For children, young people, parents and carers across the borough, the return of all year groups to school this week marks a significant milestone as we continue to emerge from lockdown and start defining what our new normal will look like. I know that for many this will be greeted with both a sense of excitement, but also trepidation after spending such a long time away from school.
In Solihull, we are blessed with wonderful schools, excellent teachers and staff and it is vital that our children and young people get back to their education. I am incredibly proud of the work individual schools have undertaken in order to make this possible and of the work that families have done to support their children during this long absence from the classroom. I know everything that can possibly be done to minimise risk and keep pupils and staff safe has and is being done in our schools.
While some of the new arrangements may look and feel very different to what we are used to, I am sure that a return to classroom based learning will help restore some sense of routine and normality for many families. This move is so important to the education, development and life opportunities of our young people, especially after so much disruption.
In other news - to coincide with the new school term we have extended our award winning ‘School Streets’ scheme which has now been rolled out at three more schools.
The innovative scheme, which restricts traffic on roads leading to schools at the start and end of the school day, promotes sustainable, healthy travel for school children. It also helps to address traffic problems and pollution issues at the school gate making it safer and more pleasant for everyone around the schools.
Phase two (which was delayed due to Covid-19) extends School Streets to selected roads around Widney Junior, Marston Green Junior and St Andrew’s Primary schools, where a new permanent 20mph speed limit for all traffic will also be introduced.
The timing couldn’t be more appropriate, however, with schemes like this being recognised by the Government as a key part of the Covid-19 Emergency Active Travel toolkit, to make cycling and walking easier and safer. As all year groups will be back at school for the first time in many months, we are also making sure we continue to promote active and safe ways for everyone to travel to school in a Covid-secure manner.
Finally I wanted to end with another piece of good news. You may have seen last week that we successfully secured vital funding from the Environment Agency to be used for key flood mitigation schemes within the borough.
And at last night’s CPH Environment & Highways Decision Session my colleague, Councillor Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Member for Environment and Highways, signed off on a series of flood mitigation schemes which will benefit over one hundred local residents.
These schemes will offer residents the opportunity to introduce Property Level Resilience and Resistance measures, essentially practical support, to make their homes safer.
Those residents included will be contacted shortly and invited to complete an online questionnaire so we can understand individual requirements and arrange property surveys. Flood risk specialists, appointed by the Council, will be contacting these residents directly to undertake the surveys in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines.
The Council will continue to look at securing further funding so more schemes can be rolled out to other areas that are at risk of flooding.
I know I keep saying it, but avoiding a local outbreak in Solihull is down to each and every one of us. Remember the most important things you can do are: Social distancing, washing hands frequently, wearing face coverings - don’t let the virus be passed on by careless behaviour - and at the first sign of Covid-19 getting a test!
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 2 September 2020