Why this primary school is not reopening on June 1

Woodbridge Primary School.

Woodbridge Primary School. Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk primary has said it will not be reopening its doors on June 1 despite Government plans to get key year groups back to school following the coronavirus pandemic.

Mark Krisson, Headteacher of Woodbridge Primary School.

Mark Krisson, Headteacher of Woodbridge Primary School. Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Archant

Mark Krisson, head at Woodbridge Primary School, has written to parents to say they will continue to cater for vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers, as they have been throughout lockdown, but will not be inviting Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes back in full following the half term break.

Mr Krisson said last night that he had sent out a survey to gauge parent reaction and had spoken with governors, while also consulting existing scientific research, before coming to the conclusion that it was too great a risk to reopen to full classes.

“We had to make a careful decision and that was right,” he said.

“We are used to making risk assessments. We are looking for as much certainty as possible.”

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Mr Krisson said that feedback from parents had been largely supportive of the decision.

“Out of 15 emails, only 2 were negative and the others were in full support. We have also received a huge amount of verbal support,” said Mr Krisson.

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Mr Krisson called for more scientific research to be shared with education professionals so they could all make an informed decision.

“Headmasters generally would be grateful for analysis,” said Mr Krisson.

For now the school will remain open to those in need and Mr Krisson said that more eligible parents had taken up places in recent weeks as the Covid-19 threat reduced.

He said that the decision on welcoming children in those key year groups identified by the Government would be reviewed on June 1 and then again on June 15 when the three month isolation period for the most vulnerable ended.

Other schools have also suggested they may not be able to take back all pupils from the suggested year groups.

Clare Flintoff, chief executive of Asset Education, which has 14 schools in Suffolk, said it would be accepting children from those specific year groups from June 1, but not all at once.

She explained that “it’s got to be safe for all of our children and staff”.

In a letter to parents she said: “I can confirm that our schools will not be able to take in all children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 at the same time from 1st June.

“If we were to follow the government’s proposals, the youngest children would be with unfamiliar adults in unfamiliar classrooms.

“This would not be the school experience that we would want for them.”

Rushmere Hall Primary School in Ipswich is among those looking to fully open to the key year groups.

Headteacher Paul Fykin said: “It will be for the parents to weigh up the risks and arrive at a final decision. The plan we have devised means that we should be able to open in some form from June 1.”

Mr Fykin said he expected the number of returning pupils to be low to begin with but that this would grow over time and that his school had just completed its own report on the reopening.

“It’s honest about what is achievable - especially with young children,” said Mr Fykin.

He also recognised that the ability to re-open varied between schools.

“Many of the schools local to us are planning on opening too but each school is doing this in a different way because we all have very different dynamics.

“We are lucky that as a larger school we have more flexibility with teaching spaces and higher staffing numbers.

“For smaller schools, this is extremely difficult to achieve because the pool of staff is lower and the number of classrooms available is significantly reduced.

“It’s a very difficult balance but our biggest concern is less about the first phase but is more about the government’s suggestion of all children being back in school a month before the summer holidays.

“That is pretty much impossible.”

A Department for Education spokesman said the government’s plans are based on the ‘best scientific and medical advice’.

They said: “We want children back in schools as soon as possible because being with their teachers and friends is so important for their education and their wellbeing.

“Plans for a cautious, phased return of some year groups from 1 June, at the earliest, are based on the best scientific and medical advice. The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision making.

“We have engaged closely with a range of relevant organisations, including the unions, throughout the past eight weeks, including organising for them to hear directly from the government’s scientific advisers last Friday, and will continue to do so. We have also published detailed guidance on the protective measures schools should take to reduce the risk of transmission.”

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