Telford schools free to choose when they reopen says council

Schools in Telford can judge for themselves when best to reopen, the borough council has said.

The Government has proposed that schools reopen on June 1 but the Telford & Wrekin councillor responsible for children and young people said it "wouldn't be right" for the council to impose a date on schools in the area.

The council is thus taking a similar approach to Shropshire Council and encouraging schools to follow a phased approach to reopening based off their own risk assessments.

Councillor Shirley Reynolds said: “The reopening of schools is a vital step forward for everyone – particularly the children of the borough.

“However this must be done in a way that is as safe as possible for pupils, their families and school staff. We are working with our schools to help ensure this happens as quickly and as safely as possible."

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The council said it is supporting schools with information, including new risk assessments to ensure they can start to reopen safely based on their own circumstances, and is liaising with teaching unions on the best way forward.

The authority has also pledged to fund and provide each educational establishment, including academies, with an initial batch of personal protective equipment (PPE),

When schools do reopen priority will be given to nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6, as directed by the Government.

Vulnerable children and the children of key workers will also continue to be admitted, as they have been since March 23 when lockdown began.

“Our commitment to provide every school with the initial PPE needed to open beforehand underlines how we want to ensure they are able to do so as quickly and as safely as possible," Councillor Reynolds added.

“Ultimately, when they reopen will be a decision made by each school, based on their circumstances and assessment of their risk.

“It wouldn’t be right for us to impose a date on schools to reopen. Each school is different and best placed to make that decision themselves.

“What’s important is that we support them fully to do so, when they tell us they are ready to.

“We should remember that virtually every school in the borough has remained open throughout the pandemic for children of key workers and vulnerable learners and we are very grateful for their support throughout this crisis.”

Small groups are likely to be admitted at first with specific details varying from school to school, the council said, with some schools' capacities likely to be limited due to having staff in self-isolation.

Practical considerations such as catering and transport will also vary depending on each school’s circumstances.

Headteachers have been communicating with parents about their plans and will want to know their intentions for their children’s attendance if they are in the priority year groups specified by the Government.

More than a dozen councils have raised concerns about admitting more children to primary schools from as early as next month and a poll from teachers’ union NASUWT suggested that only 5 per cent of teachers think it will be safe for more pupils to return to school next month.

Last week, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), told teachers not to attend any planning meetings about schools reopening from June 1.

Meanwhile some private schools may consider keeping children in Year 6 at home when schools reopen more widely despite the Government’s advice to prioritise the cohort, an independent school chief has suggested.

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