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School return arrangements confirmed for Rhondda Cynon Taf September 2020

Parents and carers have received a letter from the Education and Inclusion Service Director explaining the local ‘back to school’ plan for the 2020/21 academic year – with schools across Rhondda Cynon Taf opening for a phased return from September 3. 

This followed Welsh Government announcing on July 9 that all pupils will be able to return to school from September, subject to a continuing steady decline of Coronavirus within our communities.

Guidance provided by Welsh Government outlines that schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within contact groups. In primary schools, contact groups are likely to be classes of around 30 children. In secondary schools, contact groups are likely to need to be the size of a year group to enable schools to deliver the full range of curriculum subjects.

Mixing between contact groups will be avoided wherever possible, however, some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will be unavoidable – such as on school transport, when accessing specialist teaching and interventions. Social distancing for adults on school sites remains in line with national guidance.

All schools have received updated Local Authority guidance to ensure that a consistent approach to this next phase in education is adopted.

Schools in Wales will minimise the risk of spreading Coronavirus by taking mitigating measures through a number of risk controls – including factors such as surface hygiene and one-way systems. If there is a local outbreak of Coronavirus, nearby schools will implement appropriate restriction measures.

In Rhondda Cynon Taf, learners will return to school from Thursday, September 3, following a period of school preparation and planning for assessed risk. From this date, learners will undergo a phased return over a week, with all learners back in school by September 10. If schools are ready to welcome learners prior to this date then they are permitted to do so. It will be for each individual school to determine which year groups are prioritised to return first.

The Council has also published Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in relation to the autumn term – ranging from school buildings, the school day, catering, uniform, illness and transport. The FAQs will be kept up to date over the coming weeks, and are available at www.rctcbc.gov.uk/schoolreturnfaqs.

Local guidance has also been published about examination arrangements. This is intended to support parents, carers and pupils in understanding GCSE, A/S Level and A-Level examination procedures in 2020. This information is available under the ‘Latest Schools Information’ link on www.rctcbc.gov.uk.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “The Council has announced the arrangements for local schools reopening in the new academic year – with the first pupils returning on September 3 and all learners accessing their school by September 10. It is important that these arrangements were put in place and communicated as soon as possible following Welsh Government’s announcement on July 9, confirming the ‘back to school’ plan for autumn.

“The Council is working closely with schools, assisting leadership teams with risk assessments to identify the best approach for individual circumstances. Therefore, the plans for September may vary from one school to another, with different year groups initially prioritised from September 3. It will be for each individual school to share relevant information with parents, carers and pupils.

“I’m very proud of our schools’ response to the Coronavirus emergency under very difficult circumstances, playing a vital role within the wider community effort. Our childcare hubs were integral in helping key workers and parents of vulnerable children from the start of the pandemic. This provision expanded to all school settings when our schools were made available for pupils to Catch Up, Check In and Prepare from June 29, which was successfully achieved.

“Our schools will work very differently from September 3, for at least the first half term – with classes and year groups placed in contact groups, and minimal interaction between each group. Schools will ensure regular hand-washing and social distancing routines, with the Council working closely with all of our schools to try to ensure consistency in terms of principles and approaches.

“We understand this continues to be an anxious and unprecedented time for everyone, and the Council has provided a detailed list of FAQs to help answer questions that parents, carers and pupils may have. This is available on the Council’s website. There are some issues still to be determined – for instance, school transport, as we work towards resuming our dedicated school transport service, but are awaiting further Welsh Government guidance on this matter. Also, there is expected to be a further review for the Shielding group before September. 

"The Council agrees that children returning to school is a positive step, and our schools are doing everything they can to minimise the risk. I’d like to thank parents, carers and pupils for their understanding and cooperation since the pandemic started, and also our schools and their very hard-working staff for all their support since March, which continues into the new academic year.”

Posted on Friday 17th July 2020