Coronavirus: Safety measures in place at Hemel Hempstead schools - here's everything you need to know
Hertfordshire’s head of school standards and accountability said the authority recognised that parents would have concerns
Education chiefs in Hertfordshire do not intend to take formal action against concerned parents who continue to keep their children away from school amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19, it has emerged.
Increased hand-washing, teaching pupils in ‘bubbles’, one-way systems and staggered start-times, are among the measures designed to stop any spread of Covid-19 when schools re-open next week.
But education officials in Hertfordshire recognise that parents may still have concerns about the virus.
And, although attendance at school will be ‘mandatory’, a senior education official has indicated that the authority will seek to encourage anxious parents to send their children back to the classroom – rather than use ‘formal procedures’.
Usually those formal procedures can include sanctions, such as fines or court action.
Speaking to a virtual press conference, Hertfordshire’s head of school standards and accountability Tania Rawle said the authority recognised that parents would have concerns.
She stressed that government guidance was clear that attendance is now mandatory.
However she said the local authority was not proposing to take ‘formal procedures’ on parents at this stage.
Instead she said they would work ‘very closely’ with parents to encourage them and to support them to get their children back in to school.
Nevertheless executive member for education, libraries and localism Cllr Terry Douris stressed the importance of children – who had missed-out on months of education – getting back into school and back in to education.
He stressed that children only had a single opportunity to learn in any one particular year group and that ‘we can’t afford for them to miss that opportunity any further’.
And he said there would be some children who hadn’t had any level of social interaction for months – who would have to learn once again how to relate to their peers and friends in school.
Outlining some of the measures schools could be taking, in line with government guidance, Miss Rawle said they would ensure children wash hands regularly and introduce hand sanitising stations.
She said children would be taught in ‘bubbles’, reducing the need to socially distance. And, she said, shared items – such as books and laptops – would be cleaned on a daily basis.
Outdoor activities, she said, will be encouraged – with indoor sports and assemblies not expected to go ahead if they bring together children from more than one bubble.
There will also, she said, be support available to help with the mental health of returning pupils and a ‘back on track’ programme to help youngsters ‘catch-up’.
In addition, says Miss Rawle, education staff are working closely with public health colleagues to make sure clear ‘systems’ and ‘pathways’ are in place should there be cases within a school.
Actions being taken by schools to reduce the risks of Covid-19 will be specific to each individual school, depending on factors including the size, the layout and the number of staff and pupils.
But Miss Rawle said she was “confident” that headteachers – ‘who have been doing this since before Easter’ – are “on top of this” and that they understand what the risk factors are.