Shropshire primary schools see around half of pupils return
Only around 50 per cent of children have returned to primary schools after they reopened this week, according to Shropshire Council.
It said around 60 per cent of schools had reopened from June 1, with the number expected to increase in coming days and weeks.
The attendance figures reflect the difficulties some schools have had in preparing for pupils to return, and the reluctance of some parents to send children back.
Karen Bradshaw, executive director of children’s services with Shropshire Council, said: “As we expected, a number of parents are choosing to keep their children at home and typical attendance in the year groups attending is below 50 per cent.
“We have always been very clear that the reopening to wider year groups may need to be phased. Therefore schools may not have fully reopened to reception, Year 1 and Year 6 but will aim to expand their offer to meet this ambition over the coming weeks."
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The government had asked schools to reopen to reception, year one and year six pupils, from Monday.
Shropshire Council said it had asked schools to give feedback on pupils attending and said more 60 per cent of those responding had opened to wider year groups on Monday, with a further 20 per cent expected to be open by the end of the week.
The authority said that the remaining schools will open in coming weeks, most of them on Monday or June 15.
Last month it was revealed that Shropshire Council had agreed to a phased reopening of schools because of concerns from some headteachers that they would not be able to put distancing measures in place due to restrictive premises.
Currently schools are teaching pupils in bubbles and have used measures like staggered drop off times to allow or social distancing.
One headteacher said it would not be possible for the entire school to return under the current guidelines, without moving to some kind of rota system where pupils attend at different times.
Mrs Bradshaw added: "The safety of children and staff is our priority. All schools will have completed a risk assessment before reopening.
"Headteachers have had to work incredibly hard to undertake these and put measures in place to make sure that children are as safe as possible in school. These measures will include staggered starts and finishing, one-way systems, increased handwashing, social distancing where possible, limiting the number of pupils in each classroom etc.
"Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is in reception and it’s very difficult to make sure that four and five year-olds stay two metres apart – we’ve seen lots of good practice to try to solve this, like asking children to sit on mats that are safely distanced, or giving them their own set of play-doh rather than sharing."
She said the council’s health and safety team had undertaken a quality assurance of the risk assessments for primary schools reopening.