Cheshire East Council has responded to the prime minister’s announcement of tougher Covid restrictions, by recognising that the lockdown is needed as a national response to the rapid spread of Covid-19.
These new measures mean that schools and colleges across Cheshire East are now closed to most pupils except for vulnerable children and children of critical workers and are unlikely to reopen until after the February half term at the earliest.
Schools will move to remote learning and will ensure pupils and parents have a timetable outlining what to expect as soon as possible. Vulnerable children are encouraged to continue to attend school as safety measures remain in place. The reduced number of pupils should further ease any risks and enable appropriate support to be provided.
Everyone will still be able to access early years settings such as nurseries.
After the first lockdown, the council, working in consultation with school leaders, parents, and unions, took the bold step of delaying the reopening of schools to ensure that buildings and practices were Covid secure, the wellbeing of staff and pupils prioritised, and outbreaks managed.
The phased reopening in June gave everyone time to prepare risk assessments and work together to deliver lessons safely. The risk assessments prepared during the delayed reopening in 2020 have helped schools in Cheshire East remain open safely.
Over the last few months, the council has also been working very closely with its schools to develop programmes to help learners respond to the challenges of school lockdown. These include many innovative practices, which directly help learners, including the most disadvantaged, to get the best remote learning opportunities.
In its latest message, the council also thanks schools, colleges, nurseries, children, young people and their parents for their tireless efforts in adapting to unprecedented disruption to education in more than 170 schools and colleges and more than 300 early years providers across the borough.
Responding to the government’s decision to close schools for most pupils, Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “Schools and colleges are the last places we want to close as we recognise the importance of attending school for children’s education and wellbeing.
“At the same time, we recognise the national crisis this country faces and urge all residents to adhere to the new restrictions as well as maintaining social distancing at all times.”
Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, added: “We recognise that the next few weeks will be tough for children, young people, parents and school staff.
“Our hope is that this latest lockdown will give us some time for infection rates to reduce, schools to prepare for rapid testing and to lobby government to ensure that school staff are prioritised for vaccinations.”
Councillor Kathryn Flavell, cabinet member for children and families, said: “I firmly believe that for most children, school is the best place for them to learn. Our priority continues to be the safety of children, young people and school staff.
“I am in awe of the resilience of our education team, schools and nurseries which have constantly adapted to new ways of working from providing risk assessments, managing outbreaks, distributing around 800 laptops and providing additional school transport. The list goes on.
“I would like to thank everyone across Cheshire East, who works in education or childcare for your commitment and dedication to ensuring that our children and young people get the best education and making Cheshire East a great place to learn.”
Dr Matt Tyrer, Cheshire East Council’s director of public health, said: “We are now seeing infection rates in Cheshire East of more than 350 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days. This is a significant increase from the numbers we were seeing just a few days ago when we moved to tier 4 and is evidence that new restrictions are necessary.
“We have heard this week that the second kind of vaccine has been approved for use in the UK and vaccinations are now taking place across the borough. This is great news, but our optimism must be tempered by a resolve to stick to the basics – don’t forget ‘hands, face, space’ and you must make sure that if you have symptoms, you self-isolate and get a test.”
Visit www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/covid19 for more information about support, advice and guidance for individuals and businesses, including those who need financial help, or who need additional support because they are shielding.