Head teacher explains why Norwich school has not reopened

Sarah Shirras, headteacher at St Williams Primary in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, has lifted the lid o

Sarah Shirras, head teacher of St Williams Primary School - Credit: Archant

A prominent head teacher has explained the decision to close a primary school, saying it was in the best interest of every member of the school community.

Hundreds of pupils at primary schools across the county are starting the new term at home, rather than in the classroom, after some headteachers decided not to open in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It also followed advice from the National Education Union (NEU), which represents the majority of teachers, which called for all English primary schools to move online and advised its members it is not safe to return on Monday.

St WIlliams Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew is one of a number of schools not to be opening on Monday.

Sarah Shirras, head teacher as well as chair of Schools' Forum and co-chair of Educate Norfolk, said: "As a school leader, I need to listen to our staff team. If they are feeling insecure about any return, children will sense that too. We have welcomed our children every day, delighted to see them. I do not want school to feel anything other than a happy place to be. 

"We know the late decisions today will cause some families some real difficulties and we are sorry for that. However, we would not have made the decision to close tomorrow unless we thought it was in the absolute best interest of every member of our school community. Children, their families and our staff being healthy and well  is our main focus at the moment." 

She said as a school leader, the last few days had been "extremely challenging". 

She added: "Being in Tier 4, with all its limitations to people's lives, and yet being expected to run crowded, busy schools set against rising case rates has meant a lot of hard decisions have had to be made. 

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"The teacher and support staff unions have been asking important questions and giving advice to our staff that have left them feeling unsafe; however, our staff also want to support our school community; they have done an amazing job in doing this from March until now and no-one wants face to face learning to end, as long as it is safe. "

Norfolk County Council said it is up to the individual school to decide whether pupils will be returning on Monday and insisted parents should check school communications to see if their school will be open.

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