Published: Friday, 19th June 2020

Read the Leader of Medway Council's latest message to residents.

I was delighted to see so many people returning back to our high streets across Medway on Monday to support and welcome back our local shops. Ensuring your safety and helping businesses to reopen safely has been our priority in the past few weeks. We’ve put lots of signage and direction reminders across our busiest high streets and our Medway Greeters are there to provide you with help and advice as you return. We’ve also provided local businesses with Guidance Packs as they reopen, to help them open safely.  It is more important than ever to show our support to our local shops and also not to forget those smaller shops who have stayed open during the pandemic, keeping us supplied with vital food and essentials – so please shop local, shop Medway if you can at the moment.

Many of Medway’s children are now returning to school which is excellent news. I am sure that many of you will be following the debate about children going back to school but I am convinced that it is so important now to minimise further disruption to the education of our young people and get them back on track, as well as enabling parents to get back to work. This has to be done safely of course and we’ve been working closely with head teachers across Medway throughout the past few months and are so proud of the fantastic response and support that’s been given by all our schools during this time.

I am pleased that 90% of our primary schools are now open and this week our secondary schools have been welcoming back pupils in years 10 and 12. The excellent response given by Medway’s education sector during this pandemic was recognised yesterday in a meeting held by Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education with representatives from the Rivermead Inclusive Trust, and we are honoured that he chose a Medway schools trust for his first ever virtual visit nationally. Congratulations to our friends at the Trust. 

We are very conscious that children will need to have the chance to catch up, so we’ve announced this week that we have delayed the timing of the Medway Test to October allowing candidates the opportunity to settle back into school before the test takes place. This is the latest time we can schedule it to meet the government timetable for completion of the process.  

Ensuring all young people in Medway are given the best possible educational support and start in life is one of our top goals so we were pleased to announce plans last week to offer more choice on school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Medway following a further review in response to the growing demand of school places for children with SEND. Our plans for the new free special school to be built on council land in Cornwallis Avenue, Gillingham in partnership with the Department for Education are progressing well and, following this further review requested by Cllr Josies Iles, my Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, we are now also proposing to support an increase in provision at Abbey Court School in Strood as the next phase in this project. It was also great to learn that Medway Council’s Troubled Families Programme has been ranked as the best performing in the south east, according to government figures released recently, having helped support 2,060 local families with multiple and complex needs achieve significant and sustained progress between 2015-2020.

The next big milestone for relaxation of the government lockdown will be on 4 July and from our side, we are looking forward to being able to reopen more of our services as soon as we are able to do so and we have a major plan of work underway to ensure that our buildings are fully COVID-19 compliant for them to open for you. Please do follow our social media pages and website to keep up-to-date and we continue to bring you lots of activities online so do take a look.

It is encouraging to learn that cases of COVID-19 continue to fall but we must ensure we remain alert at all times and care for our families, friends and loved ones to keep them safe. We are pleased that the government will be devolving control and management of outbreaks to local level as we believe we are best placed to respond to them to protect our local people.

Care homes have been very much in the public eye recently and we have been providing support and oversight throughout the pandemic to Medway’s care homes. We have recently submitted to government a report on how we’ve been working together so far and setting out the arrangements we are putting in place to support them with the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group on an ongoing basis helping to keep their residents safe and well. You can read our plan on our website.

I hope my updates show how we continue to work at the heart of our Medway community and I know I speak for us all when I say that our armed forces have a special place in our Medway community. One of the most important days in our annual calendar is Armed Forces Day where we thank members of the armed forces for all they do for us. We are all very proud of our rich military connections and we will be issuing messages of support as we can’t thank them in person next week. We would love all our community to show your support for them next week by sending video messages to them or sharing your photos of the military here in Medway and tag Medway Council and use the hashtags #saluteourforces and #armedforcesday.

Take care, stay alert and stay safe.

Cllr Alan Jarrett

Leader of Medway Council

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