10 June 2020

Dear Pupils, Parents, Carers and Colleagues

You will no doubt have been following updates on the wider opening of schools with confusion, concern and frustration. As a parent myself I understand only too well the amount of information and speculation that is circulating and the stress that is putting upon you and your children.

As a Trust, Cidari has approached the partial closing and now the wider opening of our Academies in a calm, measured and pragmatic way. We have worked tirelessly as a team to ensure you have the most up to date information, and everything you need to make a well informed decision when the time is right. We have said from the start that any decision to open to more pupils will put the health, safety and wellbeing of our pupils, staff, parents and wider communities at the centre.

Government guidance sets out clear restrictions on how many pupils can be taught together. You may have heard the term ‘bubble’ being used in the media - a group of staff and students who remain as a closed unit, socially distanced from similar groups in school. These guidelines severely restrict the number of pupils in a classroom, and increase the amount of staff required. In many schools including our own academies, not all rooms can take up to 15 pupils, socially distanced, and therefore even more rooms are required and more staff.

As you are aware we have remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers during this period. The numbers of pupils attending in these categories is now increasing to the point that in some of our Academies these groups are already split across several teaching spaces, in some buildings almost all rooms are now being used.

We want our academies to be able to welcome back as many pupils as possible, however that must be balanced with the safety of those in the building and appropriate staffing. For this reason the decision was made that when we open to more pupils it will only be for those in Year 1 initially at our Primary Academies and Year 10 at our Secondary Academy. We will then look at the other identified years cautiously. These groups, along with those already in school will mean that every teaching space and every member of staff will be needed. You can see from what I have outlined that being able to fully open to all pupils before the summer was never a realistic option.

The Secretary of State for Education made a statement to Parliament today and confirmed  that the wider intention to open to all year groups in July would be halted. He noted that schools and academies should have the local flexibility to deliver education until the end of the summer term.

So where does this leave you, your children and our wonderful Cidari academies? Some schools across the country began welcoming more pupils from the 1st June, others from the 8th. As a Trust we have continually monitored the regional view and like you we were aware of anxieties in light of the regional R rate. Given the latest information and the decisions of many of the region's councils to postpone wider opening further, we have made the decision that our Academies will not begin to accept more pupils until Monday 22nd June at the earliest. We will continue to monitor the regional situation and your Academies will update again early next week.

We remain open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. The increased need for places in school means we have to continue to make sure that those most vulnerable have access to the support they need. I have asked our Academies to contact all key worker parents to check that they still meet the current government criteria (see https://www.cidarieducation.co.uk/covid). If you are a key worker and your child is not in one of the year groups identified for returning I would ask once again that you consider whether your child's place is needed or whether you are able to look after them at home. I appreciate that this is a difficult question to ask, but we will ultimately find ourselves with more pupils wanting to attend, and not enough space to teach them. In some of our Academies there is the real prospect that we may be unable to accommodate opening to further numbers of pupils.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff, our parents, pupils and our community for their support and resilience in this challenging period.  As CEO I remain immensely proud of everyone within this great Trust.

Please stay safe and well

Peter Ashworth

CEO - Cidari Multi Academy Trust