TCLT COVID-19 Update

24th April 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,
Firstly I hope that this letter finds you and all your family and loved ones safe and well. Sadly I am aware that as I write this to you all some of you will be dealing with loss, some of you will be desperately worried about friends and relatives who are unwell and some of you may yourselves be ill. Our thoughts are very much with those of you most impacted by the virus and please do not hesitate to contact your schools for support and for guidance should you need it.
This is just a brief update of what we are doing in the Tyne Community Learning Trust. Schools are all closed except to children for key workers and for some specific children who have additional needs or vulnerabilities. The advice however remains the same that if pupils can be kept safe at home then they should remain at home.
Schools will have been in touch with you in one way or another and I hope you have been able to reply by email or on the phone. Some schools will have been delivering work packs or sometimes meals and staff are always glad to hear from families. If you want to contact the school the most effective way to do that is by telephone on 01661 833922.
Homeschooling, I have discovered myself, is not as easy as it should be (and I’m fully qualified!!). So remember that you are doing your best. Each school will have been asking you to complete different things. In addition there are further resources on the TCLT website which have been produced nationally and are quite accessible if you have good internet access. It does not replace a teacher in the room but it does help. Please have a look on the site if you need some inspiration.
There are also some good resources produced by Northumberland County Council to support wellbeing, an issue that continues to concern us all as we go through this crisis together and they can be found in the same part of our TCLT website.
You will, I am sure, also have been contacted regarding free school meal vouchers if you are eligible. School office staff have been working flat out to try and solve the many problems with this scheme. We know that there have been loads of issues and problems and we can only apologise, however none of this was of our making. There are problems with the website that administrators have to use to order the vouchers, problems with some supermarkets accepting them and problems in our area with the fact that the supermarkets locally are not part of the scheme. If you add in the holiday announcement which came in a press briefing but not to schools you can imagine that it has caused a fair few problems!! Heroic thanks to the admin teams in schools and I know of at least one administrator who stayed up until 1am to log on to the portal and another who spent three hours trying to get the site to work only to be thrown out and not have her order confirmed! If you think you are eligible or have a problem please do contact the school who will endeavour to reply to you but please be patient - the problems are not of our making.
We are also working together as a Trust on the issue of transition and more information will be arriving on our website and in your inbox very soon. Please be reassured that we are considering how to do this and all the issues, like uniform and moving up days that need to be considered. Individual schools will be in touch very soon.
There has been much press speculation about schools reopening. Some of this is extremely unhelpful. I do not know nor do the Headteachers or the Local Authority when or how schools will return out of lockdown. I am hopeful that we will have more notice than we did about closure and that we will be involved in some of the decision making. Our guiding principle will be about safety, care of our pupils and care of our staff and we will use this to respond, as we have done throughout this time to meet the national expectations about schools. I cannot thank the staff in schools enough for doing this and for keeping schools open throughout the Easter holidays including bank holidays.
Finally I would like to thank one member of staff in particular. Ian Lakey, the Acting Headteacher of Ovingham Middle school retires next week. Ian has been in post at Ovingham Middle School for the past nineteen years. I have only worked with him since September but I want to publicly say it has been a real pleasure and I am only sorry that we can’t give Ian the proper send off we might have liked to. He has managed the school brilliantly this academic year and particularly through this crisis and he will be a big miss to staff and to parents and pupils. I wish him a wonderful retirement and thank him for his significant contribution.
I will continue to update parents and carers and in the meantime I hope you are all safe and well.
With best wishes.
Alice Witherow
Chief Executive Officer