Update 22.06.20 1.57 pm
Dear Parents and Carers,
Unfortunately we have had information that a member of staff at Grange Drive has tested positive for the Coronavirus. The class team bubble, including students and other contacts will now be off school for 2 weeks from when they last came in to contact with the confirmed case and can return after this point providing we have adequate staff in place. All parents and staff directly affected have been informed. The rest of the school is open unless you have been given specific alternative advice regarding your child. As far as we know this case is not related to the 2 previous situations last week where students had contact with confirmed cases outside of school. We have had advice about these situations from Public Health England and relevant action has been taken.
These events further highlight the importance of the safety measures we have in school. In the school environment we keep a very close track of contact and operate a tight regime of infection prevention, for example:
I’d like to thank you for your continued support of our efforts to keep everyone safe by:
Everything we are doing involves a massive team effort and the community around Birch Wood including all our families has really shone, so that in all this challenge and difficulty it really feels like we have seen the best in people. This helps us to keep going and keep trying to provide the best onsite or remote learning opportunities for all our students. We know how difficult the pandemic has been for the SEND community and we will keep raising awareness of this to help improve opportunities for our families and students now and in the future.
As the world around us shifts and we all try to follow new government guidance it is so important we all try our best to stay safe and look after each other.
Thank you and stay safe.
Update 18.06.20- 6.04
Dear Parents and Careers,
We have been running our 'bubbles' and new safety measures to help combat Coronavirus for over 3 weeks now and during this time I have been so impressed by all our students and how they have adapted to the changes we have had to make in school.
Unfortunately, we have now been made aware of 2 separate cases where our students have recently come in to contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus outside of the school, which has affected some of the bubbles/groups in school. You will have been contacted by a member of staff if you child's group has been affected and we will have asked you to keep your child at home until we have the test results of the families directly involved with the confirmed case. If you have not been contacted via telephone by us your child is welcome to come to school on their scheduled days. This is because their group has not been affected, as their group will not have had contact with the student's in school who have been in contact with the confirmed cases.
I know this will be concerning information for many of you, but let me reassure you that the additional safety measures we have in place are helping keep our environment as safe as possible. As soon as we have more information about test results, (which have been coming through really quickly for most people) we will let you know. In the meantime do contact us using the advice and support email or via your child's form tutor or class teacher if you have any questions.
We are steadily finding a way forward with managing the Coronavirus and opening up to more students, so that greater numbers of our families can safely benefit from our on site provision. We know how difficult this period has been for many of you and are grateful for your support and patience.
Please stay safe and take care.
Update 21st May 2020, 9.43
Dear Parents and Carers,
Thank you for completing the form to share your views on potential school opening arrangements next half term. We are working through our staffing availability and risk assessments and hope to have more information for you later today.
In order to prepare the site for gradually increased numbers we are closed over half term to students. Many thanks again for all your support and understanding whilst we try to create a safe environment for your child.
Please click the link below to complete the confidential form to provide us with information for safe opening on June 1st 2020
Your child can log into Stream using their school email address and password if they attend Birch Wood Vale or if you're a parent at main site, you can log in using the Parent email address and password which you use to access the Parent Portal.
Update Weds 13th May 2020, 5.24pm
Birch Wood Grange Drive is open to a small number of students tomorrow where we can staff this safely.
Parents of these students have been contacted by the senior leadership team today. If you have not heard from us please keep your child at home.
We are only waiting for results from a small number of staff, but I am very pleased to say that all the results we have had back so far have been negative for the virus🤞
We are currently working through the staffing for Friday and will contact parents about this tomorrow.
We are really sad for student's who had planned to come in this week, but were unable to. The good news is we will be open to key worker children next week and also those students who are particularly vulnerable as per our rota system.
I will be updating you soon on our plans for after the May half term as more information becomes available from the government about the 'R value'. We are so excited about the idea of getting more students in, but don't want our eagerness to impact safety. Please be assured if we can (safely)- we will!🤩
Birch Wood Vale rota is running as normal.
If you have any questions please do get in touch in the usual way.
We miss you.
Update 27.04.20 7.50pm
I hope you are all keeping well and managed to enjoy the sunny weather a little over the weekend. Since I last wrote to you I have been in liaison with the local authority in order that I can provide you with the latest and safest approaches for our school community during COVID-19. Although many of you are able to keep your child at home safely, I know you may be wondering how and when they can return to school. My aim is that the steps we are taking now will mean we can respond swiftly as soon as it is safe for our children to return in greater numbers to Birch Wood and Birch Wood Vale.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Birch Wood & Birch Wood Vale School
Our priority has always been, and will always be, to safeguard the health and safety of the children and young people in our care. There has been a lot of new guidance from both the Department for Education (DFE) and from Public Health England (PHE), which we have tried our best to interpret and make relevant for our schools. This is a totally new and unprecedented situation, which without doubt impacts on how we are to safely manage student’s needs now and in the future.
As you are aware all student’s risk assessments regarding COVID-19 are currently being reviewed in light of changing government guidance. Risk assessments will now include reference to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to enable the safe management of how staff may work with children who require any physical support, when staff and students cannot follow social distancing guidance. These precautions are being sought in the best interests of our whole school community. Including guidance about social distancing and PPE in risk assessments will also help us to prepare for a time when your child returns to school, so that all students can be supported to understand the different ways in which we may have to work. Your child’s class teacher or form tutor should contact you this week to discuss some elements of the risk assessment. Over the next few weeks you will be asked to click a link to say you have read the risk assessment and agree with the contents.
We are currently working with the other special schools in Leicestershire and the Local Education Authority to ensure we have adequate supplies of PPE available to staff at Birch Wood. If your child accesses school during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may see members of staff wearing additional PPE – when this is required. The times that staff will use masks, face or eye protection will vary depending on the activity and individual they are working with. We will be providing photos of staff wearing PPE to help your child get used to how staff may look when wearing the various items. Also attached is a social story about PPE for you to share with your child in the event they need to access Birch Wood during the pandemic. We would be grateful if you could share the social story and photos if your child is coming in to school so they know what to expect and can feel comfortable about this new process.
In addition to PPE and social distancing measures, we support our pupils and staff to stay safe on site during this pandemic in a range of other ways including:
We know we cannot eliminate the risk that COVID-19 presents in school, but we are doing everything possible to reduce the risk to our community. Please be assured that the additional use of PPE are precautions that we are taking only when social distancing guidance cannot be followed. Every member of our community is precious to us and our aim is that everyone is able to return to Birch Wood in good health when the risk of COVID-19 has reduced significantly. If you have any questions about PPE at Birch Wood, please do use our support and advice services (parent’s helpline and email) to get in touch, there will always be someone who is able to talk to you.
Thank you for your continued support.
Update April 22nd 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you are all keeping safe and well; I am acutely aware of the mounting pressures that families are currently under due to having your children at home for such a prolonged period of time. We continue to look at creative ways to support you remotely with your child’s needs and look forward to a time when we can welcome our students back to Birch Wood.
Home Learning- Parental Feedback:
In order to help us understand what learning approaches are helping you most at this time we are asking that you complete an online survey.
To access the survey please see below; it will take you to a short online survey which will allow you to give us feedback about the type of learning approaches which support your child best at home during Covid-19. We will endeavour to tailor the work to your preferences, so please do have your say!
I will be in contact with more information soon.
Your child may be spending longer on line, please make sure they know where to go with concerns.
Let them know how to report back to school if they have seen anything they are worried about.
The following links have some useful guidance: Childline, the UK Safer Internet Centre and Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (CEOP). Thinkuknow, the UK Safer Internet Centre, London Grid for Learning, Net Aware, Internet Matters and Parent Info.
Make sure you are aware of:
It is also important to only get support from reputable organisations or individuals if you are getting additional support for your children (e.g. through online companies or tutors).
Anyone working with your child should be able to provide evidence of being safe to work with children; if you are unsure please contact the school for advice.
Mental Health and Wellbeing during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Currently, everybody in the UK is being asked to stay at home, except for certain specific reasons. The prospect for both adults and young people of not being able to leave the house much, if at all, may be upsetting, and may negatively affect your mental health. This is why it is important that you take proactive steps to give yourself a sense of normality, maintain a routine, and do things you enjoy.
On our student portal, we have posted lots of useful wellbeing and mindfulness activities and links under ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘PSHE’ tabs.
Below are further examples of useful links and ideas that you can do while staying at home:
Stay in touch - keep in contact with your family and friends, you can still connect from a distance - call your friends, have a video-call catch up with your family or check in with someone on social media.
Continue the things you enjoy - try reading that book you’ve been meaning to start, watch that new series on TV or try a new skill.
Get into a daily routine - you might find it helpful to plan out your time in advance so that you know what you are doing each day, and you have something to look forward to.
Look after your personal environment - create a space that you are able to enjoy and feel comfortable in.
Take a break from social media if you need to - if the updates are getting too much it’s okay to take a step back.
There are steps you can take to look after your mental health and wellbeing. A number of organisations have published guidance on mental health considerations relating to the Coronavirus outbreak, including:
These resources can help to dispel myths, but are more appropriate for older, more able young people:
Tips for talking to children
1. Where you feel it is appropriate deal with the news head-on and talk about it openly and calmly, giving them the facts
2. Encourage questions
3. Be a role model
4. Let them know it's normal to be concerned
5. Promote awareness of our body's immune system
6. Be aware of children with higher levels of anxiety (e.g. those with existing phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorders)
7. Keep doing your bit to help children reduce the spread of germs
Also use the social stories we have provided for you, see below.
Finally, do not forget that we have access to the advice and support email, where we can signpost you to further support from health services and social care wherever necessary.
Food Bank: Storehouse has teamed up with Melton Borough Council Crisis Team
Please find information from Storehouse below:
Storehouse has teamed up with Melton Borough Council Crisis Team as we strongly believe that partnering with the Crisis team and working together is the best, quickest and most sustainable way to ensure that people get the food and other supplies that they need.
We are sorting, packing and providing the Crisis Team with donations of food, toiletries, nappies and sanitary products and the Crisis Team will be co-ordinating the dist
If you know if any families in a food crisis who don’t have local support from family, friends or neighbours, please point them to the Council website
which outlines what they need to do to receive help. They fill out an online form and then after assessment a bag will be delivered to their doors. The council and their volunteers are doing a great job in getting the bags to people quickly.
If you know that a family won't be able to fill out an online form they can phone the council on 01664 502 502 and they can be assessed over the phone.
Please do let us know at Birch Wood via your child’s class teacher or the advice and support email above if you are living outside Melton area and are struggling to get access to food and other essential supplies.
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.