Published: 06:00, 31 May 2020
A Kent head teacher says social distancing will have to be abandoned before his school can welcome back all of its pupils at the start of the next academic year.
Schools will reopen to youngsters in early years, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 tomorrow.
Primary schools across Herne Bay have been implementing a number of changes instructed by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including staggered lunchtimes and limiting class sizes.
But as Herne Junior School prepares to welcome back less than half of its Year 6 cohort, head teacher Malcolm Saunders says he does not have enough rooms to enforce the two-metre rule when the rest of his children return.
“We’ve got 375 pupils all together,” he said. “At the moment, we’re hoping school will start as normal in September.
“If we have to maintain social distancing, I don’t have the rooms available; it’ll take every class we’ve got to accommodate a year group and key-worker children. Let’s hope we don’t have to social distance because we’re desperate for the children to come back; it’d be good for them, my staff and parents.”
Mr Saunders is expecting 46 of his 94 Year 6 pupils to return at the beginning of next month.
Staff will have access to gloves, masks and goggles, and classrooms will be cleaned regularly - with deep cleans taking place at the end of each week.
The children will be split into “bubbles”, consisting of no more than 10 pupils and two teachers, who will be assigned their own classrooms.
“This is because, with social distancing, we can only have so many in a classroom and I’m therefore having to deploy staff who wouldn’t normally teach Year 6,” Mr Saunders continued.
“I’ve been a head teacher for 13 years, and it’s been the most stressful week in my career to date – it’s been awful. It was worse than any Ofsted inspection. But we’re drilled and ready for Monday.”
In letters sent to parents, head teachers from Reculver Primary and Herne Bay Juniors revealed that both schools are aiming to reopen on June 8.
The former is planning to admit Year 6 and Reception-age children in its first week of reopening, with Year 1 pupils expected to join them a week later.
Meanwhile, Hampton headteacher Yvonne Nunn says the school will only welcome back youngsters from Year 6 tomorrow.
She said: “Based on the vulnerability of our children emotionally, their social and personal development and practicality of social distancing, at Hampton it is neither safe or in your child’s best interest to have Nursery, Foundation Stage or Year 1 in school from the June 1.
“We have made the decision that our Year 6 children are likely to be the most adaptable children to the different learning environment. Therefore, we have made the only decision we can make currently, to provide provision just for our Year 6 children in addition to our key worker and vulnerable children.”
Briary Primary School will begin its phased reopening on Tuesday with Year 6 children set to arrive for lessons. Its Reception pupils will then return on Thursday.
Herne Bay Infants is planning to hold classes for nursery children from Wednesday, with Reception-age youngsters to return the following Monday.
'We can't keep 1,800 pupils apart'
Meanwhile, at secondary schools, Department for Education guidance states that Years 10 and 12 pupils will be the first to return for “face-to-face contact” .
It says this will not represent “a return to full timetables or pupils back in school or college full time, rather some support to supplement pupils’ remote education”.
This week, the opening date for secondaries was pushed back by the Prime Minister to June 15.
Herne Bay High principal Jon Boyes told KentOnline: “The whole school site is fully risk assessed and we’ll meet all the government guidelines.
“All of our Year 10 students will come in bubble groups at different points of the week beginning Monday, June 15.
“In groups of 14 at the most, they’ll have input for English, maths and science, to help their remote learning.
“The following week, we’ll do the same with Year 12 and then see what we do after that.”
Mr Boyes says the school will have staged entry for each of the groups of pupils, who will remain there for a period of time before leaving.
He added: “If the government still has a two-metre or one-and-a-half-metre social distancing policy, then a normal return to school in September will be very difficult to manage.
“It’s physically impossible to socially distance 1,800 teenagers on the school site.”
More by this authorJack Dyson
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