Ninety per cent of Norfolk pupils expected to be back in school on March 8
- Credit: PA
Parents are being told that Norfolk’s schools will be safe for their children to return on March 8.
Norfolk County Council has moved to reassure anxious families by outlining its plans for the full reopening of all of the county’s 422 schools with officials hopeful nine in 10 pupils will be back on the first day.
As with the autumn term, lessons will be in bubbles and small groups, some staggered start times and social distancing at the school gate, but there will also be Covid tests for secondary school students.
Chris Snudden, the county council’s director of learning and inclusion, said all primary schools will be open but expects some secondary schools to have a more phased return due to the logistics of introducing testing.
She said: “We will be expecting the vast majority of primary age children to be back in our schools and classrooms on that day.
“Every secondary school child will take a test starting from March 8. Many of our schools are large and have over 1,000 pupils, sometimes nearly 2,000, so they cannot do all that on March 8. So there will be a process across that week where every child has at least one test and some will have their second test.
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“But schools only need one negative test to be able to return those secondary school children to the classroom.”
Sarah Shirras, co-chairman of Educate Norfolk and headteacher of St William’s Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew, said: “We had a lot of concerns in January before the lockdown was announced but it does feel the right time for schools to be going back.
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“We feel it has tipped from the point where safety had to be the absolute prime consideration and now that is returning children to their education, their socialisation, to be able to play and learn together.
“We do believe school is a safe place to be from March 8 in a way that we didn’t eight weeks ago.”
Secondary schools and colleges will be sending out instructions around the wearing of face coverings and twice-weekly testing, initially on-site and then at home.
School transport will be operating from March 8 with students are asked to wear face coverings, socially distance while waiting for buses and sit with their year groups.
Ms Snudden said: “We know that some parents are keen for their children to return on March 8 but some may be slightly anxious.
“Some may be thinking well it is only three weeks until Easter, let’s keep them at home for a bit longer and we will start afresh in the summer term.
“We are really keen to make the best use of those three weeks in the run-up to Easter so we want to encourage parents to return their children.”
Mrs Shirras said the reopening would be similar to September but it was important for all children to return and schools would “do everything to support them to thrive”.
“Re-engaging with each other and with staff and enjoying being together will be crucial in their return to learning in school,” she said.
“We know there will be some anxiety around this return, but it is an exciting step towards the freedoms we are all so looking forward to.”
Ms Snudden added: "Quite rightly schools and academies will be making their preparations to make their premises and operating practices as safe as possible and we’re keen that parents support those efforts by playing their part.
“Please do wear face coverings at school pick-up and drop-off, avoid car-sharing wherever possible, and adhere to the current guidelines around not mixing with other households either indoors or outside.
“We know the risk of the virus to children is low and schools have taken lots of measures to help protect their children and staff. I would really urge parents to make sure their children get back to school in March so they can benefit from the professional teaching and support their schools offer.”