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

East Bergholt Primary School pupils have been learning outside under canvas, in two large tipis put

East Bergholt Primary School pupils have been learning outside under canvas, in two large tipis put up to create extra learning space and help social distance Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Fewer than one in five primary pupils returned to school in Suffolk last week, new data shows.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said schools had to be mindful that

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said schools had to be mindful that some pupils will have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 crisis. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Data collated by Suffolk education chiefs for the return of Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils from June 1 found that upwards of 69% of Suffolk’s primary schools opened in the last week, but a much lower proportion of pupils within those actually returned.

According to its data, just 16% of Reception pupils returned, 14% of Year 1 pupils and 17% of Year 6 children.

MORE: Fewer pupils return to school on June 1 than expected, says councilSuffolk County Council’s education team said the number of pupils was much less than had been indicated to them from surveys the week before, but the return of pupils had largely been positive.

Now, more parents have expressed a desire for pupils to go back, said Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning.

“I think it was parent caution,” he said. “We did a survey the week before and this data looks quite different to the survey. In the survey we thought only about 40 or 45% of schools would be open but a higher proportion of children. Clearly more schools opened but parents were more apprehensive than we expected.

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“But the big issue that came out of the discussion with sector leads was that schools are now getting lots of requests to have their children into school and schools just need a bit more time to organise the bubbles.”

Among some of the common feedback the team said it had received was how positive children found being back with friends, and how much they had adhered to one-way systems and floor markings because of the novelty of them.

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The county council said recovery plans were being drawn up for key learning such as phonics, numeracy and literacy, but also for children’s wellbeing.

Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for education, said: “It is likely our children will be bereaved, and there will be children in our schools who have lost their grandparents, and for many of them they have a very, very special relationship with grandparents. That’s a very difficult thing, and to see their parents grieving as a small child is something they are not used to. There are things like that which are going to be very tough on our schools and our young children.”

MORE: Schools given support packs to aid pupils’ anxietiesMore year groups are expected to return from June 15, with bosses saying the next challenge was to ensure the next cohort does not disrupt the progress already made.

Mr Orr said: “There are going to be some bumps – we have had a much better start than we thought but we have got to be realistic that there could be some problems down the road.

“It is going to be how a progressive increase in numbers is managed without creating the very problem social distancing and bubbles are trying to avoid. Because there aren’t certainties there is an element of faith about what we are doing.”

The team has urged parents to be patient with allowing their schools enough time to make preparations for the return of their child, and stressed that any child who was ill, whether it was Covid-19 related symptoms or not, needed to be kept at home to protect everybody.

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