Headteachers and governors to have final say on when schools fully re-open

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

Individual headteachers and governors will be given the final say on when schools can open to more children, the leader of Norfolk County Council has said.

Earlier this month, prime minister Boris Johnson said schools would be urged to start welcoming back pupils in greater numbers from June 1, in a phased approach that would see Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 return first.

The proposals have been met with much trepidation, particularly from the National Education Union, which represents teachers across the country.

It also prompted Scott Lyons, Vicky Warnes and Bob Groom, the NEU’s district secretaries for Norfolk, to write to the council leader Mr Proctor sharing the concerns of their members - including a survey showing that 93.7pc of 682 union members asked felt worried about returning to ‘open school’ arrangements.

In response to the letter, Mr Proctor said that ultimately, the timing of Norfolk’s return to full education would rest in the hands of headteachers and governors of individual schools.

He said: “Our priority will always be the safety of pupils, parents and staff, which is why we are advising schools to carry out thorough risk assessments and checklists to mitigate those risks, before they open to more children.

“In Norfolk, the decision on when and how to open to more pupils will be made by individual headteachers and governors, who run the schools. They know their pupils, communities and buildings best and will know what is right for it.

Most Read

“With 422 schools in the county there is not a one size fits all approach. The majority of the headteachers in Norfolk support our approach and we are tremendously grateful for their ongoing work and the work off all their staff, in what we all know are challenging circumstances.”

In the letter, the union secretaries wrote: “We as Norfolk NEU condemn the ill thought out plans by government to include reception, Year 1 and nursery in the list of those who are first to go back.

“Any educator and parent will tell you that social distancing cannot be maintained with these groups as they have little to no understanding of personal space and personal hygiene. Asking educators to do this to children is unfair and putting county Norfolk staff at significant risk of harm.”

MORE: Coronavirus schools re-opening: what do the experts say?JOIN OUR ONLINE DEBATE ABOUT SCHOOL REOPENINGSHeadteachers and the Norfolk representative of the biggest teachers’ union are set to join parents for a virtual video debate of the reopening of schools.

With reception, year one and year six pupils set to return to school from June 1, how schools can operate successfully and whether parents feel safe sending their children will be discussed at our latest Open House debate, taking place online via video conferencing platform Zoom from 11am on Friday, May 22.

Those taking part will include Binks Neate-Evans, executive principal at Bignold Primary, Angel Road Junior and Angel Road Infant; Sarah Shirras, head at St Williams Primary, Norwich, and Mel Fearns, head of St George’s Primary in Great Yarmouth. Scott Lyons, district secretary of the NEU for Norfolk, will give a teacher’s perspective.

Parents are being invited to join the debate too. You can register in advance for the webinar by CLICKING HERE

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Alternatively if you wish to take part, please email steve.anglesey@archant.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter