DORSET Council has been working with schools and colleges to make sure that all pupils are welcomed back safely on March 8.
All education providers are following Dorset Council, Department for Education and Public Health guidance. Risk assessments have been reviewed, hygiene measures will continue to be followed and arrangements for testing staff and secondary-age students will be in place.
Schools and colleges will advise families and students about the precise arrangements.
Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “Our schools and colleges are looking forward to welcoming all students back on March 8. It will be wonderful for children and young people to be back in their classrooms enjoying their education together again.
“I would like to reassure students, parents and carers that our schools and colleges are following Dorset Council, public health and government guidance to make sure everyone returns to school and college in a safe a way as possible.
“It is very important that we all continue to follow the rules, please follow the testing arrangements you receive from your school or college. This will help keep your school, college and our wider community safe. I’d like to thank young people, children and families for their magnificent efforts during this very difficult time.
“I know our schools and colleges can’t wait to welcome all children back. I’d like to thank them for their vigilance, care and service during the pandemic, for remaining open throughout for key workers and vulnerable children as well as providing home learning.”
Dorset’s education provision at every level has remained open during the latest lockdown for key workers and vulnerable children and will now open to all pupils from March 8.
Some provision, such as special schools, early years settings, alternative provision and learning centres were able to remain open to all pupils during this period.
The government has strengthened existing protective measures so adults and students in Year 7 and above will now be asked to wear face coverings (unless they are exempt) in all indoor settings as an extra temporary precaution. Please contact your education provider if you have any queries about their specific arrangements.
Plans are again in place to manage any cases and all education providers will continue to work closely with public health. If cases occur, Dorset Council and Public Health teams will work closely with schools and colleges to communicate any necessary actions to staff, parents, carers and students.
School Transport will run as normal.
Everyone can continue to help by following the guidance outside of school and college, which can be found at gov.uk/coronavirus
Is your child worried about going back to school?
Many children will be looking forward to going back to school next week, but some may also be feeling uncertain.
After so long off school, it is completely natural for some children to feel slightly anxious about returning.
If you are worried about your child, Dorset Council’s Educational Psychology Service has a helpline to support those who are worried about their child or teenager returning to school after lockdown.
Cllr Parry said: “Sometimes it can be difficult to speak to a young person about whether or not they are worried. Often, they’ll avoid talking about their anxieties, but if you can get them to speak to you, that’s a really positive step.
“Our COVID helpline is here to support parents and carers so they can help their children cope with the lockdown restrictions and returning to school. If you live in the Dorset Council area and are concerned about how your child is managing and you need someone to talk to, please ring us.
“Our educational psychologists are available to help you. They will listen to your concerns and can offer practical advice and guidance.”
The helpline number is 01258 474036. It is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 4.45pm. Callers need to ring and make an appointment for a 30 minute phone consultation.
Calls are confidential unless there is a risk of harm to the caller, their child or someone else. Brief records are kept of each call.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties due to the current crisis, support is available. If your income has dropped, or you have lost your job you may be able to get help with costs including school meals, transport and uniform, call Dorset Citizens Advice on freephone 0800 144 8848.
Most pupils offered first choice secondary school
Young people across Dorset found which school they will be joining in September this week, with more than 97% having been offered their first choice of secondary or upper school.
A total of 97.36% of pupils due to start secondary school (Year 7) have been offered their first choice. For those starting upper school (Year 9), 97.41% have been given a place at their preferred school.
Cllr Parry said: “It is brilliant news that more than 97% of young people in Dorset have been offered their first choice of senior school.
“Today is an important day for young people, as well as their parents and carers, as they find out which school they will be joining in the autumn. I’d like to wish all Dorset students the very best of luck as they get ready to join their new schools in September.”
Dorset Council processed a total of 3,477 applications from Dorset residents, with over 95 per cent of parents and carers opting to complete their applications online.