Dereham schools tread with caution ahead of planned reopening date

Scarning Primary School headteacher Nick King. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Scarning Primary School headteacher Nick King. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Primary schools in the Dereham area are treading carefully ahead of the government’s planned reopening date of June 1, with many opting to delay pupils’ return.

Joanna Pedlow, head of Toftwood Infant and Primary School at Dereham, in 2010. Picture: Denise Bradl

Joanna Pedlow, head of Toftwood Infant and Primary School at Dereham, in 2010. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

Schools have been told to welcome back more children from that date, given the scientific advice suggests it is safe to do so. The government says nurseries can begin welcoming back all children, and that primary schools can open again to reception, year 1 and year six pupils.

But Toftwood Infant and Primary School said that children would not go back until at least June 8, and then it would only be for year 6 pupils.

And it said that it was likely that no other children would go back until September.

Other Dereham area schools have also pulled back from welcoming back all those pupils from June 1.

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In a letter to parents, Joanna Pedlow, headteacher, and Jill Smith, chairman of governors, at Toftwood Infant and Primary School, said: “No wider opening will take place on June 1.

“We will not include reception as part of our wider opening... It would be inappropriate for reception children to be in school at this time.

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“We will start our wider opening for year six only. This will be no sooner than the week commencing June 8, but we will have direct contact with those parents/carers to give a firm date, as it depends if there are changes to guidance, if we have had delivery of PPE, if we have enough staff.

“We will then review how the year six process has worked, and we will then consider wider opening to year one. We cannot give an exact date for this, as it depends on when we invite year six and when we feel confident to extend the opening to year six, who are one of the government priority year groups. This will only be four days a week to allow a thorough clean to take place. It is most likely it will be Monday to Thursday for year six.

“It is unlikely we will be able to open further than this before the summer holidays, but we will keep it under review. We retain our commitment to providing home learning for all other children during this time, in line with available resources, including staffing.”

MORE: Big rise in patients attending A&E after easing of lockdown restrictionsMeanwhile, in a letter to parents at Scarning Primary School in Dereham Road, headteacher Nick King said: “Provision for all our children is not possible at this time. In developing our plan, we followed advice that the Department for Education (DfE) provided us with. Our risk assessment process follows the local authority’s suggested course of action.

“I am really disappointed not to be able to welcome year six back at this stage. What should be a memorable end to their time at Scarning has ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons. The DfE has advised that we should prioritise the youngest children first and our plan as it stands, brings us close to physical capacity. Please rest assured that in the event of us being able to take more children, year six will be our next priority for welcoming back.

“However, we can completely empathise with your situation and it is important for me to say that it is your choice if you wish to send your child to school or not. There will be no penalties for non-attendance at this time. A survey will be sent out on Friday to help us gauge likely uptake of place.”

Dereham Junior Academy headteacher Kelly Scott said in a letter to parents: “We will not be opening to other year groups (years three, four or five) before the end of this term. This is a decision that has been arrived at after much soul-searching and a lot of hard work, but I am certain it is the correct one.

“The safety of our pupils and staff is of paramount importance to me and it is this that has driven my decision. Having completed comprehensive risk assessments around how to make the school safe for the pupils who have been prioritised by the government, there will simply not be enough staff or rooms available to open the school more widely.”

LISTEN: Parents and teachers debate the issues around a return to school

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