Richmond Council wants to reassure parents that they are committed to actively supporting schools and local families across the borough to ensure a safe reopening in January.
The Government has published guidance that puts restrictions on some primary schools in areas where there are high rates of infection. As a result, in Richmond upon Thames only vulnerable children and the children of key workers will be able to return to primary and secondary schools next week, with the rest returning through a phased approach throughout January.
Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said:
“Whilst it is the right decision, it is deeply frustrating that the Government made this announcement at the last minute, just days before the start of term, weeks after it was clear Coronavirus cases were surging in London.
“Coronavirus continues to spread fast in Richmond upon Thames and the more the virus spreads in our communities, the more serious illness and death we will see.
“It’s right that the reopening of our schools has been delayed to later in January to help tackle this deadly disease. We will continue to do everything we can to support Richmond’s incredible headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants and support staff at this very challenging time.
“Testing in secondary schools is crucial for us to break the chains of transmission and keep students, staff and their loved ones safe. However, logistically it is a challenge. Therefore, having the extra time to enable our schools to plan is helpful. A number of our schools are advanced in their thinking - using volunteers and teaching assistants. But we will do everything we need to - to make sure that every secondary school-aged pupil and member of staff has access to a COVID-19 test BEFORE they return to the classroom and on a rolling basis.”
Richmond has already made extensive preparations for the new term and before Christmas made home testing kits available for secondary and special schools, so that staff could be tested to prevent the spread of the virus when schools reopen. This was in addition to the extension of testing offered by the NHS which allowed asymptomatic staff and secondary age pupils to book a test via the online portal.
The Council, alongside Achieving for Children, are now supporting schools to roll-out the testing of pupils, including allocating dedicated staff to ensure the testing system works.
The Council agreed earlier this month funding to help support the Free School Meals programme during school holidays. Children in receipt of Free School Meals will continue to receive vouchers whilst their schools are closed to most pupils.
Parents and families are encouraged to monitor communications being sent from their schools and check their child’s school website for updates.
– from a Richmond Council press release - 31 December 2020