Update March 20th, 4.28 pm
Dear Parents and Carers,
We have been working hard to identify our families where there are key workers who are not able to find safe alternative childcare. We have also identified families where children are particularly vulnerable at this time. Offering places to these groups first has ensured that we are able to provide a controlled environment with small numbers of adults and children to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It has also meant we can operate safely with reduced staff numbers from Monday 23rd March. We have been making contact with those identified families today and they will now be aware of what we can offer. I am incredibly grateful for everyone’s understanding with this and how we have come together as a community to support each other to do the right thing.
We are chasing information from the local authority about how meal vouchers will be administered for children who get free school meals, I will let you know about this soon. We are also liaising with transport to keep them up to date.
We will be constantly reviewing the situation and hope we will be able to provide time in school for greater numbers of students in the near future. We will be staying in direct contact via your child’s form tutor or class teacher who will be making daily calls or emails wherever possible. I have attached a copy of our guide for accessing our home learning platforms, there will be many more learning ideas and resources coming your way next week.
This is a very sad day for us all as we enter the unknown, but it is my pledge to you that although we are having to close the school for the majority of students, we will continue to support you in any other way we can.
Thank you again for your personal support and words of kindness during this immensely difficult time for us all. I feel truly blessed to be the Head teacher at Birch Wood and Birch Wood Vale School and look forward to getting back to normal when all this is over.
Please take care and stay safe.
Update March 19th 2020, 7.56 pm
Thanks for your patience today, as we work out the logistics and safety of opening next week.
The government have yet to clarify who ‘key workers’ will be identified as; although we are clear this list will include all NHS workers, police and supermarket delivery drivers. We will be prioritising this group of students for school to open for from Monday 23rd March.
The government has said that school should also remain open for vulnerable children which includes those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans. For us this could arguably mean staying open for every child, which is not possible given the very clear advice in the same information published yesterday by the Department for Education, which states:
“The scientific advice shows that these settings are safe for this small number of children to continue attending – but asking others to stay away will help us to slow the spread.”
With massively depleted staff numbers from Monday 23rd March , I am very sad to say we will only be able to offer a reduced service in order to keep staff and children safe and to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
We are currently working through what this will look like in terms of how many children will be on site at any given time and aim to get this information to you tomorrow, but for many families I am so sorry to say it will mean we are closed. Our duty and responsibility to safeguard our students remains and we aim to stay in contact with every family providing work, resources, advice, regular telephone calls and emails. More information about how this will look will also be sent home tomorrow.
If your child receives free school meals, we will also be in touch with more information about how we will continue to provide this, with the support scheme that the government has just announced.
I am aware of the impact this will have on our families and I will ensure that we keep in touch with updates about this ever changing situation. I know if we work together as a community we can play our part in making sure we do ‘beat’ this virus.
Thank you for your ongoing support at this very difficult time.
Update March 19th 2020 12pm - ONLINE FORM
We are working hard to see how we can open our school and provide for students whose parents and carers require it.
This does NOT mean you have to send your child to school because it is open in some capacity.
If you would like to send your child to school please complete the form below and submit it by 5pm today if possible.
You do not need to complete this form if you have decided to keep your child off school at present, only complete the form if you require your child to come to school whilst the majority of schools are closed.
We will do everything we can to support your requests.
We will be in touch regularly with information as we have it.
Update March 19th 2020 11pm
Sorry this update is a bit late, but I was hoping to have some answers to all of the questions posed by todays government announcement. I need to start by outlining what I think most of our families already know; working in a special school is hard, but completely amazing. We have the most incredible human beings working here; they don’t do it for the money or the glamour, they do it because they have a deep desire to help and to make a positive difference. Sometimes I can see that the demands are almost too much to ask, but then I walk down the corridor and I see the smiles and beautiful interactions with the children. I continue to be humbled by our staff.
Our parents and carers teach us what love and dedication really means. You never fail to inspire me; you are my heroes in this world.
Of course I am saving the best to last…the students! Today the idea of not seeing them for a prolonged period of time simply gutted me. However, todays government update provided only questions. Our staff are highly specialist, our groupings are carefully constructed, our lessons planned to be personalised and our aspirations high…always. These students, the most vulnerable children deserve the best.
So I ask you all trust that we are working together to see how we can make things work under these very difficult conditions. I want to protect and care for our whole community and that means it really isn’t as simple as staying open regardless. I do give you my word that we will consider all options to ensure we establish the best course of action to keep everyone as safe as possible.
I will let you know as soon as we have a clear course of action regarding school closure. In the meantime, we are preparing access to learning resources for those students who are already at home and making plans to stay in touch with families.
Thank you again for your support.
Update 18th March 2020, 6.18pm
As many of you may have heard the government has decided to CLOSE schools on Friday.
At present we do not know how this will apply to special schools and children whose parents are key workers. We will let you know as soon as we have clear guidance.
Providing staff levels remain safe we will be open tomorrow.
I hope to provide more information later tonight.
Thank you so much for your continued support.
Update: March 17th 2020, 6.39 pm
The Birch Wood School community continued today with our attempt to be a steadying and positive force in our student’s lives. One of the highlights of our day is to greet our students as they arrive, many with parents and escorts. It certainly feels our little world has come under threat recently and that has brought sharply into focus just how precious every single member of our school community are to us.
All the staff at Birch Wood feel a huge responsibility to our students and families, as a result we are spending a lot of time weighing up what is the safest and most considerate path to take. Many of the students at Birch Wood do fall in to the ’vulnerable’ category, but to date there is no specific advice for them or special schools. As a result we will continue to follow the government guidance and stay OPEN for children and families who are not symptomatic of Covid-19.
However, I would also like to highlight that we support families who have made the decision to exercise social distancing or self-isolation and we are busy in the background creating a plethora of resources and support for use at home.
I also feel it is my responsibility to bring your attention to the government guidance which was published yesterday (March 16th), ‘Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK & protecting older people and vulnerable adults.’
The advice outlines the following:
"We are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.
This group includes those who are:
• under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
• chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
• chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
• chronic kidney disease
• chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
• chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS),
• problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
• a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
• being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
• those who are pregnant"
This advice applies to adults and NOT children, but as vulnerable children are not explicitly referred to in any guidance I have found, I felt it was important to highlight this information, so you can make fully informed decisions.
Additionally the advice technically includes all our vulnerable students who are aged 18 or older as they are adults, although the school also remains open to this group too.
We completely respect the decisions that all parents and carers make with regards to either keeping their children off school or sending them in, and whilst we can, we will continue to greet our students every morning and look forward to seeing their wonderful smiles.🙂
Thank you for your continued support, tolerance and calm.
PS- feel free to email if you have any questions, concerns, information or ideas, using the special email address
Update: March 16th 2020, 9pm
The additional guidance this afternoon from the government is that in all households where one person is showing symptoms (a new, persistent cough or temperature), everyone in the household must self-isolate for 14 days.
Non-essential social contact is also to be kept to a minimum.
Birch Wood is currently planning to open as usual as per government instructions, but this is providing we have enough staff. Amazingly, today we had normal staff and student attendance, but the new guidance could change things. I will let you know as soon as I become aware of any change to this plan due to staffing shortages or further guidance.
We have taken precautions to reduce the threat of spreading the virus within school and will continue to take proportionate and sensible measures.
I know this situation is worrying for many of you, but we are determined to find alternative ways to support students and families as best we can throughout this period.
Thank you all for your support and understanding at this time, it is truly appreciated as we navigate through this together.
This link will take you to a short book designed to support and reassure children under the age of 7. We think it will be useful for other age groups and young people with SEND. The author recommends printing this material so children can draw on it. Please let us know if you would like a printed copy of any of these resources by letting your child's class teacher or form tutor know in the home school diary.
Update: Reassurance for parents and carers whose child has complex medical needs:
We support the decision of parents & carers whose child has complex medical needs if they personally feel it is necessary to keep their child at home. I am aware that some parents are concerned and seeking advice from medical professionals and I want to reassure you that the school will support individuals with what is a personal decision based on your unique circumstances.
Equally, we are also committed to giving the best school experience to those students who do come in to school.
If you are concerned about your child’s complex medical condition and school, Alison K our Health and Wellbeing Officer will be happy to talk things through with you.
Alternatively you could also use our designated email service: firstname.lastname@example.org
Birch Wood School continues to monitor any developments regarding the spread of Coronavirus.
The school community continues to follow Public Health England's advice in a calm and measured way, due to the vulnerability of many students, please ensure that you follow the guidelines outlined in the link below.
In the event that anything may impact our learners attendance to either campus we will inform parents and carers by text message and display further information on this page.