This is subject to a number of conditions being met before the government announces whether or not it will proceed with its proposals and it is likely that the decision will be forthcoming on around the 28 May.
We recognise and share some of the concerns expressed locally and nationally, however we do not believe that advising all local authority schools not to open for more children on the 1 June would be the best approach. The council has been working in partnership with headteachers to determine the best way to welcome back more children to schools. Keeping children and staff safe is the number one priority, therefore individual schools will decide how and when to accept increasing numbers of pupils.
Risk assessments are currently being conducted and health and safety policies and practices are being reviewed to allow necessary measures to be in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
From 1 June primary schools aim to:
- adopt models that are appropriate to the size of their school - each school building is unique and capacity has to be considered in this context
- where necessary or possible, implement a phased return of nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils
- determine class sizes depending on what is deemed safe by headteachers and governing bodies (possibly between 6-15 pupils)
- promote the ‘bubble’ approach to groupings in school - small groups will consistently work and play together guided by one or two adults, with limited contact between groups
- continue to be open for children of all critical workers’ children (including teachers and school staff) and vulnerable children
- apply additional protective measures including increased cleaning of frequently touched surfaces and equipment and encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene
Nursery schools have been open providing childcare, support and early education for many weeks. They will be looking how they can plan to welcome back more children from the 1 June.
Secondary schools are also being asked to plan for increased face to face contact with Year 10 students. At this stage it is not expected that these pupils will return on a full-time basis and there are no plans to fully reopen secondary schools before the end of the summer term.
Our special schools are working with families to support children returning to school, or being supported at home depending on individual risk assessments. Alternative providers continue to provide high quality education and assistance for some of our most vulnerable young people. They will continue to encourage young people to attend and increase their face to face support for Year 10 and 11, following the same social distancing guidelines as mainstream schools.
We appreciate parents will have some concerns and may choose to keep their children at home. The government guidance clearly states that it is not compulsory for parents to send their children to school at this time and there will be no penalties for those who choose to keep children at home.
Headteachers are currently finalising their detailed plans and will be contacting parents and carers directly to inform them of their arrangements and to determine how many children will be returning back to school.
Cllr Aslam Khan, portfolio holder with responsibility for education, said: “I would like to commend all Luton schools and council education staff who continually go above and beyond to ensure children and young people can continue learning either at home or in school, as well as providing critical assistance to vulnerable families. We acknowledge and appreciate your selfless dedication.
“Many of Luton’s schools are much larger than the national average and this presents a number of logistical challenges that headteachers will need to address to implement the government guidelines. And individual schools vary greatly from the size and capacity of their buildings to their staff profile.
“We would like to reassure parents and carers that the safety of all children and school staff is of paramount importance. Headteachers will plan increased pupil numbers in a systematic and phased manner and will open to more children only once all safety measures can be met.
“Based on current assessments it is extremely unlikely that any Luton primary school will be welcoming all pupils back before the summer holidays.”
Council officers are continuing to support schools in the return and recover phase including providing daily updates to ensure they have the latest information and guidance. They are also hosting weekly meetings with headteachers and advocating on behalf of schools in twice-weekly meetings with the Department for Education, as well as supporting teachers in their development of the very best home learning that is appropriate for Luton pupils.
In addition we are introducing the new role of return and recover advisers to offer schools bespoke advice on their journey towards welcoming back more children to school. We are also supporting them to undertake risk assessments for every child with an Education and Health Care plan.