29 Mar

Hi everyone,

On behalf of all the members, governors and trustees in our Trust can I encourage you all to stay safe and continue to follow the guidance laid out by the Government.

Graham has reported to me that the vast majority of children and young people are being cared for, and educated, at home. Although all the available evidence states that this is exactly the right response, I am also aware that this can be, at times, challenging.

Our schools, last week, needed to manage many of the logistical issues in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. There was lots of guidance from central government, some of it was conflicting! It was an enormous undertaking. It was also tricky as Government advice seemed to change on an almost daily basis. I can assure you all that our teams had plans and policies to manage these sorts of eventualities. However, the “doing it’ and “putting it into operation” is still a significant undertaking.

We eventually agreed on a two-pronged solution. The advice was clear that most children and young people should be encouraged to stay at home and follow our virtual learning model. A very small number of children, because their families work in the “critical services” sector, should move to a locality hub model.

The children in our hubs, from all our schools, are presently based at Hawthorns in Tameside and New Bridge School in Oldham. Can I thank the staff that are supporting these children on a rota basis? Can I also massively thank the cleaning and premises teams who are ensuring they are making these learning spaces as clean and safe as possible. This is such as essential job. Likewise, we’ve ensured that all queries are managed through our Administration hub. This has meant that the details such as our Tesco vouchers scheme (for those children entitled to Free School Meals) and our daily feedback to all the local authorities and central government can be carried out without a hitch. I’d also like to give a huge shout out to the teams that are in our Finance and payroll teams who are keeping the business side of our trust going.

In relation to the second strand of our strategy, the home-based model, our school leaders are presently undertaking an evaluation as to whether the contact with children and families is too much, not enough or just about right. We’re all learning here so I’d ask for your patience. These plans are constantly under review, but I think I’d be accurate in telling you that we will be facing this disruption for a number of weeks.

I’m so pleased that the Governors and Trustees agreed to roll out the iPad programme about 18 months ago. On that note, I’d like to especially mention our IT teams who have worked non-stop to ensure our technological infrastructure is able to manage this increase in traffic. Every one of them has been incredible.

So, that moves me on to where we are today.

We’ve agreed that the hubs will continue to be open throughout the Easter period (although not the bank holidays at this point – but that may change) for the children mentioned above.

Our classroom-based teams are preparing to extend our “Virtual Offer”. We’ve already seen some amazing and creative work – some of you may have seen it on Twitter and Facebook. We are also exploring a “Virtual Holiday Club” offer. This is likely to involve virtual trips to the zoo, theatre, art galleries etc. etc. Just for note, we were contacted by the Department for Education, late last week, as our schools had been identified as being exceptional providers and users of technology. They asked if we could advise other schools across the country.

Our HR teams are working hard to ensure not one member of staff is disadvantaged as a result of this crisis. You can be assured that the Trustees and Executive team are committed to every colleague within our staff teams.

Graham and the executive team are in daily contact with colleagues from both local and central government. We are well placed as a Trust to respond to the next inevitable twist. However, we remain resolute in one key principle and that is to ensure the health and safety of all our pupils, students and staff.

Thank you for your continued support, stay safe.

Steve