Schools, colleges and childcare providers across Oxfordshire looking forward to welcoming children back

Schools, colleges and early years providers have been working closely with Oxfordshire County Council to make sure that all children are welcomed back safely in September.

Education and childcare providers are following guidance from the Department for Education, Public Health England and the County Council. Risk assessments have been carried out and hygiene measures are in place across all education and early years settings.

County Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Cabinet Member for Education and Cultural Services, said:

“Our schools, colleges and childcare providers are looking forward to welcoming all pupils back in September.

“It will be wonderful for our children to be back in their classrooms enjoying their education. I am delighted that our youngest children will also be able to enjoy their sessions again and have fun learning through play with their friends.

“I realise it may be an anxious time for both parents and children. I would like to reassure young people, parents and carers that measures are in place to make sure everyone can return in as safe a way as possible.

“We are looking forward to making up for lost time. It is very important for children and young people to return to school and college for their educational progress, wellbeing and wider development.”

All Oxfordshire education settings, including our special schools, will be open in September. Arrangements will vary, as what is needed in a small primary will be different from a large secondary or upper school. Classes may be different as measures, such as teaching children in separate groups or ‘bubbles’, may have to be put in place to help keep children and staff safe.

Childcare providers’ arrangements may also vary, as what is needed in a childminder’s home will be different to a larger nursery or preschool. Please contact your school, college or childcare provider if you have any queries.

Responding to COVID-19 

Research by Public Health England shows that COVID-19 outbreaks and infections in schools and early years settings are very rare. Out of more than one million children attending pre-school and primary school in June, just 70 children were affected. 

In Oxfordshire, 94% of schools have remained open since the start of lockdown and there has not been any significant COVID-19 outbreaks during this time. 

If there is a suspected or confirmed case, processes are in place so that schools, colleges and early years settings can respond quickly and appropriately. In the event of a suspected case, the health protection team will be contacted to determine what actions need to be taken.

If a case is confirmed, close contacts will be traced and advised to self-isolate at home. If this were to happen, Oxfordshire County Council and public health teams would work closely with the school or provider to communicate any necessary actions to staff, parents, carers and students.

Parents and carers can help by following government guidance outside of school. This includes keeping a least a metre apart from anyone not in your household, preferably two metres; washing hands frequently; and wearing a face covering on public transport and in shops. If you do have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, you must self-isolate and call 119 to book a test. 

The latest government guidance can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus

School transport update

Oxfordshire County Council has been working hard on its home-to-school transport plans to enable nearly 9,000 pupils to go back to school safely when term starts in September.

The pandemic is making an already complex situation more challenging. Routes change from year to year to ensure that all children who are entitled to free school transport can get there safely. These routes often mix children from different schools.

This year, the County Council has worked with schools regarding back to school plans and seating arrangements, doing its best to accommodate requests. As a result, there are amended timings, routings and additional vehicles arranged where appropriate.

In preparation for these arrangements and to inform the organisation of the routes, the County Council has asked parents whether their children will be using school transport or whether they will be making their own travel arrangements.

There will be no social distancing on closed school routes although the council is advising operators to introduce a range of measures to improve safety on the bus. These include good ventilation, improved cleaning regimes, orderly pick up and drop off arrangements, and where possible to avoid face to face seating. 

Face coverings for children aged 11 and above are highly recommended but will not be compulsory. The County Council will also be recommending that pupils sit in the same seat each day, wherever possible. More information will be provided to parents and schools.

Children using public transport to get to school will be subject to social distancing on transport and must wear a face covering, unless they are under 11 or medically exempt from doing so.

Active Travel 

Children are being encouraged to walk, cycle or scoot to school where they can, so they can enjoy the benefits of being more physically active and to reduce short car trips. 

Parents are being asked to park considerately when they drop off and pick up their children. If possible, park away from the school gate and walk the last few hundred metres to avoid congestion and avoid creating dangerous conditions for pedestrians.

Face coverings

Nationwide, the government is not recommending that face coverings should be worn in educational settings. However, schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed, if they believe that it is right in their circumstances.

In the event of local lockdown being imposed, face coverings will be required for adults and pupils in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as corridors and communal areas. 

More information

More information about returning to school is available on the government’s website: www.gov.uk/backtoschool