- Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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Schools will remain open for vulnerable and critical worker children in the third national lockdown.
In line with the latest government announcement of a national lockdown primary (reception onwards), secondary and special schools, alternative provision and colleges will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term when the position will be reviewed by Central Government.
Public exams and vocational assessments (e.g. BTEC assessments) scheduled to take place in January will go ahead as planned but the government has announced that it does not deem it possible for all exams (GCSEs and A Levels) in the summer to go ahead as planned. The government will be working with Ofqual to consult to put in place alternative arrangements that will allow students to progress their learning fairly.
Early years and nurseries
Early years settings (including nursery schools and childminders) are committed to continue to allow all children to attend as normal. If your child attends a school-based nursery, check with the school on their current arrangements.
Free school meals
For children not able to return to school in January, free school meals will still be provided for those eligible, organised through food parcel delivery or collection via their school.
Laptops for remote learning access
We have been working with schools to provide laptops for children who may not have had access to remote learning resources since March. Parents of pupils not able to return to school until the end of the national lockdown can discuss directly with their school for this provision. Schools will be contacting families directly about IT devices and digital support should they be eligible.
Cleaning and hygiene measures
Extra cleaning has been arranged in schools following guidance from Public Health England’s advice, particularly of areas used by different groups and frequently touched surfaces.
Children will be encouraged to regularly wash their hands throughout the day and follow good hygiene (for example info on Catch it, Bin it, Kill it). Hand sanitiser stations will be available throughout schools.
Uniforms do not need to be cleaned any more often than usual, and the usual clothes washing methods are fine.
Staff will be paying close attention to whether children show any symptoms of Coronavirus during the school day. If they do, they’ll be taken to a safe area and a parent or guardian will be contacted to take them home. They will be asked to get tested for Coronavirus as soon as possible.
For school-specific regulations and guidance, please contact a school directly or visit their website to learn more about the measures they are putting in place.
You can find information on all our local schools on the Council website
Travelling to and from school
We want to encourage children to walk, cycle or scoot to school wherever possible to limit usage of public transport services. We appreciate this isn’t always going to be possible, so it’s important that those who can walk, cycle or scoot do so to ensure there is capacity for those who don’t have that option.
There are currently no changes to free travel for children and young people. TfL continues to work with Government on how and when any suspension of free travel for Under 18s could take effect but it would not be before April 2021.
TfL have shared extensive guidance for schools on the measures in place to ensure children can get to and from school safely.
For information on travel arrangements for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) please visit the Council’s Local Offer website. This site also features other resources relevant to children with SEND at this time that can aid their learning and readjustment.
Read more about Coronavirus safe travel at the GOV.UK website.
Following guidance from the Government, schools are working to reduce contact between groups of children and have established social bubbles, which include members of staff.
Each bubble consists of the same adults and children, who will remain in that same bubble for the remainder of the school year. If any adult or child within the bubble tests positive for Coronavirus, the entire group must self-isolate at home. In secondary schools, bubbles may need to be large for schools to deliver the full range of subjects. However, as older students are better able to social distance, the whole year bubble may not be required to self-isolate but this decision will be made following a full risk assessment by the school.
Changes have been made to the layout of classrooms. They have been organised to allow social distancing between pupils and staff, with pupils facing forward where possible and staying at the same desk.
Equipment and resources are cleaned regularly, and pupils and staff have their own personal equipment where possible. Where cleaning isn’t practical, items are left unused until the risk of transmission has passed.
Schools continue to use outside space for learning and recreation as this is so important for children’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Schools can give parents specific information about their arrangements. Contact a school or visit their website for details of how classrooms are shared, and outside areas managed.
You can find information on all our local schools on the Council website.
Physical and mental wellbeing
While it was necessary for schools to be closed when Coronavirus lockdown first hit, the social interactions between friends, carers and teachers, which are all crucial in a child’s development and wellbeing, have undoubtedly been affected.
We understand pupils will have experienced and continue to experience a variety of emotions in response to the pandemic, such as anxiety, stress or low mood. This may particularly be the case for vulnerable children, for example those with a social worker, or for young carers.
Schools provide emotional care and extra-curricular activities to all pupils, which is designed to:
support the rebuilding of friendships and social engagement
equip pupils to respond to issues linked to Coronavirus
support pupils with approaches to improving their physical and mental wellbeing
Schools have also been asked to provide more focused emotional support for:
- individual pupils
- groups already known to need additional help
- any groups they identify as newly vulnerable on their return to school
The Council is working with schools to ensure they are equipped with resources and contacts to refer children to should they want to reach out for mental health support. The ‘Knowing your mental health’ leaflet is being promoted on digital screens around the borough and sent to schools so pupils can have physical copies. You can find this guide online – please do share it with a young person you know if you think it may be useful for them or their friends.