Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council, said:
“Sheffield City Council has been working closely with all schools and childcare settings in the city, along with our partner organisation Learn Sheffield, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. I would like to pay tribute to the work of all school and childcare staff in supporting the children of key workers and vulnerable children during this period, as well as the critical work that they have been doing to support the continued safeguarding and education of other children at home. The vast majority of schools have remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers during this period.
“Following the Government’s recent announcement that schools should be prepared to open more widely from 1 June at the earliest, we have been working to support schools to welcome more children back to school in as safe a way as possible.”
Sheffield City Council’s position on schools ‘reopening’ is as follows. Most Sheffield schools have been open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Therefore, we are not preparing for reopening but for increasing the number of children who are in school. Our first priority is to make sure that children and staff are as safe as possible at all times, and we will work with schools and settings to support them to make the best decisions for them.
This means that, assuming that the five Government tests have been met that need to be passed before a final decision is taken nationally, we will continue to work with schools and childcare settings to increase the number of children who are attending from 1 June, based on the individual circumstances in each school or setting. This will mean that all schools will need to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment, covering staffing levels, building layouts, and other issues that have an impact on safety. Based on these risk assessments, schools will be supported to welcome children back as soon as is safe should their parents wish to do so. This will mean that different schools and settings will need to work at the right pace for them and their children, and it could mean that not all schools are ready to do this on 1 June for all year groups mentioned in the Government’s announcement.
We will never be able to guarantee that there is no risk. But by working constructively and collaboratively with parents, teachers and trade unions we believe that we can do this in as safe a way as possible that minimises the risk whilst ensuring that children and young people begin to benefit once more from education, learning and quality childcare.