I was delighted to see so many children and young people in Barnsley back at school, with attendance for all pupils at 90.7 per cent on Monday 7 September.
Our schools, which have remained open throughout the pandemic, have put in place all the necessary arrangements, controls and measures as set out in government guidance, but things will have looked and felt very different for those returning.
All schools have undertaken thorough risk assessments, including maximising distancing between people in school, reducing contacts wherever possible; enhanced cleaning arrangements and robust hand washing and respiratory hygiene measures.
They’ve implemented staggered starting and finishing times, breaks and lunchtimes, one-way systems, extra handwashing and sticking to class or year bubbles, because they recognise the importance of doing what they can to help keep everyone safe, including children, staff, parents and the wider community.
Now we are in our second week and, as expected, there have been a number of positive Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. These have been unavoidable as we have numbers of cases rise, nationally and locally, originating in the community.
Affected schools have acted quickly to ensure the safety of pupils and staff in all cases by closing the necessary bubbles. Parents, carers and staff have been notified immediately and kept updated.
Schools have provided online lessons for affected pupils so that they do not miss out on learning.
I know that this will have caused difficulties for some parents and carers, and I would like to thank them for their understanding of the situation. I also commend the schools for their response to outbreak management, in line with our Outbreak Control Plan.
I urge parents and carers to check their school website for the latest information regarding bubble and class closures rather than social media, as it’s so easy for misunderstandings to take place.
Parents can also check the council’s latest information regarding class and bubble closures.
Data still suggests that the recent increase is largely in younger people (those aged 40 and under) and is not associated with an increase in people with severe illness or any deaths. While younger people may not be as seriously affected as older and more vulnerable people, there is a real risk that the current trend will lead to more general transmission of the disease and the spread into more vulnerable groups.
We all have a role to play in keeping our schools and communities safe. The Prime Minister’s statement on 9 September introduced a ban on meeting socially in groups of more than six from Monday 14 September. As I write this message, groups of six in England include children. This rule applies in any setting, indoors or outdoors. The ban is set out in law and will be enforced by the police.
The full return to school, college and university, is essential to children and young people’s development, learning and education, now and well into their futures and I encourage you all, to continue to send your children to school.
However, it is so important that we all follow the rules, at home, at work, at school and in the community, if we are to reduce the spread of the virus. Hand washing, wearing a face covering when advised, and following social distancing is still crucial.
Do not send your child to school if:
- they have symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) or have tested positive
- you, someone in your household or support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive.
You should book a free Coronavirus (COVID-19) test and self-isolate in line with the NHS Coronavirus guidance.
Schools will not be advising pupils or teachers to take a test unless they exhibit one or more of the listed symptoms – in any case, a negative test result does not change the period of time that you are required to self-isolate.
Respite service at Newsome Avenue resumes
Our overnight respite children’s home at Newsome Avenue has also reopened, increasing the provision of a specialist Short Breaks Service for children and families.
In line with other respite children's homes within the South Yorkshire area, this overnight service will operate at a reduced level.
Advice has been taken from Public Health, and relevant Government guidance, particularly in respect of personal protective equipment and social distancing, will continue to be followed.
Until the social distancing measures are eased, it will not be possible to return to normal working practices. This means there will be no return to the level of support families were receiving before lockdown in the immediate future. However, this is an important step moving forward.