As always, thank you all so much for your patience and support during this continuing period of huge challenge.
I will continue to write to you at some point each week and keep you up to date with any developments, but equally do feel able to get in touch with any queries.
Take care and stay well.
Many thanks and kind regards,
1st June 2020
Keeping in touch 9
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you and your family are keeping well in what continues to be the most challenging of times. Not only are we all having to cope with the enormous impact of the global pandemic on being ‘locked down’ and on our livelihoods, but schools are also right in the ‘eye’ of the storm regarding further easing of the lockdown. With so much in the media that is, at times, very frightening. I can only imagine how each and every one of you is feeling and the pressures you are under to make the ‘right’ decision (whatever that is?!) and to continue home-schooling, working and staying sane at the same time! I truly empathise with families at this time.
FS, Year 1 and Key Workers are back
Today’s long-awaited return of more children took place. It was such a good feeling to see everyone again and have children’s voices ringing out again. It has all gone well and everyone seems to have coped brilliantly (you can see a couple of photos on the website – Kids Area – How school looks on June 1st 2020). 62% of children were back with us. We were only thinking we may get 50% so we are thrilled to see so many. Measures put in place also went well. Thank you so much for observing your time slots so accurately and for following signage. We are grateful for all the positive feedback too. One parent wrote to me today and said:
I just wanted to drop a quick note to say how brilliantly I thought this morning's drop off went, at both Russell and Ladybirds. I can't imagine how much time and energy went into the planning and execution, but the result was an organised and above all, friendly and happy welcome, which I'm sure did much to help alleviate the kids' anxieties. Great Job!
You are not forgotten
As we welcomed back many of the Foundation Stage and Year 1 children today, we want you to know that if you are still not in school, and especially children and parents in Year 2, 3 and 4, you are certainly not forgotten.
The government’s response to the pandemic has split our school community unlike anything before. I can fully appreciate how aggrieved parents in these year groups feel, as almost all our school resources turn to Foundation Stage and Year 1 children at this time. I am particularly worried about our Year 4 children, who currently do not have a clear way back to Russell to finish off their time here and ‘transition’ to their middle schools. Once we have any guidance from the government on how this can be achieved safely, we will be putting a plan in place. Even if it is meeting up on the school field towards the end of term in small groups of 6!
One key barrier now is resources. Even before this, schools (like other public services) were stretched beyond anything we had seen in education before. Now, with small bubbles filling all our school spaces and children at home, we have an enormous challenge of keeping in touch with everyone and providing in school and home learning. We have had to make choices about how this is done and have had to focus on the most vulnerable. Thank you for your patience and understanding throughout. You have been incredible, and your messages of support and gifts that have come into school since 23rd March have been very gratefully received. Equally, your constructive feedback has been fully taken on board. We have listened and made changes where we have been able to – for example, continuing to provide the home learning packs for returning year groups.
It is clear that home learning will continue for some time yet for many of our children, so as part of our plans to support remote teaching and learning, I wanted to let you know we will be continuing to complement our resources with those from Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize Daily. These organisations have been given huge sums of money to provide this excellent service, which is peer-reviewed and checked for excellent teaching. We would be mad (at this time of undue pressure on our resources) not to fully utilise it.
As you know, this online classroom has been created by teachers specifically to support pupils’ learning at home. Oak is a free website available at www.thenational.academy. It is backed by the Department for Education.
You can access Oak’s online classroom on any device, you don’t need to log in or remember a password. Your child can access lessons across a range of subjects, which provide more than three hours of learning every day.
Each lesson is delivered by a trained teacher, over a pre-recorded video, and it’s very clear at the start of each session anything you might need (such as pens, paper etc). The lessons are designed to need minimal supervision, although this will depend on the age of your child.
Oak also offers SEND lessons and Special Educational therapies. If your child is on the SEND register at Russell you may like to look at these resources too. I know that Mrs Knight has been signposting some parents to them.
I have also attached some frequently asked questions on how to make the most of Oak Academy. Please do read through and let your child’s class teacher know if you have any questions.
In addition, the government have also kept their guidance for parents up to date. This can be found here:
The BBC offer
Bitesize Daily has been developed by the BBC to provide new lessons every weekday for pupils in year 1 to year 10.
It has been created in collaboration with teachers and educational experts, its videos and interactive activities cover core subjects and other topics on the school curriculum. Content is available for free on television, online and through BBC iPlayer.
It is up to you which ‘style’ you prefer – Oak or BBC, or you can ‘dip in’ to both.
What else is Russell doing to further improve home learning and contact?
We are continuing to review and improve our ‘home learning and contact’ offer and from 1st June. You will notice some things continuing and some new offers. However, all this comes with a ‘time health warning’ as I have said earlier, all of our staff are now teaching full-time with numerous bubbles across the school.
- Home learning packs for every year group will continue to be available every Monday (except during school holidays) on the Kids Area of the website
- Home learning packs will be available for Foundation Stage, Year 1 and Key Worker children, even though there is also provision being offered in school
- We continue to promote the use of Oak Academy and BBC Bitesize Daily to complement these packs and keep things manageable for parents
- We have developed a remote learning policy with governors over half term which will allow us to communicate with some parents and children via Zoom video conferencing to provide interventions and support. Mrs Wolf will be in touch with you if this applies to your child
- Teachers are learning to use Loom (yes really not a typo for Zoom) – a screen sharing recording app which will allow us to ‘share’ videos of lessons with you. You will gradually see an increase in the use of these resources within the home learning packs
- Class@ emails will continue, both for your child’s original class and their ‘bubble’ teacher
- Mrs Knight, Mrs Bunney, the Pastoral Support Team and myself will continue with weekly telephone contacts with some children and families (I am so sorry we cannot do all 410 of you. We would if we could!). If you feel your family or child needs this, do let us know and we will do our very best
As we continue with home learning remotely, I must emphasise the importance of a safe online environment and encourage parents and carers to set age-appropriate parental controls on digital devices and use internet filters to block any malicious websites. These are usually free, but often need to be turned on.
Please do continue to use these resources to keep your children safe online:
- Thinkuknow provides advice from the National Crime Agency (NCA) on staying safe online
- Parent info is a collaboration between Parentzone and the NCA providing support and guidance for parents from leading experts and organisations
- Childnet offers a toolkit to support parents and carers of children of any age to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support
- Internet matters provides age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls on a range of devices, and a host of practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world
- London Grid for Learning has support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online, including tips to keep primary aged children safe online
- Net-aware has support for parents and carers from the NSPCC, including a guide to social networks, apps and games
- Let’s Talk About It has advice for parents and carers to keep children safe from online radicalisation
- UK Safer Internet Centre has tips, advice, guides and other resources to help keep children safe online, including parental controls offered by home internet providers and safety tools on social networks and other online services
Reporting a safeguarding concern – even if we are not at school
Thank you for continuing to keep in touch with us. We have been open every single day since our partial closure on 23rd March, and we have continued to have safeguarding concerns about Russell children reported to us. This is brilliant news, as we want to continue to ensure everyone is safe from harm of any kind.
As always, you can raise any safeguarding concerns, by calling or emailing into school on firstname.lastname@example.org, or ringing 01525 755664.
Safeguarding Lead – Mrs Bunney
Safeguarding Deputy – Mrs Walker
Safeguarding Governor – Mr Keith Redman-Henry
Keeping anxiety as low as possible
At this time, it is almost impossible to expect anyone to have no anxiety, so one important step is to know we are all going to feel anxious and accept that. However, children take all their cues from us, if we appear anxious, they will be; if we can stay calm and confident, they will be. I know what a HUGE challenge staying calm and confident is at the moment and hope that the attached resources will help:
1) National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) document ‘Covid-19 Parental Resource
2) King’s College – Parenting Under Pressure – research findings and top tips
Don’t forget out Pastoral Support Team are there to support you too. The way you can contact them, and numerous additional resources can be found on our school website/Pastoral Support Tab:
Right now, it is very hard to predict the next few days, let alone weeks. This is a cause of stress for us all, but we must await further government guidance. Rest assured, we will continue to update you as consideration is given to when more pupils might return to school, and to keep you as fully informed as possible.
I will continue with my weekly ‘Keeping in Touch’ letters, rather than monthly newsletters as things are changing so quickly. However, as at all other times, please just get in touch with any worries at any time and we will do our very best to work with you to get the right solution for your child and family. There really is no ‘one size fits all’ and we are learning every day. Thank you for your unwavering, on-going support and patience. I cannot tell you how much it has been, and continues to be, appreciated.
Take care and stay well.
Many thanks and kind regards,
- Oak Academy_FAQs - Primary parents and pupils.docx
- Parenting under pressure.pdf
- NASP_COVID-19 Parental Resource_UPDATED.pdf
21st May 2020
Keeping in Touch – 8
More information about the wider opening of Russell Lower School on 1st June
I hope this letter finds you all safe, well and continuing to cope in these extraordinary times.
Firstly, I want to apologise for the time taken to get this letter out to you. You will have seen in the national media that schools’ gradual reopening is a hugely contentious topic and one which has caused much debate. As a result, guidance from the DfE and others has been, and continues to be, constantly changing making it incredibly difficult to set any plans in stone. Russell can still only plan to reopen to our Foundation Stage (Dove, Swift and Swan Classes) and our Year 1 (Owl, Wren and Puffin) children on 1st June, if the government decides it is safe at that time, and even then, we will keep this under constant review.
Since I last wrote to you, the teachers, support staff and governors have been working tirelessly to maintain home learning, keep in contact with our families, run our closure provision for key workers, digest and implement the DfE guidance, seek to find answers to our numerous questions, assess and mitigate risks and plan all the actions required to ensure that school is as safe as it can be.
School will look very different to the children when they are able to return to school. We are making some very significant alterations to the way we are doing things in order to minimise any possible transmission. We greatly appreciate your support during this very difficult period of time.
Infection control measures
At all times, we will be adhering to the government’s guidance. Our infection control and protective measures will be based on the government’s 5 key approaches to minimising transmission in schools: anyone with Covid symptoms, or who lives with someone with symptoms, must not attend school; frequent handwashing protocols; good respiratory hygiene (catch it, kill it, bin it); frequent cleaning of ‘high contact’ surfaces and areas through the day and creating ‘safe bubbles’ in school, where smaller groups of children create a bubble and, via staggered lunches, play zones etc. minimise wider contact.
This will lead to more specific safety routines, such as comprehensive cleaning regimes, timetabled handwashing, staggered playtimes in set zones, parents being asked to enter school through a specific gate, drop children at a particular classroom door and not enter the building, capping class sizes at 15, seating children at individual rather than group desks and staggering the beginning and end of the day times to reduce crowding. Classroom will look very different, with minimal furniture and resources.
As a result of the requirements, you will realise that not all children will be able to stay in their own classroom, or be with their own teachers and teaching assistants. Lots of things will need to change to comply with the guidance. Equally, we will adapt the curriculum so that we are prioritising ‘settling in’ and reducing anxiety activities, building in time for handwashing etc. and ensuring we minimise resources needed (and therefore reduce any possible sharing).
Significant social distancing measures will be put in place, but the government has made it clear that ‘early years and primary age children cannot be expected to remain 2 metres apart from each other and staff’. Whilst it is great that the government is being very realistic, it does mean that I cannot guarantee that such young children will be able to comply with social distancing requirements.
A key principle of the method is that ‘bubbles’ must remain consistent. Children should not be moving between bubbles and staff should be as consistent as possible. This requirement will mean that, unfortunately, we will be unable to provide our normal Breakfast/Before School Club provision, or our After School provision for the time being.
I realise that these changes are hugely inconvenient and highly undesirable, but we must adhere to the guidance to ensure everyone’s safety, and can only apologise.
Other key information:
- School will start at either 8:40, 8:50 or 9am. It will finish at either 3:10, 3:20 or 3:30pm Monday to Thursday, to enable staggering
- School will close on Friday after lunch (to all but key workers) at either 1pm, 1:10pm or 1:20pm – this will enable teachers to plan lessons, plan home learning for year groups not at school, make contact with parents and children in Years 2, 3 and 4 and clean resources, it also means we can avoid swapping ‘cover’ staff in which would increase the risk of infection
- School meals will continue to be provided, but will be limited to a school packed lunch or a hot jacket potato (variety of fillings offered). As before, these can be ordered on the day at morning registration and will be covered under infant free school meals for children in FS and Y1. Lunches will be eaten in the classroom, not dining hall. Alternatively, your child can continue to bring their own packed lunch from home
- We will be unable to run any extra-curricular clubs until further notice
- Children will be expected to wear school uniform as usual please
- As Foundation Stage and Year 1 teachers will now be teaching full time, they will be unable to continue to provide the home learning packs that we have been producing weekly. We strongly encourage all children in FS and Year 1 to attend school, but if you choose to keep your child at home we would ask you to use the resources produced by Oak Academy or BBC Bitesize instead of the Russell home learning packs from 1st June onwards please. The teachers will simply not have enough time to do both
- Parents of Foundation Stage and Year 1 children will be notified by a further letter next week (during half term) which ‘bubble’ they are in, which adults are with them, what time they start/finish school, how to get in touch etc. We also hope to get a ‘welcome back’ video out to the children via email.
Splitting the classes was done totally fairly, by taking register order and halving. I am afraid, due to the already highly complex nature of all these arrangements, we will not be able alter your child’s ‘bubble’.
We totally understand that this will already be a time of high anxiety for you and the children, and by not being able to come into their own class and teacher will only make this harder for everyone. Believe me, if there was anything we could do to avoid it, we would. I can assure you that all the staff at Russell are excellent, and your child will be really looked after and supported in their new bubble.
As I said in my previous letter, the government would like to strongly encourage parents of children in returning year groups, to send their children into school. Getting back to school in some form before the summer will enormously support children’s mental well-being, social skills and academic progress. However, the government has made it clear that there will not be any penalties at this stage for non-attendance. For the time being, the school’s usual attendance policy (including the use of fines) will not be used. If you do send your child back into school from 1st June we would expect consistent attendance please, only being absent for any illness.
Key worker provision
We will be continuing to provide Key Worker places for essential front line workers, as the government has requested. This will continue to be Monday to Friday, all day. If you feel you now require a key worker place, please contact the school office as soon as possible as we do have to cap places at 15 per bubble, as per government guidance.
What about Year 2, 3 and 4?
As you will already know, the government’s published ambition is to bring back all primary aged children for at least some time before the summer holidays, again, as long as it is safe to do so. The government have not shared with us how they think this will be possible.
The local authority continues to lobby central government to see if bringing Year 4 children into school sooner is possible. Since I last wrote to you a week ago, there have been several virtual meetings between Russell and Alameda staff, and a transition letter and time line is due out to Year 4 parents today.
I am deeply saddened by the fact that we do not have our whole school community together yet, but know that it is completely impossible at this time, whilst the measures outline above are still necessary. We do understand what difficulties this is causing for families, and we are aware of the huge sacrifices that you have already made. We miss everyone very much and just want to get ‘back to normal’, but, like other schools, we just cannot do this yet.
Thank you for continuing to support your children’s learning from home. This will make an enormous difference to their confidence levels when they do return. After everyone has had a rest over half term, please continue to do everything you can to keep learning going at home using the Russell home learning packs, our ‘Kids Area’ of the website, Oak Academy lessons and resources and BBC Bitesize resources. It is even more frustrating for our other year groups now that all our teachers will be teaching all week, so they will have very little time to prepare their home learning packs, reply to emails etc. Every single teacher is determined to find the time to provide these things for you and your children, but please bear with us as we will be very stretched from 1st June onwards.
FS and Year 1
I will be in touch with you again next week (during half term), giving you much more detailed information about returning to school and your child’s bubble. The government should make a final decision about whether it is safe to return to school by Friday 29th May. Please look out for an email from us around this time as there may be further announcements that we need to respond to.
In the meantime, a message from Mrs Brown to all FS parents:
Thank you for using the home learning packs and your own creative ideas to support your children’s learning at home. Tapestry has been an invaluable tool for keeping in touch during this challenging time and it has been a wonderful way to engage with the children and see what they have been learning at home. Now that Foundation Stage children are expected to be in school, staff will no longer comment on Tapestry posts but will add WOW moments to your child’s journal. If your child is not attending school, please continue to use Oxford Owl reading books and Oak Academy
Maths resources, as staff will no longer be able to provide video resources for use at home.
Years 2, 3 and 4
Thank you for all your support from home. Please bear with us while we adapt to the new school environment – particularly week commencing 1st June. I will write to you again during week commencing 1st June, with more details of transition arrangements (between years and schools), and with other updates.
To everyone, thank you for your on-going patience and understanding. It continues to be the most challenging of times, but the safety and well-being of our children, parents and staff are paramount. This must always be our first concern.
School continues to remain open throughout the half term, so although I cannot yet answer any detailed questions about FS and Y1, if you have any other queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch using the email@example.com address.
I hope you have a lovely half term break next week. Stay safe and well everyone.
Many thanks and kind regards,
14th May 2020
Keeping in Touch – 7
Planned reopening of schools to some year groups from 1st June
I hope this letter finds you all safe and well. Thank you for all your comments and feedback from our staff video ‘We’re all in this together’ which came out on Monday. Truth be told, we all enjoyed ourselves a little bit too much producing it! Our thanks go to Mrs Tuck and her daughter Malaika who were the technical whizzes behind it. We have been very impressed with some of the videos, pictures, photos and emails that you have been sending in to us too – what a creative and clever bunch you all are!
Thank you for your patience in waiting for me to get back to you following the government’s latest announcement. You will have seen in the national news that schools plan to reopen in some form from 1st June to nursery, reception (Foundation Stage), Year 1 and Year 6 pupils if the government thinks it is safe at that time.
The government has made it clear that these are the only year groups it plans to bring back to school at this time, regardless of the school system (i.e. 3 tier with transition points in Year 4 and Year 8). However, the government’s ambition will be to bring back all primary aged children for at least some time before the summer holidays, again, as long as it is safe to do so. Ensuring your child has a successful transition to their next school remains a key priority for us. The local authority is also lobbying central government to see if bringing those year groups (Y4 and Y8) into school sooner if possible. I will keep you informed.
I know that it is a very unsettling time, but rest assured, we are doing everything we can to make sure it is calm and safe for school to reopen in the coming weeks. This includes working very closely with the DfE, the local authority, unions and FARM schools (Firs, Alameda, Russell and Maulden) to ensure safety, consistency and fairness for all our families and children.
The FARM schools are now at the stage of creating detailed plans that we will share with you next week, so you know what the school’s reopening will look like in practice and how we plan to make it as safe as is possible for everyone. Thank you for bearing with us; we are being asked to do something that has never been done before and for which there is no blueprint.
Plans will include key changes:
- Limiting class sizes
- Staggering break times, and pick-up and drop-off times
- Changes to timetables
- Increased cleaning regimes
As with the government’s ‘tiny tweaks and ultimate caution’ approach to coming out of lockdown, please do not expect that it will be ‘normal’ school if we are able to return from 1st June. We need to set up plans and timetables in order to accommodate everyone safely in much smaller classes, continue with key worker provision and ensure we can still expand to bring in more year groups in the near future.
The government would like to strongly encourage parents of children in returning year groups (YN, YR, Y1, Y6) to send their children into school. Getting back to school in some form before the summer will enormously support children’s mental well-being, social skills and academic progress. However, the government has made it clear that there will not be any penalties at this stage for non-attendance. For the time being, the school’s usual attendance policy (including the use of fines) will not be used.
In the meantime, school is still open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of critical key workers. We know some employers will be encouraging you to return to work, but we are not currently in a position to extend places to other children until we receive further government guidance.
I would like to thank you for your continued support in helping your child learn from home, and for the creative ways you have all found to keep in touch with us – and each other. You have been truly remarkable!
I will be in touch with you again next week, giving you more detailed information about what returning to school will ‘look’ like. I will also keep you updated when we know more about reopening for other year groups. Again, if I can plea for your support in not contacting us with the understandable myriad of questions you must have at this time, we would really appreciate it. We simply do not know all the answers yet and promise to contact you as soon as we do.
If your child is in one of the year groups that is not hoping to return to school from 1st June, we will continue to provide you with home learning, and free school meal support, for those eligible, in the usual way.
Thank you for your on-going patience and understanding. We really are ‘All in this together’, and enormously value and appreciate your support at such a challenging time for everyone. Of course, if you have any urgent questions or queries about other things, please do not hesitate to get in touch using the firstname.lastname@example.org address.
Stay safe and well everyone.
Many thanks and kind regards,
7th May 2020
I hope you have had a good week. How wonderful that the spring sunshine has continued for us!
We recognise that this has been a challenging time for children and their families. We are really looking forward to children returning to school when this can happen safely (as I am sure you are too!).
As you will be aware, the government are due to set out their next steps/phase of their Coronavirus plan on Sunday. We hope this will include some update on a phased reopening of schools.
Believe it or not, when you hear that message on Sunday, it will also be the first time that we hear that message. We do not get any ‘privileged’ advanced information from either the government, the local authority or the unions. We will be ‘reacting’ to whatever is announced in the same way you are.
I completely understand that you will be desperately keen to know what we intend to do as a school following any announcement. However, I would like to request your support and patience at this time. Please can I ask that you try not to contact us (unless it is urgent of course) – we promise that we will contact you with an update as soon as we feasibly can. This will ensure all our staff can be completely focused on the key-worker children we have on site each day, providing on-going home learning, keeping in touch via the class@ emails/Tapestry and on a phased reopening plan – which I have a feeling is going to be a logistical challenge!
We will need some time to liaise with other staff, the local authority and other local schools (such as FARM – Firs, Alameda, Russell and Maulden) so that we provide you with as coordinated and coherent approach as we possibly can.
We all want a successful, calm transition back to school, which is as worry free for everyone as it possibly can be. Giving us time to think that through carefully will be a really great help.
Thank you in advance for all your support and patience, and for the incredible job you are currently doing home schooling your children. The Russell team and community is quite something!
Take care, have a great weekend of VE Day 75 celebrations and I promise to be in touch as soon as I possibly can.
Many thanks and kind regards,
- Send the teacher photos or documents linked to work or models made at home
- Ask questions about home learning and home learning packs
- Say hello and send us your news and updates from home
- Swan, Dove and Swift Class parents, please continue to use Tapestry to say hello and upload learning please as this is working so well, and only use the class email for queries about home learning please. Thank you.
Stay safe and well
Wednesday 25th March 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
Keeping in touch letter 1
Firstly, I wanted to say what a strange place school is without your children in it. It just doesn’t feel right and we miss them already! I hope you are enjoying this extra family time at home, and the home learning opportunities in your packs or on the website.
Hopefully, we are all beginning to adapt to our ‘new normal’, and I thought it would be helpful to write to everyone.
All our home learning resources are now up and running and will be regularly updated. You can find these in the Kids Area of our website, and then within each year group folder.
Did you know that one of the favourite resources is ‘Mrs Hale’s Home Learning?’ Mrs Hale is working from home uploading teaching videos – at the moment mainly on phonics/reading, but bringing in lots of other areas of learning. Even if your child is not in Foundation Stage, I highly recommend them! Either use this link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfS6dDC9DA4udt4JPyaFrRw , or go to the Kids Area of the website and the ‘Mrs Hale’s Home Learning’ tab. You must have a look! There will be more coming soon. We also recommend setting up a consistent routine to get the most out of home learning with the least tears!
The key to successful reintegration into school after this pandemic is over (and one day it really will be!), could we please ask that you consider the following:
- A routine, suitable for your family, which is consistent. We all know that we thrive on routine. I know it sounds a bit formal, but an actual timetable up on the fridge would probably help everyone. Remember, your children are really used to this at school
- Please support your son or daughter with their on-going learning through daily reading and website learning. Please use the books/magazines etc. that you have in your home to support learning. Encourage limits to ‘screen time’. If you would like us to print any of the sheets from the website for you to collect from the school office or that we can post home to you, please let us know and we will do what we can to support you. Please note: as we are all using technology more at the moment, we have also updated the ‘E-Safety’ tab on the website to support you with remote learning, screen time and safety.
- Creative and life skills are equally as valuable and important. You could Bake cakes, cook dinner together, get the paints out, build a den, listen to or create music, get active (you could join Joe Wicks at 9am every morning!) or do some gardening…
- Try to get outside in the fresh air for at least one 30 minute ‘session’ EVERY day. Just a simple walk or kick about in a garden or park would be sufficient. It replenishes our vitamin D and oxygen levels, and just makes us feel a whole lot better
Central Bedfordshire Libraries have also offered some support on-line:
At this difficult time, we would like to advise you of the ebooks, audiobooks and other e-resources available online through Central Bedfordshire Council Libraries.
- Anyone can sign up remotely to be an online member of Central Bedfordshire Libraries. Parents can fill in an online form for children (and themselves) to have an online membership.
A library number and pin number will be sent by email.
- Library members can download the RBDigital app, then use their library number to download ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. There is a good selection of audiobooks and ebooks (e.g. Harry Potter series and David Walliams books, or the Dirty Bertie series for younger children). Use the ‘audience’ button to select resources for children. In the e-magazines, there are some specifically for children: National Geographic for Kids; Minecraft World Magazine; Horrible Histories.
- Also note: the Encyclopaedia Britannica is available in a junior version. From our Virtual Library, this may be accessed with a library number and pin.
Did you also know that your child can still do Accelerated Reader Quizzes from home? Please visit the Kids Area of the website, Accelerated Reader tab for further information.
We are here – but not as we know it!
Since Monday 23rd March the physical school site at Russell has only been used for those most in need. The government has been very clear on this. You should use any means at your disposal to keep your children safely at home with you. Bringing them to the Russell site presents risk to all involved and should only be used as the very last resort. Thank you for the phenomenal support you have shown us in sticking to this.
We continue to be here for everyone remotely. The best method of contact is email.
For all general enquires: email@example.com
For all Special Educational Needs enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
For any safeguarding concerns: email@example.com FAO Mrs Bunney
For closure provision enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact a teacher about your child’s learning at home: email@example.com
To contact our pastoral support team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: The Pastoral Support tab of the website has a new area called ‘Anxiety, Stress and Relaxation’. There are lots of resources here to help both adults and children. Do have a look.
Thank you for all the positive feedback we have received so far and the numerous messages of support. We really do greatly appreciate it.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if we can help in any way. I will write again to you all after Easter.
I hope you enjoy the extra family time together. Stay safe, keep well and take good care.
Many thanks and kind regards,
20th March 2020
Temporary Closure of Russell Lower School
It is with much regret, that we are closing our doors to most of our wonderful children today. These are certainly strange times!
I want to take a moment to thank you all for your incredible support, encouragement and understanding over the last few weeks. It has been unbelievably challenging, but the flood of emails, notes, telephone messages and even gifts thanking us has really kept us going. I cannot thank you all enough. Yet again, the Russell community has pulled together and shown everyone what it is made of!
We are going to miss the children terribly, but we know that home, with their grown-ups, is the safest place for them.
We will continue to be in school, so do contact us with any issues – big or small. We are here to help. 01525 755664 or email@example.com
The whole of the Russell Staff send you all our very best wishes. Look after each other, try to keep learning and stay well.
We will be in touch (hopefully soon), to let you know when it is possible to safely re-open school. In the meantime, do use the website to keep you up-to-date.
By the middle of next week, I am sure we will all be adapting to our ‘new normal’. We are a versatile and resilient bunch!
Thank you so much again. Your on-going support has been invaluable.
Take good care.
King regards and many thanks,
Re: Coronavirus update – school closure to most pupils
I would like to start by thanking every one of your for the immense level of support you have shown us during this incredibly difficult period.
Following on from my last update, I am now writing to let you know that we have been instructed to close the school to almost all children this Friday, 20th March, until further notice.
As advised by the government, we will do all we can to stay open, during term time, from 23rd March for the children of key workers (NHS staff, police, supermarket delivery drivers, early years workers, teachers or social workers) and children with a social worker or an EHCP. If we are unable, or become unable, to provide this facility ourselves, the local authority will work with the DfE’s regional teams to ensure an alternative option is available.
We are waiting for the government to publish more information on exactly what this means, but it would help us in the meantime if you could let us know if, a) you think your child may fall into one of these categories and, b) you will require childcare to continue working in one of these key roles fighting the virus as there is no one else in the household who can do this. Please ring school on 01525 755664 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 am tomorrow. We’ll be in touch again as soon as we are sure who this does apply to. The government have said they will make further announcements.
All other children will need to stay at home, so we ask that you do not send your child into school from Monday onwards. Where it is at all possible, and where it does not stop parents working on the ‘front line’, we strongly believe that being at home with their parents at this time of such uncertainty and heightened anxiety is by far the best thing.
Please note that this is a national closure – as you may have heard in the news – so while it is a challenging situation, we are not alone. We’ll re-open to all children as soon as we can and will let you know when this is by keeping the School Closure Tab updated and contacting you by email/text.
What can continue while your child is at home?
As mentioned in my previous letter, home learning is available via year group learning packs and the additional learning materials on our school website (Kids Area tab). Teachers will also continue to update these areas throughout the closure period. Thank you so much in advance for keeping our children’s learning alive during this extended period away from school. (Please refer to our previous home learning letter for more details)
If your child usually receives free school meals we will also be in touch with more information about how we will continue to provide this, with support from a scheme that the government has just announced. At this stage, we believe schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families. Please make sure we have your up to date email, postal address and telephone number.
What we won’t be able to go ahead with
This does mean, that for the foreseeable future we will be unable to go ahead with any planned trips or visits, and we will be unable to provide breakfast and after-school club.
This is as much as we know right now and we appreciate your continued patience with as we deal with this ever-changing situation. We understand that this latest news will have an enormous emotional and practical impact on you and your family and it is far from ideal, but we’ll continue to keep in touch with any updates as the situation develops.
If you want to get in touch to share any concerns, please don’t hesitate to do so via our email@example.com email address.
Please also remember: if you or your child feels ill and you want to know what to do next, please use NHS 111 online.
Thank you again for your continued support, and we will be in touch with more information when we can.
Wising you all the very best of health over the coming weeks. We look forward to seeing you all safe and well very soon.
Many thanks and kind regards,
18th March 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
As time passes, increasing numbers of children are involved in household self-isolation and consequently missing school.
We know that school attendance is the single biggest factor in pupil achievement, so we know this will have a big impact. If you and your child feel well enough, continuing with a little learning each day will really help us get off to a flying start when everyone returns.
We plan to send every child home with a simple, year group specific ‘Home Learning Pack’ that the teachers are currently preparing. If school has to close, we will send the packs home on this day with the children. If you are already self-isolating, we will email the packs home as soon as they are ready.
In addition we have set up the following:
On the school website (Kids area tab) you will find:
1) Links to our recommended educational sites (also below)
2) Year Group folders with Maths, English and Themed tasks in word format for your child to complete from home. These will be placed on the website daily following any whole school closure
3) Key Performance Indicators in each year group folder which helps parents understand the end of year ‘targets’ for their children
As well as using these resources we would strongly recommend daily reading (with recording in diary), completion of learning logs, use of TT Rockstars/Hit the button and writing a daily diary. We know that keeping these ‘core’ skills going with really support on-going progress.
Although we cannot insist that you complete some school work with your children whilst you are at home, we can tell you that the evidence, where this happens ‘little and often’, is overwhelmingly positive. Thank you so much in advance!
If you would like to bring in completed work when we return to school, teachers will then look at it.
https://www.nhm.ac.uk/ (Natural History Museum)
We also subscribe to Espresso learning. To find out more about how to access this please follow the link in the 'kids area' tab.
If you would like to know even more information about your child’s learning, do have a look at our ‘Curriculum’ tab on our website: www.russell-lower.co.uk
Thank you for your on-going support. We know that if the children continue to learn a little every day they will be in the best possible position when they come back to school.
· Avoid unnecessary travel
· Avoid gatherings and crowded places
· No unnecessary visits or visitors
· If there is one person in the household with a persistent cough(coughing repeatedly) or fever, everyone within the house should self-isolate for 14 days