"We have been supporting schools to help them achieve safe reopening in line with Government guidance to help prevent the spread of Covid-19," said Cllr Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council's executive member whose portfolio includes education.
"We know that all schools have been doing a tremendous amount of work to ensure that they have arrangements in place, to ensure all pupils can return safely."
Support from the council has included:
- helping schools to manage their buildings and grounds to allow social distancing
- working to ensure school transport is safe for travellers using bus, car, foot or bike
- ensuring that schools have the information they need to open safely
- the full support of the local health protection team in managing any concerns or worries about reopening, including a dedicated helpdesk.
At some schools emergency highway schemes have also been implemented on the streets which have the most footfall, this is to ensure enough space for social distancing and facilitate walking and cycling.
These schemes include making cul-de-sacs which lead to schools resident access only for motor vehicles and increasing footway widths outside schools by building out on School Keep Clear markings.
"We are also developing support for schools to help manage children and young people’s anxieties on their return to school. We continue to work with the local Public Health team and colleagues in the clinical commissioning group to ensure all schools have the latest information about how to keep children and young people safe and well," added Cllr Gibbons. "Many children will be moving to secondary school or starting school for the first time in September, and we know that parents will have questions and concerns about what school will be like."
Cllr Gibbons also said that the council's home to school transport team had been pulling out all the stops in making arrangements for pupils to travel safely. "This work has included contracting additional coaches to provide dedicated school transport or rail replacement services; amending the seating arrangements on home to school transport to reflect the bubbles identified by the schools; schools are staggering start and finish times to spread demand for school travel over a longer period and/or to enable double runs. We are doing all we can to put all transport requirements in place, including accommodating any late changes or applications."
There is lots of advice and guidance available including the Department for Education’s #backtoschool safely campaign which aims to help parents, carers and young people prepare for returning to school and college. Key campaign messages focus on confidence, safety and transport and the wider wellbeing benefits of returning to school.