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Headteacher says schools are ‘bemused and angered’ by decision to reopen for younger pupils

PUBLISHED: 17:19 31 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:14 31 May 2020

Hillcrest Primary School is preparing to reopen on June 1. Pictured: Headteacher, Matthew Try. Picture: Ian Burt

Hillcrest Primary School is preparing to reopen on June 1. Pictured: Headteacher, Matthew Try. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A Norfolk headteacher has said schools have been left “bemused and angered” by the government’s decision to reopen for the youngest pupils, as they get ready to open their doors to them on Monday.

The new layout in a reception class at Hillcrest Primary School. Picture: Matthew TryThe new layout in a reception class at Hillcrest Primary School. Picture: Matthew Try

Preparations have been made at Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market to put in place safe social distancing measures, ahead of its reopening for reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils.

School corridors have been marked out in line with two metre distancing, one way systems have been put in place and a staggered start and finish time will ensure the number of parents on site at the same time is limited.

Matthew Try, headteacher, said the school has been preparing for some weeks to ensure they were ready for the return of these pupils but questions the government’s choice of year groups.

Mr Try said: “It had been assumed that the oldest pupils in the school would be the first to return with concerns over a lack of transition for the Year 6s who are due to move on to their secondary education, the key driver for this decision.

Hillcrest Primary School in Downham Market has put in place floor markings in its corridors in light of social distancing guidelines. Picture: Matthew TryHillcrest Primary School in Downham Market has put in place floor markings in its corridors in light of social distancing guidelines. Picture: Matthew Try

“However, it is fair to say that the whole profession was bemused and angered by the almost bizarre decision to allow the youngest primary school pupils to return amongst this first tranche.”

He said the government “lost the argument” on school reopening’s the moment they made their announcement and have put a “barrier between them, the teaching profession and many parents.”

Mr Try added: “Anyone who has a four, five and six year old at home or who is used to teaching children of this age, could anticipate how difficult it would be to encourage them to maintain the social distance that is required of us all during these challenging times.”

In addition to safety and hygiene measures in place, staff will also check the temperatures of pupils daily with any child displaying a high temperature being immediately isolated.

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Mr Try said that the type of sterile environment they have to follow is a big worry, particularly for reception pupils who are “used to play-based learning.”

“The youngest pupils in the school will instead be returning to stripped out classrooms, void of any of the resources that are imperative for children of that age because of the challenges of keeping everything sterile,” he added.

“Instead, they will face a classroom that resembles a SATs examination room with each child having to get to grips with sitting at one desk throughout the day instead of their usual experience of moving around the room, mixing with others and playing whilst learning.”

The school have said there is likely to be a “small number of children” attending on June 1 after carrying out a survey on reception, year 1 and year 6 parents.

It suggests less than 30pc of pupils in the younger years will attend and more Year 6 pupils will be present, although this number is said to have dropped off in recent days as parents change their minds.

Mr Try said: “The staff at Hillcrest have been absolutely amazing with the grit and determination they have shown throughout this unusual period to maintain an educational service for those at home via Google Classrooms and also to ensure that those key worker children in school have had an enjoyable experience at an otherwise worrying time for these particular pupils.

“The online learning will continue for those year groups not being welcomed back to school on June 1.

“At present we are not planning for a wider return of more year groups later in the month as we need to learn from the experiences of the next few weeks which itself has been a huge logistical challenge for just three year groups.”

The headteacher said small ‘bubbles’ of children will be divided into three smaller groups for reception and year 1 for two days a week and year 6 will attend in small groups for four days a week.

The school will be closed to all pupils on Fridays to ensure hygiene standards are met.


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