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Health of pupils, parents and staff in focus as council acts to make school run as safe as possible

Pupils returning to school and their parents are to be offered extra protection during the school-run as the county council plans to build social distancing in to morning and evening journeys and drop-offs.

Many children from the reception year, Year 1 and Year 6 returned on June 1 - and with the prospect of further children potentially returning later nationally and locally in the Summer, the council is working to create as safe an environment as possible.

Guided by an over-riding focus on the health and safety of pupils, parents and staff, the county council has already taken vital steps to protect pupils, teachers and parents. These include:

  • A risk assessment of the roadside stops to collect and drop school children to ensure enough space is available for pupils to maintain social distancing guidelines
  • Moving pick up points entirely to a location with a larger available waiting area where required
  • New vehicle loading guidelines: updated information on how many people school transport providers can now carry has been communicated

Preparations continue for the proposed return of Year 10 and 12 pupils with further risk assessments planned.

A recent survey of all 63 Oxfordshire County Councillors found that the introduction of school streets; a traffic control measure to restrict motor vehicles around schools at certain times of day, was a standout priority in terms of how Oxfordshire’s share of the government’s £250m Emergency Active Travel grant fund should be spent.

Although the majority of Oxfordshire’s school pupils have not attended since the lockdown started in March, 94% of Oxfordshire schools have remained open for children of essential workers and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic.

County Councillor Liam Walker, Cabinet Member for Highways Delivery & Operations said:

“The health and safety of pupils, teachers and support staff is our number one priority and how pupils travel to and from schools is an important part of how we plan to achieve this as we recover.

“We will continue to support them by ensuring the return to schools is as safe as it can be, with the necessary social distancing and transport adaptations in place, as increasing numbers of pupils come out of lockdown and return to the classroom.”

County Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Cabinet Member for Education & Cultural Services said:

“Children will be taught in classrooms where safety, hygiene and social distancing are absolute priorities and the council has provided hundreds of thousands of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) to assist schools.

“However, we’ve also wanted to focus on conditions as children arrive at and leave school and the measures introduced – with more under consideration – will certainly assist with allaying anxieties parents, pupils and teachers may have.”

The council is also working on a wider series of temporary changes to roads and transport networks to help residents travel safely and abide by social distancing. Ideas have been canvassed from county councillors all over Oxfordshire in the survey with particularly clear support outlined for measures including more 20 mph speed zones where supported by residents and an improved cycling infrastructure, such as more cycle-only lanes in every town. Further details will be outlined on these steps shortly.

Central government guidance on COVID-19 (educational settings) is available from the website:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

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