Teaching, testing and transport for term start

11:38am - 31 December 2020

Primary schools can open as planned in North Somerset next week, but most secondary school students will see the new term begin later in January.

Following recent government announcements about changes for the start of term, there will be staggered return dates for secondary schools. Only vulnerable children and those of key workers will be able to return to school from next week (Monday 4 January), which will be onsite, for face-to-face teaching.

Exam year students will also be able to start their new term from home with remote learning from Monday 4 January.

Term will start online for other students the following week, from Monday 11 January. Exam year students will be able to join vulnerable and key worker children onsite and all other year groups will be online at home.

All secondary school students are currently expected to be able to return to the classroom from Monday 18 January.

Students who attend primary schools, special schools and the Voyage Learning Campus should return to school as planned next week.

For more information see the government guidance at www.gov.uk/government/publications/schools-and-childcare-settings-return-in-january-2021.

The government says the extra week and time learning at home will give schools the opportunity to put in place systems to start offering rapid testing to staff and students. It confirmed schools' staff will be eligible for weekly rapid tests while students will be able to have two tests three days apart when they return to face-to-face education.

If students are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive they will also be able to access testing every day for seven days to potentially enable them to remain in face-to-face teaching as long as they have negative test results.

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, executive member for children's services at North Somerset Council, said: "After a very disruptive year for our young people's learning, we hope testing will now enable more students to remain in schools-based lessons. A regular testing regime will also provide reassurance to staff and families that infections will be detected swiftly to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

"My plea to government is that our schools are given the necessary resources to enable them to carry out this additional work. They've already had a lot to deal with this academic year and we need to make sure teachers can focus on teaching."

Cllr Don Davies, Leader of the Council, said: "Testing in schools may help to reduce the spread of infection in our community. The tests being made available are the rapid lateral flow tests which can give results within about half-an-hour. They are intended for people who show no signs of the virus and will lessen the risk of transmission caused when the infected person isn't aware they're infectious while carrying the virus.

"With more testing taking place among younger members of our community, and mass vaccination under way beginning with older and more vulnerable residents, it's starting to feel like we might be able to get back to doing more things normally from mid-2021.

"But we still have a long way to go, and for the time being everyone, regardless of age or circumstance, needs to continue to practise the coronavirus golden rules of hands, face, space. Please minimise your contact with others to reduce risk of transmission and plan to have a happy and safe New Year celebration at home."

Students returning to school from Monday 4 January onwards can also be assured that normal home to school transport arrangements will be in place. Although the numbers of students returning on day one to secondary education will be lower, North Somerset Council will ensure that all services are running as normal.