Coronavirus: Redbridge Council lays out safety measures to re-open schools in September
PUBLISHED: 17:53 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:04 09 July 2020
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Redbridge Council has laid out the safety measures being put in place to re-open all schools in September.
At a virtual Q&A meeting on Wednesday (July 8) council members answered questions from anxious parents and students about what the next term will look like.
Council leader Jas Athwal said he is lobbying the government and London Councils to have a permanent test centre in the borough to better support the re-opening of schools.
A number of parents were concerned about the gap in learning for their children, some of whom will have been out of school for eight months by the time they return in September.
Director of education Colin Stewart said: “The biggest issue isn’t so much the gap in learning in terms of curriculum, but for some children having a whole gap from the idea of learning at all.”
He said there will be a recovery phase to re-acclimatise students into the learning environment which will focus on mental health.
Children will be grouped into bubbles by their class but also around the subjects they’re studying.
The council is also looking into staggered drop-off and pick-up times and looking into the possibility of having a separate entrance for grandparents who take children to school, to better protect them.
Mr Stewart said there are practical challenges in creating separate entrances and not all schools would have that capability.
Cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Elaine Norman reinstated the council’s position that it does not support fining parents who choose to not bring their children back to school for fears of catching the virus.
Mr Stewart added in those cases schools would reach out to parents to get a sense of their concerns and try to relieve their anxiety and said “fining people is a last resort.”
Cllr Athwal said he disagreed with the government’s change in advice in regards to shielding clinically vulnerable children, which now recommends returning to school after a consultation with a paediatrician.
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Mr Stewart said: “Our position is it should be an individual risk assessment.”
If a child tests positive for Covid-19 the council would alert the school, after being notified by Public Health England.
The school would then contact everyone within that bubble and tell them they need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Mr Stewart said he is hoping to have the ability to automatically test everyone in that bubble, so if anyone hasn’t contracted the virus they don’t have to wait the full two weeks and can return to school sooner.
In response to a question about the government’s scheme to provide laptops for Year 10 disadvantaged children and anyone up to the age of 19 with a social worker, the council said the government allocations have fallen short.
The government allocated about 240 laptops for disadvantaged children but the council estimates it needs almost four times that amount.
A Department for Education spokesperson said the government has been clear in its commitment to provide £100million to support children to learn at home, including delivery of more than 200,000 laptops and tablets to children who need them most.
The spokesperson said: “Where local authorities and academy trusts provided evidence of a need for eligible children that is greater than their initial allocation, the department has been working with them to provide additional devices.
“No valid request for additional devices for eligible children has been refused.”
Cllr Linda Huggett was disappointed the Conservative group wasn’t invited to express its views on the safety measures.
She said: “Whilst the government have announced a £1billion catch-up programme for children who have missed out on months of schooling it is vital that the children return in September for their own health and wellbeing and to continue their education as soon as possible.”
Vicky Taylor from parents’ group Redbridge for Education welcomed the meeting as an opportunity to get concrete information from the council.
She said: “We know it is important for parents to have the correct information so we are hoping that more schools will share their risk assessments with parents before opening more widely in September so that parents feel their children are safe.”
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