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Trust letter to all staff 14th May 2020

Please find below a copy of a letter from Chris Seaton, CEO of Schoolsworks Academy Trust to all staff.



14th May 2020


Dear Colleagues


This letter comes hot on the heels of one I sent to you at the start of this week, which was also addressed to our parents and carers across the Trust’s schools.  I write with the approval and support of our Board of Directors.


Since Monday, we have received more guidance from government on the notice which was given to all primary schools on Sunday evening to prepare to open for some year groups on 1st June 2020.  There has also been considerable discussion and debate among school, trust and local authority leaders, in the media and in parliament.  A number of position statements have been published by professional bodies including our own, the Confederation of School Trusts, and the teaching trade unions.


In the light of this, I want to set out to you, as colleagues and employees of Schoolsworks, what my position is and how I intend to lead us through this phase of the response to the pandemic.  As ever, I remain open to your comments and constructive feedback, as do my fellow trust leaders and directors.  All our contact details are clearly available on the trust website.  Our unity and continued sense of common purpose at this time is of vital importance. 


Before setting out that position, let me say once again how proud I am to be working with you.  We know that even in ‘normal’ times, we have both the privilege and responsibility of changing the lives and opportunities of the children we educate, as well as supporting some of the most vulnerable families in our communities.  In the context of this pandemic, we have continued to support vulnerable children by welcoming them into school.  We have also been given the additional opportunity to contribute to supporting fellow key workers as their children have also been with us.  Many of these workers - in health and care, transport, food retail, security and other sectors – face risks daily by virtue of their work but could not go to work without our contribution.  When I visited all our schools last week, I was so happy to meet many of you and hear your determination to play your part in this appalling and frightening situation.  As the saying goes, ‘you do us proud’.


A great deal has been said over the past week about the wisdom of the government’s decision to ask us to prepare for a phased return on 1st June and the quality of communications and guidance around this.  Whilst we feel that it could have been significantly improved, we also believe it is right to seek to work within this guidance in our planning, despite the headaches it creates for us as heads and trust leaders.  And the current climate of anxiety certainly doesn’t help.


Given that anxiety, I want to offer you the same reassurance that I have throughout this crisis: your safety and that of our children is of paramount importance to us.  But I also want to say that there are other considerations to be balanced, in the light of a situation that is becoming truly desperate for some of our parents and compatriots.  Not all workers have the security of income that, for now, we are fortunate enough to have.  As so many of our fellow key workers know, there is no such condition as 100% safe in this crisis.  We need to make sensible decisions and not be paralysed by fear, as I’m sure we all agree that our ambition is to get children back to school and to help the country to get back to work.


As a Trust, Schoolsworks recognises four trade unions and we work constructively with them.  Whilst I completely sympathise with the very significant concerns raised by some unions, I am disappointed that some have asked their members not to cooperate with schools as they plan a phased reopening.  I welcome the view of one of our recognised unions that supports their members’ cooperation with planning whilst remaining sceptical about its practicability. 


Therefore, I confirm here that we are asking all staff colleagues to work with us as school and trust leaders at this time.  We need your help to work through plans and considerations together for a future phased opening.  But let me stress that this does not mean that we accept that it will be possible for all the year groups the government has identified to return to school on 1st June 2020.  The decision on whether or not this is possible will be made by our Trust leaders and heads at the appropriate time.


I am sure I have your support in this and once again, I wish you and your family good health.


With very best wishes and appreciation


Chris Seaton

Chief Executive Officer