With school and college attendance once again mandatory from the beginning of the new academic year, St Helens Borough Council has launched a campaign in a bid to safely get pupils back into the classroom.
‘All In’ has been developed to stress the importance of children and young people returning to a learning environment – and to assure parents and carers that a range of measures have been put in place at education settings across the borough to keep pupils and staff safe.
While many schools in the borough had continued to provide education to pupils of certain school years and needs – as well as the children of key workers – prior to the summer break, it is the government’s intention that all year groups will return to education in September.
St Helens Borough Council will work closely with schools to monitor and support them with attendance.
Parents and carers of children of compulsory school age have a legal duty to send their child to school regularly, with fines and even prosecution used as a last resort by St Helens Borough Council for persistent absence which has not been authorised by a headteacher.
To accommodate facilities opening to all year groups, St Helens Borough Council and teaching unions have worked together with schools and colleges to put control measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in order to provide a full educational experience for children and young people.
These control measures may include:
· Grouping children together in ‘bubbles’ to limit the number of pupils and staff in contact with each other
· Arranging classrooms with forward facing desks, with the teacher at the front of class, and pupils sitting at well-spaced desks, all facing forward
· Travel to school patterns differ greatly between schools. Schools or colleges may introduce staggered starts or adjusting start and finish times to keep groups apart as they arrive and leave school. Staggered start and finish times should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time.
· Children and young people will be asked to clean their hands more often than usual, including when they arrive at school or college, when they return from breaks, and before and after eating – this will be done with soap and running water or hand sanitiser.
· Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned more often.
Jo Davies, St Helens Borough Council’s Assistant Director for Education, Early Help and Children’s Health, said:
“We know that there will be parents out there who are worried about sending their child back to school in September – but it is worth remembering that schools have remained open during the worst days of the pandemic for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, and schools have been practising strict protective measures.
“It is vital that children and young people return to school and college – for their educational progress, for their wellbeing, and for their wider development.
“As a former St Helens-based headteacher myself who now works closely with all primary and secondary heads in the borough, I know just now how hard our schools work for the benefit of our communities, and parents and guardians can rest assured that their children are in safe hands when they return in September.”
Councillor Sue Murphy, Cabinet Member for Developing Young People, added: “Our children and young people, through no fault of their own, have missed out on months of valuable education and we don’t want them falling further behind with their studies, which is why it’s important that we welcome all students back to school and college as we adapt to the ‘new normal.’
“Education settings have played a crucial part in our local response to Covid-19, providing support for vulnerable and key worker families whose children have had positive experiences of being in the school environment during this pandemic which, together with the risk reduction measures in place we hope, enables more pupils to return to school with confidence.”
A small number of pupils may still be unable to attend in line with public health advice because they are self-isolating and have had symptoms or a positive test result themselves, or because they are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19). If your child is unable to attend school or college for this reason, you should talk to your school or college about what support is in place in terms of remote education.
For more information, including a list of FAQs covering what would happen in the event of a coronavirus outbreak in a school or college, visit: www.sthelens.gov.uk/backtoschool