Published: Wednesday, 20th May 2020

Joint statement from Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh and Executive Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Anne Galloway

“Bolton Council is committed to the inclusive education of all its children but wishes to ensure that the safety of children, families and teaching and support staff is paramount in our decision making.

“The last few weeks have been incredibly difficult for children, their parents and carers and all our school and early years settings.

“The political leadership would like to thank you for the incredible way you have worked to support children to continue to learn at this time and we would want to assure you that we will work hard going forward to support any child who has fallen behind during this time.

“Our priority is for the safety and wellbeing of our children and our whole community so when we plan for children to return to schools and settings it will only be when everyone is assured that all measures are in place to reduce risk for our children and staff in the broader Early Years settings, schools and the wider local community.

“As you will be aware many of our local Early Years Settings and schools have had an offer in place for vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers and this has been excellent and supported many children. This offer remains in place.

“As the Government has announced, 1st June is an indicative date to consider and plan for extending this offer to all children in Early Years Settings, Reception, years 1 and 6 and in secondary years 10 and 12.

“Currently headteachers and managers across Bolton are in discussion with their staff, parents, committee or governing body (where appropriate) and the Local Authority about how they will deliver the new expectations.

“There will be different approaches across Bolton. The trade unions have been engaged in discussions and will meet with council officers this week to share guidance and confirm Bolton’s approach.

“The gradual reopening of schools requires careful planning and a full risk assessment to ensure health and safety of children and staff is prioritised. The risk assessment should cover a range of areas including infection control, social distancing, staffing, learning environments, lunchtimes, drop off and pick up. It may take us longer to have clear arrangements in place.

“Although 1st June is a date we are working towards, any additional attendance may happen after this date. The decision making for each setting rests with the headteacher, the manager and their committee or governing body supported by colleagues in the local authority with decisions informed by the full risk assessment. We will be making local decisions where we feel it is appropriate for Bolton children and our community.
“Parents will be making their own decisions about whether their child returns to  school and although they will be encouraged to send their children back to school when it is deemed safe to do so there will be no action taken against any parent who decides not to return their child to school. Children in households where an individual is shielding should not return to a setting /school at this time.

“Schools and settings will be sending out regular updates on their approach with detailed guidance to parents. If you have any queries, please direct them to the school or setting your child attends as we continue to consult and discuss local options. 
“Whilst recognising the vital importance of education for all children, we will always put the safety and wellbeing of our children and community first in our decision making. Please take care of yourselves.”