Head teachers across West Berkshire covering all provisions have been working exceptionally hard in the background to fully understand the large volumes of guidance for the wider opening of schools that has been published by central government recently.
The announcement focussed on welcoming more children back into schools, colleges and early year’s settings from Monday 1 June, if it remains safe to do so, whereas for some this might be from a later date.
Throughout this period of ‘lockdown’, council officers have maintained a constant dialogue with heads, both supporting current limited opening arrangements, and thinking through how schools might safely open for more children, in the year groups specified by the Prime Minister.
Cllr Dominic Boeck, Executive Member for Education, Children and Young People at West Berkshire Council, said: “We understand parents across the district have many questions on what this recent announcement means for them and their children going back to school. We want to assure parents that our education team are continually working closely with the Head teachers and staff members in schools who have already been doing an amazing job supporting children of critical workers and vulnerable children since 23 March.
“We know schools have been keeping in touch with parents and carers through newsletters, emails and phone calls, and assisting with home learning; though when more children return and teachers are in front of groups, their capacity to support the latter may be diminished.
“Organising to open educational and childcare settings more widely involves a great deal of preparation work, and school leaders will be organising staff availability, buildings, layouts, systems, and the number of children returning based on risk assessments. Undoubtedly, these arrangements will be refined as we all learn from this new way of working.
“We also acknowledge and accept some parents will not send their children back because they remain anxious. However, it is important to remember that what works for one school, may not work in another and Head teachers are keen to make sure parents are well informed and reassured their children will be as safe as possible.
“For many this may mean the operation of a part-time timetable and rota system. Individual schools will have worked out what is feasible and best, and will be in touch with parents and carers about local arrangements. Though what is planned could change in the light of the government’s review on 28 May and progress on testing and tracking.
“We know how important it is for parents and their children’s mental well-being to have social interactions with their peers, carers and teachers. Children returning to educational and childcare settings in greater numbers will also allow more families to return to work.
“We all look forward to a time when schools can return to something that looks more normal but until then, safety has to be our collective top priority.”