Sandwell school classes to be limited to maximum of 10 pupils
Schools in Sandwell are to limit classrooms sizes to a maximum of 10 pupils when and if they reopen next week.
But Councillor Yvonne Davies, leader of the Sandwell Council, said the final decision on whether individual schools open their doors will be made by governors – while families can keep their children at home if they fear for their safety.
Councillor Davies has said the authority is "absolutely" on the side of governing bodies and parents if they decide not to follow government advice and send children back to school.
Sandwell Council’s emergency committee heard education bosses had agreed a programme with headteachers to allow early years, reception, year one and year six pupils to go back to classrooms on June 1.
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The programme includes limiting primary class sizes to six to 10 children, depending on the size of rooms, while staggering breaks and start and finish times will help ensure social distancing as parents pick up and drop off their children, minimising possible coronavirus infection.
Schools and the council have agreed to hold smaller classes than the government has advised, offer part-time teaching and allow year groups to return on different days, dependent on local circumstances.
Councillors meeting yesterday were told lawyers had advised the decision to reopen was the responsibility of individual boards of governors.
Education officers told the meeting schools were confident about the arrangements which had been put in place but were nervous about the final decision to reopen.
Councillor Davies said the council would support governors and parents if they felt the risk was too great.
Addressing parents’ concerns, she said: “They know their family circumstances, they know the risks that there may be and I would want to assure all parents in Sandwell that we absolutely respect the decision you make in relation to your child."
Restating the council’s previous commitment not take legal action against parents who keep their children at homes, she added: “There will be no fines. Parents need to be reassured that we absolutely respect the decision is theirs to make for their children, for when it is in their best interests.”
Saying the council had helped headteachers draw up risk assessments, she added it would leave the decision to reopen to governors, adding: “As and when we can, Sandwell is happy to let governing bodies make the decision as to when schools reopen and for parents to make the decision to their children return.”
The government wants a partial reopening of secondary schools by June 15, while the Prime Minister is expected to make a further announcement on the return to education today.