Cheshire East Council has written to schools and parents to clarify the position regarding wider opening of Cheshire East Schools.
This follows the release of information on 5 June about the 'R-value' for the North West and the announcement by the secretary of state for education on Tuesday (9 June).
It is their view that it was right to have paused to consider if there should be an expansion of the number of children coming back to school. However, they support progressing plans for a phased return of reception, years 1 and 6 if it is deemed safe to do so.
Primary schools should welcome back:
● Nursery and reception pupils from 15 June;
● Year 1 pupils from 22 June; and
● Year 6 pupils from 29 June, where the school still has enough space to do so with social distancing in place. This may vary between schools due to constraints of school buildings and staffing capacity.
The council is also asking schools and colleges to encourage children known to social workers and those with an education, health and care plan to attend and offer provision for children of key workers, where this is required.
The secretary of state for education announced that all remaining primary school pupils will not be able to attend before the summer. This is in line with the council's previous approach, where a full return of all year groups by the end of the summer term was not envisaged.
Secondary schools should also welcome back year 10 and year 12 (year 11 for alternative provision) pupils from 15 June 2020 for some face-to-face contact, with a maximum of 25 per cent from the year group at any one time.
Pupils of special schools will be encouraged to return to school based on a review of their individual risk assessment. Priority will be given to increasing places to children of key workers and children who have a social worker.
Special schools will consider a phased approach to support a wider opening to children and young people, which enables small groups to adjust to changes, where this is appropriate, from 15 June. Special schools will steadily increase pupil numbers, prioritising key transition groups.
For pupils not in school, the council is asking schools to ensure that children, who are due to transition between schools in September, are supported while they remain at home.
The council also asks schools to review their home-learning arrangements and support for wellbeing of children and young people. Schools should have regular contact with all children not invited back into school, to encourage and support learning and wellbeing.
Councillor Kathryn Flavell, cabinet member for children and families said: "We continue to support the current phased approach, with schools starting to open to pupils from 15 June, starting with younger children as set out in the Department for Education guidance.
"We have considered the views of representatives from early years colleagues, primary and secondary schools (with a mix of maintained and academies), the dioceses, trade unions, parent carer forum and the Department for Education in the review of our plans for the wider opening.
"Our children and young people deserve the best education available and the academic achievements of Cheshire East schools are well-known. While Covid-19 has had an impact on education across the country, we are committed to supporting schools and parents and pupils at this difficult time.
"It is important, for example, that schools should offer, as a minimum, some sessions to year 6 to allow pupils to say goodbye, celebrate their achievements and support them in planning for transition.
"Covid-19 has brought with it stress, uncertainty and anxiety for us all. We need to make sure any return to early years settings, schools and colleges is safe for children's physical and emotional well-being. All schools will have risk assessments and preparations for wider opening in place to enable the wider opening from Monday 15 June 2020.
"We have worked closely with the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum regarding the approach to supporting children with an education health and care plan. All schools should contact parents by the end of June, to discuss support arrangements.
"I would like to re-emphasise that there will be no pressure on parents to send their children to an early-years setting, school or college. No fines will be applied to parents who decide not to send their children to school, although we would encourage early-years settings, schools and colleges to share with parents the safety measures they have in place, so that parents can make an informed decision."