Cheshire East Council is working with schools and colleges to welcome all pupils back to school safely from September.
Around 57,000 pupils attend nearly 180 schools and colleges across the borough and the council has been working with education staff over the summer, to ensure the appropriate arrangements are in place following the recent lifting of national restrictions.
In a letter addressed to all parents and carers, the council hopes to reassure families with information explaining what arrangements will be in place from September, as these will have changed since before the school holidays.
The council, together with schools and colleges, plan to gradually reduce previous safety measures, keeping a close eye on local data. Education and public health teams will monitor the impact of changes on positive cases and use this to inform the pace at which further measures are removed.
In general, the measures that will still be in place at the start of term, include good hygiene and ventilation, some one-way systems may be retained, some staggered start and finish times and the recommendation for face coverings to be worn on school transport. Schools and colleges will no longer be required to have all desks facing forward and keep children in strict bubbles.
The letter, signed by both the council’s director of education and director of public health, has the following key messages:
● Under the new national arrangements, there will be no need for pupils to isolate if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19;
● Secondary schools are planning to carry out two lateral flow device tests for every pupil in year 7 and above, three to five days apart, on their return in September;
● Additional government funding that paid for extra school buses and taxis has now ended so these will no longer be in place;
● Vaccinations are now available for young people aged 16 and 17. The council encourages all those eligible to take up the vaccine offer as soon as possible; and
● Children aged 12 to 15 with specific underlying health conditions that put them at an increased risk of serious Covid-19, or who live with a person who is immunosuppressed, are now eligible for the vaccine.
Jacky Forster, director of education and 14-19 skills at Cheshire East Council, said: “We’ve been working closely with schools and colleges over the summer to finalise what measures need to be in place for the new academic year.
“I know that teachers, school and college staff are looking forward to welcoming children and young people back and I’d like to thank them for all their hard work in carefully planning and reviewing existing safety measures, ensuring that they are ready to open next month.
“Schools and colleges also have outbreak management plans describing what they would do if children or staff test positive for Covid-19, or how they would operate if they were advised to reintroduce any additional measures to help break chains of transmission.
“I appreciate that returning to school will be an anxious time for some pupils, I want to reassure parents and carers that support is available either via their child’s school or by contacting the council.
“As we recover from this dreadful pandemic, our focus remains that children and young people across the borough get back to school safely and that they have an enjoyable education that supports them to achieve to their full potential.”