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An open letter from Torfaen’s Chief Officer for Education

Written by on 10th July 2020

Date: 10th July 2020

Dear Parents/Carers

I know the past few months have been difficult for learners, with many anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends. That is why the Local Authority welcomes the Education Minister’s plan which will enable us to prepare for the safe reopening of the schools that can do so in the first week of September, with all schools to return the following week.

At the outset, we want to share as much information as we can with you to understand the arrangements that will be in place from September.

Planning and preparation days for staff in schools will take place at the start of term to review risk assessments, processes and systems to ensure individual schools can welcome pupils back safely. Our frequently asked questions web page is being updated and will give more details of these over the coming weeks.

Some specific groups of learners might need to be prioritised during the first week of term, such as Year 7, 12, 13 in secondary schools and Nursery/Reception Year 6 in primary schools. Again we will share more details on this as soon as we can.

Following receipt of Welsh Government guidance next week, we will also be sharing details of how transport and catering arrangements will work. Please note that direct payments to families entitled to free school meals will cease at the end of August and we expect that catering in schools will resume.

Given the current extraordinary circumstances, we know staff in schools, learners and their families may well be under additional emotional, financial and psychological pressure. The Local Authority continues to work closely with schools and settings to consider how best to support the ongoing well-being needs of the whole school community at this time.

From the second week of term, school attendance will be compulsory and all pupils must attend unless they have a recognised medical condition. Parents will be asked to contact their school if a pupil is unable to attend for any legitimate reason once schools return.

The resumption of schooling will also mean that the key worker childcare provision for key workers will not recommence in September.

We recognise that reopening schools in the current climate is challenging. Local authorities and schools are committed to working together to ensure that learners can continue to learn safely. Welsh Government has also made £28m available to support schools to recover.

Finally, I would like to thank you. These past few months have placed additional stresses on everyone, but particularly for parents and carers who have had to quickly adjust to educating their children at home at a time which was already very challenging. Many thanks for all of your efforts and your hard work.

Yours sincerely

Dermot McChrystal