‘Bubbles’ of eight children as schools reopen for some year groups from 8 June
JERSEY’S schools will begin a phased process of reopening from Monday 8 June, but there will be no sanctions for parents who do not allow their children to return.
Education Minister Tracey Vallois confirmed yesterday that primary schools will initially welcome back Year 6 pupils, while students in Years 10 and 12 will be allowed to return to secondary schools.
Returning pupils will join the children of critical workers and vulnerable children, with the prospect of further year groups returning to schools as part of the next phase, provisionally targeted to begin on 22 June.
Groups, or so-called ‘bubbles’, of up to eight pupils will be used as a means of ensuring groups of children remain together, with an expectation that physical distancing will be maintained.
The stipulated distance will remain at two metres for the time being but Medical Officer of Health Susan Turnbull said she anticipated it might be possible to reduce this to one metre ‘sooner rather than later’.
It was also confirmed that 8 June will see:
- Highlands College re-opening and providing some face-to-face teaching for students in Years 12 and 13.
- Private nurseries being able to welcome back a set number of children into bubbles.
- Children returning to their childminder or nanny.
Although there will be an extensive communication campaign aimed at reassuring parents, including a video illustrating how schools will operate, Senator Vallois conceded that some parents might still feel that their children should not return.
‘We completely understand why parents and families may feel uncertainty,’ she said. ‘The message is that we are doing everything possible to ensure children are safe, but there will also be a change to our attendance policy that allows flexibility.’
The minister confirmed that there would be no sanctions for parents who decided to keep their children off school, with similar understanding also being shown towards teachers who were anxious.
Mark Rogers, director general for the Education Department, added: ‘There won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for teachers, some of whom will need to continue shielding themselves.
‘This isn’t a time to force anyone back to work. We have a responsibility to adults as well as children.’
The phased approach to reopening was supported by Dr Turnbull, who re-emphasised evidence showing that children, as well as not being badly affected should they contract coronavirus, did not act as ‘super-spreaders’ in the same way as had been shown with influenza.
Dr Turnbull referred to ‘accumulating evidence of worrying collateral harm from Covid-19 restrictions to children and young people’ worldwide, which applied equally in Jersey.
‘This includes harm to their education and life chances, worsening educational inequalities, adverse childhood experiences building up, such as the impact of parental mental-health problems, domestic violence, alcohol misuse, passive smoking and possible unrecognised abuse of children behind closed doors,’ she said. ‘We know too that there have been worsening mental-health problems in children and young people themselves, needing more hospital admission in Jersey since lockdown.’
A range of measures will be adopted to ensure children’s welfare remains paramount, including an impact assessment for children’s rights, organised in conjunction with the children’s commissioner, and a focus on wellbeing that worked on the results of a recent survey that elicited more than 2,000 responses from school-age children.
Senator Vallois said that there were no plans to alter previously fixed term dates, meaning that the summer holiday would begin on 17 July and last until 2 September, when she said that she hoped all schools would open as normal.
Mr Rogers said the summer holiday period might include some activities for children who needed them.
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