Schools opening

UNISON is pleased to announce that Sheffield City Council is instructing its maintained schools not to open on 1st June as it isn’t yet safe to do so.

While the council can’t force academies to follow the same instruction, they are strongly advising they do.

UNISON has tirelessly lobbied the council, in addition to campaigning more widely, for Sheffield City Council to join a significant number of local authorities around the country to not open their schools on the 1st June.

Please be assured we will continue to work on your behalf during the most difficult and challenging time any of us are likely to face during our working lives.

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1. Statement from Sheffield City Council on wider opening of schools and childcare settings from 1 June

Here is a statement from Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Sheffield City Council:

Sheffield City Council understands that this is an extremely challenging time for all living in our city. Following last night’s announcement, relating to the review of the current national lockdown arrangements, we have taken time to consider our position.

We stated previously that in order to support the increase of children in nurseries and school settings, as a Council we need to be confident of our position against the Government’s 5 tests outlined on the 19th April 2020. A critical element to those tests included an effective national test and trace system being in place.

We have been advised by the Sheffield Director of Public Health, Greg Fell who has reviewed the local position and he does not feel assured that the recently announced ‘Test and Trace’ programme will be sufficiently well established and robust enough to be in place for 1st June. He has advised that the Test and Trace system should be in place and working effectively for 14 days before schools and nurseries begin increasing their numbers.

Whilst nationally the Government is requesting that schools and nurseries start to increase the number of pupils attending over the coming weeks, in light of the Sheffield Public Health advice we do not yet feel assured that it is the right time and are advising our schools and nurseries to delay increasing numbers until the 15th June 2020.

We are acutely aware that many schools may have already put systems in place for increasing numbers of children prior to this date. However, our priority must always be ensuring the safety of our staff and the children is not compromised when the numbers are increased.  All settings will continue to remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children as they have been since the start of the national lock down.

For maintained schools, where the Council is the employer, we are instructing schools not to increase the number of children attending more widely. For all other schools, academies, and nurseries in Sheffield, we are strongly advising that they also delay their wider reopening to the 15th June.

  1. Advice note from the Director of Public Health

Attached is an advice note from Sheffield’s Director of Public Health which sets out local progress towards the government’s 5 national tests. This advice is the basis for Councillor Mohamed’s statement above.

3. Additional notes on the Council’s statement
The above statement is clear. If you are a maintained school and the council is the employer, you should not open your school or stetting more widely on Monday to children other than those who are vulnerable, have EHCPs or are the children of key workers.
For all other schools, academies and childcare providers, you are strongly advised, also, to delay the wider opening until 15th June. While the Council is not, formally, the employer in non-maintained schools and settings, the Council has formal public health responsibilities and the Director of Public Health’s advice on local progress towards the national 5 tests is issued to everyone in Sheffield, regardless of who is the employer. For all non-maintained schools and settings, please forward this e mail and the attachment to your employer, trust board or proprietor.

We will continue to review local progress towards the national 5 tests and will provide further advice on whether schools and settings should open more widely after the 15th June, as soon as possible.

We truly appreciate the hard work and preparation that has gone into your planning for wider opening. None of this is, of course, lost, and you will be able to use this when wider opening does commence. However, as we have consistently said, the safety of Sheffield children and adults is paramount. The Director of Public Health’s advice needed to be formulated after the government’s own statement, last night, in order to ensure that the advice is based on latest information.
 
Abtisam Mohamed
Labour Councillor for the Firth Park Ward
Cabinet Member for Education and Skills