Greenwich is “doing everything in its power” to prepare educational settings for March 8, and Covid testing will be a key component in the safe return of schools, colleges and universities.
Greenwich Council said in a statement that meetings with headteachers, risk assessments and safety measures are underway, and that regular testing will be “vital” in the safe return of pupils and students.
And colleges across south east London, as well as the University of Greenwich, have confirmed their support for the return of face-to-face teaching next week.
Along with the now-standard safety and social distancing measures, testing facilities are currently being established at each site.
London South East Colleges say they “very much support” a full return to face-to-face learning next Monday, and are working hard to prepare campuses for a safe return.
“While we have ensured continuity of teaching and learning via online provision during the lockdown period, we are looking forward to seeing all our students back on campus.”
Testing will be vital, with the college setting up Covid-19 testing areas in accordance with Government guidelines.
Social distancing measures, ventilated classrooms and face coverings where it is not possible to stay 2m apart will all be used to ensure a safe return for students.
Greenwich University have also confirmed that students on practical courses and those who require specialist equipment or facilities will be returning for on-campus teaching from March 8.
The university called it ‘very positive news’ that some students could be welcomed back, with the majority continuing to be taught online until further updates are announced by Easter.
“We are now working through the detail of what this latest announcement will mean in practice,” they said, adding that the Government has been clear that regular testing for students and staff will be a key part of the safe reopening of campuses.
The university has three on-campus testing facilities.
In a statement, Greenwich cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Matt Morrow and council leader Danny Thorpe said they were “incredibly proud of everything we have achieved together so far.”
“The sacrifices you have all made are finally starting to pay off and we’re pleased to say that infection rates, locally, are falling. But it is vitally important that we reward the efforts of everybody involved in the rollout by getting the reopening of schools absolutely right.
“In Royal Greenwich we will be doing everything in our power to protect students and teachers. All our schools are completing in-depth risk assessments, and every learning environment will have their own unique measures in place to ensure it is as safe as possible.”
The councillors said testing will be critical in schools remaining safe, and all school staff will have regular testing provided by their schools.
They also added that they have called for teachers and school staff to be vaccinated as a matter of urgency, but have not received government support on the matter.
“We understand that this is an anxious time for many, but it is also a hopeful time as we do all we can to get our lives back on track. We will be in constant communication with our schools and we will bring you all the information we can to keep you and your children safe.”
The council leader added: “I want to thank you for all you have done, and I know that none of us want to be back in this situation ever again.
“But, if we are going to ask you to pack schoolbags and send students off every morning, we need to be certain it is safe. That is why, more than ever, the next few weeks will be a true team effort from each of us.”