Welcoming the new school year
In mid-March this year, our schools were closed to most pupils so the majority of our children haven’t stepped through the school gates for almost six months.
Many of our children will be looking forward to the start of term, to seeing their friends and teachers and getting back to face-to-face learning but after such a long time it’s natural for children – and parents – to feel a little apprehensive. This is especially true for our youngest children for whom six months is a large proportion of their lives. And some children may not have been apart from their parents and carers at all during lockdown. For our older children, the usual preparation for their transition to new schools hasn’t been possible and many will not know what to expect.
As a parent, I’m pleased that schools will be fully re-opening; my children, like so many others, have missed out on the structure, social interaction and of course the education provided by school - but I’m also aware that they will each need plenty of support and reassurance over the coming weeks.
Our local schools have worked hard to make sure students and staff are kept safe, whilst also making the school day seems as ‘normal’ as possible, for example classes will be the usual size. But there will be some differences, you may see staggered start times, less interaction between classes, no assemblies or large gatherings and more physical education outside.
Your school should have sent you detailed information so that you can share this with children helping them to prepare for the new term and below I provide Government, Sheffield City Council (SCC) and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC) guidance for parents. Each explains the measures that are being put in place to protect your child, teachers and the wider community as schools return.
- SCC: Back to school safely
- BMBC: Back to school advice for parents and children
- Government: Advice for parents
Coronavirus - COVID-19
Given the lower rates of infection, for the vast majority of children, the benefits of being back in school far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus. Importantly there is significant evidence that COVID-19 is not a disease that is harmful to children except in extremely rare cases and recent evidence suggests that children are unlikely to spread the virus to adults in a school setting.
Our own Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has recently said that
“the balance of risk is strongly in favour of children going to school – many more children are likely to be harmed by not going than they are by going, even during this pandemic”.
Throughout this pandemic we have been asked to take steps to help ourselves and others stay safe and that advice remains broadly the same.
We must all stay alert to risk, wash our hands regularly, avoid touching our faces and maintain our social distance. More recently we’ve been asked to wear face coverings in certain situations and to make sure we follow the advice of the NHS Test and Trace team if contacted. It is also important that you don’t send your child to school if they are feeling unwell or displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, however mild. This is also the case if any other members of your household are displaying symptoms.
Following the World Health Organisations change in advice on 21 August, schools will also provide parents and children with information about how they will apply the Government guidance to the wearing of face coverings in certain situations.
Throughout this pandemic people across our constituency have worked as a community to support one another and right now it’s our children and their parents who need our support most. School is an essential part of every child’s development bringing with it all the benefits of education, socialisation and structure so we must all do what we can to ensure our children return to school safely.
There are many things we cannot know about the next few months, but what we do know is that our parents and children should be proud of what they’ve achieved over the last months. This next step is vital for the health and wellbeing of our children and I have every confidence in our schools, their staff and every parent to make this change a positive one.