All we know as Suffolk schools set to re-open
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As debate swirls over the return of pupils amid rising Covid-19 infection rates in Tier 4, Suffolk primary schools are set to re-open this week.
Education bosses say they acknowledge that rates rose in the county over the Christmas break and that this means some primaries will not have enough staff to reopen safely.
But they stopped short of action taken by neighbouring north Essex on Sunday afternoon to close all primary schools and move them to remote learning.
It means that unless headteachers decide to shut settings themselves, primary schools will re-open as planned on Tuesday, January 5 in Suffolk.
Secondary school pupils will remain at home this week as planned, with exam students due to return from January 11 and others from January 18.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr show earlier on Sunday to insist it is safe for pupils to go back to schools at the start of term in areas where closures have not already been enforced, such as London and most of Essex.
Currently, arrangements for schools in Suffolk are as follows:
Primary schools and early years
Some primary schools may need to stagger the return of children from the week beginning Monday, January 4.
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Individual schools will let parents know if they cannot open for their children on Monday, while some will not be open anyway as teacher training is planned.
Parents and carers are being advised to check their school communications to see if their school is open or closed.
If a school is closed, children of critical workers and vulnerable children will be invited to attend as soon as possible. In these circumstances, guardians should contact schools to confirm a child’s place in school - every school must open for those children.
It may take schools a day or two, or more, to know whether they have enough staff to reopen to all children safely.
Education bosses have asked parents to keep looking out for messages from their child's school.
Children will be given some remote learning if their school is closed and they are at home.
What to do if you have safety concerns
Education chiefs are urging people with concerns about children returning to school or college to discuss these directly as soon as possible.
Schools are putting in place a number of different measures and they should be able to explain ways they are changing things to reduce risks.
Mary Evans, SCC’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, confirmed decisions to re-open primary schools will be taken by headteachers, in consultation with their governing body or academy trust.
“The rate of Covid infection increased in Suffolk over the Christmas break,” she said.
“This may mean that some Suffolk schools do not have enough staff available to open safely.
“SCC will support any school leader who makes a decision not to open for the majority of pupils from January 4, 2021. Each school will be responsible for this decision.
“Parents and carers should check their school communications to see if their school is open or closed.”
‘Disturbing time for everyone’
Earlier on Sunday, Lavenham Community Primary School became one of the first in Suffolk to announce it will be moving to remote learning as infection rates rise.
Another six schools confirmed temporary closures on Monday and Tuesday.
It comes as teaching unions launch legal action over fears for teachers’ safety.
Former Bury St Edmunds headteacher Geoff Barton, who is general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said part of the legal action questions the justification for having different approaches to closure in different places within Tier 4.
“Without a very clear national steer underpinned by evidence, it is going to feel chaotic,” he said.
“It’s going to leave parents confused, but it’s also going to leave headteachers and governors in the completely invidious position of having to make decisions around public health, when their expertise is in education.
“Everybody is now scrambling to find a solution either in their local authority or individual school.
"There will be some heads today who are uncertain as to whether their school could be running Tuesday or Wednesday because they won’t know the full staffing situation. It’s a disturbing time for everyone.”
Government chiefs have defended back-to-school measures, with the PM saying he has "no doubt" that classrooms are safe.
He told Andrew Marr that the risk to young people was "very, very small" amid calls from teaching unions to close all schools for the next two weeks.
For more information, visit Suffolk County Council's back-to-school website.