Schools hold virtual parents' evenings amid rising Covid fears

Pupils will arrive as schools across Norfolk reopen to students following the coronavirus lockdown.

In a letter to headteachers, Norfolk County Council recommended additional measures be put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Norfolk schools are holding virtual parents’ evenings, after a letter from Norfolk County Council (NCC) warned headteachers of “a risk that case rates will continue to rise following the half-term break".

The letter, sent before the half-term holiday by NCC’s director of learning and inclusion, Chris Snudden, asked the county’s schools to bring in “a renewed emphasis on the general preventative measures which we know help to reduce Covid-19 transmission”, such as ventilation, good hand hygiene, regular testing and vaccination when eligible. 

Chris Snudden, director of learning and inclusion for Norfolk's children's services, part of Norfolk

Chris Snudden, director of learning and inclusion for Norfolk's children's services, part of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Julian Claxton Photography - Credit: Julian Claxton Photography

The letter also states that “all non-essential events where parents visit schools should be held virtually”.

Stuart Allen, headteacher at Mile Cross Primary School in Norwich, said his school had remained exactly as vigilant in September as it had been before the summer holidays. 

Stuart Allen, Headteacher, Mile Cross Primary School, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Stuart Allen, Headteacher, Mile Cross Primary School, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

“We kept all of those things that schools are now going back to doing,” he said.

“Moving forward we’re going to keep working in our bubbles, with the expectation still that everyone wears masks. 

“Sadly as well lots of the parent-type things are going to be YouTube-based and remote-based.”

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He said the school had held its parents’ evening over the phone, which had a positive side to it in that 100pc of parents were able to participate.”

He added, however, that the inability to involve parents in in-person events remained “hugely disappointing” for the school’s community. 

The county council was in “a difficult position” when it comes to issuing advice, he said, because every school is different, but he felt it was right that headteachers were being trusted to keep their schools safe. 

Shannon O’Sullivan, headteacher of Thomas Bullock Primary Academy in Shipdham, near Dereham, said: “NCC and Public Health England will support us to put additional precautionary measures in place, and we will write to the parents in the bubble/year group if Covid cases go up.

Shannon O'Sullivan, headteacher at Thomas Bullock CofE Primary Academy in Shipdham.

Shannon O'Sullivan, headteacher at Thomas Bullock CofE Primary Academy in Shipdham. - Credit: Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust

“Our day-to-day precautions include regular handwashing and extra cleaning and we are also ensuring the classrooms are being kept well ventilated - [with] children in appropriate layers...

“Whilst we were fortunate to run phonics briefings, food tastings, stay and play sessions and Reception Open Days last half-term, we will not be able to invite any parents onto our site.

“All meetings will need to be booked via the office and will be held virtually until guidance offers other solutions- hopefully before Christmas events.”

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