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Can parents change their mind about sending their child back to school?

PUBLISHED: 07:30 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:44 12 June 2020

East Bergholt Primary School pupils have been learning outside under canvas, in two large Tipis put up to creat extra learning space and help social distance  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

East Bergholt Primary School pupils have been learning outside under canvas, in two large Tipis put up to creat extra learning space and help social distance Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

As some pupils settle back into the school routine, some parents across Suffolk who made the decision not to send their child back on June 1 are now questioning whether they too should attend.

Tim Coulson from the Unity Schools Partnership Picture: UNITY SCHOOLS PARTNERSHIPTim Coulson from the Unity Schools Partnership Picture: UNITY SCHOOLS PARTNERSHIP

Schools reopened for nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils nearly a fortnight ago but a much lower proportion of pupils have returned than education bosses expected.

MORE: Revealed – the percentage of primary school pupils who returned to school this week

Many parents struggled with the decision over whether to send back at the start of this month, weighing up concerns over coronavirus and whether their child would be comfortable with safety measures versus the need for education to resume as well as contact with friends and teachers.

Now as the number of hospital admissions and deaths continue to fall, some feel it is ready for their child to return.

But schools are capped on the number of children they can have per class and have created small “bubbles” of children, which they do not want to compromise by adding in additional pupils.

Clare Flintoff, CEO of ASSET Education Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNClare Flintoff, CEO of ASSET Education Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Here we look at what options parents have if they are now happy for their child in a priority year group to return.

We spoke to two education trusts in Suffolk about this, Unity Schools Partnership and ASSET Education.

Unity’s schools include Abbots Green Academy in Bury St Edmunds and Woodhall Primary School in Sudbury and ASSET Education is a group of 14 Suffolk primary schools including St Helen’s in Ipswich.

‘We understand not all parents were ready’

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, said: “All our primary schools have welcomed back an increasing number of pupils from the priority year groups outlined by the government.

“We understand and respect that not all parents were ready to send their children back and we have regularly surveyed our parents to give us a good indication about numbers.

“All our schools have explained to parents that their plans for welcoming children back are subject to staff capacity and the numbers of class spaces in the school.”

Youngsters from all year groups from key worker families and those who are vulnerable have been able to attend nurseries and schools during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Mr Coulson added: “As well as children in priority year groups, children of key workers and vulnerable children continue to attend. As schools are limiting class sizes to 15 to adhere to national guidelines around social distancing, it is possible that some primary schools will reach capacity before all children start back at school.”

Social distancing rules require a gap of two metres, but the government accepts this is not possible with early years and primary age children.

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Calls have been made to review two-metre social distancing in a bid to get more kids into school after the government dropped plans to get all primary school pupils back for a month before summer.

MORE: Reviewing 2m distancing rule in schools a ‘red herring’ says union boss

Mr Coulson said: “Since the lockdown began, our schools have all worked extremely closely and adhered to the national safety and guidance advice.

“We will wait for further guidance in the coming days, but we welcome the flexibility outlined by the government.

“Our schools will now continue to work closely while also devising the right approach for their pupils and families.”

‘It’s a difficult situation’

Clare Flintoff, CEO of ASSET Education, said managing the return of more children from those specific year groups after June 1 was a “difficult situation”.

She said: “We have told parents that we are expecting to open more widely as June progresses.

“We were able to offer all parents who wanted their children to start back on 1st June a place.

MORE: Plan for all primary pupils to return to school before summer abandoned

“Because information about local infection rates and scientific evidence was contradictory, our trust board decided not to open any more widely for the first two weeks during which time we would thoroughly review our arrangements in our schools to see how many children we could safely accommodate.

“One factor is the adults we have available, as many of our teachers also have children of their own at home. Many of them are working full time from home running our remote learning as well as looking after their own children.

“Keeping the remote learning going is important as 80% of the children are still at home.

“At present we are trying to accommodate all those who want a place in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 and, if necessary, would operate rotas in order to achieve this.”

Speaking at the end of last week, she said mostly the parents who booked places from June 1 had taken them up, but a few in some schools changed their minds and decided not to send their children at this stage.

•If you are a parent of a child in nursery, Reception, Year 1 or Year 6 and now want your child to attend school, let us know your experiences. Contact reporter Mariam Ghaemi here.


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