18 March 2020, 13:46PM

Dear Families

Ref: School closure until further notice

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you to inform you that Abbot’s Lea School will close from 19 March 2020 until further notice due to Coronavirus pandemic and associated health and safety duties towards students and staff.

The protection of our students’ and staff’ wellbeing, health and, possibly life, is my number one priority and it is paramount at this unprecedented time.

This decision has not been taken lightly and followed a period of several weeks of contingency planning and critical business continuity efforts and adaptations.

As a Leadership Team, we have been working intensively looking at ways we can operate safely. Sadly, today we all agreed that we are not in a position to do that. The closure is therefore necessary for two main reasons:

  1. We need to have, but do not, staff rations that ensure safe learning for our students
  2. We need to promote prevention measures with the COVID-19 coronavirus, as per the most up-to-date national guidance.

The rise in numbers across the country and the latest guidance have resulted in large numbers of staff following it and not being available for work. This is for a range of reasons, including having symptoms, living in a household with someone showing symptoms, complex personal medical needs or a carer responsibility necessitating absence from work. We foresee that this trend will sadly continue and we cannot sustain the level of reactive staffing we have been putting in place this week any longer without creating unmanageable level of risk.

Professionally, I have been puzzled and ethically torn about there being very little, if any, guidance regarding children in general and students attending special schools in particular, with regards to protection from potential harm. I have raised my concerns with both Director of Children’s Services, Public Health England and, through national special schools’ headteachers meetings with the Ministers, with the central government. Regrettably, we still do not have specific evidence—based or precautionary guidance for children and young people with Autism and co-morbid conditions.

I have, as have many of my fellow special school headteacher colleagues, read the guidance issued regarding vulnerable adults:

While this guidance states that it is for vulnerable adults, in the absence of anything equivalent for vulnerable children, I believe we should be guided by it.

Given that the guidance identifies learning disability, as well as other conditions as a risk and this alone applies to many of our students, my concerns have rapidly increased.

In light of the guidance and the fact that we are no longer able to guarantee safe staffing levels and infection control, the school has to close and remain closed until either this guidance is lifted by the government or we receive different relevant guidance.

I have made the decision to close the school in full communication with the Chair of Governors and Local Authority and my team and I will continue to work during the closure period, health permitting, to fulfil our teaching and wider duties.

We all appreciated that the closure will have implications for the students and you as families and we will be in regular contact to ensure that home-based learning guidance is sent home with the students today (if they are in) or posted to all those absent tomorrow. Class teams will support you in the home-learning facilitation, too so please do seek advice and guidance if things prove difficult.

We are also looking at ways we can support our students in receipt of free school meals and those who, as a result of school closure may need additional social care assistance; I will be working with the Director of Children’s Services on the priority areas as needed.

I will be updating you at least weekly, every Friday, through Head’s Weekly Newsletter. If new guidance comes to light, I will, of course write to you again.

It is imperative that you use online communication channels, including ParentMail and check our social media updates, with Facebook being used for lengthy messages and Twitter for sharing resource ideas.

I want to thank all of my colleagues for their total commitment to the students over the past few days; we worked very well as a team and this crisis, whilst really testing, has demonstrated what matters most – unity and togetherness. Thank you.

If you have any further questions and would like to speak to a senior member of staff, please contact me directly and I will either answer your question swiftly if I can, or, forward your query to one of my colleagues. My email address is:

Most of all, your child’s, your own and my team’s health is key – we will ride out this storm together and return once the stormy seas have settled. Stay positive, keep well and ask for help when it is needed.

With my warmest wishes,

Yours faithfully

Mrs A Hildrey