School transport

Letter to parents and carers  - Education Update

17 September 2020 

Dear Parent/Carer

The coronavirus outbreak has impacted on every aspect of school life. Firstly, I would like to thank all families for the way you have worked with us during the pandemic. I appreciate that the last six months have been difficult for all families in adhering to restrictions to normal life routines and that this will have brought additional challenges to families in continuing to support your child where they have additional needs.

I know that many of our services have been creative and innovative in continuing to support children and young people with access to online support and providing information on resources that support the different needs of children. I hope that where you have accessed this it has been helpful.

I would especially like to thank the Parent and Carer Forum who have continued to make themselves available over the lockdown period. This has been invaluable in gaining a sense of the issues and concerns of families and consequently has influenced our planning and support.

We had high levels of attendance of vulnerable children and those with Education, Health and Care Plans in the summer term where school was identified as the best place to meet needs. We worked with the Parent Carer Forum to develop temporary provision plans to record decisions on how needs would be met through these challenging times. The completion rate of these was very high.

The Local authority has continued to work with schools over the summer holidays to prepare for the full reopening in September. We have supported them in undertaking risk assessments and ensuring schools are compliant with Covid requirements and have appropriate mitigation measures in place so that children can return to school. Schools were asked to liaise with parents about the arrangements for children to return, and where necessary agree a phased return where children may struggle to cope with changes in the way schools are operating.

Across all schools we have again seen very high levels of children returning to school. If you still have any concerns about your child attending school, please discuss this with your school and agree how this can best be achieved to ensure your child continues to receive the appropriate support.

We are all learning to adapt to the various controls and measures that keep us safe. We continue to monitor the local position closely and work with schools to respond to any issues swiftly. For example, last week we encouraged schools to use playgrounds for drop off and pick up where this was causing safety issues at school gates. This was a direct response to feedback from parents and schools.

Ensuring that children and young people can travel to school safely has been a key priority in Cheshire East and we have put in place a significant range of measures to reduce any risks associated with the pandemic. The late publication of the government’s guidance on Transport to school and other places of education and the allocation of additional funding on 11 August resulted in a last-minute changes to transport arrangements in late August/early September.

The need to group children together in ‘bubbles’ on school transport and to move children off public transport and onto extra dedicated school transport has increased the demand on our transport operators. Additional arrangements around hygiene and cleaning of vehicles after each journey have added to these demands.

Whilst we have tried to ensure that the needs of individual children with  SEND are met and that ‘meet and greet’ arrangements took place ahead of the school term, the current pressure within the system means that we have not been able to be as flexible or to respond as quickly as we would like. We recognise this an area of concern of parents, but it has been even more challenging this year due to coronavirus. The transport team will be meeting with Parent Carer Forum to reflect on these arrangements and learn in relation to future developments.

In the meantime, we have developed and updated several documents on our school transport webpage, including a parent’s guide, guide for young people and a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) document that explain the changes that we have made to school transport. These can be found on the school transport page.

I understand that some families remain anxious about their child returning to school and I want to assure you that we have worked with our schools to make the return to school is as smooth as possible. We currently have over 80% of children and young people attending schools and reviewing support to meet their identified additional needs. Once again, thank you for your support and patience during these unprecedented times.

Yours sincerely

Jacky Forster

Director of Education & Skills