Back to school for some Scarborough pupils, with safety the most important lesson

Children in Scarborough have been returning to their classrooms this week after more than two months at home.

Schools, which had only been open for vulnerable pupils and those whose parents are key workers, have now been asked to invite back pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

But many schools have different arrangements, depending on their capacity to maintain the advised maximum class sizes of 15 and social distancing measures.

Chairperson of Scarborough Heads Forum, Jenny Hartley, said some schools are only asking Year 6 students to come back, while others are inviting just Reception and Year 1.

Some pupils have returned this week.

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The schools in the Scarborough and Whitby area that opened on Monday June 1

At Wheatcroft Community Primary School, where she is headteacher, all three year groups will be invited in but not until next Monday, and they will stay in groups of 10.

Not all parents are convinced by the Government’s plan to have more children back in school.

Miss Hartley expects just a third of her Reception children to be coming back, slightly more than a third of Year 1 students, and up to 60 per cent of Year 6 pupils.

She said those numbers may increase as the term goes on.

“There’s a huge raft of measures that heads have put in place in schools such as hand-washing and distancing,” she added.

“The difficulty we’ve seen is as soon as the children are outside and playing, their minds are on playing and not staying two metres away from their friends.”

Several local authorities in England have rebelled against the Government’s plans, advising their schools not to re-open this week.

North Yorkshire County Council is encouraging its schools to re-open and says it wants parents to be assured children’s wellbeing and safety will be prioritised.

Teaching tools, toys, surfaces and any other items touched by children will be sanitised and regular hand-washing will be in place.

Parents who decide to keep children at home will not be penalised.

On Monday, the Government’s hoped-for return date, 110 of North Yorkshire’s 359 primary schools welcomed back children in the three year groups. Some others opened the following day, or stay closed until at least next Monday, or longer, while some have not yet set a return date at all.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, the county council’s executive member for education, said all schools have carried out risk assessments looking at social distancing, staffing and hygiene. But he added that distancing in some small classrooms “simply isn’t possible”.

This week will have looked very different for those pupils who did return – with staggered drop-off times and children staying in small groups of no more than 15 pupils.