Jewish students face the prospect of being unable to return to the classroom until the autumn, following news that the government is to shut down all schools from Friday.
Closures have not been extended to students deemed ‘at risk’ with learning disabilities and children whose parents are key health workers. Special needs charity Kisharon, which runs a nursery and school, however, has been forced to shut its doors due to a lack of staff owing to teachers self-isolating.
Elsewhere, JCoSS headteacher Patrick Moriarty wrote to parents following Wednesday’s announcement saying, “students who have been absent from school self-isolating must not attend school. We will, as we must, send them home today [Thursday] and will so again tomorrow in order to protect others.”
He added that years 8 and 9 will continue remain at home, as announced earlier in the week, while years 7, 10 and 12 will attend on Thursday only, and years 11 and 13 attending on Thursday and Friday.
With the prospect of students not returning until the Autumn, he added that “on Friday we will devote time to final assemblies and farewells, separately for Year 11 and Year 13.”.
He added the schools will “await clarification about arrangements for next week” and that it stands “ready to support our students and to play our part in protecting the vulnerable and keeping front line services going.”
In addition to the announcement by the prime minister, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that assessments and examinations will not take place in the current academic year.
King Solomon High School said “contingency plans have been made to continue the education of students”, ahead of the closures, while Sinai Jewish Primary School’s headteacher, Juliette Lipshaw, said students had been “given a home learning pack” to ensure they “can consolidate their learning” when the school shuts.
She added that “teachers will also be emailing daily work for the children across all year groups Reception – Year 6 so that no child falls behind with their studies.” Yavneh in Borehamwood said it has an “action plan in place which includes methods through which we will be able to provide work to pupils”.
Pikuach, the religious education inspection service, had suspended routine assessments.
Rabbi David Meyer of Partnerships For Jewish Schools said: “Extended school closures has not been seen in this country since the last world war. While schools having been preparing for this eventuality for the past few days, delivering remote learning is complex and is going to place considerable pressures on the schools. This is a new reality and one that will be challenging for us all.”
He added: “Methods of learning will need to change and the role of schools and parents in the education of their children will be transformed. PaJeS is working with schools, supporting governors and school leaders, as well as curating further education resources, methodologies and supporting guidelines. We are also concerned about the wellbeing of all stakeholders and we working with various communal organisations to see how we can best provide support in the coming weeks Perhaps the most important message is that throughout the generations, at times of adversity we have survived through our belief in God, and our working together with care, sensitivity and ingenuity.”
Emma Castleton, Chair, Kisharon Academy Trust said: “On Monday, Public Health England identified those with learning disabilities as being part of the high risk group for covid-19 so the decision to close Kisharon School today was in large part to protect our vulnerable students.
The announcement by the Minister for Education that those with EHCPs (Education Health and Care Assessments and Plans) should continue with schooling seems to be in conflict with the CMO’s advice, as most pupils with EHCPs have learning disabilities.”
“We appreciate the Government’s acknowledgement that for parents of learning disabled children this period will be hugely challenging.”
“In order to make the best decision for our students we will need some clarity and guidance on how these two conflicting pieces of advice dovetail” “