Wera has voiced her full support for Bath & North East Somerset Council’s approach to reopening local schools which is being guided by the individual circumstances and needs of each school.
“Earlier this week, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education on behalf of local parents and school leaders who are concerned about how schools can be reopened safely on 1st June.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, there has been a tension between the demands which central Government has made and the needs of local communities. Ultimately it is our Local Authorities who have dealt with this crisis on a daily basis and know what our communities need.
Our teachers and school staff have been doing a tremendous job supporting the small number of children who have been in schools throughout the lockdown. School leaders need to be confident that they can provide a safe environment for larger numbers of students and staff.
I asked Cllr Kevin Guy, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, to brief me on his and the Council’s approach to reopening schools. I feel encouraged that their decision will be guided by the individual needs and constraints faced by each one of our local schools. Cllr Guy reported:
‘All schools, both maintained and Academy Trusts, are expected to have provision for Reception, Year 1 and 6 in primary school and face-to-face time for Years 10 and 12, by no earlier than 1st June.
I have been deeply concerned with this irresponsible one-size-fits-all approach coming from the Government and the Department for Education. These concerns are matched by those of a large proportion of teachers and parents whom I have spoken with over the past few weeks.
Therefore I have instructed the Council’s Health and Safety team, Public Health team and Facilities Manager to assist the maintained schools in completing a risk assessment on the re-opening of their schools. This risk assessment will go to their governing bodies and then to the Local Authority for final sign-off.
I have told our maintained schools that they are ready when they are ready. They will have my full support to open in a bespoke and safe way that suits each school. This means that not all of our schools will be fully open by 1st June as prescribed by the Department for Education. This is due to the nature of some of our schools, especially the infant schools. For example, this may be determined by the school building's size and the need to ensure that they can comply with social distancing requirements. I have assured them they have my full support to open in a manner in which they feel safe to do so.
The Senior Council team and I will be speaking with all Headteachers to answer any questions they have and to also offer advice on the practicalities of their plans. Academy Chief Executives will be conducting similar Health and Safety policy checks and the Local Authority is standing by to offer any assistance or support they may need.’”