'Crucial term' awaits school pupils as they return to class next week

Adrian Orr

Adrian Orr believes this is a crucial term for Suffolk school pupils following Covid - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Pupils in Suffolk are set to return to the classroom from September 2 - and it is hoped there will be a sense of normality to learning after 18 months of disruption.

While the Covid-19 restrictions have been eased somewhat since children were last in school, families have been asked to still be flexible and make sure they are familiar with their school’s arrangements as they return from the long summer break.

Adrian Orr, Suffolk County Council’s assistant director for education and learning, said schools will have individual arrangements around staggered starts, wearing of face masks and social distancing, but efforts are being made for teaching to return to normal as much as possible.

“This is a crucial term for us getting to some sense of normality in education,” he said.

“School leaders, the local authority – we all want children to have the smoothest return and a really great start to the new academic year, but that start might just look a bit different in different places based on space and staffing.

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“What we won’t get is people thinking the pandemic is over, it is back to business as usual. The business as usual will be about curriculum, assessments, extra-curricular activity – arts, music, sporting activity and those enriching thing you couldn’t do or do remotely – that is where it will be business as usual. But keeping staff and children safe we will see a range of the measures we saw in the pandemic.”

The council will continue to have weekly meetings with schools and sector leaders, and has a range of measures in place to tackle any problems.

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The Department for Education has relaxed the need for school bubbles, but Mr Orr said “the contingency framework is about having things to not have bubbles or those things. The contingency framework does allow a head to retain a bubble system, but we have not picked up anybody that is wanting to do that. It could be really complex.”

Instead schools will have systems in place if a positive Covid test escalates with more pupils or staff, and Public Health Suffolk is on standby with its outbreak team to go into schools if needed.

Instead of entire bubbles being forced to isolate, which before the end of the summer term saw hundreds of kids and staff having to isolate, additional testing is expected to be utilised to track cases.

Mr Orr said that the pingdemic around staff having to isolate should also be less of an issue as double vaccinated staff will not be required to isolate as a contact.

“The things you have to do in terms of isolation are moderated if you are double vaccinated,” Mr Orr said.

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