Schools across the county are gearing up to welcome back pupils next week, with new COVID-safe arrangements in place.
Government policy is that all schools will reopen to all pupils next month.
This is possible because the level of infection spread has reduced hugely. It also now known that COVID-19 is not a serious illness for the overwhelming majority of children, and young people are no more likely to spread infection than any other age group.
The risk from COVID-19 is now significantly outweighed by the benefits for children’s well-being, development and learning of getting back to school.
In line with the national guidance, schools across the county are putting in place arrangements to minimise the risk of infection spreading in schools.
This includes increased hygiene measures, class or year group ‘bubbles’, changes to movement around the school and much more.
These measures reflect comprehensive risk assessments all schools have undertaken. Clear procedures have also been developed by the county’s public health team to respond to outbreaks if they do occur.
School leaders are stressing that arrangements will vary between schools, based on their specific circumstances. Schools will explain arrangements to their parents and carers.
Sue Sanderson, Cumbria County Council cabinet member for schools and learning, said: “I am delighted that pupils will be returning to school next week, it really is so important – not just for their learning but for their overall wellbeing too.
“The pressure on parents and carers to educate at home has been huge and I’d like to thank all of them for stepping up to the challenge.
“I understand that as well as excitement there may be some anxiety, for parents and children.
“We know the COVID-19 has not gone away, but all schools have undertaken really rigorous risk assessments and put in place safety measures that will allow school to function while minimising the risk of infection spread. This is all about striking the right balance.”
In a joint statement, Judith Schafer, chair of the Cumbria Association of Secondary Headteachers, and Sue Blair, chair of the Cumbria Primary Headteachers’ Association said: “All schools have spent many hours during the summer break paving the way for the safe return of all pupils in September.
“It’s important to remember that risk assessments are constantly being reviewed, and will be different in every educational establishment due to buildings and locality issues.
“As well as considering the physical environment, as a priority we are working hard to put in place a curriculum that is fit for purpose, meets the needs of our diverse communities and supports our children and young people for a safe and secure return to school.
“Whilst schools may look different, and ways of teaching and learning have had to adapt, we are confident that our children and young people will respond positively not only to the scaffolding and security that calm, ordered school environments will provide, but also to the challenge and enjoyment of learning.
“Communication, as ever, is key to a successful start in September, and schools will be working hard to be transparent and open with parents and students about the challenges we will face.”
The Government announced last night that secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings in school corridors in local lockdown areas, after it reversed its initial guidance.
Secondary school heads across England will also be able to introduce masks in their schools at their discretion.
The Department for Education said it was still recommending not using face coverings – but secondary schools will now be able to make their own decisions whether to ask pupils and staff to wear them.