Start Dates for September - 15th July 2020
Many of you will have heard the Welsh Government Minister for Education’s statement last week which detailed there being a need for all pupils to return to school by Monday 14th September. Whilst we very much look forward to seeing all of our children return, I must stress that because ‘operational guidance’ for schools was only published at the end of Monday afternoon, I am not yet in a position to be able to confirm how the Autumn term will exactly look for your child.
We are supportive of the Minister’s reference to ensure ‘learning is maximised’. This will remain at the core of our plans, as will keeping all members of our school community safe. Rest assured, a significant amount of planning continues to be undertaken with regards to a ‘full return’ to school and I will communicate all such details to you once arrangements are finalised.
I am pleased to be able to offer some clarity about start dates at least. The Minister referred to there being a period of flexibility for schools in that first fortnight to be able to prepare and offer bespoke induction for children who are transitioning and embarking on new pathways. We feel strongly that it will be important for new Reception children and those transitioning to Year 3 to have a bespoke induction before embarking on a new school year. I’m pleased to say that we will be able to facilitate this induction on Friday 4th September and also during the week commencing Monday 7th September for our Reception children, leading to every child being in school by Friday 11th September. To this end, please note the dates of the start of the school year in September:
Tuesday 1st & Wednesday 2nd September
School Preparation / Health & Safety Days
Thursday 3rd September
Staff INSET – New Curriculum for Wales (As previously planned)
Friday 4th September
Whole day induction for Year 3 in new classes.
Family visits for Reception children and their parents/carers.
W/C: Monday 7th September
All children in Year 1 to Year 6 return to school.
Daily group of new Reception starters.
Friday 11th September & thereafter
All children in Reception to Year 6 in school.
*Please note that further detail on arrival & departure times (if different to normal) and locations will be sent with my next update. We are not planning to significantly reduce hours in any way but slightly staggered arrivals and departures may be required depending upon the detail within the Welsh Government guidance and direction from our Local Authority. Visit times and start days for new Reception children will also be communicated separately.
I am still awaiting news from Monmouthshire County Council on transport, catering and wraparound childcare arrangements and this will be shared once received by the school.
Ahead of more detail, I would finally like to take this opportunity to say how lovely it has been to see so many of our children return in this ‘check in, catch up & prepare’ phase; how incredibly mature they have been without exception and how much staff have enjoyed reconnecting with your wonderful children.
Please continue to look after yourselves.
Almost there … 26th June 2020
I hope this finds you all still safe and well and a positive and happy week has been had by all.
We have had a very exciting week at school as we have welcomed back our children from Key Worker families to our very own Hub. They came in each day happy, motivated and skipping, all were excited to be back, all cheerfully waved goodbye to their parent/carer who dropped them off and off they went to be with our fabulous staff. Happy children, happy mums and dads, happy staff, happy Mrs Evans!
We have also been really busy preparing the school for the safe return of all children for their “Check In, Catch Up & Prepare” sessions with their teachers next week. A video has been prepared to show you and your children what to expect – Back To School Video Tour .
Children in the Hub have also helped to prepare the school. Look out for their encouraging and welcoming messages and creative artwork on your return to school next week.
Ahead of the return, I thought a reminder of key points would be useful, as I know that there was an awful lot to take in in the guidance document shared at the start of the week.
- Children should only attend school on their allocated Check In / Hub days.
- We have a one-way system in place and staggered start & finish times.
Children at the Hub
Pick up between 3.15 and 4pm
Families with more than one child for “Check In” Sessions
Families with one child for “Check In” Sessions
- Parents should wait, socially distanced, behind the barriers, or in their designated waiting zone (Hazel & Sycamore), when dropping off and collecting. The one-way system means that Key Stage 2 children will be dropped off / collected first, followed by Foundation Phase children. Only one parent/carer should accompany children on to the school site.
- No uniform is required. Clothes and shoes should be suitable for learning outdoors and clean each day. We advise that children wash and change when they get home from school.
- Packed lunches are required each day and a water bottle. Please remember that we are a "Nut Free School".
- No items should be brought in from home other than food and drink for personal consumption, a waterproof coat, a hat and sun cream if it is hot.
- Under no circumstances should children attend school if they feel unwell or have any of the three identified COVID-19 symptoms (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or loss of taste or smell). They must also not attend if they live in a household with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive to COVID19 in the past 14 days.
- Children should not ride bikes or scooters to school on “Check In” days.
If children are bringing in decorated pebbles, as advertised through the Usk Coronavirus Support Page on Facebook, they should leave them outside in the tray at their classroom lining up point. A member of staff will then display them around the school. We recommend using acrylic paints if possible or a spray varnish after painting so that the pebbles last.
Distance learning will still be provided through the usual learning platforms, weekly learning menus will be on the school website and pre-recorded video lessons will be available through your child’s class Microsoft Team under the Assignment Section. Teachers will still share links to the learning menus in Dojo and log in at the end of the school day on Monday to Thursday, and during the day each Friday to answer any questions that you have and provide support and feedback on the learning that has taken place at home. Please keep an eye on the “School Story” in Dojo as this is where we will share information about school assemblies and any other whole school news.
The children will take away a learning pack containing literacy and numeracy activities after their “Check In” session. We will make contact with those who do not return to arrange a suitable collection time for you to collect the packs.
I would like to say thank you once again for all your kind words and messages you have sent for the staff. We have all been truly overwhelmed with the tremendous support you have shown us and the patience when we do not know the answers, thank you, I shall never forget it as it means so very much to me and indeed to all the staff.
I know that many of you will be wondering what will be happening in September. As things currently stand this is the big question that I do not have the answer to. No information has been shared with schools. We will work to the directive and guidance received from our Local Authority and Welsh Government.
Next week we will be sending out a questionnaire about each family’s digital access. Please take some time to complete this as it will help us to shape an inclusive curriculum offer if a “blended learning” approach is required.
This weekend have a relax (if you can!), take some time out for YOU. Be kind to yourselves and look after yourselves, you are doing an amazing job looking after your precious beings at home and also those of you bringing them into school.
Hopefully see you all very, very soon.
Take care, look after each other, keep smiling & Stay Safe!
Essential Information for Families Returning to Usk CiW Primary School from Monday 29th June
Essential Information for Families Using the Childcare Hub at Usk CiW Primary School
Letter to all Monmouthshire parents and carers from Will McLean - Chief Officer, Children and Young People MCC - 19th June 2020
Planning for Reopening - 14th June 2020
I hope you are all remaining safe and well in these challenging times. The staff and I miss your wonderful children and the busy community of our school and are working hard behind the scenes to carefully plan for the school to reopen to allow children to “Check In, Catch Up and Prepare” from Monday 29th June. Please excuse the length of this email and those that will follow over the next couple of weeks. We have a lot of information to share with you.
On Wednesday 10th June, the Welsh Government (WG) produced guidance for schools to aid their planning for the wider reopening of schools. This can be found on their website. We have used this to formulate our detailed plan for reopening which will be shared with you by Monday 22nd June following approval by the school’s Governing Body. It will also provide you with time to make plans and make arrangements for your child/ren to attend school, albeit on a limited and partial basis from June 29th.
Our reopening strategy is based on the following principles:
- to ensure the safety of children, staff and parents/carers;
- a commitment to equity and the wellbeing of children and staff;
- approaching the planning task in a measured and deliberate way;
- making the best possible decisions on the basis of the evidence we have and within the constrains and parameters we face in our school.
Today, I want to share with you the headlines from the initial planning and preparations and hope this will provide answers to some of your questions.
Return to Classes
- All children will be invited into school for one day a week for three weeks commencing Monday 29th June.
- Siblings will be invited together on the same days and we aim to plan a regular routine with the same day each week for the same group of learners.
- The fourth and final week of the summer term, w/c: Monday 20th July. will be a transition week for year groups making key transitions – i.e. Year 6, Year 2 and the new Reception pupils starting school in September 2020 (albeit a virtual experience for this cohort of children). Details of the plan for this transition week will be provided to the families involved.
- Children will be placed in smaller class sizes of up to 8 children and social distancing will be observed, as much is practically possible as we recognise that it is not practicable to expect learners of a young age to maintain consistent social distancing of two metres. Staff will however seek to ensure some distancing between learners. This is based on medical advice and evidence which suggests that the risk of infection and transmission for children is likely to be lower.
- There will be a staggered start and end of the day to ensure social distancing for both children and parents/carers. Families with more than one child will arrive at 8.45am and collect at 2.45pm and families with one child will arrive at 9am and collect at 3pm. The school day is slightly shorter to allow staff to meet the needs of both children in school and those who continue to learn from home.
- There will be no breakfast club or after school club during the remainder of the summer term.
- All children will be required to bring a packed lunch.
- Playtimes and lunchtimes will be staggered during the day.
- Children are not required to wear uniform. They should wear suitable clothes for learning outside that are appropriate for the weather.
- Children will be allocated their own stationery items to use throughout the day and any shared resources will be cleaned regularly.
- Classrooms will be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day and at regular points during the school day. There will be a cleaner on site during the day to ensure the toilets, cloakrooms and regular touch points are cleaned.
- Distance learning will continue to be provided for all children, although teachers will not be on hand throughout the day because they are in school providing the face to face teaching.
- We will provide take away learning packs for the children at the end of their “check in” session. These will be available for collection for those not returning to school.
- There will be a heavy emphasis on children’s wellbeing during “check in” sessions along with some review of where the children currently are to enable us to prepare for September. As much as is possible, learning will be carried out outside.
- We will adopt a whole school theme for learning during this time so that families can engage in a shared project (albeit at different levels) during their time away from school.
- Staff and children who are displaying Covid-19 symptoms will not be able to attend. Neither may they attend if a household member is displaying symptoms. Staff or children who display symptoms will need to leave the building. Such an occurrence will trigger a clearly defined protocol.
- Staff will not normally wear PPE unless circumstances – clearly defined by the Local Authority and Welsh Government Guidance – necessitate its use.
Hub Emergency Provision
- Children currently attending hub provision will move back to their own schools. The WG expectation is that schools should continue to make additional provision for those children, alongside the learning that they are entitled to for the remainder of the summer term.
- Hub provision will be offered in the School Hall from 8.30am until 4pm only.
- No meals will be served at the Hub. Children will need to bring their own food and drinks.
- The capacity to offer hub places as well as classroom places is limited by the capacity of the school to offer a safe environment (expected by WG to be no more than a third of the normal numbers in school) so in order to accommodate all children who will return for their “check in” sessions the provision will be available in line with the WG advice which is ; “Places in schools and childcare will be highly limited and only particularly vulnerable children and the children of critical workers whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response should be attending during this time. If you are classed as a critical worker but are able to perform the critical parts of your job effectively when working from home, then you should do so. Even for critical workers, provision will only be made in schools or other settings where there is no safe alternative for your family.”
- This amended hub provision will start at Usk CiW Primary School from Monday 22nd June when the Raglan Hub will close. The LA will also communicate this change. Emergency Provision will continue from the 29th June until the end of term and will be available to critical worker families on the days that children do not have their “check in” session with their teacher. We completely understand the challenges of working from home whilst having children at home, however, if the number of families requesting emergency childcare provision exceeds the limit our risk assessments have defined for the space we have available, we will not be able to offer other children the chance to “check in” with their teachers and friends as we would have to use classrooms for the hub children instead of the “check in” opportunities. The eligibility criteria for accessing emergency provision is available via https://gov.wales/coronavirus-critical-key-workers-childcare-and-education-provision . We hope that parents will consider this offer carefully and support our ability to welcome all children for their “check in” sessions by keeping children at home if at all possible outside their own “check in” days.
I am sure you will still have many other questions that require answering before you can make this important decision. Today’s email was just a starter. More information will follow over the coming weeks, including photographs and a video tour once we have the school fully ready so that you and your children will know what it will look like.
If you decide now is not the time for your child to return to school, I fully understand and support this decision. We are also not going to be pressuring anyone to send their children to school, since you know your children and personal situation best. We will keep you updated with all our preparations for making sure the school is as safe as possible, so you can make an informed decision.
In the meantime, we require those who feel that they are eligible and have no other safe alternative and therefore require emergency childcare provision to complete an online form to let us know the days of the week that are required. This information will enable us to finalise our groupings and plans. We require this to be submitted by the end of Tuesday 16th June at the very latest. Request for Emergency Hub Provision for Critical Worker Families Link
We would like to thank you for your continuous support in helping your child learn from home. We will need to keep going with this for a while yet, so please do continue to do what you can and stay in touch with us about how your child is doing.
Microsoft Teams Meetings Are Evolving - 7th June 2020
In response to the parent survey feedback and review by the staff we are going to try an alternative approach to Teams Meetings from tomorrow, Monday 8th June.
Rather than having the whole class together and the meetings being very long, the staff will invite groups of up to seven children to join them and another member of staff (a safeguarding requirement) to a weekly meeting. Everybody in the meeting should then be able to see each other at the same time, as if you have installed the Microsoft Teams app & it is up to date, you will be able to see a grid of nine screens together.
The smaller group sessions will be about 20 minutes long and should give everyone a greater chance of speaking & listening more easily.
The meeting content will now focus on a task from the weekly home learning menu that is posted on the virtual school website each week and linked on Monday through Class Dojo.
Children will be able to ask and answer questions using the chat function as well as contributing through discussion to the learning opportunity. Microphones should be muted unless they are directly asked to contribute by the teacher or supporting member of staff. Those that have already joined Teams meetings are getting pretty used to doing this. Children should be aware that all messages they leave on the chat function can be seen by their classmates, teachers and parents. They should not post anything irrelevant or inappropriate.
We are also requesting that meetings should be joined from a room other than a bedroom and that children remember that their classmates and teachers can see them so they should make sure they wear appropriate clothing.
Each teacher will decide on the groupings, just as they would in the classroom, and will post a time schedule on Class Dojo telling you your child’s Team time.
All sessions will still take place on the same morning / afternoon as previous class sessions with the exception of Redwood class (Mrs Acaster & Mrs Pheasant’s class) which will now move to a Tuesday afternoon, as the Friday afternoon was not proving to be so successful for many.
In addition to the more focussed Teams sessions that are available to all children, all of Year 6 have been added to a Team in preparation for transition to Year 7. Teachers, teaching assistants and I will be online in Teams at 9.30am on Tuesday 9th June to meet Year 6. If the children have any questions about how they will say “goodbye” to Year 6 and “hello” to Year 7, please can they add them to the Class Notebook in the Year 6 Team prior to Tuesday’s meeting?
If you have any questions or queries about this, please message your child’s class teacher through Class Dojo.
Letter to all Monmouthshire parents and carers from Will McLean - Chief Officer, Children and Young People MCC - 5th June 2020
Reopening Of The School - An Update - 4th June 2020
Thank you to everybody who has so far submitted their intentions on sending their child(ren) back to school this summer. Please can those who have not yet completed the online form ensure that they have by Monday 8th June at the very latest to help us plan the reopening of the school. Link - Return To School Data Collection Form .
We appreciate that we have not given any information on what the return to school looks like at this early stage as we are awaiting the national guidance but what I can assure you is that the health, safety and wellbeing of your children, our staff and our wider school family will be the top priority in our decision-making. We intend to make the environment as welcoming and friendly as we can whilst minimising risk.
The experience the staff and I have had whilst working at the hub school at Raglan during the pandemic has been positive and invaluable in shaping our future provision. Whilst at the hub we have cared for children when they have fallen over or been upset and ensured that they have laughed, had fun and engaged in activities with others in a safe and supported way.
What I can tell you at this very early stage is that we will invite siblings into school on the same days and this will be for a whole day. They will be in groups made up from their current class that are no bigger than eight children and there should not be a need for staggered start and finish times.
Children will not be required to wear school uniform. We are sure so many of them have grown and we would not expect anybody to go out to buy new clothes for the very limited time they will spend in school this term. Clothing should be suitable for the current weather conditions as we intend to spend much of the time outside.
For all children at home, we will continue to support you and your child with distance learning, and free school meal support for those eligible will continue through the voucher system.
Childcare provision for Key Worker children will be established at Usk Primary and sit outside of the arrangements for the "Check-in, Catch-up and Progress" sessions with class teachers.
We realise that you will have many unanswered questions at this stage, please do enter these onto the Return To School Data Collection Form .
We will be in touch once we have analysed your responses and have been able to complete our plans to open the school safely. A full Governing Body meeting will review this on Wednesday 17th June. We hope that you will understand and support our safety first, cautious approach to this complicated situation.
Announcement Regarding the Re-opening of Schools - 4th June 2020
I hope you and your family are well. I am writing in response to the Education minister’s announcement yesterday that schools will re-open from June 29th.
With the guidance not being available immediately we are not yet in a position to release our strategy for opening. We are working with our Local Authority and Governing Body to ensure we can do this as safely as possible. We’re creating a detailed plan that we’ll share with you as soon as possible so you know what the school’s reopening will look like in practice. Precautions we will be taking include:
- Limiting class sizes
- Staggering break times
- Reconfiguring pick-up and drop-off arrangements
- Managing the dynamics of toileting
- Increased cleaning
- Keeping children and staff with coronavirus symptoms at home
- First aid
We will also release information on our approach to “blended” learning once the school reopens, catering, transport and the childcare offer for critical workers.
I want to reassure you that we are not going to be pressuring anyone to send their children to school. The Minister was clear that parents have the choice. We will keep you updated with all our preparations for making sure the school is as safe as possible, so you can make an informed decision.
In the first instance, and in response to this letter, I would like to gauge numbers and ask that everybody complete an online form before Monday 8th June to inform the school whether you plan for your child to return this term. If you have any questions, please also feel welcome to share them on the form. Questions will be collated and I will endeavour to answer the details in full in future emails. Link - Return To School Data Collection Form
We will keep you informed and contact you as soon as our plans are confirmed following receipt of guidance that will be issued by the government next week and review of the numbers of children we will be welcoming back to school from your online form responses. A priority will be to ensure that our approach facilitates and supports equity for all learners.
Thank you for your continued support. Please give my very best wishes to your child too.
The Final Term Begins ... - 1st June 2020
I hope you are well and that you enjoyed some break over the bank holiday weekend and half term holiday in these very difficult ongoing circumstances. At least the weather was kind to us.
I am sure you will have been following the situation in the news, like me, waiting for an announcement from Welsh Government on when it believes it may be in a position to begin the reopening of primary schools. I appreciate that this announcement will lead to a range of emotions - from excitement at the prospect of returning to school, to anxiety at the thought of keeping safe and managing changes, to curiosity about how it will all work. When information is released, we will use the detail to guide our plans. I want to reassure you that all the Headteachers in our Local Authority are working together with LA Officers and their Health and Safety advisers to carefully consider our approach to these changes when they happen. The priority will of course be keeping our children, families and staff safe from harm. At the right time, and when we have more answers than questions, I will be in touch with more details.
As the new term begins, our teachers will continue to upload a menu of activities for all areas of learning and experiences onto the website for the children to complete on a weekly basis. A link to this will be shared with you via Dojo to ease navigation. These are suggestions only, there will be children who will get up every morning and happily complete the work with little need for prompting, bribery or encouragement. However, I would imagine many children will now really struggle to motivate themselves and many will point blank refuse to do any, even with the offer of your help. Please do not worry about it, we are all very realistic about what will be achieved at home, and remember the majority of us have children and are going through exactly what you are going through.
A daily challenge will also be set on Dojo and the children have access to Spelling Shed, MyMaths, Big Maths, Times Table Rock Stars and Hwb to support their distance learning. Please do keep in touch with your child’s class teacher via Dojo and if you need any support please ask, be this an additional phone call to your child, demonstration video for a mathematical method or guidance on key concepts your child should be focussing on. We are here to help.
We have invested in an online reading resource called Giglets (https://giglets.com/) to support this vital area of learning. Staff have online training on the resource next week and you will receive your child’s individual login code very soon, along with a guide on how to access and use the online resource. We believe that this will be a very useful package to encourage independence and improve your child’s motivation to read.
Thank you to those of you who have completed the survey on our current provision and your thoughts about schools reopening. There is just one more day for you to submit a response at - Parent Governor Survey May 2020. Meetings are scheduled this week for teachers and parent governors to review the results and make any required changes, of which we will of course keep you fully informed.
The childcare option for Keyworker children is still available and ongoing – please book this weekly via the Monmouthshire County Council Website https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/childcare-hubs/ . Weekly booking is essential to ensure that all the Childcare Hubs have accurate numbers to plan staffing. As a reminder, to guarantee your child(ren) have a place you must complete this form ( Registration Form) by 1pm on Wednesday 3rd June 2020 for week of 8th to 14th June,
Today our Year Six children would have been starting their final term in primary school. Having worked so hard for seven years, I am so sorry they are not able to enjoy their final few months in the way we would have all hoped. I know how much they will have all focused on this time and the efforts they and every teacher and teaching assistant who have supported them over time have made to reach this point. This is not how we thought the end of their primary education would be, it is not what we would have wished for them and it is not what they deserve, but over the coming weeks they will be in our thoughts and prayers and a key focus of our attention. I am proud of the young people they are becoming and will be writing to them directly over the coming weeks as we are planning to give them a special Usk Family send off, although not quite the traditional one they would have expected.
At this time, it is even more important to keep hopeful and keep healthy. I have eaten far too much, not exercised like I should have, but have tried my best to keep my mind healthy and relaxed. Mental well-being will become increasingly more important to focus on as we face the challenge of beginning to come back out of lockdown over time. It is ok to feel worried, scared, frustrated, confused – we are all feeling these emotions.
For now I leave you with this thought …
However tough life gets, there’s still so much to be grateful for. Join us for Joyful June and find ways to look for what’s good, even in difficult times.
Happy Half Term - 21st May 2020
I hope that this message finds you and your loved ones safe and well. Thank you for another positive week of distance learning in these most unusual of circumstances. Your support is more appreciated than I have the words for – and on behalf of all of us at Usk CiW Primary School, we greatly value the messages, positivity and feedback which we have received. It is a source of great pride to lead Usk in normal circumstances, in the current climate, it has been both humbling and inspiring to see the ways in which children, parents and staff are taking steps to turn a deeply worrying situation into a demonstration of hope, optimism and care for others.
Each fortnight this term our Parent Governors have met with the Senior Leadership Team of the school. To build on our collaborative work to date, we are keen to hear the views of parents and carers with regards to distance learning and the return to school. A survey has been created that we would encourage all families to complete by Tuesday 2nd June. The link to the survey is - Parent Governor Survey May 2020.
As next week is half term there will be no distance learning set or Team Meetings. The staff and I will continue to work at the Raglan Hub for the children of Key Workers and vulnerable learners during the holidays but will not be contactable through Class Dojo. If you need us please send an email to the main school email address – email@example.com. This will be checked daily.
In the darkest of times, we should focus on reasons to be optimistic, positive and feel comforted that there is a brighter future ahead. I look forward to us working together on a successful implementation of whatever the “new normal” looks like, in schools and in society. Again I want to remind you that you are doing an amazing job in unprecedented circumstances and hope that you are preparing to have as good a bank holiday weekend and half term break as is possible.
Hello from Usk CiW Primary School - 14th May 2020
I trust that you are keeping well and enjoyed the VE Day celebrations last week. I really loved seeing all the photos that you shared and was particularly touched by an email that I received from a parent who had told me that her son was convinced that VE Day was to celebrate Mrs Evans! I miss the children terribly and their comments that made me chuckle each and every day when we were all together.
I was hoping that in my next email I would have been able to share some information on the return to school, but I’m afraid that this is not the case. There are no changes to report, hence my lack of email at the end of last week. I thought I’d also let you off to enjoy the celebrations and sunshine! All we know from the Welsh Government is that children in Wales will not be returning to school on June 1st, as in England. Whilst we await direction from Welsh Government, we continue to focus on the provision of an innovative and enjoyable distance learning experience for your children and we are starting to lay out initial plans for a return, subject to the conditions set by the government. Please be assured that whatever guidance is forthcoming, will be met with considered, strong leadership from the Usk Primary staff and governing body.
May I take this opportunity to thank you all, once again, for a great team effort between staff, children, parents/carers and governors to ensure the continued development of distance learning? I have heard good reports of levels of engagement, though we recognise how tough it is for our families. We are constantly reviewing how we are working and will introduce any refinements at a manageable pace.
We must also take time to remember what we have actually achieved, as a community, and the impressive new skill-set everybody has developed including the staff, who have demonstrated tremendous agility in adapting to their new working environments and expectations, many of whom care for dependents of their own at the same time.
Your children will also be acquiring and refining a new range of skills. They will learn from many experiences; board games, country walks, television programmes, cooking and gardening to name but a few. We never lose sight of how hard this is for children but equally for parents and carers who have now been home educators for an extended period, on top of juggling home working and worrying about their family’s health and financial security. I’d like to remind you of a few key principles that I believe are essential for us all over the coming weeks and months.
1. Be well. Everyone’s first priority at present should be to their health and well-being. Maintaining previous learning and continuing a healthy routine are important, but at times you should prioritise fun and laughter as well as calm and relaxation.
2. Be kind to yourself. Don’t be made anxious or stressed by the weight of expectation. Social media and comparison with what others appear to be doing can be toxic. Please do not worry about your child falling behind others. Most of us are struggling at times, and you will not be alone in sometimes feeling overwhelmed.
3. As much as you can, when you can. We are setting a daily challenge and weekly menu because it is generally better to have too much than too little. Nobody will be in trouble if they miss a deadline or find a task hard or unmanageable. Our curriculum will change when we finally return to school to manage the recovery of learning.
4. You are not alone. Everyone is juggling a huge amount at the moment. Whether it is technical support, schooling advice or concerns about well-being, we want to help and are here for you.
As we look to the future, we anticipate that the return to school for some of our children may be quite an overwhelming thought after having so much time at home and not mixing with other children. As we begin building next year’s classes we would welcome some input from the children as to the friends they would like to be with in their class in September.
Please would you send the names of three friends in the same year group which your child would like to be with in their new class in September to their class teacher via Class Dojo? Please send an email to the main school email address if you have trouble sending this information via Dojo.
We won’t guarantee all three, or even two of the children on the list will be in your child’s class, but we will place your child with at least one of their nominated friends. If we feel that a combination will not work, from our experience of the children and how they interact, we will get in touch to discuss. Although we ask you to understand that we may not be able to meet all of their preferences, we believe that an insight into your child’s preferred friendship group can help us to give some comfort to your child on their return to school and ease anxiety.
I would like to remind families that, if your circumstances change and you feel you may now be eligible, you should apply for Free School Meals using the application form on the Local Authority website - https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/free-school-meals/. Also, if Key Workers need to use the childcare provision available at Hub Schools they should refer to the MCC website for information - https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/childcare-hubs/. Monmouthshire follows the guidance and definitions for Key Workers that have been set out by Welsh Government. One Key Worker families can use this provision. The Local Authority would like to stress that the first option should be to keep your child at home if possible although the provision is there if there is no safe alternative.
I have a card at home, which I was given when I left my last school to take up the Deputy Headteacher role at Usk Primary in 2012. I think the saying on the card speaks for our community; ‘Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go.’ Please continue to work with us, have faith in what we are achieving together. Let us together face the challenges described by the Prime Minister as ‘unseen in our lifetimes’. Our Usk Family will be together again, and even though we can’t see each other to give each other support, our thoughts are with those of you who have experienced difficulties and loss through these trying times.
Parent / Carer Update - 3rd May 2020
As we come to the end of our sixth week of school closure, I wanted to write to you again to provide you with an update and also to say thank you to all parents and carers for their continued support with all aspects of their children’s distance learning which includes time for fun, fresh air and family time – you continue to do a fantastic job!
For many of the staff the highlight of the week is speaking to you and the children on the phone, we really do miss seeing everyone. A common theme that seems to be being talked about by a number of you is the challenge of getting into clear routines for the day. This is clearly something that is a challenge for many people across the country so the Education Endowment Fund have created a short video that you might find helpful - Supporting Daily Routines Video Link. Their suggested checklist is linked below. Please don’t feel this is something we are expecting you to use but some of you may find it helpful.
As I have said before, while we are very keen to continue supporting the children’s learning and education we are also very aware that this is a challenging and confusing time for everyone so our primary concern is supporting the children, and you, to stay both physically and mentally healthy. The one thing we would really encourage you to please not stop doing is reading, the more the children can read and enjoy stories the better and this will really support them when they return to school.
You may have heard or read different stories about schools re-opening. At the present time, no dates have been set. The government has said that school re-opening will be phased over time. As soon as there is clarity nationally, we will contact you to explain how we will re-open and the arrangements in place to ensure that everyone is safe.
I appreciate that many parents are now receiving requests to return to work and a significant number of you are under pressure to return under obligation or from a financial viewpoint. We understand how difficult this must be, and as much as this puts both you and us in a difficult position, safety must come first and this means limiting the amount of children mixing together in our hub school. Social distancing can be very difficult for young children as it is very different to what they are used to. For these reasons, please support our school community by keeping your children safe at home and please understand that we cannot accept requests for childcare at the hub school at this time. Places at the hub will only be given where both parents in a two-parent family are critical workers or the one parent in a single parent family is a critical worker in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Next Friday is the Bank Holiday for VE Day. Teachers have planned for four days of learning next week and will not be available on Class Dojo on Friday 8th May. Teams Class Meets will be rescheduled next week due to the VE Day holiday. Team Meetings on Monday – Wednesday will remain at the same times as previously, but there will be changes to the Thursday and Friday meetings, with no meetings taking place on Friday.
Thursday 7th May
If we can help you at all during this time, please do not hesitate to contact us either via Class Dojo or via the school email address if you have any questions, concerns or need any advice or support. Our governors can also be contacted via their direct email account that can be reached via the contact form on our school website - https://www.uskciwprimary.co.uk/contacting-governors/ .
As a school family, we continue to send you and your families much love, wherever you are. Keep sending photos of what you are doing at home to your teachers. We love seeing all that you are getting up to.
Take care, stay safe and we hope you enjoy the VE Day celebrations on Friday.
EEF leaflet to support establishing routines
The 2.6 Challenge - 30th April 2020
Last weekend would have been the London Marathon. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic this didn’t go ahead so the 2.6 challenge has been launched instead. This is an opportunity for people all over the country to think creatively about setting themselves a challenge which involves either 2.6 or 26. It could be cycling for 2.6 miles each day or running 26 laps of the garden, scoring 26 goals in a row, or organising a 26 minute workout with 26 friends online.
The children at the Raglan Hub School (established to take care of the children of key workers during the Coronavirus pandemic) have taken up the challenge to scoot 2.6km every day for 10 days and would appreciate your support in their quest to raise money for the Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board Charitable Fund. You can donate by following the link to their Just Giving page that has been established - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/raglanhub .
Could your family also join in with the 2.6 challenge? Have a look at the website https://www.twopointsixchallenge.co.uk/and see if this is something you would like to take part in. If you do choose to get involved we would love to hear what challenges you are setting yourself so that we can all celebrate your success and achievements. So, do let us know by sending in your photos and videos.
Thanks in advance of your support.
Staying Connected - 26th April 2020
I hope you had a good first week of the remote summer term!
I know that getting back into a routine after the Easter holidays has been challenging for some, as is trying to keep your children motivated and focused on learning. This is quite possibly leading to quite a bit of tension in your household at the moment – I know it is in mine! I feel that 270 children are so much easier than my own 12 year old daughter some days! It probably feels as though the initial ‘excitement’ of being at home, is fading. Teaching children is hard – that’s why we chose to do it and you chose a much more sensible career! Joking aside, you are doing an amazing job, but please go easy on yourselves. The most important thing to remember is to maintain the wellbeing and happiness of your family, and if that means easing off on the home learning one day, then do it. We’re here for you every step of the way as we figure this all out together. Remember, if you have any concerns about helping your child or you need any other support from the school, please let us know by Class Dojo or, if you would like to contact me, send an email to the main school address.
We have already started to think about the end of year reports and you will still receive a report for your child even though end of year assessments and the National Tests have all been cancelled by the Government. Also, in order to continue supporting Year 6's transition, we have been communicating with the staff in the schools your children will be moving on to. We will provide them with existing and predicted end of Key Stage 2 assessment information as well as other information and we have suggested some online meets for the children and staff from secondary schools too.
The live sessions this week have been great with relatively few IT problems after the first one. We miss the children very much but we must follow the Government’s guidance to keep everyone in our community safe. So, we’re carrying on with staff working remotely and providing distance learning, which includes daily challenges, the weekly home learning menu and our usual online learning platforms. Staff are also working at the Raglan Hub School to provide care for vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers. Several of our teachers are scheduled to work at the hub school next week, and although your child's teacher will not be contactable whilst at the hub, teachers will ensure to notify you of when they're scheduled to work there.
We cannot say yet when we’ll be able to open the school fully, but rest assured that we’ll continue doing our utmost to keep our school community connected. Please look after each other and perhaps when we are clapping for our wonderful NHS staff and other Key Workers on a Thursday at 8:00pm, you should do a few extra claps for yourselves – you deserve it!
The End of the Easter Holidays - 18th April 2020
I know in this country we are well known for talking about the weather, but it seems to have been nothing but sunshine over the past few weeks up until the last two days. I hope you all managed to enjoy a little of the good weather over the Easter break, even though we are still all aware of our responsibilities regarding the lock-down and social distancing.
Things are tricky for everyone at the moment and often listening to speculation can increase anxiety. There is lots of talk about when schools will return and the lock-down end but as a country, we need to make sure that all the good that has been done over the past four weeks is not undone by returning to some sort of normality too soon. The message received this week from Welsh Government has been clear that schools will reopen when the science and medical evidence says it is safe to do so and this is not imminent. As we are likely to face an extended closure period, it is important that we continue to evolve our distance learning provision and support to families.
We received some very valuable feedback from parents, carers, staff and children, with some good ideas of how to tweak what we have already been doing and the nature of the work set. We received a clear message from you and the children that more social interaction would be welcomed between teachers and children and as a result of this we will be introducing wellbeing sessions via Google Meets so that we can get children together with their teachers, teaching assistants and classmates online.
Mr Southgate has produced a very clear guide, which is attached to this email, that explains how your child can access their Google Classroom through Hwb and our teachers are on hand through Class Dojo to help you out. The guide is also available on our website - www.uskciwprimary.co.uk/how-to-guides-1/. Your child's teacher will send you a code to join a Google Classroom and links for online meetings through Class Dojo next week.
Class Dojo will remain our main method of communication. On Class Dojo you can expect to see a morning welcome and an end of the day message from teachers. They will also be online at times during the day to answer any queries or questions.
All ideas for the week will be centralised onto the weekly distance learning menu which is available from our Virtual School on the school website in year group folders. This will contain Chilli Challenges so that work is differentiated with different levels of challenge – something else you asked for. The children are very used to Chilli Challenges. Activities get progressively more challenging from green (extra mild) to red (HOT!).
Mrs Morgan will maintain her Expressive Arts Google Classroom but other than that we will not bombard you with different links and ideas.
We’re only scheduling in one meeting per class for now as we are aware of the limited availability of IT in your homes. We know that families are sharing computers between working parents and a number of children. Next week’s online wellbeing session for each class will take place at the following times:
Sycamore – Mr Gregory
Beech – Mr Southgate
Hazel - Miss Storey
Maple – Mrs Fanning
Ash – Miss Guppy
Willow – Mr Beckett
Silverbirch - Mrs Roach-Rooke
Elm – Miss Dougal
Oak – Miss Jones
Redwood – Mrs Pheasant & Mrs Acaster
We’re also aiming to record these sessions and make them available in Google Classrooms so that children can watch at another time if they can’t make the live meeting. We trialed this with staff this week but haven’t done this before with children. It may not run smoothly first time so please bear with us.
All our staff are missing all the children and we hope to speak to you soon. We will be telephoning home over the next few weeks to see how you are getting on and to support you and your child(ren).
The message to you as parents remains the same as in my previous email, please try not to put too much pressure on yourselves around supporting children with home learning. This is a time for keeping happy and safe, whilst consolidating and retaining learning, not new academic learning. We understand that many of you will be finding it hard and might be feeling anxious about it. However, we all need to remember that these are unprecedented times and we can only do our best. Statutory education has been suspended and wellbeing is paramount. Do not worry about any gaps in learning during this time – these gaps will be found and they will be filled when life returns to normal.
We continue to recommend that you try to keep to some kind of routine as far as possible. Updated schedules have been added to the school website for a much shorter day of learning, as we’ve all come to realise that sticking to learning between 9am and 3.30pm is quite a challenge. Our timetables on the website are only suggestions. You can follow these, but working out what is right for your family is most important. If you would like a more personalised schedule for your child, please contact your child’s teacher through Class Dojo.
As a parent myself, I completely sympathise with the pressures that parents are under at home to support their children effectively with distance learning. I do not underestimate the immense pressure in homes across the globe. Many of you are still continuing your own jobs, working in your spare rooms, sofa or dining room tables, whilst others are juggling siblings, babies and toddlers all together in the same house and at the same time!
You are all doing an amazing job and when we finally return to normal our children will all have gained much from this experience – be it memories, stronger relationships, perseverance and the development of so many important lifelong learning skills.
We are all in this together. Keep smiling everyone.
Easter Ideas from our Diocesan Director of Education
The Start of the Easter Holidays - Monday 6th April
Today would have been the first day of the Easter holidays and I thought it would be a good idea to update you all on the current situation and also thank you all for the overwhelming support shown to the school.
Running a school remotely is certainly interesting and has been a steep learning curve for everyone. The children have responded to remote learning exceptionally well and the quality and variety of work being produced is great. A huge thank you to the staff who are trying to manage lockdown/self-isolation, caring for relatives, home schooling their own children and supporting the supervision of Key Worker children at the Raglan Hub. In between all of that, they are fulfilling their teacher responsibilities and undertaking professional learning. Please do bear with us if the response to your queries, comments or sharing of work is not always instantaneous. The school email is checked Monday to Friday should parents/carers have any queries or concerns. Even though we are not in school, we aim to deal with issues in a timely manner. The school email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Our school website will keep you up to date on how to access information regarding Key Worker Hub Schools and Free School Meals, and we will continue to use Twitter and ParentMail texts for quick messages. Following the Easter school holiday, staff are available every working day online on Class Dojo to support families with the work they have set.
No child is expected to continue with their distance learning during the Easter school holidays – they are meant to be holidays after all! Teachers will be adding new work to the Virtual School website pages for after Easter, so watch out for those from Monday 20th April. We are awaiting Welsh Government’s national approach to continuity of learning and, moving forward, we will ensure that our distance learning meets the statutory requirements and takes on board the feedback that you have provided.
Thank you to the parents and children who engaged with our recent surveys about distance learning. We understand that trying to manage children learning at home can be challenging; I hope to address some of these concerns. Points to note:
• This is not home schooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting the whole world. At best, this is distance learning. Whilst we are wholeheartedly grateful to the families that have sustained aspects of educational provision at home, we also express gratitude to everyone trying their best to manage the uncertain circumstances facing us all.
• You are, and will continue to be, the first and main educator of your child. During this period of distance learning, if you decide that the activities set by the school do not fit with your family arrangements on a specific day, please do not feel guilty or stressed about this. You can utilise the suggested materials from school where possible and encourage independent learning (but no one is expecting you to be a superhero – please don’t feel under any pressure to complete every single activity set).
• Schools had no prior knowledge of closures either. We had no preparation time and have been trying to put together programmes for children which are meaningful and manageable – we might get it wrong sometimes! Moving forward, we are intent on evolving and improving our systems according to statutory guidance.
• It is absolutely not possible to ‘home school’ whilst working from home at the same time.
The timetables and work that we have (and will continue to set via our school website) are suggestions and ideas. We do think that connecting your child with education is important and strongly encourage completion of work where it is possible. However, every child has a different set of home and family circumstances; the message is to do what you can. That is all we expect.
At the point when children are back in school, we will adapt our teaching accordingly to take into consideration the break in school learning and the areas of the curriculum, which have not been covered in school.
With the uncertainty over timescales, we cannot sensibly suggest that children bring completed work back to school to be marked as this may be some weeks or months’ worth of work. All research suggests that instant feedback is the most beneficial to children. This will often take the form of whole class comments. We would, however, like the children to be able to share some of their work and as we move into the Summer Term teachers have been asked to share great examples of the outstanding work children are doing and send more personalised messages to children via their Hwb email address.
We would strongly recommend making the most of the current circumstances and encourage the children to go outside where it is safe to do so and within Government guidelines. For example, outdoor exercise, working in the garden, reading together, making things creatively and watching films certainly constitute learning, very valuable learning.
In addition to the suggested learning activities set by your child's teacher, providing reassurance is perhaps the most important way we can teach and solidify the home-school partnership that is instrumental in the school's continued success: keeping in touch with family members, helping around the home and talking about emotional well-being during this period of time is crucial.
Teachers are very keen to stay in touch with the children in the coming weeks and we are looking at the best ways of facilitating this and bringing groups of children together online. This isn’t only to check up on what work has been completed – it’s to catch up on other things, like who’s learned something new, who’s been helping around or created a new dance routine. We will also be able to answer any questions the children or you may have. I will be in touch when we have more of a plan.
Easter will not be ‘normal’, please do try and have some down-time. We cannot underestimate the emotional rollercoaster that this current set of global circumstances brings. We have been asked as Headteachers to reiterate the message ‘Stay safe, Stay at home’ as in some areas, groups of young people have been meeting. I implore you all to stay at home so that you are safe and we help protect the lives of others.
On that note, to all our families that are working in the NHS or on the frontline in a key worker role: on behalf of the Usk Primary family, thank you. You have our support and we commend your courage.
Stay safe everybody.
Monmouthshire County Council Hub Schools for Key Workers
Please contact Monmouthshire Council's Access Team on 01633 644508 if you have any enquires about Hub Schools for Key Workers.
Childcare Arrangements for Keyworkers – Easter Holidays
From Monday 6th April there will be two childcare hubs open in Monmouthshire, Deri View Primary School, Abergavenny and Dewstow Primary School, Caldicot. These will be open between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday.
Where parents or carers have registered for a place during the Easter holidays please check your emails for details of the arrangements.
Please note due to the low numbers currently registered for Friday 10th and Monday 13th April MCC are reviewing the provision, further details will be provided on their website over the next few days.
Children are required to bring a packed lunch, MonLife will provide a snack during the day, and initially no breakfast will be provided however, this is being reviewed.
Please remember that the first option should be to keep your child away from school. The Welsh Government has issued the following advice:
- Children should be kept home to stop the spread of the virus and protect the NHS
- But we still need critical workers to do their jobs and we need to protect vulnerable children
- Critical workers should keep their children home… but they can’t leave them alone if they judge that would not be safe and they can’t leave them with someone in a vulnerable group
- If they have no safe alternative, they can go to a school / childcare setting
Monmouthshire will follow the Welsh Government’s definition of ‘key’ workers.
Pupils Eligible for FSM
From the 6th April Monmouthshire County Council are changing the way they provide free school meals, from this date they will credit the Parent / Carers bank account with the equivalent amount for the cost of your child’s free school meal. This will be paid on a weekly basis in advance. Please note the first payment will be for two weeks in advance to cover the Easter Holidays. To enable them to do this they need to collect bank details and would ask that you complete the linked form to be validated by their free school meals team.
Free School Meal Credit Application Form
The End of an Unimaginable Week – 27th March 2020
We find ourselves at the end of another working week; the sort of week that was simply unimaginable only a short while ago.
I know you will all have faced many challenges this week, but I have been greatly moved by the stories I have heard about how many of you have found ways to support your children and promote learning at home.
Distance learning has been a new concept for us all, and at the end of our first week, we are keen to find out your views on what has worked and what has not so that we can improve our provision in the weeks ahead.
If you would like to share your views, please complete a quick online questionnaire by following this link - https://tinyurl.com/tp4l97v .
Please could all responses be made by 3.30pm on Tuesday 31st March?
Thank you again for your support and understanding as we try to make the best of a challenging and constantly changing situation.
A Message from PC Cath and all Gwent Officers
Do you know where your children are today?
Please do not let them call for or visit their friends – KEEP THEM HOME.
Please do not let them out to play with friends – KEEP THEM HOME.
Please do not let them go to town or local parks/play areas – KEEP THEM HOME.
You are putting your children’s health at risk if you do not follow Government advice to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. Please do not endanger them, your family or yourselves by allowing them out or mixing with others. Gwent Police have patrols in the area and will be enforcing Government advice – PLEASE STAY AT HOME.
PC Cath x
Sunday 22nd March 2020 - (2)
At the end of a week that none of us could have ever imagined, I write to say a huge thank you for the support that has been shown to my amazing team at Usk CIW Primary. I’ve always known how dedicated, resilient and innovative the team at Usk are but this week has proved it even more.
The response of my entire staff team has been impressive. They have worked tirelessly to put together home learning provision within our Virtual School on our school website whilst maintaining routines, memorable learning experiences and providing reassurance for your children.
Our team has responded at speed to the Government’s call. Through this response has come huge selflessness and willingness to go above and beyond, knowing that our work is essential at this time of national crisis.
Members of our staff team will be working in our school hubs for critical workers and the most vulnerable children throughout the months ahead. As public servants central to communities, my staff are a front-line service and should be supported and encouraged.
I am very proud of my profession, my colleagues and your wonderful children.
The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. It is imperative that, as far as possible, we minimise social contact. This means, if children can stay safely in their home, they should, in order to limit the chance of the virus spreading.
I often talk of our school family but this week has made our family become tighter than ever.
Throughout the forthcoming weeks, I will keep you updated via the school website, emails and social media sites.
We are only at the end of an email should you need any help or support.
Sunday 22nd March 2020
It's Sunday afternoon and the information from the Welsh Government is still coming in.
The latest update is below for your information but the message is very clear. “It is imperative that, as far as possible, we minimise social contact. This means if children can stay safely in their home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. ”
Quite simply the fewer people having social contact, the more effective the overall impact of the current measures will be.
Places in schools and childcare will be highly limited and only particularly vulnerable children and the children of critical workers whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response should be attending during this time.
If you are classed as a critical worker but are able to perform the critical parts of your job effectively when working from home, then you should do so. Even for critical workers, provision will only be made in schools or other settings where there is no safe alternative.
If one parent is a critical worker but the other parent is not then the other parent should provide safe alternative arrangements.
Our local authority is doing everything it can to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. They made and communicated plans based as part of an initial contingency to deal with the spread of coronavirus. Those plans will now adapt and change as they respond to the latest guidance from the Welsh Government.
As soon as any additional information is provided by Monmouthshire County Council I will update you.
Link to MCC Registration Form for Hub Schools
Registration form for childcare for key workers. To be clear on eligibility ; in a two parent home both parents should be classed as Key Workers and in a single parent home, one parent must be classed as a Key Worker.If children should stay safely at home to limit chance of virus spreading if possible.