PUPILS and staff are heading back to class, many for the first time since lockdown was announced. But amidst the coronavirus pandemic this will be a term unlike any before. BRAD MARSHALL reports.

SCHOOLS across the borough have been busy working to put safety measures in place so pupils and staff can safely get back to class this week.

All pupils in all year groups are to return to education for the Autumn Term.

To help keep schoolchildren safe, teachers, governors, health bosses and Bury Council have been working together closely to follow national guidance from the Government and Public Health England.

A variety of Covid-19 secure measures have been put in place at Bury schools to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

These include the use of zoning, bubbles, scenario planning and changes to the curriculum to suit the complex situations and environments pupils and staff will encounter.

Protective measures, such as regular cleaning and hand washing, have also been instituted.

Some schools have chosen to stagger the return of pupils, opting to bring in some year groups sooner than others.

But others will see the whole school return at once.

Start and finish times are also being phased at some schools. Parents should contact their pupil’s school for the latest information.

Councillor Tamoor Tariq, cabinet member for children’s services, young people and skills, said: “This has been a year of tremendous disruption to our children’s education, and everyone is keen that they can return to school in safety.

“It is our duty to make sure our young people receive a good education, with their classmates and with ‘real life’ teachers.

“But this must be done safely. We have spent a great deal of time - both over the last term, and during the summer break ­— planning for the new academic year and the reopening of our schools to all age groups.

“I’d like to thank head teachers and their staff, and the many council officers involved, for their hard work in getting our schools ready in time for the autumn term.”

Cllr Tariq added: “There is a robust, well-planned, and safe framework of support to sustain children’s learning, with appropriate support to staff and families.

“Where there have been Covid-19 spikes in education centres or schools, we have, with the support of Public Health England, been able to successfully manage them and to learn from the experience.

“We should anticipate and expect to have to deal successfully with further cases of the virus: and we have demonstrated that we have this capacity.

“With the active engagement of our colleagues in health, care, cleaning, catering and transport, and with the engagement of the unions and associations, we have made substantial adjustments to the ways in which we work to ensure a consistently high level of safety, hygiene, social distancing and prevention.”

Attendance at school is mandatory from the beginning of this academic year.

According to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) the 3 per cent of cases where schools are not returning, is because they are planning transition periods for new pupils or phasing entry to alleviate pupils’ anxieties.

The school leaders’ union conducted a survey with a week to go before the first day of term and more than 4,000 school leaders responded - 4,090 in total, mostly in England.

The NAHT data shows that 96 per cent are organising regular additional cleaning of classrooms and school premises, 96 per cent are creating and maintaining pupil bubble groups, 93 per cent are staggering lunchtimes and break times, and 87 per cent are staggering start and finish times for pupils.

The data also suggests that 83 per cent are installing signs to direct pupils and parents and 79 per cent are installing additional hand-washing or hand sanitation units.

The NAHT general secretary, Paul Whiteman, said in a message to parents: “Please do not let the very public political difficulties and arguments cloud your confidence in schools.

“School leaders and their teams have continued to do all that has been asked of them.

“With co-operation and understanding between home and school we can achieve the very best return possible despite the political noise.”

The Government has said that children are at low risk of becoming severely ill due to Covid-19.

negative impacts on health and education

Attendance at school is mandatory from the beginning of this academic year.

Local authorities and schools have a range of legal powers to enforce attendance if a child or young person misses school without a valid reason.

However, if a child or young people has found lockdown exceptionally difficult, then their school or college may suggest a brief phased return.

Pupils who were shielding or have family members who were shielding can also return to school.

A small number of children may not be able to return to school if they: are self-isolating, have had symptoms or a positive test result themselves, or are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus.

If a child is unable to return to education, parents should contact the school and see what support they can provide for remote learning.