When will schools return in Suffolk, and what issues are being considered?
The Prime Minister has outlined a possible phased return of schools from June 1, as part of a planned second wave of easing lockdown measures from Covid-19.
In his address to the nation on Sunday night, Mr Johnson said he planned for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 at primary schools to return from June 1 at the earliest, and hoped secondary school pupils due to sit exams next year would have some time with teachers before the summer break.
MORE: Follow the latest updates on the Suffolk Coronavirus Facebook pageEducation chiefs at Suffolk County Council have confirmed work has already been well underway in planning for what they already know will be needed.
Adrian Orr, assistant director for education and learning said: “We are involved in significant planning with the [education] sector about all the things that will need to be in place for increasing numbers returning to school.
“That’s everything from staffing, school buildings, what cleaning might be needed and transport.
“What we have done as a group of officers and sector representatives from academies is work on what we do know we will have to do.
“There is planning around staffing and moving them from the rota system they are on [for teaching key workers and digital lessons] to be able to rota enough staff for increasing numbers in schools.
“The moment you start thinking about school buildings and how to keep pupils safe there are issues about cleaning routines, there are discussions with who the cleaning contractor is.
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“Some schools to manage the infection control potential have effectively decamped to one area of the school, so there is school planning to use more of the space in the school.”
More details about the phased return of schools are expected to be announced in Parliament on Monday and in the run-up to June 1, as uncertainty remains over a host of issues such as the size of classes to adequately distance pupils, a longer school day featuring different years being taught at different times, and whether certain year groups will be prioritised.
However, the council said there were also barriers to overcome in how parents are supported who may be reluctant to send their children back to school.
Mr Orr added: “What we are in the process of pulling together is a framework for Suffolk schools to help them inform individual plans.
MORE: Admissions to continue for new Suffolk SEND units and school this September“We have not taken a command and control approach to this as we know it hasn’t worked in other authorities. And in a highly autonomous school system the secret, we believe, is to do it in collaboration with the key leaders in the sector. We have come to a common understanding on the things we can do now, and we are in as strong a position as an area can be given all the uncertainties.”
Craig D’Cunha executive headteacher at Chantry Academy and interim headteacher at Hillside Primary School said: ”As a school what we’ve been doing is planning for several scenarios just in case things happen quicker than anticipated.
“We’re quite keen to have a long lead in time so we can get it right for the kids with social distancing.
“We’ve measured out classrooms, calculated how many kids we can have at one time, we can’t have every year group in all the time so we’ve had to look at that as well.
“We’ve looked at three or four different scenarios.
“Primary education is a bit more of a challenge with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, going back in so we have a bit more work to do with that.
“The information from the Department for Education hasn’t been very forthcoming because there isn’t much else to say.
“Even now following the Prime Minister’s statement, it is all conditional.
“We can plan for three weeks time, for June 1 to come back, but within two weeks they might change their mind.
“I think what we have got to make sure is as schools that we are prepared, that there is appropriate PPE, that social distancing can happen that the right students are in and those student that aren’t in also get support.