Parents, Teachers and Headteachers are all rightly concerned that schools are to open tomorrow when the spread of the virus is at an all-time high.
We at Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) are aware that many parents will be anxious about the safe return to school for their children, and some teaching staff may choose to be available to support online learning rather than return to their school work base.
In Wokingham Borough, we have been working constructively with our Headteachers, to ensure that schools are as safe as possible. We have advised schools should prioritise opening for vulnerable children and for critical keyworkers’ families, if they do not have or are not sure that they will have enough staff available to reopen safely for all children.
The Department of Education is unclear as to the rationale for some Local Authorities’ schools to remain closed whilst others remain open (e.g. Wokingham). Many staff across the borough may feel that, given the advice of their Union,they cannot or should not return to school sites (but are still available for work).
To support the effective review or update of school risk assessments both in terms of the impact of the pandemic (and thus safety for your pupils and staff), and in respect of staff availability from 4th Jan, we would advise that WBC will be supportive of any school that wishes to take two days at the start of term in order to undertake such risk assessment review and consultation necessary with their staff to enable full school opening. However, we would ask that schools wishing to do this make on-site provision available for vulnerable learners and children of critical key workers over these two days.
If schools feel that their arrangements have already been reviewed in the light of the continually changing circumstances wish to continue to open fully, this too will be supported by WBC.
WBC will support school Headteachers in the decisions that they choose to take.
Each school is deciding what it plans to do, so parents should check with their child’s school website to see any latest updates.
We have sought further clarity from the Department for Education in respect of school opening in Wokingham. We are aware of a number of Local Authority areas that have been provided with an exemption enabling their schools to remain closed (something that Wokingham does not have at this moment in time).
We believe that teachers and school support staff should be prioritised in the vaccine rollouts to enable all children andstaff to return to the classroom safely. We will be making this position clear to the Government.
John Halsall Leader of the Council UllaKarin Clark. Lead Member for Children’s Services
Susan Parsonage Carol Cammiss
Chief Executive Director Children’s Services