“Critical” for Sunderland children to return to normal education but “caution” urged

Despite the easing of restrictions, all secondary school pupils with parental consent will be asked to take two lateral flow tests before returning to classrooms and will then be provided with testing kits to be administered at home – a procedure which is set to be reviewed at the end of September. Schools will also continue to provide sanitizing dispensers, promote good hand hygiene, carryout enhanced cleaning and ensure where possible that classrooms and communal areas are well ventilated.

These are precautions that need to be taken if children are to return to school and be in the presence of other children and staff. Monkwearmouth Academy assistant head teacher Iain Buddle said: “We are going to have a staggered start to allow all students to be tested and allow us to pick up any infections. We are hoping that for the first time since the start of the pandemic that this year will be without any closures. For some of the younger students they’ve had so much disruption they’ve forgotten what normal school routine and life is like. It’s critical for them to have a good period of time where they can enjoy a normal education.”

While school leaders are “optimistic” they have also produced contingency plans to respond to what has at times been a rapidly evolving situation.

Sammy Wright, deputy head teacher at Southmoor Academy, added ”We will be continuing to encourage students to test from home in line with government policy. We will also continue to have hand sanitizers in all classrooms and will initially have some separation during lunchtimes. We will also be ready to respond to a change in circumstances which may require the reintroduction of certain restrictions. For example last term we felt it was appropriate to bring back the wearing of masks. It’s hugely important that children can return to education. We know there will be an impact on transmission as schools return but we have to keep educating as the risks to young people missing out are too great.”

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