Government proposals on staged return of early years and school children

Somerset County Council is currently working closely with education leaders following the Government’s announcement that early years providers/nurseries, schools and colleges may be asked to extend provision to more pupils with effect from 1 June.

This step is conditional upon key indicators set by the Government based on the national COVID-19 situation. It applies initially to early years, primary reception, Year One and Year Six only, with some face-to-face support for secondary children in Years 10 and 12.

We are discussing how these proposals can be managed safely in respect of both pupils and staff. More details can be found here.

Please note early years settings are being asked to open to all children but must carry out a risk assessment to ascertain how many children they can safely accommodate at any one time. Settings may therefore reduce the numbers of children they can safely care for and where this is the case priority will be given to 3 and 4 year-olds in the first instance.

Similarly it may be that, because of specific circumstances, not all schools will be able to offer full time provision to the year groups set out in the government guidance. Head teachers will be contacting parents and carers to advise what provision they will be able to make.

The Government is also proposing – if possible – to open schools to all primary school children for at least a month before the summer break. We await further details on this step.

The Council is aware that people are being encouraged to return to work this week.

As things stand the current DfE guidance remains in place: Schools and early years settings are still ‘closed’ to all but the children of essential and key workers or vulnerable children as defined in the current guidance, [which can be found here] on that basis they are not able to offer provision to children who do not meet those criteria.

This may change to reflect the Government’s new approach but currently the Authority and all educational settings must work with the guidance that is in place.

Lead Member for Education Cllr Faye Purbrick said: “We understand this situation is problematic for those returning to work. Throughout this crisis Somerset’s Councils have been working together to provide a whole host of support to residents and vulnerable families across the county and we want to continue supporting people as much as we can.

“As soon as we have further guidance on this issue we will of course be letting people know.

“During these challenging times our early years providers and head teachers and staff in schools have been doing an incredible job providing support for vulnerable children and families, as well as continuing to accommodate the children of our key workers. They face further challenges to ensure our educational settings are safe and ready for the return of pupils.

“Each setting is different and we will support the professionalism and judgement of head teachers and early years providers over the coming weeks and months as they face difficult decisions in preparing for the return of their children.

“Lastly I’d like to personally thank parents and carers across Somerset for their support and incredible work in ensuring children and young people continue to be supported in their education at home.”

*For more detail on coronavirus and educational settings in Somerset please visit https://www.somerset.gov.uk/coronavirus/coronavirus-guidance-for-parents-and-cares/

*Updated advice on current arrangements:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers#critical-workers

*Latest information for parents and carers to help prepare for the wider opening of nurseries, schools and colleges from 1 June:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/reopening-schools-and-other-educational-settings-from-1-june

A single phone number is also available for anyone in Somerset who needs Coronavirus-related support from their councils. The Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline number, 0300 790 6275, makes it easier for people to access any local authority help they may need, including emotional support, during the current crisis. Lines are open seven days a week from 8am to 6pm.

Submitted by Communications