Schools and nurseries talk of the challenges of preparing for returning children
Clare Flintoff, chief executive of Asset Education, has stressed they will be opening up to the year groups specified by government from June 1, but it had to be safe for staff and pupils Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN
Many parents are torn with the decision over whether to send their children back to nursery or school from June 1, while the government plans have faced a backlash from education unions and now the British Medical Association who have questioned the safety of this return date.
The government recently announced that nursery, reception, year one and year six children could return to settings from June 1 as it begins to ease coronavirus restrictions.
One Suffolk mum said she had been told nursery staff would be wearing full PPE (personal protection equipment) and, when taking into account other changes at the setting for safety reasons, she felt it would be too strange for her child to send them back.
Government guidance says wearing a face mask in schools or other education settings “is not recommended,” but does recommend small class groups, the appropriate cleaning of play equipment and staggered drop off and collection times.
Clare Flintoff, chief executive of Asset Education, which has 14 schools in Suffolk, said they would be accepting children from those specific year groups from June 1, but “it’s got to be safe for all of our children and staff”.
In a letter to parents she said: “I can confirm that our schools will not be able to take in all children in nursery, reception, year one and year six at the same time from 1st June.
“If we were to follow the government’s proposals, the youngest children would be with unfamiliar adults in unfamiliar classrooms. They would be in smaller groups and would not necessarily be with their friends. This would not be the school experience that we would want for them.
“It would also take all of our available staff and would mean that our current learning provision via Google Classrooms for other year groups would be significantly compromised, which would impact on all other children.”
David Finch, managing director of Alpha Nurseries said the safer you made the setting the harder it became to make it welcoming for children Picture: ALPHA NURSERIES
However, the early results of Asset Education’s parent survey reveal only about 20% did want a place from June 1 (31% were undecided). Parents will be asked again next week.
MORE: Suffolk parents’ mixed reactions over plans for primary schools to reopen
Mrs Flintoff said staff would not be wearing PPE apart from the government recommended exception of when a child has coronavirus symptoms.
She added: “The government accepts it’s not possible to have social distancing in primary schools, not that can be maintained completely as young children will be young children.
“Our intention is to socially distance them as much as possible.
“It could be a scary prospect for them coming back to school if school is very different. The last thing we want is for them to be traumatised from their return to school. He added his staff won’t be wearing PPE, unless for the exception.
Headteacher Victoria Gascoyne Cecil, of Worlingworth and Thorndon CEVC Primary Schools, said they were endeavouring to create a safe environment that is also welcoming to their children Picture: RACHEL EDGE
He said the parents of many of their children worked in the NHS, but they had not had a single coronavirus case at any of his nurseries and stressed this was without the use of PPE.
“We are not scientists, but I trust in science,” he said. “And in all the conversations we have had with our nurseries around PPE, they have said ‘we hope we don’t have to wear PPE, it will scare the children’.”
Mr Finch added feedback from parents indicated there would not be a massive take up at his nurseries from June 1.
What are education settings doing to make it safer?
## ## Mr Finch said there had already been extra handwashing and cleaning at his nurseries that had remained open and this would continue, as well as social distancing between staff.
The social distancing extends to between staff and parents, which means a staff member cannot physically take a child from a parent.
Where space allows, Mr Finch said they were looking to split children into smaller groups when more returned from June.
The letter to parents, which outlined their detailed preparation plan, stressed they would not be able to offer a ‘normal service’.
It said: “We fully understand that this is a concerning and uncertain time for parents, it is also for us and we are only receiving the same guidance and advice from the government that is available to everyone.
“We hope that you can appreciate that we are trying to minimise the risk as best as possible for all involved and really appreciate your cooperation with all the restrictions that we have outlined.”