Dear Parents

We are looking closely at the challenges and issues around returning to Pre-School on 1st June. I don’t wish to see an empty Teatimers, as we want to survive into next year, to support the families who rely on us to enable them to work, support their children and to pay our staff. However, we have to be more concerned about putting people at risk and not contributing to the spread of Coronavirus. Government guidelines have been published for educational settings to help manage safely, and we will do our best to apply these at Teatimers. This letter gives our best, honest, appraisal of what we can and cannot do to within these guidelines to implement measures (including support social distancing) in Pre-School, to enable you to make an informed decision. 

The management team have discussed what the guidelines mean for us and it is clear that Pre-School will not look like the Pre-School you are used to, though we will do our best to deliver the spirit of Teatimers in a new way. 

The biggest problem we face is in relation to the Teatimers building, because we only have the one room. Schools and day nurseries have the use of several rooms to spread the children out and create smaller groups of children (you may hear these groups being called ‘bubbles’)

We have to limit the numbers of children in each sesison day to reduce the breadth of social contact that the children and staff team are exposed to and to allow us to spread more. How we do this will depend a lot on how many wish to return – the absolute key question we need to address. At present we don’t know how most of you feel or what work situation you are currently you are in. We have set up an online questionnaire which we need to you all to respond to by Sunday. The result of this will give us an idea of what we can / cant achieve to support you. This questionnaire is at the end of this page.

No matter how small our numbers, we need to be clear that we are not able to socially distance two, three and four year old children – It simply is not possible. The Government guidelines recognise this and give priority to other measures which are more achievable.

Young children are socially driven and maintaining a 2 meter distance will not be possible. To achieve it would mean learning a behaviour that becomes part of who they are, not something they understand as temporary. We don’t feel this is beneficial for long term development or mental health,

Another consideration we have is that currently our children all attend different days and hours and therefore come into contact with different children every session they attend. This is not currently recommended and again easier for schools which have the same children each day, every day.

We will have to slim back the range of play items available in order to reduce cross contamination. Areas that encourage children to play together in ways that are likely to cross contaminate will not be available. All the toys will have to be cleaned before reuse, which means a considerable amount of our time has to be spent cleaning. It takes 3 full days to fully clean and dry all our toys (assuming the sun shines), so we cant just pay for more cleaners (and we couldn’t afford them).

We will have children outside as much as we can to enable children to spread out further and be in the fresh air. However we can’t rely on the weather so we must plan for safety when we are all inside our building.

We do not face the same challenges as schools at lunchtime – we aren’t trying to get loads of children through one room as they are there already. However cross contamination is even more likely from younger children. To make it more manageable, we need some strict rules about lunchboxes:

  • No more than 4 food items per day
  • No food that needs heating up.
  • Your child must be able to open their lunchbox and packaging for themselves.
  • Please supply a water bottle each day.
  • All leftover food and packaging will be binned at the end of lunch.

It is important that staff do not handle your child’s food if at all possible – it would be impractical to wash hands that many times during an extended lunchbreak.

We will change our current drop off and pick up procedures so there is no mingling in the area outside the building. Most likely this will mean a handover at the Wooden gate in the school car park. We will confirm this when we know who is coming and what the schools own plans are.

We will continue the program of handwashing we began before lockdown – something we see as a worthwhile permanent addition to the life of pre-school. It will inevitably slow things down for a while during the session.

It will be a new challenge to provide you with the updates and support we normally have at the front door. However sharing information and airing concerns is going to be really important. There will still be ways to talk but they will need more arranging than usual. If you could email us or call with any urgent concerns we can respond appropriately or arrange an outdoor discussion.

No toys may be brought in from home. Please send your child wearing clothes appropriate for the weather (including sun hats if need be). Please do not bring their Teatimers bag or spare clothes. If they need a change of clothes, we have a supply and you will be asked to wash and return then as soon as possible. We can work through any specific needs with you on an individual basis as needed.

The government guidance is clear that we should limit the number of groups a child comes into contact with. So, for now, if your child attends more than one setting such as nursery or childminder where they come into contact with another group of children, we are asking that you only attend one of them. We fully understand if this means you have to choose the other setting over us.

As with everything else happening at the moment, this is the judgement we have arrived at based on the information currently available. We fully expect things to change as new government and industry guidance arrives and better ideas come along. Once open it will be the same staff, children and building but it will feel new. We expect to evolve our practice and learn from our mistakes at the same rapid pace a start-up venture would. Fortunately our leadership team does have experience of doing just this.

We hope this gives you enough information to begin to decide what is right for your family. Please fill in the questionnaire below by Sunday 17th March. Your responses are not binding and you are free to change your mind afterwards.

The next few weeks are going to see still more change, more questions raised, plenty of poor ‘information’ and rumour spreading and even the odd nugget of hard fact. We expect to need further questionnaires and communication so that we can keep Teatimers relevant to the changes happening in your lives as the country begins to reopen.

If you would prefer to stay away until September, even though we will be open, we fully understand. There is no point in making predictions about what we will be doing in September though. What we can offer by then will be dictated by how many children we can have in the room at one time, and what additional social measures are required. These depend on the virus situation over the summer and what we learn as a profession over the next few weeks.

Wishing you all well.

Toby, Clair and Gill

P.S Our website wasn’t built with this kind of situation in mind so I apologise if this message doesn’t look great on your scree. A replacement website, which will be a lot easier to use, will go live in the next couple of weeks.