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Friday, June 19, 2020

County boss sends open letter to parents and guardians

Denbighshire County Council has issued an open letter to parents and guardians about the re-opening of schools later this month.

This follows the Welsh Government’s announcement that schools will re-open on June 29 following the Covid-19 lockdown

The letter, from Councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts, Cabinet Lead Member for Education, Children’s Services and Public Engagement (pictrured), says: 

"First of all, I’d like to thank parents and guardians across the county for their continued support during these unprecedented times.  Over the last twelve weeks, many parents/ guardians have been supporting schools to ensure that children and young people can continue learning at home – a great example of partnership working. We also recognise that many parents/ guardians will have changed working patterns to accommodate children and young people being at home. This has been a tough time for all and we are extremely grateful for the on-going support.

"I am immensely proud of our teaching and support staff across the county who have worked tirelessly to put a programme of activities and lessons in place during lockdown and also the staff have worked in hub schools to provide childcare for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.  The last three months have been challenging, but our teams have shown great commitment and professionalism to get their work done in very difficult circumstances.

"I would also like to recognise the efforts of our children and young people in their efforts to learn at home.   This has been a challenging and unsettling time for them, uncertainty about examinations, working away from their friends and needing to work to a brand new routine.   As a parent, I fully empathise with our children and young people, but their resilience and ability to adapt has been superb.

"The announcement that schools will re-open on June 29th has inevitably generated plenty of questions and some concern.   

"I wish to reassure you that the Council and schools had already started work on planning for the re-opening of schools. However, the guidelines issued by Welsh Government have given us a framework to follow and we must ensure our plans are fit for purpose.   This is a major challenge, practically and logistically.  I cannot emphasise enough the size of the challenges we face. It means more than just re-arranging classrooms -  there are many issues to consider, such as catering, buildings, curriculum, transport, free school meals, re-writing policies – to name but a few.

"Most of all, I wish to reassure you that the safety of our children, young people and our staff is paramount and their health and safety and mental health and well-being is at the forefront of our minds and everything that we do.

"Each school will decide its own arrangements for how they will re-open, but they have the full support of the local authority.   We have been told that the school capacity will be a third of pupils at any one time and we’ll adhere to that. We also recognise that some children may not return until September, if that is the wish of the parents/ guardians. We fully respect that this is a tough call for many parents and guardians and we respect their decision, either way.

"The period from June 29th until the end of the school term will allow opportunity to slowly re-introduce pupils back into the classroom and to really test our arrangements.   Schools will not return to normal, there will be new arrangements and new ways of doing things, but together we will make it work. 

"Meanwhile, we need to inform you that there will be a change in arrangements for the childcare provision in our hub schools.  As of Monday, 22nd of June, parents and guardians will be asked to send their child(ren) to their normal school for childcare provision, rather than the hubs.  This will allow the schools used as hubs to prepare to welcome back their children when all schools re-open. Those currently registered need not re-apply, the information will be passed to your child’s school. Parents are asked to contact their child(ren)’s normal school to make these arrangements directly in future.

"We recognise many of you will have questions and over the coming days and weeks and in time, we hope you will have answers to these.   Colleagues in education are working closely with Welsh Government and with other councils across North Wales to comply with the national guidance and to offer reassurance that everything is being done to minimise any risk of covid-19, to manage social distancing and to protect everyone’s health and safety.

"Schools will be contacting parents /guardians directly to talk about the local arrangements and how they affect their child(ren). School’s will make decisions regarding their re-opening arrangement, based on a wide range of factors e.g. staffing levels, this is therefore likely to vary from school to school.  Schools are unable to offer nursery ‘check-in and catch –up’ but will be able to continue to provide key worker and vulnerable learner childcare if the child is registered at the school. Your on-going support is very much appreciated as we overcome any hurdles over the coming few weeks and months.  Key to all of this is getting your child(ren) back into education and to make sure they have the best start in life."

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