Schools in West Norfolk have been looking at ways to safely re-open their doors with more children set to return to classrooms next week.
Schools, academy trusts and early years settings have been busy drawing up plans since the government announced primary schools, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders could re-open from Monday.
Pupils in reception, year one and year six will be the first to return, with older primary school children potentially following later next month.
There are no plans to re-open secondary schools before the summer holidays, with the exception of some sessions for year 10 and 12 pupils sitting exams next year.
A number of schools remained open during the pandemic for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers, but a majority of pupils have now been at home for 10 weeks.
Norfolk County Council said it was looking at school transport and its learning and inclusion team had been working with schools and providers to help them prepare.
But it has said re-opening plans would vary from school to school, with decisions about how and when to bring pupils back made by individual headteachers and principals.
The plans include phased returns, steps to minimise contact, fewer pupils in classes, cancelling after school clubs, strict handwashing and socially distanced drop-off and pick-up arrangements.
Teaching unions and some parents have raised concerns about children returning to the classroom, questioning whether social distancing is possible, and the government has said families won’t be fined for keeping youngsters at home.
The Eastern Multi-Academy Trust, which has 15 academies under its umbrella including primary schools in King’s Lynn and Downham Market and secondary schools King’s Lynn Academy and King Edward VII, said yesterday (Thursday) it would not open to all pupils in reception, year one and year six until Monday, June 8 at the earliest.
A trust spokesman said: “This enables each of our academies to review the procedures against the latest guidance before we welcome back more pupils.
“For our secondary schools, our aim is to widen our provision to year 10 and year 12 from June 15 subject to government guidance, careful risk assessments and ensuring we have the procedures in place to minimize risk.”
West Norfolk Academies Trust was due to make its final decision yesterday (Thursday) whether to open its seven primary schools.
Trustees had provisionally agreed a plan based on government guidance but stressed the health and safety of students and staff was “paramount”.
Andy Johnson, academies trust executive headteacher, said: “At this stage, it is our intention to allow year six children to start on June 1 with year one children starting the following day and nursery and reception children the day after.
“In order to adhere to the government guidelines, we will need to keep group numbers to no more than 15. We will also be carrying out a range of other precautions to keep children and adults safe including placing signage and instructions around buildings and staggering arrival times.”
He added: “We are planning to minimise contact between children and adults by changing the layout of classes and spacing desks out as far as possible, we’ll be staggering break and lunch times and cancelling all breakfast and after-school clubs.
“Only one adult will be allowed to bring their child to school and social distancing on the pick-up or playground area will be encouraged.”
The county council said special schools would be working towards a phased return without a focus on specific year groups.
“Daily lessons from The Oak National Academy will be taught so that it follows what is being asked of home-schooled children.”