Schools and early years providers work to extend provision

Schools and early years providers across Somerset are working hard on preparations to extend provision to more children after half term.

Having worked closely with education leaders on how to sensibly and safely bring about the Government’s proposals, Somerset County Council accepts that from 1 June not all settings will be able to offer full time provision to the year groups specified.*

Schools and early years providers in Somerset have been providing education for children of key workers and vulnerable children throughout the current crisis and it’s expected that most will be able to extend this to some degree after half term.

Schools and early years providers are working within difficulties posed by their circumstances and layouts and the guidance they must follow around pupil numbers, safe working transport arrangements, staffing levels and the continuing need to prioritise provision for vulnerable children and children of key workers.

The Council appreciates they will need to be flexible, with split weeks, staggered starts and other special arrangements needed to make things work. It is hugely grateful to Headteachers and early years providers not only for the immense amount of preparation work they have undertaken since the Government’s announcement, but also for the tireless work they have undertaken throughout this crisis.

The County Council believes Headteachers and teachers are best-placed to make the right decisions around what is practical, possible and safe for children and staff. It has been providing support and guidance over the last few weeks to ensure settings are safe, as well as providing emergency PPE kits for all schools.

If you’re a parent or carer, your child’s school or setting should already have contacted you to explain the provision they can offer and details of when this will start. If you haven’t been contacted someone from the school should be in touch by early next week at the latest.

We want to make you aware there is limited school transport due to a reduction in staff because of coronavirus and social distancing requirements. We know how wonderfully our communities have pulled together during this difficult time once again we need your support. It would be a huge support if you can make your own arrangements for travel where possible so that we can try to meet the needs of all children.
The details of what transport will be available will be included in your communications from individual schools.

Faye Purbrick, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education added: “Our education leaders have been working flat-out to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers, as well as making provision for children not attending school throughout this crisis. Over the last week they have been focusing on how to increase provision to more children.
“We are 100 per cent behind our education leaders – they know their settings. Of course we understand parents will be hoping to return to work and some will be disappointed provision isn’t available yet to them. We will continue to support and work hard with education leaders to extend provision as soon as possible.”

Naomi Philp is headteacher of Dunster and Timberscombe First Schools, part of the Moorland Federation. She said: “ The safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff is paramount which is why in our Moorland Federation, as in many schools, we are offering what we can in terms of provision, but, inevitably we know some parents may be disappointed as it may not fit perfectly with everyone’s needs.
“The safety and wellbeing of children and staff has been the foundation of our decision making, ‘starting small and building safely’ has been the mantra to which we risk assess and evolve plans.
“We have collaborated, researched and soul-searched over how best to achieve the Government’s ambition and we hope that effort and care is recognised in our communities.

“We do understand how difficult the last two months have been for our families and we are immensely proud of their efforts and the dedication of our staff to support and liaise virtually, by email and by phone.
“In  many cases our parents and carers have had the added difficulty of balancing the commitments of work and home educating, and we know that some parents will now need to return to work.
“In order to increase provision to more pupils we have had to carefully follow Government guidelines on limiting class numbers, maintaining social distancing and making sure we have strategies in place for infection control and access to PPE as appropriate. This is a detailed and robust process as we analyse each piece of updated guidance as it is produced.

“We’re incredibly grateful to our parents for all their support at this time and speaking on behalf of my colleagues across the County I want to stress that each educational setting is different, so please support the professionalism and judgement of education leaders who are making difficult decisions over the next few weeks.
“They are best placed to understand their setting and community, and what it is possible to offer by way of provision.”

*The Government has asked that provision be extended for early years settings and primary schools (reception, years 1 and 6) and for secondary schools (some teacher contact for years 10 and 12), and pupil referral units (PRUs), (this applies to years 10 and 11), potentially from 1 June if the Governments 5 tests are met. Special schools are also included and working towards a phased return of more pupils across year groups.

Submitted by Communications