Latest information from Dave Baker, CEO
We hope this finds you well – it is hard to believe that another 2 weeks have passed since the last Trust update as we have seen so many changes announced in the meantime once again. You will probably have seen headlines following the Prime Minister’s announcement about all schools re-opening fully in September and the easing of lockdown arrangements from 4th July. We are going to need a lot of detail and many questions answered before we can let you know what that is going to look like for Olympus schools. We are currently waiting for full guidance about re-opening in September which we hope to receive in the next week. With the easing of lockdown, more and more people are returning to work and life is starting to begin to return to normal, albeit a “new normal”. We are doing what we can to accommodate as many children as possible in our schools before the summer break as we know that there is much anxiety amongst children and parents and carers about the return.
We have done our best throughout lockdown to accommodate the needs of our 6,300 learners and appreciate that this has been a difficult time for all. The safety and well-being of our staff and learners has been paramount in all our decision-making, whilst following Government guidelines. We established a set of principles at the outset in agreement with the Olympus Board of Trustees and have used them to inform our decisions. We have tried to provide clear and regular communication in a time of complexity and challenge and hope that this has helped you to plan and understand issues from our perspective. We know that home life has involved juggling priorities for many families and, similarly, our staff have been dealing with complexity in managing their home situations as well as providing home learning for all our learners, supporting in-school provision and covering for staff who are unable to work. This has been challenging and I thank those of you who have recognised this and have sent supportive messages during this period.
If you are a parent or carer of a child attending an Olympus primary school, you will have been contacted this week about a change in arrangements. Following the announcement by the Government that we could have more children back in school if we have the capacity to do so, and having received communications from a number of parents asking if there was anything we could do to allow their children to have at least one opportunity to be in school before the summer, we felt that we should do all we could to enable children in Years 2, 3, 4 and 5 to have a day in school in July. We are also aware that some children are anxious about returning to school and about next year. A re-connect meeting with a member of staff will, therefore, take place for all children, to help alleviate this anxiety and to plan going forward. We are aware that our decision to change will have pleased some and annoyed or inconvenienced others – we are sorry if you don’t agree with our prioritisation but hope you understand why we want to support all primary learners with some time in school. This was not a decision that was taken lightly as significant planning had already been undertaken to enable the other 3 year groups to be in since 1st June and we now have to ensure that nobody’s safety is compromised by the changes.
Remote learning in Primary Schools
If your child attends one of our primary schools, you will be asked to complete a survey about remote learning in the next few days. We would be really grateful if you could complete it as it will inform future planning. All Olympus primary remote learning has been based on Government guidance and being mindful that a proportion of children across our community do not have access to the internet or devices. Live lessons would, therefore, not be inclusive. The Government national online resource, Oak Learning, has been used if access is possible – more information can be found at Oak Learning Academy. There is a helpful guide from the Department for Education which can be found here – Home Education – tips for parents.
At secondary, it has been great to welcome Year 10 and Year 12 students back into school in whatever form that has taken for them in the last 2 weeks; the model is slightly different in each school depending on numbers and need. It has been heartening to see initial anxiety about coming back into the building in such different circumstances disappear quite quickly and we have been impressed with the attitude and engagement of our students during this new phase. The focus of sessions in school has been on reviewing progress during lockdown, checking on well-being and preparing for the next phase of learning. We are sorry that we do not have the capacity to invite the other year groups in in the same way before the summer but our secondary Headteachers have all committed to ensuring that students in Years 7, 8 and 9 will each have individual contact between now and the end of term for a re-connect conversation with a member of staff which will be to check on well-being and progress with work set during lockdown.
Results Days for Years 11 and 13
As I write this update, I am conscious that today is officially the last day of school for students in Years 11 and 13 across the Trust and it feels very odd not to be able to provide the usual rites of passage although schools are providing farewells in whatever way they can. We wish them all well and look forward to them receiving their results in August. Current guidance still states that large gatherings are not permitted. Therefore, we have come to the reluctant decision that our results days for Year 11 and Year 13 will have to be virtual rather than actual. Planning is currently in place as to how this will take place and details will follow from schools in due course. We know this will be disappointing for students who will feel that they have been denied the opportunity to have an appropriate ending to this phase of their studies in school. We can only apologise and express our own disappointment at not being able to say goodbye in the way we would have wanted.
We feel that it is important that staff have a proper break during the summer because the autumn is going to be intense, with an emphasis on recovery and resilience for all. We are also aware that our learners need a break from the intensity of the lockdown period. There will be no in-school daily provision for vulnerable learners and the children of key workers during the summer holidays. In many cases, they have been in school every day since lockdown began! There will be limited other provision, organised at individual school level.
Covid-19 Summer Food Fund
We have now received guidance on the recently announced Covid-19 Summer Food Fund, which is the temporary extension of the food vouchers scheme to provide free school meals to eligible families over the summer holidays. The scheme has been designed to offer a £90 voucher per child which will be paid in full at the start of the holidays.
Your school will order the vouchers for eligible families at least one week prior to the end of the school term and the vouchers should be issued to you within 7 days through the Edenred system that has been used previously. Unfortunately we do not have the budget to top up the vouchers during the summer holidays but we will continue to provide food and well-being packages for families who need them and have requested them – more details are provided below.
Term 1 2020-21 – Arrangements for September
We are currently waiting for the guidance from the Government that will assist our planning for learners to return in September; until this is received there is little more we can tell you other than to reiterate that we want to be able to return to normal operation if at all possible. We have 2 staff training days scheduled for Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd September which we will definitely need, whatever the expectations are about opening from that point onwards. We anticipate that we will need to do some form of induction for all year groups from Thursday 3rd September and are acutely aware that Reception, Year 7 and Year 12 will all be in new phases and will need particular transitional support. As soon as we have more information, we will be working on our plans and will share them with parents and carers.
As mentioned in the last update, we are still processing claims for trip refunds and will provide them to parents and carers as soon as possible. A significant number have been approved by our insurers in the last fortnight. Please bear with us and we will get the money to you as soon as we can.
Charborough Road Nursery
The Trust has been working with South Gloucestershire Council to commission a new nursery class facility to be located on the Charborough Road Primary School site. It is planned that the new nursery class will open in September 2021 and will provide a separate nursery facility located adjacent to the current Reception class. While the class is opening later than originally planned, please be reassured that we are working hard to overcome the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and remain committed to working in partnership with the Council to deliver what will be an inspiring learning environment for 3 and 4 year olds, benefiting from secure access and free flow outdoor play space. The designs for the new nursery are being developed and we hope to share plans with parents/carers in the near future.
Food and well-being support for Olympus families in need
Last week we made over 60 deliveries of provisions and basic essentials to families in need across schools in the Trust. Unfortunately this week one of our suppliers was not able to provide us with a food delivery in time but we are hoping that this will be rectified next week and we will get parcels out to families as soon as we can.
We would like to pass on our huge thanks to members of the Olympus community, FareShare South West, Morrisons and Asda whose generosity and support have made this possible. This scheme will continue for the period of need during the Covid-19 pandemic as the number of requests we are receiving is steadily increasing.
Please bring any donations of goods to the reception areas of Bradley Stoke Community School or Winterbourne Academy. If you would prefer to make a financial donation, either as a one off or a regular commitment, please use the bank details below:
Sort code: 30-62-32
Account number: 50427460
We would be grateful if you could label as “donation” when transferring money so that we can identify the payments as they come in.
For full details of how to request support, please e-mail FoodSupport@olympustrust.co.uk and look here on the Olympus website for further details. In addition, you can contact the following foodbanks to either ask for or offer support:
North Bristol Foodbank – email@example.com
Bristol North West Foodbank – firstname.lastname@example.org
East Bristol Foodbank – email@example.com
Thank you for your continued support. Please stay safe and well.
With very best wishes,
CEO, Olympus Academy Trust