A third of parents in Scarborough could defy Government's return-to-school call: Here's what headteachers say

Teachers in Scarborough are preparing for at least a third of parents to defy the Government’s request to send their children back to school.

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 7:00 am

Headteachers across the area have been conducting surveys so they can gauge how many of the Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 students eligible to return on June 1 will be back.

They are still awaiting feedback, but chairperson of Scarborough Heads Forum and headteacher at Wheatcroft Community Primary School, Jenny Hartley, estimated a third of her pupils will not be returning and said that, at some schools, that number could rise to around half.

“There will be more of the Year 6 children because they’re keen to finish their final year but fewer of the younger children because their parents understand that they are the ones who are most difficult to social distance,” she said.

Safety measures at a school in Hannut, France. Photo: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images.

Faced with the return of three year groups, primary schools spent a large part of last week coming up with ways to meet the Government’s requirements, including class sizes of no more than 15.

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Many had devised plans around a rota – with different children in school at different times.

But last Thursday evening, the Government issued new advice that eligible pupils should be attending full-time.

Gail Brown

Since then, it has taken a more conciliatory stance, saying that June 1 is not a fixed date, and that ministers need to listen to the concerns of councils and teachers.

That came after unions and several councils and schools said they would not be adhering to the June 1 request over coronavirus safety fears,

Vicki Logan, Overdale School headteahcer and Regional Secretary for school leaders union NHAT, intends to press on with a flexible attendance system, prioritising the older children to help prepare them for secondary school in September.

“Our number one priority is for the safety of children and staff,” she said.

Jenny Hartley

Her school is also planning drop-in days for all classes so that they can see their current teachers, meet the ones who will be teaching them next year and pick up learning packs.

“We want children and parents to know that we are still here and we will be here when the time comes to welcome them back,” she added.

The Government has confirmed “parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time”.

Guidance from the Department for Education says pupils should be kept two metres apart if possible – but accepts that young children cannot be expected to keep that distance apart, from each other or staff.

Vicki Logan

Masks are not being recommended, for either pupils or teachers.

Ebor Academy Trust, which runs Braeburn Primary and Nursery Academy in Eastfield, Filey Church of England Nursery and Infants Academy and Filey Ebor Academy, said it is planning to open up to more children in June but on a part-time basis.

Chief Executive of Ebor Gail Brown said schools will also have to be shut – other than for children or key workers and those classed as vulnerable or with educational health care plans – for up to a day a week for preparatory work and a deep clean.

“Looking ahead, we will continue to prioritise, above all others, those priority children who are still coming to school,” she said.

“We are working to explore ways where we can, if conditions allow it, gradually and in a phased way reintroduce children to school, in our primaries first from early years classes, then Year 1 and Year 6.

“Our secondary school in Filey is initially planning for five Year 10 groups to attend school for one day each week. However I want to emphasise these measures will be taken extremely cautiously, year group by year group, and only when we are confident to do so and in accordance with Government guidelines.

"At the same time, we need to acknowledge that available capacity in our schools will dictate this pace and it is perfectly feasible that in order to maintain satisfactory distancing, there will be limits to the number of children who can attend.”

North Yorkshire County Council says it will work with schools, heads and unions to support each school and the decision to open by the headteacher and the governing body. It is following Government guidance and advising schools to be prepared to open from June 1 at the earliest.