Wandsworth Council’s ‘Back to School’ offer for June 1

Published: Friday, May 22, 2020

The council has announced a major package of support to help schools re-open on June 1 in line with Government guidance.

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Cllr Will Sweet

And it is offering reassurance to parents, carers and teaching staff that all schools are conducting rigorous safety checks and risk assessments, with support from the council, before deciding whether or not to re-open classrooms.

 

To give schools the maximum possible opportunity to welcome children back to school next month, the council has introduced nine important measures:

1 - Expanding our flagship “School Streets” programme to block traffic outside any school that requires it for social distancing during drop-off and pick-up.

2 - Making parks and outside facilities available free of charge to schools.

3 -  Offering the free use of other council buildings if any school needs extra space.

4 - Procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for any school that needs it.

5 - Working with SEN transport providers to keep our vehicles safe for the most vulnerable.

6 - Providing our own Free School Meal vouchers scheme to support the national system when necessary.

7 - Providing free mental health support to Wandsworth teachers during this tough time.

8 - Providing nearly 1,000 laptops, data vouchers and dongles for Wandsworth children, through the council’s own Power to Connect scheme (with Battersea Power Station) and Government programme. If you have an old laptop or tablet, please consider donating it for us to refurbish at www.powertoconnect.co.uk.

9 - Providing car parking for teachers.

Heralding this package, Wandsworth’s cabinet member for education and children’s services Cllr Will Sweet said: “Schools are working so hard at the moment to get ready for June 1. As a council, we wanted to make a bold, strong offer to give them the maximum support possible in their decisions to re-open.”

The council is making it clear to families and teachers that no school will re-open unless school leaders are confident it is safe to do so.

In a joint letter to parents Cllr Sweet and the borough’s director of children’s services Ana Popovici state: “Every school is different. As a council, we support our headteachers and governors in the decisions they make for their schools and communities to stay well and stay safe. They will need to amend timetables and, if necessary, consider which pupil groups to welcome back first. We will not apply a ‘one size fits all’ solution to reopening.

“All schools have undertaken risk assessments and are introducing the most rigorous steps to ensure the highest standards of hygiene, including regular cleaning and hand washing. They will make the best possible arrangements for social distancing based on their own unique settings. This has been supported by expert advice from the council’s director of public health.

“Some parents and carers might have concerns about their children going back to school. We can assure you that no decision will be taken lightly.

“If your school welcomes back your children on Monday, June 1, then it is because its headteacher and governors have judged it is safe to do so.”

And in their letter to headteacher and school governors they write: “Last week we met with a group of headteachers to address the challenges presented in implementing, in line with Government guidance, our shared aspiration for phased reopening of schools. We were delighted by the solution-focused nature of the debate and your determination to overcome potential barriers in order to re-establish access to school for a greater number of children, particularly those who are vulnerable, whilst at the same time minimising risks as much as possible.

“DFE published guidance acknowledges that each school setting is different in terms of premises, staffing and the pupil cohort. It accepts that headteachers know their schools better than anyone else and we agree with this. Consequently, we are committed to working closely with you to help you put in place individual and specific arrangements to achieve a return to school that also maintains a safe environment for all who are part of your school communities.

“The council’s executive councillors are clear in their ambition to protect and support Wandsworth schools and they are continuing to work hard across all council directorates to ensure any actions necessary to facilitate school opening are put in place. These include a relaxation of charges and policy relating to schools’ use of outside spaces for the rest of the summer-term, in order to help with social distancing, alongside the assurance that should schools need additional spaces to run programmes, council buildings such as children’s centres will be made available.

“The council has worked hard with the London Resilience Group to ensure we can procure and pass on supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on behalf of schools that require it and we will provide you with further details as soon as possible.”

Their letter to parents concludes: “We hope you will join us in thanking our schools for their dedication. In partnership with the council they have been creative in supporting remote learning and helping our communities, especially children of key workers and vulnerable children. We must now all work together and do all we can to support schools to re-open safely.”

And signing off their letter to the heads, they add: “We continue to be inspired by the dedication and expertise of school leaders in Wandsworth and their continuing commitment to do what is best for our children and young people. Be assured that we will do all we can to support you in meeting the unique challenge ahead and in pushing forward on our shared ambition to get all Wandsworth schools open, as fully, as soon and as safely as possible.

“Finally, please accept our heartfelt thanks for all the hard work you have been doing to support your school communities. The council will do all it can to support you in implementing the plans that you decide are best suited to your setting.”

Since the lockdown began almost all schools in Wandsworth have remained open for some children. The Government has now identified pupils in nursery, reception, year 1, year 6, year 10 and year 12 as priorities for returning to classrooms.