From Tony Wilson; Diocesan Director of Education, January 4th 2021
We start 2021 and the new term with a unique set of challenges that have intensified in the last forty eight hours. The steep rise in cases of Covid-19 cases across the Diocese of Oxford as well as nationally has already led to the closure this week of all secondary schools to all pupils with the exception of vulnerable and children of key workers. Late last week it was confirmed that all primary schools in the Milton Keynes Council area would be similarly closed for the first two weeks of term. Then over the weekend, the NEU released advice to its members that they should not attend work if they believed that it would potentially be a risk to their health. This was compounded by the ongoing potential legal action jointly being taken by NAHT and ASCL. At the same time, the Prime Minister and Chair of the Parliamentary Education Select Committee have publicly encouraged parents to send their children to school. All of this places school and MAT leaders in an incredibly difficult position.
We at ODBE recognise the pressures that headteachers and governors are under and understand that they will be motivated to do what is best for their individual schools. Therefore, we have been liaising with local authorities to ensure that schools are provided with support and advice to make decisions based on their particular context. We strongly recommend that school leaders and their governing boards make use of the risk assessment process and to take account of the guidance issued by their professional association in planning for a range of eventualities. In addition, I would encourage individual headteachers to make use of their named ODBE school adviser as a ‘sounding board’ around school and community specific factors that will figure in your considerations.
Finally, throughout all of the trials and tribulations ahead you can be assured that you, your pupils and staff are foremost in our thoughts and prayers.