Posted: Thu 18th Jun 2020

Flintshire Council answers key questions and parent concerns on the reopening of schools later this month

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 18th, 2020

Flintshire Council has answered some key questions and parent concerns ahead of reopening of school later this month.

Schools across Wales are gearing up for the restart in less than a fortnight’s time which will allow pupils to ‘check in, catch up, and prepare for September’.

Many schools have remained open during the lockdown for children of critical workers and vulnerable children as part of a hub network. 

Unions have said they are opposed to the wider opening schools in June and have called for the Welsh Education Minister to urgently review the decision.

UNISON which represents teachers and support staff, says Welsh Government should be aiming for reopening in September.

Jonathan Lewis, UNISON schools forum Chair, said: “UNISON is not prepared to compromise the safety of teaching assistants, cleaners, caterers, caretakers or administrative staff in schools.

We have considered the operational guidance and there simply doesn’t contain enough detail, particularly within the short time constraints.

Of course school support staff want to get back to work in schools, but we cannot be expected to take unnecessary risks to fulfil that within a few short weeks.

Robust planning takes time. We will continue to work with Welsh government, local authorities and other stakeholders to plan and assess a return to schools, but it cannot be a rushed job.”

Flintshire council say they have been working “closely” with headteachers on plans to reopen schools and unions have been informed throughout.

A council spokesperson said: “As a Council, we have close and constructive working relationships with our local representatives of the recognised trade unions, and we have engaged with them at key points during the school closure period.

Our local union representatives have been kept informed throughout as we support schools to prepare for 29 June.”

The council said schools have worked “very creatively” during the lockdown period to maintain pupil engagement in learning through a “variety” of means.

It’s “clear that they will have to operate in a very different way for the foreseeable future, providing a combination of face to face and remote learning – a blended learning approach.

Planning is in the early stages “but we appreciate that parents and carers and, indeed, pupils and school staff, will have concerns and questions.

That’s why we want to keep you informed as decisions are made so that we hope that you will feel reassured and confident in the steps we are taking. 

The safety and wellbeing of our staff and learners is of paramount importance in all our planning.” A council said

This is what the council has said so far about the reopening of schools: 

“Because of the challenges posed by nursery aged pupils in relation to social distancing, the Council has made the decision to exclude this group of pupils from the check in and catch up sessions before the summer holidays.  Most other authorities in Wales are taking a similar stance.”

“Flintshire’s position is that children should not be switching between the emergency childcare group and the “check in/catch up” sessions – this increases the risk of transmitting the virus between different cohorts of pupils.  In fact, these pupils have already had contact time with familiar staff to enable them to “check in and catch up”.

“Each school is different and arrangements will be in place to suit each individual school setting. We do know that there will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience and getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.”

“There is no obligation to send children back to school if it is not right for them or their families. Therefore, during this time parents will not be fined if they choose not to send their child to school.”

“Children attending hubs will move back to their own school on 22 June. We are working closely with schools to manage this transition.  For more information, please see our website https://www.flintshire.gov.uk/en/Resident/Emergency-Planning/Coronavirus-Covid-19-council-services-update.aspx.”

“Where possible, we are asking that parents and carers travel with their children to and from school.  When dropping off or picking up children, we would ask all parents and carers to adhere to the guidelines and arrangements which will be put in place by the school to ensure that social distancing is maintained.”

“Flintshire’s transport unit is working closely with schools to determine the demand for school transport.  We have a robust transport network and are confident that we can meet these needs. Schools will not be open to more than a third of learners at any time, so we are looking at staggered pick-up and drop-off times, along with other options.”

“If you have requested school transport, you will be contacted by the school once that has been put in place.  Please ensure that the school has your up-to-date contact details.”

“We take the safety and wellbeing of our pupils and staff seriously and we are working with our partner NEWydd to ensure that all schools will be cleaned regularly and will have sufficient cleaning materials, soap and hand sanitiser available.”

“In Flintshire, we have taken the decision that pupils will be provided with in school catering and we are currently working through the options. However as the water fountains will not be in use, pupils can bring in a water bottle as long as it is clearly named and not shared with anyone else.”

“Other essential equipment, for example a pencil case, can be brought in but items must not be shared with other people.If you are in receipt of direct payments currently instead of free school meals, the packed lunch will be provided free of charge and you will continue to receive the direct payments.”

Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, said:

“This will not be a return to school as we knew it previously, it will be an opportunity to give students vital contact time before the summer holiday which will have important social and learning benefits. Teaching and lessons in schools are unlikely during this check-in, catch-up period.

For parents and teachers too, this is an important opportunity to experience and be confident of the safety measures in place.”

Flintshire’s Chief Officer for Education and Youth, Claire Homard, said:

“We are continuing to work very closely with head teachers to plan how schools will operate from 29 June and we will update you regularly to reassure you that we are putting measures in place to ensure that all children will be safe during this transition period.

The safety and wellbeing of everyone is at the core of our planning and preparations. We have well established routines of social distancing and hygiene in all our hub settings which can be transferred into every school. We have detailed guidance, suitable risk assessments and appropriate resources to support our schools at this crucial time.

We will keep you updated as things develop in the next few days and weeks.”

 

 

 

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