Following the Government’s announcement earlier this week regarding the reopening of education and childcare settings, Essex County Council wants to update parents, school communities, and the wider Essex population on the work taking place to support reopening in the safest possible way.
In Essex, building on the Government’s plans, the return will take place on a gradual, phased and small-scale basis, allowing for local flexibility within schools in terms of class size, staffing, and the constraints of school buildings.
Teams across the Council have been working with Essex schools and early years settings, and partners such the Department for Education, Ofsted, education professional associations, unions and other local authorities to prepare for reopening. Resources, experiences, and approaches are being shared across all education settings, giving school leaders a wealth of information and support, which will help them to make the best decisions to support their school community.
The safety of everyone in the school community will be paramount in our planning. A thorough Health and Safety Risk Assessment will be undertaken by every setting, contact will be minimised through smaller class sizes and mixing between groups will be reduced through timetable changes.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “I understand how uncertain this time is for parents and carers, and that following the Government’s announcement about reopening of education and childcare settings, parents will still have a lot of questions and concerns.
“I want to reassure parents, carers and communities that our primary concern is the safety of all children, their families and staff. The support and guidance we are giving to all settings puts safety at the forefront.
“Reopening is a complicated exercise and we are helping settings to come up with their own solutions. This means that settings will have their own approaches that work best for them, their children and their local communities.
“We are clear that each setting’s health and safety risk assessment should drive their decision making. This will mean that not all settings will be able to offer a full-time service initially. Some may re-open later in June. Things will be gradual, phased, and small scale to begin with, and potentially until the end of term.
"Schools, colleges and early years settings will be contacting parents and carers with details of their arrangements in the coming weeks. Parents and carers should speak to their school following this if they have further questions or concerns.
"Finally, I want to pay tribute to the fantastic and tireless work of all education and childcare staff over the last few months, preparing for closure, supporting children with home learning, keeping settings open for those that needed it most, and now, working towards re-opening. The dedication and commitment they have shown during this time is inspiring and my thanks goes to each and every one of them.”
Earlier this week, the Government announced it may soon be feasible for early years children to return to settings and for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return to schools in smaller group sizes from 1 June.
Secondary school pupils in Years 10 and 12 due to be taking exams next year (Years 10 and 11 for alternative provision settings as they have no Year 12) may be able to receive some face-to-face contact with teachers, and special schools may be able to gradually increase the number of children and young people on site, again from June 1.
Any return for children and young people to settings is contingent on the five key tests set by government justifying the changes at the time. This includes that the rate of infection continuing to decrease.