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Nearly two-thirds of primary schools welcome back more children

05 June 2020

Hundreds of children across Norfolk returned to school this week after ten weeks in lockdown.

From June 1, the Government allowed children in nursery, reception and years one and six to go back to school for the first time since schools closed to the majority of children on March 20.

In Norfolk about 65% of schools have now welcomed back more children. By next week most schools are expected to have opened to some or all of the permitted year groups.

It is the first time that many children will have seen their friends and teachers for more than two months and schools across the county have shared stories of lots of happy reunions.

John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We’ve heard lots of stories of children happily going back to school this week, with children really excited to see their teachers and friends again. I am really pleased this has been the result this week, we are not putting pressure on parents or children and, as they grow confident with the process and system, we look forward to numbers steadily increasing.

“We’ve worked very closely with schools to make sure they’ve got the information they need to keep children as safe as possible and we’ve been really impressed with the huge effort schools have made to change their start times, their curriculum and their classrooms.

“Schools have put in place lots of new measures to protect their children and staff, at the same time as working to reduce any worries children might have. This has been a team effort between schools, parents and the council and I know the vast majority want to see children safely back to school where they can learn from professional teachers and play with their friends.”

Schools carried out full risk assessments before opening more widely and have put in place a range of measures, such as staggered start and finish times. Children are being supported in small bubbles of up to 15 children, to reduce contact with other children and staff. This means that if there is any outbreak of infection it is easier to contain and to carry out thorough contract tracing.

Schools are also doing more learning outside, reminding children to wash their hands regularly and carrying out additional cleaning.

Schools remain open to vulnerable children and the children of key workers and they will continue to give these children priority for places.

The advice to parents remains that they should speak to their local schools and not send their child to school unless they have a confirmed place. 

Sarah Shirras, headteacher of St William’s Primary School, in Norwich and Chair of Educate Norfolk, said: “The return of more children to our school this week has been a real success, with positive feedback from children and parents alike. We have started slowly, which has meant the staff are confident with the group sizes and the number of children on site and have really enjoyed their week too.

'The last few weeks have been a real roller coaster for headteachers. There has been so much guidance sent our way, often at strange times of the day and night, and picking our way through it has been an anxious experience. As Educate Norfolk, we have tried to support headteachers to find some clarity in all of this and for schools  to do the best they can to keep school settings safe. We have worked closely, on a daily basis, with the Local Authority, to raise issues headteachers are facing and ask questions that we then jointly try and find the answers to. This process won't stop as the next few weeks will continue to bring challenges; we will face these together' 

From June 15 schools will also begin to welcome some children form years 10 and 12 to school, for face-face support. However, these young people will still be expected to do most of their learning from home.

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