School Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

I know I posted a long message to you all on Monday morning but I just wanted to reach out to you again as Headteacher at Newsham.

I haven’t got all the answers to the questions you must have at the moment but I know you won’t expect that yet. Some of the messages from different politicians have been very confusing this week so I’m still gathering information and seeking clarity.

In the last two days the documents and guidelines I’ve received total in excess of 500 pages and deal with everything from building insurance, health & safety, Covid-19 itself, risk assessments etc etc.  I’m working my way through them all but I need to be clear about the following………..

As Headteacher of Newsham Primary School, the vast majority of decisions ultimately lie with me.  The Governing Body have clear areas of strategic responsibility and associated decision making powers and we work together brilliantly.  The day to day organisation of the school however is my responsibility.  Government cannot dictate my decisions (unless they take proposals through all the necessary channels and ensure they are approved as statutory requirements), Northumberland County Council cannot dictate either (they are however being incredibly supportive and helpful) and despite being a highly democratic, inclusive and consultative school, staff and parents do not hold the ultimate decision making powers.

This is one of those times when Headteachers bear a great weight of responsibility and despite having now been a Headteacher for more than twenty one years, these are new and uncertain times.

As Headteacher of Newsham Primary School, I am very happy to accept the level of responsibility placed on my shoulders.  I know that I’ll never be able to make a decision that makes everybody happy and in that respect, I’m in an impossible position.  I am therefore pleased that I will be the one making difficult decisions because it protects everybody else from that ultimate responsibility.  I promise I will make decisions that I honestly believe are in the best interests of the children, staff and school community.  I’m extremely lucky to have the unfailing support of staff and governors in this respect . Feedback from parents, carers and the wider community has been so positive, supportive and kind. I appreciate this hugely.

Moving forwards, at this stage, I’m working with Senior Leaders, our Chair of Governors and Northumberland County Council to look at a cautious, phased reopening, potentially from June 1st, with very small numbers of pupils in school at any one time. The government can only provide guidelines and they do this with no knowledge of our school layout or context. I make no apology for saying that I won’t be pushed into adopting plans that I think are unsafe for our children, staff and families.

As parents and carers, you are under no obligation to send your children back to school during these times.  I know how frightening this situation is for many of you and I will support you as much as I possibly can.  I will try and seek your views next week and I know some other local schools have organised this recently. If you are really worried about anything in the meantime, just send an email to school and either myself or one of the other senior leaders will get back to you as soon as possible.  Please just remember however that our school is unique and can’t be compared to any other school in Blyth or beyond. The arrangements I will put in place will be for our children and staff based on my experience and expertise as Headteacher of Newsham.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.  I know how lucky we all are to be part of our special school community.

I’ll be in touch again soon.  Meanwhile, take care and stay safe.
Mrs Armstrong ❤️