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Coronavirus: Complex needs school leaders back phased reopening before summer term ends

PUBLISHED: 16:25 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 20:10 22 April 2020

Headteacher Bob Holderness outside The Parkside School in Norwich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

Headteacher Bob Holderness outside The Parkside School in Norwich. Picture: Lauren De Boise.

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School leaders are calling for lessons to restart as soon as it is safe for pupils, staff and parents.

Eaton Hall Specialist Academy headteacher Keith Bates wtih students pictcured in 2018 . Picture: Eaton Hall AcademyEaton Hall Specialist Academy headteacher Keith Bates wtih students pictcured in 2018 . Picture: Eaton Hall Academy

But two headteachers of separate complex needs and special schools say the government should also be led by advice from local authorities when they decide to reopen.

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

Bob Holderness, headteacher of The Parkside School in Norwich, which teaches children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), said he thought SEND schools in the UK should follow the Dutch model of allowing a gradual return of pupils before the summer break starts.

He said: “The transition of coming back to school will be hard in term of managing people’s anxieties around Covid-19. We need to go with scientific advice but I think pupils should start to come back before the end of summer term. Every county is different. Local solutions need to be looked at.”

Ever since the end of March, after the coronavirus lockdown was enforced by the government, only children of key workers and vulnerable children could take up places in nurseries and schools.

Norfolk County Council figures reveal that during the Easter holiday week, from April 13, between 700-750 children of key workers went in each day across 185 schools.

Between 90 and 110 children from vulnerable groups went into school daily over the same period.

Mr Holderness, whose school normally has 170 pupils, was teaching about 15 children each day on average in the school with the students spread across three separate areas so social distancing was followed as much as possible.

Keith Bates, headteacher of Eaton Hall Specialist Academy, which teaches children with social, emotional and mental health issues, said: “Some sort of phased reopening needs to happen before the summer. It needs to be done on a local level rather than through a national picture.”

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Dr Roger Harris, executive headteacher of North Walsham High School, whose school was teaching 10 children per day on average, 3pc of total pupil numbers, in the school building, said: “I would love the kids to be back as soon as possible but not at the risk to the health of our staff, parents and pupils. I’m led by government direction.”

He added social distancing with dozens of teenagers was not feasible.

Chris Snudden, director of learning and inclusion for Norfolk children’s services, praised the work of education staff and said: “When schools do fully reopen there needs to be a plan.”

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