Council committed to supporting schools throughout lockdown
Following the government’s announcement of a new national lockdown, Gloucestershire County Council is working closely with schools to ensure all children across the county can continue their education.
With the majority of Gloucestershire’s school children now switching to learning from home, the council is supporting schools to provide remote access. It has already distributed over 1,500 laptops and tablets to vulnerable children since the start of the pandemic, as well as 4G hotspot devices for families who do not have internet at home.
The government has announced an ambition of making one million items of IT available for schools across the UK, with the latest tranche of equipment to be released to schools in two tranches of 50,000 items. This means that as many as 1,000 items of IT equipment could be made available to schools across Gloucestershire within the next two weeks. More 4G routers will also be available for pupils who do not have access to wifi so that they can continue their studies at home.
The county council is also working closely with schools to help them stay open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers during lockdown, as well as providing extra support/advice on a range of issues.
Ninety percent of schools in the county remained open during the first lockdown, with 21 percent of children continuing to attend school. The list of critical workers for this lockdown is more inclusive and it is likely that more children will attend school this time around.
Early Years settings, schools for children with special needs and pupil referral units can remain open as normal.
There are over 25,000 children in Gloucestershire who are eligible for free school meals and during the school holidays in the pandemic, the council has supported these families with vouchers to make sure that no child goes hungry. These families will continue to receive support during the current lockdown from their schools, through a government scheme announced on 4 January.
Support is also available through the COVID-19 Children's Fund and Emergency Assistance Fund for Food and Essential Supplies introduced by the council to support vulnerable children, young people, working age adults, older people and their families during these challenging times. Individuals or families can self-refer or be referred by any professional working with them.
The county council is awaiting further information from the Department for Education regarding these measures, as well as additional funding to provide further support for schools.
Cllr Patrick Molyneux, cabinet member for schools at Gloucestershire County Council, said:
“This is a tough time for parents and students - and the county council will keep doing all we can to support them.
“We will also do all we can to support those schools and teachers caring for the children of critical workers – they are playing a key role in our fight against the virus.”
Throughout the pandemic the council has provided a wealth of support to schools including:
- Establishing a dedicated Covid-19 Education team to help with enquiries and issuing regular newsletters to schools.
- Helping schools to identify their individual risks and what measures needed to be put in place to tackle these.
- Every school in Gloucestershire was supplied with an initial starter pack of personal protective equipment (PPE) by the county council including: masks, gloves, goggles, aprons and sanitiser, and the council has made it easier for them to access PPE supplies.
- Signs, stickers and tape were made available for schools to encourage social distancing and to put in a one-way traffic system around their buildings. They were also given advice on opening safely, as well as advice on testing and how to access it if needed.
- Supporting schools to make transport arrangements safe.
- Helping vulnerable pupils adjust back into school life
- As part the Local Outbreak Management Plan, the council created specific action plans for schools so that they knew exactly what they needed to do if a child or member of staff displays the symptoms of Covid-19 and it has worked closely with schools and Public Health England to support them with confirmed cases.