Parents are being assured that children’s wellbeing and safety will be prioritised as they return to primary school with new rules on social distancing in place.
Schools in North Yorkshire will be using a variety of approaches as they reopen their doors to key year groups, following the Government announcement that primaries can reopen to children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from June 1 at the earliest. In some schools children will be taught in small “bubbles” –spending the day with the same, small group of other children and teacher, who stay separate from other bubbles in school.
Staff changes will be minimised and other measures put in place to ensure children feel secure. Teaching tools, toys, surfaces and any other items touched by children will be sanitised and regular hand-washing will be in place.
Each school has carried out a risk assessment to plan safety measures for their specific circumstances and decide whether they can open safely. So far 110 primary schools in North Yorkshire – just over a third - have confirmed they will be opening on Monday, June 1 to the year groups identified by the Government; reception, Year 1 and Year 6. We are working with all other primary schools towards their reopening in the coming weeks.
An additional 24 primary schools are planning to open from June 8 and others are opening so staff can plan how teaching will take place in their individual settings with social distancing rules in place.
Parents are encouraged to send their children to school, but those who decide to keep them at home will not be penalised.
Secondary schools will be opening from June 15 to allow students in key year groups – Year 10 and Year 12 – to have contact with teachers as they study for exams they will sit next year.
Judith Kirk, Assistant Director for Education and Skills said: “Schools have drawn up a bespoke approach to reopening, appropriate to their circumstances, but we want to reassure parents that when children come into primary schools in North Yorkshire, the first focus will be children’s safety and wellbeing, settling them in and making them feel secure, before we begin teaching the curriculum.
“So far 111 primary schools have confirmed they will definitely reopen the week beginning June 1, and a further 24 the following week, with the remainder of schools all preparing for reopening.
“We are working with schools, headteachers and teaching unions to support each school and the decision made by head teachers and governing bodies.”
Some schools have discovered that reopening safely is not possible, for a range of reasons including a shortage of staffing due to a number of vulnerable staff members, or the size or location of the school. North Yorkshire has a relatively high percentage of small, rural schools compared to the rest of the country, where social distancing is difficult, if not impossible.
Cllr Patrick Mulligan said: “All schools have carried out risk assessments looking at social distancing, staffing and hygiene and those that can open safely will be doing on Monday. Not all schools will be open on June 1; we are a large rural county with a relatively high number of small rural schools - including traditional church schools based around small classrooms - where implementing social distancing simply isn’t possible.
“We would like to reassure parents who are sending their children to school on Monday that schools are working hard to ensure the safety and wellbeing of pupils.”
North Yorkshire County Council is arranging travel for pupils already entitled to home to school transport. Demand is difficult to predict and arrangements have to be made to ensure there are enough seats to provide suitable distances between pupils, so parents are being asked to register their need for transport every week until the summer holidays.
To register, parents should fill in the online form for each child. Vehicles will be running along usual routes with normal pick-up and drop-off times and where capacity is limited, priority will be given to pupils who are already entitled to free travel.