Sunday, 05 July 2020

Primary schools prepare to re-open

PRIMARY and preparatory schools in the Henley area could welcome some pupils back next month as the coronavirus lockdown starts to ease.

They have started to compile risk assessments and are seeking parents’ views on restarting classes for nursery and reception pupils and those in years 1 and 6.

Government guidance says schools should be safe to open on June 1 as long as protective measures are observed and the rate of new covid-19 infections continues to slow

Tim Coulson, headteacher of Valley Road Primary School in Henley, said he was surveying parents and would make a decision on re-opening soon.

Since the lockdown was introduced on March 23, he and his staff have been teaching children remotely using video messaging apps.

Mr Coulson said: “We have prepared a comprehensive risk assessment, which covers everything from preparing the building itself to ensuring staff, parents and pupils feel secure.

“Our parents were asked how they felt about returning and most wanted to in principle but had concerns about how it would work in practice. We take those concerns very seriously as trust is important and we want to always do the right thing.

“There’s no way that any good, professional teacher would not want children to be in school. Our staff have done a brilliant job with remote tools but want to see their pupils. We just need to make sure we’ve got systems in place to do that safely.”

Nick Steele, headteacher of Peppard Primary School, said he was looking at ways to re-open safely but would respect parents’ and teachers’ wishes if they didn’t want children to go in.

He said: “I’ve spoken to a number of parents who don’t feel it’s the right thing to do and are choosing to wait a bit longer.

“This is a small village school with about 45 children, so it’s conceivable that we might only take 20 back at first.”

St Mary’s School in St Andrew’s Road, Henley, will re-open on June 1 with reduced class sizes and restrictions on pupils mixing.

Start and pick-up and play times will be staggered for different year groups, while provision for the children of key workers will continue.

About half of the independent school’s families intend to come back while a third are unlikely and the remainder are undecided.

Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, says it is in regular contact with the the Department for Education says it will only allow re-openings if it is safe to do so.

The Government’s strategy has been criticised by the National Education Union, which says official guidance isn’t detailed enough and the infection rate remains too high but the British Medical Association says schools should re-open “as soon as it is safe”.

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