Cheshire West and Chester Council has prepared a framework to support the borough’s headteachers plan for a possible phased reopening of schools for some year groups.
This follows a Department for Education (DfE) announcement that children in early years, year one and year six in England may be able to return to school in June provided that the governments five key tests are met.
Following consultation and discussion with schools this week, the Council’s framework strongly advises that schools should plan to reopen on the 8 June at the earliest if they feel that they can safely accommodate either all or some of the suggested year groups. This decision has been taken as schools are still awaiting further national guidance, for example, for the Early Years and Secondary sectors, from the DfE. The views of the teaching unions also need to be considered.
The government is yet to make a final announcement that their five key tests have been met before any schools reopen and children return. All these factors need to be considered before the Council can advise that it is right time to bring more children back into the education system.
If a school feels that they are not able to accommodate the eligible year groups to return by the 8 June, the school will be supported by the Council’s education team to explore the challenges they are facing and to widen their offer to year groups at an appropriate date.
Schools in the borough, including those that are not planning to reopen to selected year groups, will continue to follow national guidance and offer places to children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Councillor Bob Cernik, Cabinet Member for Children and Families said: “All schools are currently open and have been since the start of the lockdown, including the holidays. They are doing an outstanding job looking after vulnerable children and children of keyworkers, that will continue.
“Before any of our schools open to larger numbers of children we need to be sure it’s safe to do so. The results from the detailed risk assessments we sent out showed three main school groupings. Those who could meet all, some or none of the government’s request. Based on the evidence, from all the schools in the borough, the 8 June is the very earliest we could achieve any expansion. This is not a target date, it’s an advised earliest safe starting date for some schools who have indicated they are ready to expand their cohort. The safety of pupils and school staff is our priority and we will support all our schools with their decision about reopening.
“Not all schools will be able to reopen at the same time or for the same eligible year groups. This will be for a variety of reasons, such as staff availability (due to Covid-19) and the possible challenges around school buildings that may make social distancing more difficult to achieve when following the national advice and guidance.”
Schools will communicate directly with parents, carers and other stakeholders of their decision about reopening, when this will be and for which children.
The decision to send a child to school will be the parents or carers to make. Fines will not be issued if parents decide not to send their children to school.