Finalised arrangements for the safe return of schools and early childhood centres across East Ayrshire have been announced, in a detailed communication issued to parents and carers from the Head of Education, Ms Linda McAulay-Griffiths.
Last week the Council confirmed its intention to open schools and early childhood centres on a ‘soft start’ basis for the first few days, from 12 August, with a firm commitment to resume full time education for all children and young people from Monday 17 August.
This week, parents and carers can expect to receive more information regarding their own children and their respective establishments, with a particular focus on pupils starting P1 and S1.
Linda McAulay-Griffiths said: “I think I speak for all my staff when I say how much we have missed having our young people in our schools and how much we are looking forward to seeing them again.
“We are very aware that this will be an anxious time for families and young people, but we’d like to reassure everyone that throughout the summer, we have been working alongside our Parent Councils, Headteachers, Health and Safety and Facilities & Property Management colleagues to ensure the safest possible return to school for all of our young people next week.
“We have undertaken risk assessments in every establishment; our cleaning regimes have been enhanced and aligned with national guidance; access will be controlled to restrict numbers in limited spaces including toilet areas and other high-traffic areas.
“Clearly, we are returning to a very different learning and teaching environment and the soft start will benefit our young people, particularly those who require enhanced transition and those who have not been able to visit their new schools.
“We would encourage parents and carers to work alongside us to help reinforce these arrangements to help protect our young people and their families.”
Whilst there is no national requirement for physical distancing in primary or secondary settings, this will be encouraged in all settings, particularly with older secondary pupils. Staff will observe 2m physical distancing from pupils wherever possible, and in some instances staff may be required to wear PPE. There will be adaptations to PE and other practical lessons, including music provision in an effort to keep everyone safe and assemblies and other large gatherings such as school shows and Parents’ Evenings will not take place during the first term, subject to continued review and scientific advice.
Early Childhood Centres will work towards the delivery of 600 hours of early learning and childcare taking account of the refreshed guidance and public health measures and those establishments that delivered 1140 hours prior to lockdown will begin to reintroduce the delivery of 1140 hours on a phased basis.
School transport will run as normal. Face coverings will not be required for school transport, but children can wear a covering if they prefer to do so, and pupils will be expected to use hand sanitiser as they board the bus. Parents are discouraged from dropping off children directly at school gates to prevent entry areas becoming overcrowded.
Linda continues: “Lockdown presented us with many challenges, but it also afforded us the opportunity to take a fresh look at some of our systems and processes, and as our young people return to school they will enjoy the opportunity to pre-order their lunches in advance. This is designed to minimise pupil contact, speed up the lunchtime service and in general, help to keep pupils and staff safe.
“Most likely, food will be consumed in classrooms initially to prevent mass gatherings of pupils in dining areas. Hot and cold options will be available, and will be pre-packed, with pre-packed cutlery. Breakfast and snacks will not be available at the very start of term, but we will keep this under review.
“As we adjust to living with the threat of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, we’d like to reassure parents and carers that we are taking all steps possible to manage this in our education settings. A national COVID-19 surveillance system is being initiated for staff and senior pupils, involving testing on a voluntary basis, and we have been working with our local Public Health Teams to plan for any scenarios that may arise in our schools or Early Childhood Centres. We ask that parents and carers support us by not sending children to school or ECC if they, or any of member of the household has symptoms of COVID-19. If a child does develop symptoms whilst in our care, parents will be asked to collect their child immediately and follow subsequent medical advice.
“All of our schools have contingency plans ready, should there be any change to this plan for return, either through any change to physical distancing or indeed local or national lockdown being required. We would hope that these won’t be necessary, but we hope that parents and carers will be reassured to know that these plans are in place.”
Councillor Fiona Campbell, cabinet member with responsibility for schools and education said:
“Teams across the Council have been working hard throughout the summer to ensure a safe return for all of our young people next week, and it will be a joyful sight to see our playgrounds come to life once more as our young people are reunited with classmates and teachers for the first time in almost five months.
“Safety will be of paramount importance, of course, but the first day of a new term is always special and this year there will be even greater significance as we welcome our families back to school.”
Full details of these arrangements are also available on our website.