More pupils at Long Wittenham and Clifton Hampden Primary schools are returning to the classroom. Clifton Hampden is taking reception Year 1 pupils and Year 6 including pupils from the families of key workers including vulnerable children.
Long Wittenham school is however taking only Year 1 children at the moment along with the children of key workers but is reviewing the position to ensure the safety of all children and staff.
The government has had to do a U-turn on plans for all primary schools to return before the end of term because they were “not feasible”. The practical difficulties for old schools like Long Wittenham and Clifton Hampden – built in Victorian times – make schooling difficult under the new emergency guidelines.
Schools face challenges in re-arranging classrooms for small groups of no more than 15 pupils, setting up one-way systems and arranging segregated breaks and lunch-times. Drop-off and pick up times are staggered. Children are encouraged to wash their hands regularly but keeping early years children the recommended two-metre social distancing is difficult.
To ease the problems for schools facing capacity problems, education authorities may have to consider hiring outside facilities such as town, village halls, sports centres and libraries. Nationally there was a fragmented return for primary school children. Parents have concerns about the danger of children being exposed to the virus although children are considered to be at a reduced risk.
Parents have been told that returning children to school was not compulsory and that education authorities would not fine them for keeping children at home. There are fears too that secondary schools facing capacity problems may not be able to return in September. Some children are being educated at home but not all families have or can afford computers.
The head teacher of Long Wittenham primary school Alison Bellingham said a plan was in place to gradually open for other year groups but this would be under constant review to ensure the health and safety of all staff and pupils.
She said: “My plan to welcome pupils back is in place and the health and safety of everyone lies at the heart of any decisions made. Teaching staff are not in school because we are operating a rota system, Parents are at liberty to make their own minds up at this stage and I fully respect that. It is a difficult time for everyone.”
The head of Clifton Hampden School Lisa Horton said: “We like many schools are finding it difficult to accommodate all pupils because we have an old building and space is at a premium. Parents have responded well to the return and as confidence grows we expect more children to return.”
Speaking about the pandemic at the government’s daily briefing on June 10 the chief medical adviser Chris Whitty warned: “We are not at the end but in the middle of it.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The pandemic figures in the UK are improving but we have a long way to go.”
Clifton Hampden and Burcot are besieged by all sorts of nonsense at the moment; we’re having to man the barricades against the gravel extraction application for a start. The ones in the picture above are most welcome, however. They represent progress, you see, because BT fibre is coming to town. This means superfast broadband – well, faster than we’ve got anyway.
Two months ago, Openreach (BT’s wholesale operation) installed a new distribution point – for the technically minded, this is a grey slab covering a hole in the ground – next to the existing green BT cabinet outside the school. Now they are putting in the foundations for the new fibre cabinet; a visible sign that Clifton Hampden is set to have zippy broadband speeds by the end of the year, the promised deadline. The “ready for service” date also applies to Burcot, who will have their own cabinet.
When FTTC becomes operational, residents’ actual speeds will depend on the distance they live from their new cabinet since this part of the connection will still be copper wire. Even so, even at 1,000 metres, down- and upload rates (24 and 8 Mbps respectively) will be considerably faster than at present. Those less then 100 metres from the cabinet will be shooting for the moon.
The accelerated project has been funded by Oxfordshire County Council as we would normally be fry so small as to receive FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) shortly before the end of the century or the second coming, whichever is sooner.
Nick Caw is stepping down as Chair of the Parish Council, and from the Council itself. We would like to express our gratitude for all the work that he has put in over the past few years. He’s moving to pastures new in both career and home – the latter, all things being well, being Long Wittenham. If he has the time and inclination, LWPC could do a lot worse than to co-opt Nick at the earliest opportunity – they won’t regret it.
In the meantime, Chris Neill, the manager of Clifton Hampden Post Office and Stores, has agreed to step into Nick’s ruggedly-cobbled brogues. In saying “agreed,” it was actually more of the traditional Army “volunteer” manoeuvre (ie he had no choice in the matter). This is something Chris that will be familiar with from his service days and which he accepted with weary grace.