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Fewer than one in five Suffolk primary school students return, as Department for Education considers summer teaching

Summer schools are being considered as a way to help children to catch up with their lessons.

The Department for Education's suggestion follows Suffolk County Council's revelation that fewer than one in five Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils were back in class upon the soft reopening last week.

Adrian Orr, the council's assistant director for education, said the low figures reflect 'parent caution'.

Adrian Orr (36310239)
Adrian Orr (36310239)

"Clearly more schools opened but parents were more apprehensive than we expected," he said.

"We did a survey the week before and this data looks quite different to the survey. In the survey we thought only about 40 or 45 per cent of schools would be open to a higher proportion of children.

“But the big issue that came out of the discussion with sector leads was that schools are now getting lots of requests to have their children into school and schools just need a bit more time to organise."

“We have got six Ofsted inspectors who are doing different duties in our team."

Around 70 per cent of primary schools reopened on June 1 for the three year groups - with between 14 per cent and 17 per cent of pupils returning, with attendance still optional. The council is expecting more pupils to return.

The Department for Education has been looking at summer schools to help support pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils and those who struggled to learn under lockdown. The body has suggested retired teachers and Ofsted inspectors could help staff them.

Mr Orr said: “The government has said it is looking at the possibility of summer schools and school leaders are urging us to chase this up on their behalf.

“At the moment, the only information we have is that potentially the government might be looking for retired teachers and possibly the Ofsted workforce.

“We have got six Ofsted inspectors who are doing different duties in our team."

The council said many teachers had worked through Easter and half term, meaning they had not had any time off since February half term.

A spokesman from the Department for Education would not confirm whether summer schools would be implemented, but admitted it was considering 'what more is required'.

Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for education, said: “It is likely our children will be bereaved. There will be children in our schools who have lost their grandparents. That’s a very difficult thing, and to see their parents grieving as a small child is something they are not used to. There are things like that which are going to be very tough on our schools and our young children.”

More year groups are expected to return from June 15, with bosses saying the next challenge was to ensure the next cohort does not disrupt the progress already made.

Mr Orr added: “It is going to be how a progressive increase in numbers is managed without creating problems."