Lancashire County Council is getting ready to welcome children and young people back into schools and early years settings for the new academic year in September.
Although the majority of schools remained open for vulnerable children and those of key workers during lockdown, with more being welcomed back in June, some children and young people haven’t been in school since March.
Schools will look and feel different when the new term starts because of some of the measures that have been put in place to manage the risks that remain from coronavirus.
Arrangements include an enhanced cleaning programme, additional signage and one-way systems where necessary.
The implementation of the new requirements relating to regular handwashing, hand sanitising and social distancing between staff and pupils will continue to be followed. These requirements provide the best protection against infection from COVID-19. Staff will be adhering to these themselves and ensuring that pupils do the same.
Every school has carried out comprehensive health and safety risk assessments as part of their planning for the return of pupils to make sure that everyone is safe in school.
The wearing of face coverings in schools is at the discretion of the headteacher.
As an extra precautionary measure, face coverings should be worn in communal areas in schools that are in areas subject to local restrictions by staff and pupils over the age of 11.
Government guidance confirms that face coverings should not be worn in classrooms. Some pupils will be exempt from wearing face coverings due to specific needs and difficulties. Parents and carers will need to provide the face coverings.
Children and young people across all ages and stages will be required to remain within specified groups at all times. Safe distancing expectations will apply in specific situations whilst within the education establishment and when travelling to and from schools or settings.
The government’s guidance recognises that younger children and those with certain special educational needs may not be able to maintain social distancing. It is likely that for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children it will also be on distancing where appropriate. Individual schools will set out how this will work.
Schools may also introduce new processes for drop off and collection. This will be done as a measure to help keep groups apart as they arrive and leave school and will not reduce the amount of time that is spent learning and teaching.
Parents are advised that pupils should not attend school if they or any member of their household has any COVID-19 symptoms.
Schools will work closely with families to support the return of pupils with an Education Health Care Plan back into school. Some children with complex difficulties may need specific support to help to prepare them for any changes in routine, and schools are planning to meet these needs.
The reopening of schools and settings will be monitored extremely closely, and local arrangements will be put in place as required.
Robust contingency plans are in place should there be a national or local outbreak of the virus.
County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “I would like to personally thank parents for their patience, understanding and cooperation during what has certainly been an incredibly difficult and unprecedented time.
“I know that this has been a challenging period for everyone, with families being impacted by the coronavirus situation in many ways.
The Government is very clear that all children, in all year groups, are expected to return to school in September, and it is our firm intention to achieve this, as long as it is safe to do so.
“I know that schools and colleges are ready and waiting to get back to teaching, with the right protective measures in place.
“As the start of term approaches, I would like to encourage parents to think about the practicalities of returning to school, whether that’s finding out as much information as possible to reassure themselves that school is the best place for their child to be, or planning the school run to avoid public transport where possible.”
Schools and settings are being encouraged to communicate with families to outline the changes that they are introducing to keep staff, children and young people safe.
Because school buildings are all slightly different, parents and carers are encouraged to carefully read any information received about the new arrangements and to contact school directly with any questions.
Help will be available for any pupils who may require additional support and they, or their parents, are encouraged to speak to a member of staff if this is required.
For more information, parents and carers can look at their school’s or setting’s own website for updates, or visit our website https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/coronavirus/schools.