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Schools, childcare providers and colleges across Dorset are looking forward to welcoming children back in September, the education authority says.

Dorset Council says it has been working with schools, early years providers and colleges to make sure that all pupils are welcomed back safely. All education and child care providers are following Dorset Council, Department for Education and Public Health guidance. Risk assessments have been carried out and hygiene measures are in place.

Councillor Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: ‘Our school, colleges and childcare providers are looking forward to welcoming all pupils back in September.

‘It will be wonderful for our children to be back in their classrooms enjoying their education. I am delighted that our youngest children will also be able to enjoy their sessions again and have fun learning through play with their friends.

‘As a parent myself, I realise it may be an anxious time for some. I would like to reassure young people, parents and carers that measures are in place to make sure everyone can return in as safe a way as possible.

‘It is worth remembering that cases in the Dorset Council area remain low, much lower than other areas of England. There were also no significant incidents associated with wider opening in the summer term.

‘I would like to thank our schools and childcare providers for their vigilance and care. They have worked hard to make sure we can welcome all children back, I know they can’t wait to see all our children again.’

All Dorset education settings, including special schools, will be open in September. Arrangements will vary, as what is needed in a small primary will be different from a large secondary or upper school. Classes may be different as measures, such as teaching children in separate groups or ‘bubbles’, may have to be put in place to help keep children and staff safe. Childcare providers’ arrangements may also vary, as what is needed in a childminder’s home will be different to a larger nursery or preschool. Parents are urged to contact their school, college or childcare provider if they have any queries.Dorset Council

Plans are also in place in case there are any suspected cases. If there are suspected or confirmed cases, schools, colleges and childcare providers will contact the health protection team to decide what actions need to be taken. If cases are confirmed, close contacts will be traced and advised to self-isolate at home. If this were to happen, Dorset Council and public health teams would work closely with schools, colleges and childcare providers to communicate any necessary actions to staff, parents, carers and students.

Parents and carers can help by following government guidance outside of school. This includes keeping a least a metre apart from anyone not in your household, preferably two metres, washing hands frequently and self-isolating and getting tested if you have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste. The latest government guidance can be found at gov.uk/coronavirus.

school bus

An update on school transport has also been published today.

School transport update

Dorset Council says it is working hard on planning how to get nearly 8000 pupils back to school when term starts in September.

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is making an already complex situation more difficult, the council says.  Routes change from year to year to ensure that all children, who are entitled to free school transport, can get there safely. These routes often mix children from different schools.

This year, in order to limit the interaction between pupils at different schools, each closed school service will only pick up children for one school, instead of several.

There will be no social distancing on closed school routes although we are advising operators introduce a range of measures to improve safety on the bus, such as good ventilation, improved cleaning regimes, no face to face seating and orderly pick up and drop off regimes.

Face coverings for children age 11 and above are highly recommended but will not be compulsory. We will also be recommending that pupils sit in the same seat each day, wherever possible. More information about these will be given to parents and schools.

Children using public transport to get to school will be subject to social distancing on transport and must wear a face covering, unless they are under 11 or medically exempt from doing so.

In preparation for these arrangements the council have already asked parents whether their children will be using school transport or if they will transport them themselves, to inform the organisation of the routes.

Parents will be advised that if their child has:

A high temperature
A new continuous cough
A loss or change to, their sense of smell or taste

They should not travel to school and seek medical advice.

Some children who pay for their transport (eg age 16 and above), will have to wait until seats have been allocated to those who are entitled first.

There is also encouragement, for those who can, to walk, cycle or scoot to school. The council has bid for £700,000 from the government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund Tranche 2 to help people to choose to use bikes or walking for daily journeys. They will gain the benefits of being more physically active and if short car trips can be avoided, it will reduce pollution and congestion.

Parents should park considerately when they drop-off and pick up. If possible, park away from the school gate and walk the last few hundred metres, to avoid congestion and avoid creating dangerous conditions for pedestrians.

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