Dear Parent/ Carer
As you will be aware, the Prime Minister announced last week the Government’s intention
for a phased return for early years settings and schools.
Since lockdown began on 23rd March schools have been open for a small number of
children who are vulnerable or whose parents are key workers.
If the government’s ‘five tests’ are met then children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6
will return to school from 1st June and then other primary year groups will follow from late
June/ early July. In terms of older children, secondary schools should also prepare to begin
some face to face contact in groups with years 10 and 12 who have key exams in 2021 to
maintain teacher contact and support young people with their continued home learning.
The Government’s ‘five tests’ are:
1. Protect the NHS’s ability to cope.
2. See a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19
3. Be confident that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
4. Be confident that the range of operational challenges are in hand i.e. testing and PPE
5. Be confident that any adjustments will not risk a second peak of infections that
overwhelms the NHS.
The evidence so far is that thankfully very few children have been affected by coronavirus.
Some research also indicates that children are far less likely to become infected compared
with adults, but other studies suggest that when children do become infected, they carry as
much risk of passing the virus on to others, including to each other, to school staff and to
members of their family, even if they show no symptoms.
The Council is working with schools on risk assessments to ensure that the safety of children
and staff coming back into the school is the highest priority. Whilst school governing bodies
are responsible for health and safety in school and so will sign off these risk assessments, we
all need to be satisfied that, whilst the risks presented by the virus cannot be fully
eliminated, they can be mitigated as far as is humanly possible.
As a parent/carer we understand and appreciate that you will have very real concerns with
the idea of returning you child to school that is why we are taking a cautious and measured
approach in plans for re-opening schools in South Tyneside.
In making your decision about whether to send your child back to school in June, we believe
it is important for you to have as much clear information as possible and understand how
your child’s experience of school will be different to the time before the lockdown started in
March. In coming to a decision, you also need to be aware that the government have been
clear that attendance is voluntary and there will be no fine if you choose not to send your
child to school.
The government’s guidance that schools must consider social distancing, re-plan classrooms
and the size of classes so that pupils can observe the 2m rule. Government, however, also
acknowledges that social distancing will be challenging, especially for the youngest children.
Schools have told us that in many cases the maximum class size will be 7 or 8 rather than
the 15 mentioned in the government guidance. Groups of children and staff will remain
together all day in social ‘bubbles’ and will not come into contact with other children or
Your child may not have the same teacher or have the support from staff that they are used
to. They may also not be taught alongside their friends. The school day will also look very
different with the potential for different start and finish times and there will be a limited
range of activities and resources on offer.
Whilst we have been asked by Government to ensure each school has a plan for re-opening
on 1 June, we must be honest and clear with you that we expect this will not be possible for
all schools from 1st June. Monday 8th June may be a more suitable date for a phased re-
opening for some of our schools and this will be led entirely by the risk assessments. Please
be assured that we will only support a date to re-open if the evidence shows and confirms
that the Government’s five tests are being met and the schools’ risk assessments are clear
that absolutely everything has been done to keep your children safe.
Your school will also be in touch with you with more specific details about how they intend
to implement the government’s plan for re-opening schools.
To help you with your decision we will shortly be including some frequently asked questions
on the Councils website. Further guidance for parents can also be found in the following
Mike Conlon Cllr Moira Smith
Corporate Director Lead Member for Children Adults and Health Children Adults and Families