Tameside schools advised to prepare for wider opening

Tameside schools have been advised to prepare for their wider opening from today (Monday).

It follows positive indications on the risks of coronavirus.

Primary schools were initially told to have safety measures in place to begin the re-opening to reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils as per the government's guidelines on Monday 8 June following the half-term holidays. 

But they were advised on Friday 5 June to delay until at least Monday 22 June, after new data had been published showing that the regional R rate in the North West had risen above one. 

Tameside Council said last Tuesday afternoon (June 16) that its Director of Population Health, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, has written to all headteachers to update them on the current situation.

She stresses that a cautionary approach should be adopted with wider openings only taking place at the pace individual schools and childcare settings feel confident to manage safely.

In her letter, Dr de Gruchy states that a review of the latest COVID-19 data shows some positive signs of improvement in the infection trends, giving cause for optimism.

In addition, she is also more reassured that the recently launched national NHS Test and Trace system, along with the new integrated Greater Manchester hub, is beginning to undertake contact tracing across Greater Manchester.

The council say headteachers and school staff, in partnership with the authority, are also making "excellent preparations" for wider reopening - including undertaking and completing risk assessments in their schools, and instituting the necessary infection control measures to make them as safe as possible. 

Dr de Gruchy adds: "Given the trend in the infection rate, the progress on contact tracing, and the preparatory work done within your educational settings, I am advising that cautious wider opening can begin from 22 June, 2020.

"However, I would like to stress that this should only be done at the pace individual schools and childcare settings feel confident to manage safely.

"Schools and childcare providers will need to make careful, but sometimes difficult, decisions about bringing in additional children. Each school and childcare setting will continue to work at their own pace in making these decisions.

"The need to proceed carefully has been recognised by the Government’s announcement that all schools are not going to be fully open before the autumn term." 

The vast majority of schools in Tameside have remained open to care for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

Pupils from Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are now due to begin gradually returning, with some face-to-face support also given to year 10 and 12 pupils. 

Schools will be contacting parents and carers to inform them of their individual plans.

Cllr Leanne Feeley, Tameside Council Executive Member for Lifelong Learning, said: “We have been working closely with schools to enable them to make decisions with the health, safety and welfare of pupils, staff and the local community at the forefront.

“I’m pleased that the latest indications suggest that our schools can prepare for their wider opening on Monday. This phased approach will see attendance steadily rise in a safe, measured and controlled manner. Meanwhile, our Population Health colleagues will continue to monitor what is a fast-evolving situation very closely.”

Both Cllr Feeley and Dr de Gruchy thank parents for their understanding and schools for their response.

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