Rochdale borough's schools won't reopen "until it is safe for children and staff"

Date published: 19 May 2020

A letter has been sent out to parents, carers and guardians across the Rochdale borough, saying that local schools won’t reopen until it is safe for children and staff.

The letter, from Gail Hopper, director of children’s services, and Kieran Heakin, portfolio holder for children’s services, says that, “in Rochdale we are determined to do the right thing for our children, families and schools,” noting that “this may not fit with the expectations or timescale of government.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the government’s intention to partially reopen schools on 1 June – a move which the local education officials say has “created more questions and concerns.”

The letter reads: “We want the borough’s children to return to school, but only when it is safe for them and for the staff in schools. We are asking our schools to work with us to establish what safe numbers will be and this will differ in each school, because the buildings are all different.

“We do not want parents to rely on a date suggested by government, that schools may be unable to meet. That is why we are sharing our approach, that is based on doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. We will ask schools to keep you all informed about developments and hope this will also make you as parents feel more confident. We won’t be able to answer some of your questions, because we are all in a place none of us have been in before. However, we hope that the work we are undertaking with all schools in Rochdale might help you understand and support the approach we are taking.

“We have been in regular contact with head teachers and are planning together for the future. We have working groups of primary and secondary heads that are addressing those issues that will help us plan for a safe return of more children to our schools, within an achievable time frame.”

Ms Hopper and Councillor Heakin point out that over the last eight weeks, over 1,100 children of key workers and those deemed to be vulnerable have continued to attend school each week, and that any plans to increase the numbers of children in school will “have to take these continuing numbers in account.”

The letter concludes: “This is a challenge that we will manage, with safety as our first priority. We know that we won’t be able to satisfy everyone. We will however, work together and do our best to meet the needs of as many children as possible. We would ask you not to direct any of the inevitable frustrations you may experience in the coming weeks, at your child’s school or its staff. None of them are responsible for the position in which we all find ourselves.

“By working together we are confident we can make progress.”

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