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Statement on wider opening of schools and childcare settings

An photograph of a school in Sheffield

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Sheffield City Council, said:

 

“Sheffield City Council has, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, put the health, safety and well-being of our citizens at the forefront of all our decisions. For this reason, we asked our schools and childcare settings to delay their wider opening until at least 15th June.

 

Today we have received updated advice from Sheffield’s Director of Public Health, Greg Fell. He has advised that good progress has been made towards addressing the concerns he previously outlined. In particular, there is evidence that the national “test and trace” system, recently introduced, is in place and is working effectively in Sheffield. Other key indicators, including infection rates, also continue to improve. In considering all of this he has advised that he is satisfied that schools and childcare settings can begin to open more widely, in a planned and measured way, from 15th June.

 

All schools and childcare settings had, already, put in place detailed plans and risk assessments to open more widely from earlier this month. We, now, recommend that schools and childcare providers revisit these plans and risk assessments ahead of any wider opening from next week.

 

Wider opening is an important step to ensuring that more children get back to school and, in turn, their parents can return to work. However, we must remember that the measures needed to make sure that this is safe, also limit the number of children who can attend at any one time. Each school and childcare setting has calculated the number of children that can be safely accommodated. Some of our schools are already at full capacity. This has been recognised by the government today in their announcement that all schools are not going to be fully open before the autumn term.

 

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. Children who remain at home will continue to be supported in their learning.

 

The education and childcare sectors in Sheffield have done us proud throughout this most difficult period. I thank each and every education and childcare worker who has made such a valuable contribution to the national effort, and in particular for the support that they have provided to the children, young people and citizens of Sheffield.

 

The wider opening next week is important but is just the first step in a much longer process. We all need to remain vigilant against the spread of COVID-19. In schools this will mean children working in tight groups, known as “social bubbles”. It will also mean that hygiene routines and social distancing continue to be vital in managing the pandemic.

 

Ours is a cautious approach. We will continue to rigorously monitor the number of children attending across the city, and colleagues in Public Health will continue to monitor infection rates and the progress of the pandemic itself. We have seen a remarkable collaborative approach taken in the City to support children and young people and it more important than ever that that continues throughout this next phase.”



 Director of Public Health Sheffield, Greg Fell, said:

 




Having taken the time to carefully consider the risk and impact of COVID-19 locally in Sheffield, I have today advised Sheffield City Council that I am satisfied that schools and childcare settings can begin to open more widely, in a planned and measured way, from Monday 15th June.


A couple of weeks ago, I advised the delay of increasing numbers, as I was not assured that the systems and plans put in place were sufficient and that we needed more time to assess and test these. During this two week period, I have carefully monitored the position and now feel confident that it is possible for settings to widen their attendance of children.


What do I feel has changed?








    • A wide range of data indicates that the number of daily new cases continues to fall, the number of people who need hospital treatment for COVID 19 continues to fall and the number of people who sadly die is stable and decreasing. In analysing the data from many sources our position appears to consistently be moving in the right direction and this trend is stable over a longer period now, compared to the end of May.






    • I now receive a daily report monitoring the number of cases being diagnosed locally compared against the expected trend, there are clearly identified trigger points for Sheffield. This enables me to monitor and assess our position carefully.



    • COVID-19 testing capacity has increased and I am confident that individuals can now access testing quickly when needed



    • NHS Test and Trace has now been mobilised since the end of May. Members of my team and I have been engaged with the system and schools have also seen it in operation. I feel assured that the model is in place and working in Sheffield. We know that contact tracing is taking place in Sheffield and that local outbreaks are being well managed, and we have the right systems in place to enable this.



    • My team is working with Public Health England and we have developed a local outbreak management plan for settings to help guide and provide support where it may be needed.



    • Settings have been working hard to become COVID-19 secure. Pulling together detailed risk assessments to plan how they will implement national guidance and minimise risk. This has been supported by Sheffield City Council providing a template risk assessment for settings to follow.



    • Of course, starting to slowly make changes to ease lockdown is a balance. Settings will be operating differently with small protective social bubbles to help reduce risk. This means that settings will carefully and slowly increase numbers, where they have capacity to do so, and when they feel that they have the right plans in place. COVID-19 remains a priority. It is never possible to completely minimise risk and we all have a continued role to play. This means we should:


    • Continue to wash our hands regularly with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

    • Maintain social distancing and don’t become a contact

    • Anyone with symptoms should isolate and access a test


I have a responsibility to regularly review and monitor the position locally and very carefully. My priority is to advise the Council relating to Public Health matters and I will continue to rigorously review the situation. I know there will be cases associated with schools and early years settings, there may also be outbreaks. I am satisfied that we have the right arrangements to manage this. If at any time I feel that the local situation is changing and that this will have a negative impact on the health of children and staff within schools I will have no hesitation in changing my position and advising further.



 




Thank you for all that you are doing at this time.



 

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