Council chiefs leave it to North Yorkshire schools to decide on wider reopening

Primary schools in North Yorkshire are being left to decide whether all students should go back before the summer holidays after the government dropped its wider reopening plan.

It had been the government’s “ambition” that all pupils would get a month of classes before the holidays.

But the logistics in getting even Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, back last week and this week has been so challenging that ministers have accepted it cannot be done safely.

It means that many primary school children outside of those year groups will not be back in school until September.

And apart from some lessons for Years 10 and 12 students from June 15, secondary schools will also not return until September.

Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director for children and young people’s services, said: “This is a challenging time for primary schools; they are working hard to put in place arrangements which keep pupils safe and feeling secure and which work for their particular school and community.

“We are continuing to work with them towards reopening in September, or earlier if they feel they have capacity to admit more children whilst maintaining social distancing and other safety measures.”

Headteachers had warned several weeks ago that it was not a realistic possibility to accommodate all primary year groups at the same time.

But the government always said the return to full classes was an “ambition”, not a firm plan.

The education secretary Gavin Williamson has now told schools to focus on managing their small classes and not to spend time worrying about fitting more children into schools.

A-levels and GCSEs were cancelled this year by the pandemic – but Mr Williamson has indicated that exams will go ahead in 2021.

In North Yorkshire, only a third of schools were able to reopen on June 1, although several more have welcomed back pupils this week.

In most schools children are being taught in small ‘bubbles’ – spending the day with the same, small group of other children and teacher.

Staff changes are being minimised and regular hand-washing is encouraged.

Coun Patrick Mulligan, the county council’s executive member for schools, said: “We are glad that the schools which have opened to some year groups so far have found their arrangements have worked well and children have settled back into school quickly.

“We’d like to thank parents for their co-operation and the part they have played in helping children settle into the school routine where they can.” [kofi]