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Luton Borough Council

28/08/2020 - Luton Council responds to schools opening

An open letter to Luton parents and carers ahead of schools opening full time from 2nd September 2020.

Cllr Hazel Simmons, Leader Luton Council
Cllr Aslam Khan, Portfolio Holder for Education and Skills
Cllr Khtija Malik, Portfolio Holder for Public Health
Amanda Lewis, Luton Council’s Director of Children, Families and Education
Gerry Taylor, Luton Council’s Director of Public Health

Dear parents and carers of Luton school children,
Last month marked the end to an extraordinary school year. Schools and colleges had to respond to necessary measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, meaning they closed to the majority of pupils on 23 March. June then saw the return of some pupils, largely on a part-time basis. Throughout, we have been incredibly proud of Luton’s response.
Many parents and carers have had to provide childcare and assist with education on top of their work commitments; teachers and education staff have had to deal with the logistical issues associated with ensuring those attending settings were kept safe, and pupils have experienced disruption to their routine, education, exams and social interactions. We do not underestimate the sacrifices that have been made, the uncertainty that’s been felt, and the hard work that’s gone into Luton’s response to this crisis.
Luton schools put government guidance into practice
The government has said education settings can return to full-time opening for all students from the beginning of September, and have released guidance to those settings about how to open safely.
In preparation for wider opening, we ask that parents and carers read the government’s guidance on what parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term  and speak to their children about the important role we must all play in reducing the spread of the virus.
Luton schools and colleges have been communicating their individual plans for September with their parent communities; it’s crucial we support our town’s schools and colleges by understanding and adhering to the protective measures they put in place.

Outside school and college, and as a wider population, we must all remain vigilant and observe social distancing measures. It is vital we all play our part if we are to ensure we avoid further restrictions that will impact society.
What to expect in your child’s school
Luton Council has been working with schools, colleges and partners to prepare for this return, and measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools and colleges are in place in September. These may include pupils being kept in class or year group-sized bubbles, older pupils being asked to socially distance where possible, the staggering of start, end, break and lunch times, and regular hand-washing.
 If children, or anyone they live with, have coronavirus symptoms, they must not attend their school or college and you will be asked to collect your child if they are displaying symptoms whilst at school or college. Remote education will be provided for pupils self-isolating.
You will also note the recent change in the government’s advice regarding the wearing of face coverings for children over the age of 12.  Luton is not an area where it is compulsory for all staff and pupils to wear face coverings in schools and colleges. We will continue to advise and update schools about any further changes to the situation.  Please do talk to your school or college about any concerns you have regarding face coverings.
Education is vital to your child’s future
The disruption to children’s education since partial school closures in March has the potential to have a long-lasting impact. It is therefore vital that all children and young people are supported to catch up on any lost learning and to return to the structure and routine of school and college as soon as possible.
We know that schools and colleges play a crucial role in providing for children’s educational, social and emotional developmental needs. We further recognise the challenge placed upon parents needing to support their children with home learning during this time. It is therefore vitally important that every child returns to school and college when they fully open from 2nd September 2020.
Talk to your school if you have concerns
However, we also recognise the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on many families’ lives, and that some families will need more support during this time. We will therefore be asking all schools and colleges to work with families who are anxious about their child returning to the classroom to understand the individual circumstances and the concerns they have.
All schools and colleges have been required to complete a risk assessment to outline the protective measures that they have put in place to make their setting COVID safe – it is therefore important for parents who are anxious to talk to their child’s education setting to discuss the measures they have put in place and any further support that may be required.
School attendance is compulsory
The government has made it clear that attendance will be mandatory for pupils of compulsory school age from September. If any parents are still not sending their child back to school after the school has made contact to explain their risk assessment and measures that are in place, or if levels of attendance were low prior to the lockdown, then it remains within the headteacher’s discretion to refer the case to Luton Education Welfare Service for legal intervention. 
We will want to see clear evidence of the support the school has offered to the family to help their child to attend before we consider issuing penalty notice or taking legal action.  We will consider each case on an individual basis.
Getting to school on public transport
We have been working with schools and public transport providers to help children return to schools safely. There will be additional buses running on the busiest routes at peak time and some routes have been switched to dedicated school buses. It is important to ensure:
  • you and your child (if over 11 years old) should wear a face covering for the whole length of the journey, unless you are exempt
  • you have purchased a ticket on-line or have the exact money available as change will not be issued
  • you plan your journey in advance and allow more time to get to school
  • on public bus routes, where possible keep a 2 metre distance from others and avoid facing other passengers
Keep up to date with any changes
We are frequently updating our website with information on return to schools including FAQs.
Finally we would like to wish all young people, their parents and families, and school staff our best wishes for a safe and successful start to the autumn term. We know that whether you are starting a new school for the first time, returning after a long period away from your school setting, or returning from the summer break, the start of a new school term is always an exciting but anxious time – we know this year there will be more nerves than usual, but have confidence in our school leaders and staff that they will welcome you back with warmth, support and understanding.
© 2020 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ