Safety the priority for Shropshire heads in reopening plans

Student safety is the priority for Shropshire's headteachers when it comes to reopening schools this summer following new government guidance.

Headteacher at The Grove School Sonia Taylor
Headteacher at The Grove School Sonia Taylor

Headteacher Sonia Taylor addressed the Grove School community in Market Drayton in a video update this week as the government relaxed the coronavirus lockdown.

The government hopes for schools to reopen to more students from June 1 provided its “five tests” are met, including that the rate of coronavirus infection in the UK is decreasing.

At secondary schools like the Grove, Year 10 and 12 students may be asked to attend for some face-to-face learning in preparation for their exam schedules.

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Mrs Taylor said that parents will be consulted on the reopening plan, and will receive surveys before the end of this week.

“I am very proud of the virtual learning that is happening for the Grove School,” she said.

“Many students are engaging with the staff and I know that the staff are doing their best to provide face-to-face lessons on the Teams conferencing app where possible, and also still maintain that email contact.

“Staff are doing their utmost to offer feedback. The education is still happening.

“However, there is nothing better than face-to-face teaching actually in the school buildings.”

In a message to pupils and parents she added: “I want to assure you that when we do start to admit students back to school, safety; wellbeing and health is our first priority. We have had people working on what our plans might look like for a couple of weeks now.

“It’s really important for us to make sure we’re thinking about your needs and putting your needs first.

“I am going to be finalising plans with the senior team later this week and we will be sending a survey out to parents to ask what your views are on those plans.”

The Grove School

She also had advice for those students who will continue learning virtually.

“For those students whom the government haven’t identified as needing face-to-face contact, we will still be looking after you and providing you with the virtual learning, so please don’t worry about that.”

She said she has been impressed with the work that has been completed virtually and told students not to be too hard on themselves for losing motivation in difficult times, but to continue to work hard.

“There is one certainty – we will all return at some point, whether that’s in the next half term, whether that’s September.

“It’s going to be crucial that we can pick up with your education and make sure we are giving you the best opportunities.

“We can only do that if we pull together and if you continue to do your best and attempt all of the learning that your teachers are setting you.

“I am going to put faith in every single one of you. We will be returning to this great school. Stay strong, stay connected to your friends – albeit virtually – and we will return as one school community soon. I can’t wait for that day to happen.”

Vital role

At Coleham Primary School in Shrewsbury a huge amount of work is taking place to allow pupils in reception, year one and year six to return by June 1, as the government has requested.

The school has like others been open throughout the pandemic, providing a vital role, educating the children of key workers.

Headteacher Claire Jones said their plans to reopen were extensive, and followed the government guidance.

She said: “The children will be organised into much smaller groups because the focus is on limiting social contact and mixing. They will be in smaller groups with staff and they will stay in those groups all of their time with us so we can limit that social contact and mixing.”

Ms Jones said hygiene, hand washing and cleaning will be “high on the agenda”.

She also thanked the efforts of staff and governors in getting the school to a position where it will be ready to welcome pupils back. She said: “The team here has been fantastic. They have all been working so hard throughout.”

The headteacher said that they had looked at the risks as part of the planning and kept in touch with parents about the proposals.

She added that no parents would be penalised if they did not feel comfortable sending their children back.

She said: “We have been working hard since the announcement was made by the government to plan for reopening. Of course we are following government guidance, which has been released, very closely and obviously this is driven by a robust risk assessment on our part.”

She added: “We have communicated that with parents, and our families are at the heart of everything we do.

“Those families who don’t want to send their children into school will not be penalised, it is their choice and we will support that decision.”

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