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Calderdale Council supports wider opening of schools from 15 June

The Council has previously advised Calderdale schools not to open more widely.

Calderdale Council supports local schools to open more widely from Monday 15 June, provided that they are confident it is safe for children and staff to return.

Local schools and Calderdale College have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for vulnerable children and young people, and for the children of key workers.

When the Government asked schools in England to plan for more children returning from Monday 1 June, the Council advised Calderdale schools not to open more widely, as it was not confident that all of the Government’s five key tests for safe reopening were being met.

Since then, developments in testing, an extra two weeks for schools to prepare, and the Council’s close working with schools on safety and risk assessments, mean the Council is now assured that it is likely that the five tests are being met in Calderdale.

Therefore, the Council has updated its advice to say that schools can now consider opening more widely – but very carefully – from Monday 15 June. It must be safe for each school to do so, and every one needs a robust risk assessment and a way to assess the health needs and vulnerabilities of all staff members and pupils.

However, the local authority says it's aware every school is different and must consider its own unique risks, and it is up to each headteacher, governing body and Academy Trust to decide whether or not to extend their opening. The Council also say it understands that some parents may decide to exercise their own judgement and continue to keep their children at home.

The Council has written to all schools to advise them of the latest advice, has given practical support by drafting risk assessment guidance, and has met with schools to listen to their views.

The Council continues to base its advice on the careful consideration of scientific and Public Health assessments, and will continue to keep this advice under regular review. The latest review concluded that all of the following five national tests are now being met in Calderdale (previously the last three tests were unmet, hence the Council’s original advice for schools not to open more widely from 1 June).

Test one: Make sure the NHS can cope

The NHS and the Council have jointly built capacity and are confident they could cope if there were more cases of COVID-19 in Calderdale.

Test two: A ‘sustained and consistent’ fall in the daily death rate

We are fortunately seeing a continued reduction in the number of fatalities in Calderdale.

Test three: The rate of infection is decreasing to ‘manageable levels’

The R number for the North East and Yorkshire published on Friday 5 June was estimated to be 0.89 – the lowest of all the English regions. Directors of Public Health recommend that the R number is not considered in isolation, but in the context of other information including the number of cases. The number of coronavirus cases in Calderdale continues to fall, and data from multiple sources shows that Calderdale has a low amount of cases compared to other areas.

Test four: Ensure the supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand

Testing for COVID-19 has increased, more tests are being done and the Council is now receiving data on test results more regularly. The national element of the Test and Trace programme has been implemented and the Local Outbreak Plan will come into effect from the end of June. A review of PPE for Calderdale schools has been carried out and guidance will be discussed with schools to ensure it reflects the reality of the experience in educational settings

Test five: Be confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS

This test relates to the need to be confident that any changes made will not risk a second peak of infections. Safe social distancing and a range of protective measures in schools will help reduce the spread of the virus. Procedures are in place for dealing with an outbreak in a school.

Cllr Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said:

“A good education is vital to give children and young people the best start in life. However, our main concern, as always, is the health and safety of pupils and staff.

“We know that many schools and parents are keen for children to go back to school as soon as possible. Now that we’re in a better position to be able to manage the risk of COVID-19, we are confident that schools can consider opening more widely from 15 June – but only if they feel that it’s safe for them to do so.”

Cllr Adam Wilkinson, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, added:

“Our updated advice is a cautious softening of the approach, and things are clearly not back to ‘normal’ – the virus will remain for some time and we need to stay vigilant and keep managing the risk.

“I’d like to thank schools for their hard work and dedication in recent months, and local parents and carers for their commitment to home schooling and keeping their children safe. Please be assured that we will continue to work closely with schools and with scientific evidence to ensure the safest and most effective learning experience possible.”

Deborah Harkins, the Council’s Director of Public Health, said:

“Our priority throughout the pandemic is to do everything we can to reduce the spread of the virus, to protect our whole community. Our position as a Council is always based on very thorough consideration of the science and evidence. We are also using that knowledge to guide schools through this very difficult time. We are always here to provide support if they need it.

“Schools will certainly look and feel different for a while, with new measures such as smaller class sizes, increased hand washing and social distancing. But these are vital measures to protect pupils, teachers and other staff, and it’s really important that we all follow the rules to look after each other, the NHS and care homes.”

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