Coronavirus update

Update for Friday 20th March

Key Messages for Schools and Parents

• Schools and the Local Authority are working closely together to ensure we are able to meet the priorities as set out by the government.
• In Devon, we have already taken the approach that for next week (w/c 23rd March) the majority of schools will remain open to provide a safe place for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
• Vulnerable children include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children, those with education, health and care (EHC) plans and some others recognised as vulnerable by the Local Authority and school.
• Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings will continue to care for children wherever possible. Schools will continue to liaise with parents about these arrangements.
• Information about closed schools can be found the on the DCC website. The school will inform parents of alternative arrangements for vulnerable children and key workers should they need to close. The Local Authority will also help co-ordinate this work but the school is the first source of information as local arrangements with other schools are being put in place. A Local Authority contact number will be set up to offer advice to parents.
• Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home.
• The DfE advise that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be and they request we follow these key principles:

o If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
o Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
o Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.

• Children with at least one parent or carer who are identified as critical workers by the government can send their children to school if required.
• A list of key workers is provided by the DfE and can be found at this link.
• Schools will be confirming, later today or next week, information regarding parents’ keyworker role and if a parent intends to send their child to school this may include filling in an online form. Please refer to school level information for this.
• Current transport arrangements will continue to be provided for children attending school this week and next week for currently entitled children from the above lists. These will, until after Easter, follow current timetables wherever possible.
• Families will be notified by individual schools or transport providers of any exceptions to the above.
• Information of any changes after Easter will be posted on the DCC website and via schools later next week or over the holidays
• Families are asked to look at individual school websites and their school’s usual communication methods for other local updates and information.
• We are currently working with Early Years settings, special schools and FE colleges and will aim to provide further information for these age groups later today.
• Early years providers will give more information through the early years digest.
• We also aim to publish a list of frequently asked questions.

The DfE have also provided easy to follow guidance to parents on this and a range of issues. The information can be found here.

Click here for the key worker survey.

Devon County Council Covid19 webpage.

Parents on the key workers list should follow the first principle of keeping their children at home if it all possible from Monday onwards, and to only send them to school if there is no safe alternative. Ppease be aware that this is not business as usual. We will, however, do our best to provide continuity of learning for all children whether at home or in school. We are working to an incredibly tight timescale to turn round this provision and we would ask everybody to show patience and understanding in this extremely challenging situation.

Thursday 19th March

We are currently making preparations for school closure and are working with the DfE as more guidance and legislation is brought forward. We will keep this page and our website up to date as we know more.

This is an unprecedented situation for all of us, so please be patient and we will keep you informed as best we can.


Coronavirus statement

You will no doubt be aware of the Coronavirus that originated in China, but has now reached the UK. While there is no formal guidance for schools from Public Health England we are monitoring the outbreak, which has been described as a “public health emergency of international concern” by the WHO. Please be assured that we will take any appropriate action swiftly should it be required in order to maintain the health and safety of children, staff and public.

Rackenford Primary School gives back to the community this Christmas

It’s not only Santa who will be giving gifts in Rackenford this Christmas! Rackenford Primary School near Tiverton is giving back to the community this festive season. Pupils have been getting creative to make their very own Christmas wreaths and Christingles to be gifted to those who live in the village.

Children in each year group collected various festive items including cinnamon sticks, walnuts, dried fruits and ribbon to create the wreaths, made out of fir boughs, and oranges were brought in from home to construct hand-made Christingles. The children will hand out the creations to the local community, including the elderly.

Sarah Maude, Headteacher at Rackenford Primary School, said: “As a small village school we always look to involve the local community where possible.

“Getting the children to create their own wreaths and Christingles and give them to those in our community is a fantastic way of including those who may otherwise be left out this Christmas.”

Rackenford Tales

For the past few months, ITV Westcountry cameras have been visiting Rackenford, hearing the stories of the people who live here and finding out what makes a rural Westcountry village tick. They even visited our little school to find out what sets our school apart and why parents choose to send their kids to the ‘small school on the hill’.

Watch the four part series here…  ITV Westcountry Rackenford Tales

Bramble meets ITV

On Tuesday 26th, ITV Westcountry met our new Federation of Tiverton Schools ‘school dog’, Bramble. They were able to hear about the benefits of having Bramble in lessons, and spoke to Mrs Crook about how she will be used to help students across the Federation schools with anxiety or mental health issues.

Introducing new School Dog ‘Bramble’

Students facing challenges around learning and emotional development will soon be given support through a working ‘school dog’.

The Federation of Tiverton Schools is set to train and work Bramble, a Blue Border Terrier, across all key stages of learning, and she will become an integral part of the Federation providing evidence-based support to students.

Working across Tiverton High School, Heathcoat Primary and Rackenford Primary, Bramble will be trained through a registered charity to become a fully qualified ‘school dog’, employed to improve wellbeing and reduce anxiety or stress, as well as listening to children read.

Extensive research has proven that reading to dogs can help children to develop literacy skills and build confidence, something which Federation Head, Sammy Crook, believes is an important factor. She said: “There is an issue nationally with many children progressing from primary school to secondary below the expected national standard in reading. While we have many initiatives in place to combat these issues, Bramble will be able to work with students to build their literacy skills from primary school, right through to secondary school, bridging the gap and improving reading ability.”

A number of schools across the UK have also employed school dogs for the cognitive and emotional benefits, and Bramble will be used to help children who may suffer from any mental health issues. “Research suggests that having a school dog can improve self-esteem, teach compassion and respect, and relieve anxiety or stress,” explains Mrs Crook. “We are confident that having Bramble in school will aid students who can sometimes feel overwhelmed, and motivate students through interaction with her.”

Bramble will have her own crate in the school offices where she will have downtime in between lessons, and her overall care and welfare will be the responsibility of Mrs Crook. Before Bramble’s appointment, a thorough risk assessment was undertaken, and all staff and students will be made aware of how to behave around the new school dog.

Mrs Crook added: “We understand that there will be some students who are allergic to dogs, or may have fears of dogs or other animals. Bramble is here to support and encourage our students and we hope that many will experience the benefits of having her in school, but of course students don’t have to interact with her if they do not wish, and we will ensure that this is monitored closely.”

Bramble has already started her training, and will slowly be introduced into each of the schools before taking on her full-time role as the Federation’s School Dog.

If you would like to see the School Dog Policy, it can be found on the Policies page here.


Learning experience out of this world

Students at Rackenford Primary School experienced a science lesson like no other this morning (Tues 22 Jan), as they immersed themselves in all things science – from the comfort of an inflatable planetarium in the school hall.

Run by Space Lab, the dome transformed into a 360° classroom, transporting the children into an immersive learning environment. The presentations focused on ‘Earth and Beyond’, which included talks on the earth, moon and sun, gravity, the solar system and stars. The presentations are aligned with the national curriculum, and are delivered by an expert astronomer.

To fully plunge themselves into their day of exploration and learning, students also dressed up as something related to Earth and the solar system. Costumes included astronauts and aliens, as well as planets and stars.

Sammy Crook, Head of The Federation of Tiverton Schools, said: “Engaging with students in various environments is crucial for their learning journeys and development, and the planetarium allowed them to experience this on a new level.

“Space Lab were brilliant at bringing these topics to life in a fun, interactive way, and it was lovely to see the students dressed up in their costumes, engaging with their learning and enjoying it at the same time.”