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Re-opening of schools - Questions and Answers

First issued 18/06/2020

Please note that the situation is constantly changing. We will continue to update as new questions need to be answered or circumstances change. 

Please see below a range of answers to questions raised by parents and governors regarding the re-purposing of school buildings from Monday, June 29. This will change the childcare offer, providing an opportunity for learners to check in with their teachers before the end of term.

The changing role of schools in Powys from Monday, June 29

Planning is well underway for the re-opening of schools on Monday, June 29.  The school-based emergency childcare hubs will close at 6pm on Wednesday, June 24. Childcare will be offered by individual schools for their own pupils (who are the children of key workers, or who are considered vulnerable) between 8:30am and 4:30pm for the two days, Thursday 25 and Friday 26 June.

On Monday, June 29 schools will re-open for a wider group of learners. Schools should aim for, and not exceed 30% occupancy of their capacity assessments. Until Friday July 24, the focus must be on providing places for vulnerable children and the children of key workers who registered for childcare hubs between the end of March and the last day of May 2020. For other school pupils there will be a checking in opportunity, on a very strict rota. 

The last day of this school term in Powys schools will be Friday, July 24.

The questions (in bold) below reflect those that have been submitted by members of the public.  We hope the answers can clarify matters.

How are schools going to manage the risks around re-opening?

The council has provided general risk assessment framework guidance for schools to adapt to their own situation, recognising that every school building is different.

As part of each school's risk assessment process, schools will need to determine how many pupils can safely be included on the premises, taking into account learning spaces, movement in corridors, toilet areas and so on.

While schools are expected to work towards the maximum 30% of the school building's capacity in attendance (including children who are attending the hubs) the risk assessment may determine that this level is lower and this would be the key determinant in this decision.

Decisions will need to be made at a local level following council advice, taking due account of detailed Welsh Government guidance as far as possible.

Access to Childcare from Thursday, June 25 to Friday, July 24

What will the hours be for the hubs going forward?

We propose that when the childcare moves to individual school sites (from the morning of Thursday, June 25 to the end of the summer term), the childcare offer will be from 8:30am to 4:30pm, weekdays only.

Transport on those days will be provided for pupils who are usually entitled to school transport, and will operate at the normal time for the school route - there will not be earlier morning transport for childcare, or a later departure from school. 

Are we likely to see demand for places increase if and when any of the lockdown measures are relaxed to get people back to work?

That is possible, however, we will seek to provide the 8:30am to 4:30pmsupport from Monday, June 29 for children who registered for childcare at any point between the start of the offer in late March to the last day of May, and the children of schools' and early years' staff who need to get back to school.

School sites are being formally re-purposed on Monday, June 29 to become schools once again. We expect our staff in schools to focus more heavily once again on the wellbeing and learning of all their pupils in turn. 

And what is there for the teachers who are required to be in school three days a week when their child is going into school for one, if I don't work in Powys? Will the childcare offer now include the children of teachers?

Yes, they will be added to those children who have already registered for childcare services between March and the end of May.  Ideally, the children of schools' staff should attend their own schools, but in some circumstances it might be more appropriate for them to attend the parent's school (depending on age and other options).

If you are a teacher/early years/school worker and your child is in a Powys school, we are offering 8:30am to 4:30pm childcare at your child's school for the period up until the summer holiday. You can book for primary aged children via the county booking system.

I've kept my child from the hub as it was initially requested if we could then do so! I too am now back in work and regarded as a key worker so now what do we do?

So key workers who have juggled their work and home situation to not have to use the hub but may now have needed to because work circumstances are changing will not be able to use them?

I have kept my child from the hub as I have been at home myself due to medical reasons. My husband and I are both key workers, I am due back in work any day now. So now what do we do?

While the hubs are still functioning, all key workers have access to them - that is until Friday, June 26.  Until 6pm on Wednesday, June 24 the hubs will continue to operate at their current locations and to the extended work hours. For Thursday 25 and 26 June, the children will be re-distributed to their own schools and can be there from 8:30pm to 4:30pm.  This is to assist with re-purposing the hubs back into functioning as schools from Monday, June 29.

Schools are being asked to re-open as schools from Monday, June 29, and must prioritise that function from that date onwards, whilst providing some childcare support for key workers from 8:30am to 4:30pm. 

We are aware that there is huge demand at present from key workers who had not previously registered their children with the emergency childcare hubs. We are exploring potential options to meet this demand.

I'm not happy with the limited childcare so I will just drop the kids to the school and they can sort it out, if I need to do so.

The only children who can receive childcare will have been booked in and agreed in advance and will have been registered with the emergency childcare hub system between March and the last day of May.

No parent should, in an unplanned way, leave a child unattended at a school or hub. This would be viewed as a safeguarding issue for a child who is left without agreement.

Schools must remain below the 30% maximum pupil/building capacity relationship, and therefore we must manage numbers very carefully in order not to risk the health and wellbeing of both staff and pupils (and their families). 

Just curious then what do parents do on a weekend when we still can't utilise grandparents as we otherwise would.

Schools have operated every day for the last three months, including bank holidays and weekends. This cannot continue if we are to expect our schools to get back to teaching and learning as their priority.

We are hugely grateful to our schools for offering this remarkable service until this point but are clear that it cannot continue through the summer or weekends.

However, the council is working with key partners to deliver summer holiday support for working parents.

The summer holidays now concern me the most, we would usually access 'holiday club' so any information re this would be appreciated as soon as available.

The council is working with key partners to deliver a summer holiday package to support working parents.

What about if you work 8am until 5pm?

Some parents work from 7am to 3pm, others from 12pm to 8pm. Our teachers need to be able to get on with planning and delivering lessons for blended learning and can only offer the 8:30am to 4:30pm slot in schools.  

What about nursery staff's children - what hub availability is there for them to be able to work in the reopening of nurseries?

Places will be prioritised for those who registered for the service between March and the last day of May, and the staff of schools and early years in order to enable them to get back to a more regular pattern of teaching and learning.  

We must keep the number of children below 30% in all school buildings in line with Welsh Government guidance.

Can I ask if a key workers' child went to the hub for the first time on the 1st June due to both parent back in work where does that leave that child?

To manage the 30% threshold of building occupancy, mindful of the need to offer all children some return to school for a 'check in and catch up' we are having to manage numbers very carefully.

The reality is that if we have all the children at school that we would like to we would breach the principles on which national guidance has been set.

Priority is being given to those who registered for emergency hub childcare during the months of March, April and May. 

Will this include pre-school children and nursery? What about pre-school children using the hub?

Schools are working on the basis of providing childcare for children of school age. Early years childcare provision will continue.

Food in Schools and bringing things into school

Do we expect learners to bring their own food?

The council recognises that the provision of a hot meal in a canteen would be the preferred option.

However, given the current situation, the need to prioritise health and safety, and the limited number of days that any child will attend, it has been decided that all learners will be required to bring their own packed lunch to school.

Where a child is in receipt of free school meals, their parent/carer is receiving this allowance in the form of a payment or voucher. They are therefore able to provide a packed lunch.  No food will be provided at break-time by the school, therefore pupils and staff will be asked to bring their own food to school for the whole day. 

The guidance that is usually given to pupils about the contents of packed lunches could be issued by schools. 

School water fountains will be closed for the next period to avoid the risks of contamination.

However, it is important to note that any food/packaging brought from home must be taken back home by individual learners and schools should determine appropriate controls that will need to be in place to ensure that cross contamination is limited as much as is practical.

Will breakfast clubs be available to learners?

No. At present, the council has no plans to resume breakfast club provision. 

What will children be permitted to bring to school?

In order to reduce transmission, the council recommends that as few items as possible are brought between home and school. Guidance will be issued over the coming weeks, prior to the reopening of school sites.

However, learners and staff will be expected to bring their own food into school to keep them going for the whole of the day.

Health and Safety in school

Are pupils required to wear uniform?

Pupils will be encouraged to wear clean, appropriate, easily washable clothing and footwear.

Uniform that cannot be machine washed should be avoided. 

Will hand sanitiser be provided?

Hand sanitizer is being issued to all schools, but it should be noted that the key guidance from Welsh Government is that soap and warm water and effective hand washing provides the best approach to the virus.

We must stress that regular, careful handwashing and care for clothes should not end when the child leaves the hub.  Eradicating COVID-19 requires care in school, at home and between both places. 

How will social distancing work in additional learning needs (ALN) settings?

Social distancing is difficult in ALN settings. These routine situations often include personal hygiene issues.

There will be specific guidance when it comes to working with pupils who present additional risks because of their own health or other special needs. This will follow guidance issued by health services very closely.  Where it is necessary, a higher level of PPE will be issued for supporting those children.

How will schools be expected to manage the risk associated with children with special needs and existing significant medical conditions or special  needs being brought back into an environment that could risk transmission?

The council recommends that initial consideration as to whether attendance is appropriate for children with existing medical conditions is led by Welsh Government guidance. Medical advice sought by parent/carer and parental/carer preference.

ALN team and other professionals are available to provide additional advice.

The local authority recommends that health care plans (HCP), and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) where appropriate, are adjusted before a learner with existing significant medical issues or complex special educational needs returns to school.

Where a pupil's plan indicates that they need specialist care or medication, schools must ensure that there are appropriately trained staff available, if their usual teachers or support staff are not able to be in school.

Schools should make sure that all pupils fully understand social distancing, and particular care should be taken to ensure regular hand washing.

Special schools

Special schools should use their personalised knowledge and existing risk assessments to inform whether a child:

  • can attend the setting safely
  • needs to be separated from other learners
  • needs more than one member of staff who will not be able to socially distance from the child or each other
  • requires staff to wear PPE when working with them (and the level of PPE) either generally, or whilst receiving personal care or whilst being fed or given meds or receiving specialist care

What is Powys' view on half day sessions?

Half day sessions are not currently being recommended by the council.  However, it might be the case that for very few learners a half day will provide the only way to access school, based on the individual learner's particular circumstances. 

Key Worker children and the rest of the school population:  Should key worker children and their peers be in a separate 'bubble' even when they are having their 'catch up' sessions?

That is the current guidance from Welsh Government, but we would urge all schools to be mindful of guidance as it evolves. 

Transport

We are a rural school, with 80%+ of our pupils getting to school on coaches / minibuses. How will transport be delivered, whilst also maintaining social distancing. This may well be the factor limiting how many learners can attend school on any day?

Our transport colleagues in the council are liaising very closely with the transport companies to ensure both compliance and capacity.   It is our hope that the limit of 30% on pupil numbers on any day should resolve most of the challenges around transport capacity.  We will update you when we have worked through the issues. 

Will transportation assume a regular length school day?

Yes - but we will be discussing with transport colleagues how a slight stagger can happen upon arrival and departure from school so that all pupils are not accessing or leaving the building at the same time.  Bus stop times will be the same as it was prior to the lock down and school closures in March.

Who will make the decision on which pupils receive transport?

New decisions will only need to be taken in relation to new pupils in Powys.   Existing pupils already either already have access to school transport, or don't have access.  We do not expect to be taking any new decisions. 

Welsh Government guidance suggested that children would best be batched over a week rather than one day a week to reduce the risk of cross-infection between groups. Is Powys recommending this?

Very few children will be in school for more than one day per week.   The organisation of children will need to be determined at school level, but we will be asking schools to be mindful of the growing amount of information available around notions such as 'bubbles', social distancing, as well as hygiene. 

Whatever is the current advice on best safety options should be applied when we get to the opening date of Monday, June 29 for both schools and supporting childcare.

What is the strategy for informing and reassuring parents?

The council will ensure that, through its mailshots, and use of social media, regular communication will be provided to parents/carers. 

 

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