Change of School Hours Update

15th February 2019

Dear Parents/Carers,

Thank you to those of you who attended one of the three parent forums we offered. These were useful in that they allowed us to explore options and discuss the wider issues linked to the proposal. Some of you who were unable to attend the meetings sent in questions which I have either answered personally or will cover in this letter.

Thank you to those who listened to my presentation and voiced how that had changed their perspective on the issue. I understand that this is a change and could be an added inconvenience for some parents, it was disappointing that one or two parents thought that this change was designed to allow staff breathing time at the end of the week. I can assure those parents that every second of time gained will be spent on improving outcomes for your children. Many members of staff at all levels already give more than their contracted hours and will continue to do so, despite this proposed change.  

The key discussion points from the three forums were:

  • the amount of training we need to provide that is both mandatory and best practice in a SEND school
  • the difficulty in recruiting high quality staff to Mill Water/need to offer flexible working
  • will parents be expected to have their children for another hour if this proposal does not work
  • why can’t the DfE give specials schools an extra inset day
  • how can staff be expected to take on training on a Friday afternoon
  • can staff do the training during their breaks
  • can staff do the training on webinars
  • does the shorter day have to be on a Friday
  • does the shorter day have to happen every week
  • why can’t it be a morning
  • how will we ensure the educational quota is met
  • will pupils miss out on important social times at lunchtime
  • can parents pay for the extra training hours
  • what else has been considered
  • what do staff think
  • what can possibly be achieved in 45 minutes.

The Local Authority give head teachers the authority to make any changes to and set the school week as they deem fit, as long as the education quota for our pupils is met. I would/will only make changes where there is significant benefit to our pupils. 

Five inset days is the quota given to all maintained schools in the UK and head teachers can allocate the time as bests suits their staff. Some parents asked why I am not pushing the Local Authority to give us extra inset days. One extra inset day would not be enough or regular enough to allow staff to discuss all the pupils’ needs in line with how quickly things change. 

Staff are contracted to work across the school day and need to have breaks at set times. Grade D TAs have a reduced break of 30 minutes (previously 45 minutes) to ensure high quality functional skills, therapy programmes and education continues at break times. Our pupils still receive high staffing ratios at these times, as this forms an important part of the educational day.

According to law staff need an appropriate break away from the children.
workers have the right to 1 uninterrupted 20 min rest break during their working day if they work more than 6 hours a day. This could be a tea or lunchbreak.

Some staff have received training from webinars for higher level courses; we have recorded external professional training sessions so we can deliver it again over the year. As yet, none of the mandatory training for SEND is provided in this format. There is a practical part to a lot of our training which cannot be delivered in a webinar.

Staff cannot be expected to attend training in their breaks nor outside of their contracted hours. When there is a necessity for specialist training, staff are either taken out of class or invited to attend after school training and even then not everyone is able to attend. 

Without specific training in dysphagia, tube feeding or medication administration for example, staff cannot work with certain pupils. 

Timetables are always very flexible to ensure we meet individual needs, so if a child needs a longer outside break for sensory issues and /or social interactions this can be facilitated. 

I requested the possibility of a later start in a morning as an option, but transport was unable to facilitate this regularly and it increased costs significantly, which Mill Water would have to cover. 

We are a maintained school providing free education to children and therefore cannot request funds from parents to cover staffing costs.

I have been in discussion with transport about the possibility of changing the proposed day and other suggestions that parents have made. Friday was only a suggestion based on talking to people in the non-education workforce who work flexibly on Fridays and this is not set in stone.
Please complete this online survey which requires a response.

Transport have requested a regular weekly change as the contractors need to be able to plan their other work more regularly.

I will not be requesting any more time from parents when the change goes through. Every minute of extra time for class meetings and training will be used in the most impactful way possible. Staff have been 100% positive in their reaction to the proposal as it gives them time to spend with colleagues discussing individual pupils, for example, therapies, communication programmes, behaviour plans. 

Currently, most teaching assistants work until 3.30pm so there is minimal time for class meetings, de-brief, sharing information and sharing new information. We carry higher numbers of teaching assistants in comparison to our mainstream counterparts, so changing contracts is not an option financially. 

Some parents voiced that their child would be arriving home at the same time as their other children. Unfortunately, this already happens to some families 5 days a week and there will be as many who are affected now with school pick up clashes as would be with the proposed 1-day change. 

I allow pupils to be collected at varying times, to allow parents who transport their children to get back in time for other children. Mainstream head teachers treat holiday requests for our families as extenuating circumstances. End of day changes out of necessity could fall within this.  

Following the parent forums, discussion with Transport, the Local Authority and presenting to Governors, the Governors of Mill Water School support the proposal of reducing 1 day a week to a 2.15pm finish. Please complete the online survey on the school website to register your preference of day. I have however, pushed the start date of the change back to June 2019.

The change in the reduced school day once a week will begin in June 2019.

Sarah Pickering