Important Update - Castle School Closed 5th and 6th January
Dear Parents and Carers,
As I have said in previous emails, you will be aware of all the information flying about on the news and social media with regards to school reopening this January. I have now spoken with my senior leadership team and chair of governors and, with a heavy heart, have decided that we will need to fully close for the next two 2 days (Tuesday 5th January and Wednesday 6th January) in order to plan for appropriate and safe provision going forward. This has not been an easy decision at all. I want to see all our pupils back in school, where they belong and where they will benefit. However, the pace of the current infection rate in our area gives me great cause for concern and I do not believe that it is possible to put enough safeguards in place to safely have all children back in school at this present time.
In addition, many of the Education Unions are telling their members that it is unsafe to return to school under Section 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Indeed, any member of staff, regardless of being in a union can exercise this right. This means they deem the work place unsafe and that this is particularly pertinent amid concerns about the new Covid-19 variant. As an employer we currently have no evidence to refute this. Covid-19 cases in West Berkshire have shown considerable increases in infection rates since before Christmas and are still rising.
This has now resulted in many Castle staff, both teachers and support staff, reporting they will not be attending work until the risk is reduced.
This means we no longer have enough staff to ensure the safe return of all pupils. As such, and similar to other special schools in West Berkshire, we will be moving to a system similar to the one we had after Easter last year where places will be offered to children of parents who are classed as Critical Workers under the Government Guidance and some of our more vulnerable pupils. Over the next two days we will be in contact with parents of pupils who can be offered a place. I would dearly like to offer as many pupils as possible a place, but this will not be feasible at this time. I plan to review the provision at the end of the second week to assess whether we continue or if we can return to full opening from 18th January 2021.
I very much apologise for the inconvenience this will undoubtedly cause for many families, but I will always have the safety of your children and my staff team at the centre of any decision I take. These are extraordinary times and I want to ensure that I can make our environment as safe as possible for everyone.
Finally, I am once again asking for your patience and support under these increasingly challenging circumstances. You have given so much this year and I hope that you can help support us to get this right for everyone. I hope that we are able to work together to work a way through this unprecedented national crisis that we all find ourselves in.
I will endeavour to keep you informed via email of everything we are planning to do and what will be happening in regards to remote learning for those who are not able to be in school at this time.
Best wishes and take care,
The Castle School