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Suffolk County Council clarify when children may return to schools after Covid-19 lockdown

Suffolk County Council is moving ahead with its plans to open schools for more children from Monday, June 1.

The authority responsible for education in the county has stressed the 'complexity' of the situation and that safety would be a priority.

The government's intention is for nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils to start to return to primary schools from next month.

School classroom, stock picture (34976947)
School classroom, stock picture (34976947)

Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will also work towards the possibility of providing some face-to-face contact with young people in Year 10 and Year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said any moves to bring children back into school would be subject to the rate of infection.

Councillor Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown many schools, early years settings and colleges across Suffolk have been open for the children of key workers and vulnerable families.

"We owe them a huge thank you for all they have done during these unprecedented times to educate and look after children throughout the county. Alongside remaining open, school and college leaders and their staff have worked hard to set up, from scratch, remote home learning for children during lockdown.

“Suffolk County Council officers have been working very closely with leaders from the early years sector, schools and colleges throughout lockdown to support them in rising to the challenges posed by this crisis. Our collaborative approach continues as together we work with primary sector leaders across Suffolk to support their plans to open for more children from 1 June, based on the Government’s ambition.

"This has included working with school leaders to develop guidance on major issues such as risk assessment, which isbeing shared with all schools later this week. We are also helping them produce guidance for parents. I will be sending out a briefing to all my county councillor colleagues this week."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (34977782)
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (34977782)

The Government's guidance has also said early years settings may also be able to open for all children. The aim is for other primary years to return later in June, but this will be kept under review, and there are currently no plans to reopen secondary schools for other year groups before the summer holidays.

Priority groups, including vulnerable children and children of critical workers who have been eligible to attend throughout school closures, will continue to be able to attend schools, colleges and early years settings as they are currently.

Councillor Evans continued: “This is a very complex situation and for all of us involved in the discussions, thefundamental priority has been the safety of the children and the staff. Council officers have been talking with the local representatives of the unions as well as with officials from the Department for Education.

"For all of us at the county council it has been incredibly important to listen to the concerns of school leaders to enable us to understand how best to support them. We, of course, understand the anxieties of parents and staff which is why we are working so closely with primary school heads and the leaders of early years settings to help them prepare for a phase return of more children.

“The decision to welcome more children back will be based on robust risk assessment around pupil and staff safety in order to fulfil the Governments wider school attendance ambitions.”