WORCESTERSHIRE County Council has been working with the Department of Education ahead of schools taking children from more year groups from tomorrow.
The Government laid out recommendations for reception, year one and year six pupils to start returning from June 1 – approaches will vary from school to school and headteachers have been working on how to put social distancing in place in classrooms and minimise the risk of the spread of the virus.
During the lockdown schools have been open for children of NHS staff and key workers.
In the past few weeks Worcestershire County Council has been focusing on the right approach for children, families and schools, ensuring pupils returned when it was safe for them and staff.
Coun Marcus Hart, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills, said the authority was incredibly appreciative of the work schools and education settings had done, remaining open for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, as well as providing virtual resources.
He appreciated the importance of education and was keen to minimise the impact of its loss, working closely with school leaders and other colleagues to ensure each school had an individual tailored plan for re-opening, based on their circumstances.
“We are committed to striving for the right balance in achieving the return.
“The reopening and inclusion for reception, year one and year six pupils will be risk-assessed and any decision about timing of the safe wider opening from June 1 will based on the outcomes of risk assessments.”
At the start of last week, education union chiefs across Worcestershire branded the decision to re-open schools as unsafe and the Government’s decision to push ahead with the wider reopening programme as reckless.
Speaking ahead of the proposed phased re-opening of schools from Monday, June 1, the National Education Union (NEU) said opening schools to more than just the children of key workers and vulnerable children risked a second spike in Coronavirus cases.
Union bosses said they were desperate to see schools reopened as soon as it was safe and knew better than most how the quality of children’s education suffered when they are not in school.
But equally, they said parents would agree provision at schools should not be expanded in exchange for increasing the risk to children, staff and communities of a greater exposure to coronavirus.
Stephen Metters, Worcestershire NEU district secretary, said: “When Denmark reopened schools a month ago it had 95 deaths per 1million of the population.
“The UK has 513 deaths per 1million of the population.”
He said countries closer to the UK in terms of cases and deaths, such as Spain and Italy, were not reopening schools until September.
Union chiefs said there would not be an established, effective test and trace system for Covid-19 in place by Monday and reopening more widely then risked creating a ‘hotbed for infection’ in our schools and a second spike.
Sean McCauley, joint secretary of the State Education Branch of Worcestershire NEU said the Government had not met two of its own tests, infection rates were not yet at manageable levels and the testing levels needed to support a wider reopening was not in place.
Many schools had ditched plans to open fully to reception, years one and six on Monday with some opting for June 8 and others a week later.
“Those ploughing ahead for next week should avoid a chaotic reopening and put it on hold until the science says it is safe to reopen more widely.”
The rules usually in place about attendance – such as warnings and fines for pupils not showing up – do not apply and it is ultimately up to parents with children in the designated years to decide whether to send them to school or not.
Earlier this month we reported that parents had hit out at the Government’s proposal, saying Worcestershire’s three-tier education systems have been forgotten in the plans to phase back schooling – Click here to read the story.