Special schools in West Cheshire that have remained open during the lockdown period, providing care and support for the most vulnerable pupils, have been welcoming back more of their children and young people during the summer term.
Specialist schools support pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) who have a range of special educational needs. Head teachers and Principals have worked closely with families, throughout lockdown, to ensure the needs of all their pupils were met and families had the support they needed, whether remotely or on site at school.
As schools have worked towards pupils returning to the classroom, individual risk assessments have been updated for all pupils to ensure it is suitable for them to return.
Other measures put in place to keep pupils and staff safe include.
Completing risk assessments of the school site.
Introducing one-way systems.
Smaller class sizes with part time attendance in the summer term.
Introducing bubbles/pods for pupils and staff so they limit contact with others.
Staggered break and lunch times.
To make the move back to the classroom as smooth as possible for students, schools and colleges have shared social stories with their pupils to help them prepare for changes to the classroom and routines before coming into school. Photos and videos of school and staff have also been shared to help with the transition.
Mike McCann, Chair of the Cheshire West Association of Special School Headteachers, said: “We’re so pleased to have been able to welcome more pupils back to school over the last month and spend time with them re-establishing relationships and supporting them with their learning. There have been some changes made to the way schools work to help minimise risk, such as introducing staggered start and finish times, but pupils have adapted remarkably well to these adjustments.
“We’ve found that pupils have been really keen to be back in school and many parents have reported improvements in their child’s wellbeing and in their sleep patterns, which has a hugely positive impact on parents and helps with a child’s learning.”
Councillor Bob Cernik, Cabinet Member for Children and Families said: "Our special schools are doing a fantastic job adapting their settings and welcoming back more pupils so they can continue to be supported with their education.
“Thank you to all the school staff who have worked hard over the last few months to provide a safe learning environment for their students and who continue to support children to help them achieve their best.”
Feedback from parents of pupils attending specialist provisions across the borough include:
"The school have been wonderful, so supportive and happy to talk through my concerns before my child returned to school. They have made it so easy and put my mind at rest”
‘’The college have been brilliant with their direct contact, with the college work being set online and with the Facebook pages, where staff and young people have been able to post all sorts of news/info to encourage, motivate and reach out to each other. Can't praise them highly enough”
‘’The school have been amazing, I just needed to trust that they would keep my child safe and they totally understood my apprehensiveness and answered all my questions. So much so that I felt very confident sending my daughter back to school.”
Mainstream schools in west Cheshire have also been supporting vulnerable pupils, children of key worker families and those with an Education Health and Care Plan throughout the covid-19 lockdown.
A parent, whose son attends a mainstream school, has an EHCP and accesses the resources provision, said: “The school have been fantastic, dropping work off for my son at home and now he’s gone back into school they have been wonderful, made the whole process of getting him back to school so easy – I feel that he is safe, and going to be well looked after. He’s even come home and said how much he’s missed being at school, and that’s the thing I’ve had to keep in mind, it’s better for him to be in school, for his social and emotional wellbeing.’’
Pictured - Councillor Bob Cernik, Cabinet Member for Children and Families.