Decision to keep pupils away from classroom ‘right’ but teachers still fear young may suffer

Headteachers across the Black Country and Staffordshire have said they agree with the move to keep pupils away from the classroom until September.

Headteacher Lisa Maskell, of Dawley Brook Primary School, Kingswinford, which has opened for more pupils
Headteacher Lisa Maskell, of Dawley Brook Primary School, Kingswinford, which has opened for more pupils

But they are also concerned about how some children may suffer away from school so long.

Headteacher at Landywood Primary School, in Great Wyrley, Andrew Clewer, said the two-metre rule could “never work” if all pupils were back in school.

He said: “Our point of view was that while the two metre rule was in place we would never be able to find double classrooms and teachers.

“The only way would have been to relax social distancing but while the R rate was still high, this couldn’t be done. We wouldn’t have even been able to do one metre.

“You couldn’t get 30 children in a class and still have them one metre away from each other.”

Headteacher Andrew Clewer at Landywood Primary School in Great Wyrley

Landywood has welcomed back about 50 per cent of pupils expected after lockdown – with some pupils staying at home instead.

The school has put in place new foot-operated hand sanitisers, extra cleaning measures, and smaller class sizes.

Mr Clewer added: “It won’t really make a difference to us not having some children come back until September – but September is a really long way away. I worry about some children being away for that long, as they would benefit from being in. The teachers also have double the workload as they are teaching in school and also helping those at home.”

Lisa Maskell, headteacher at Dawley Brook Primary School, in Kingswinford, said she was pleased at the Government’s decision. The primary school in Dudley has welcomed back a very small amount of pupils and is extending the opening gradually to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in the coming weeks.

Mrs Maskell said: “We appreciate the Education Secretary has thought about the practicalities of how schools could have implemented the Government ambition for all children to be in school for four weeks before the summer holiday and are now supporting schools to make the right decisions for our settings.

Pressure

“We will continue with our plans to extend opening to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

“Eighty per cent of our Year 6 class have returned this week. We are all enjoying them being back in school whilst we continue to support home learning for children from all classes remaining at home.”

Hydesville Tower School, in Walsall, has also welcomed pupils back.

Headteacher Warren Honey said the system should “get easier” once parents and staff became used to it.

Meanwhile, Pat McFadden, the MP for Wolverhampton South East and Labour's Shadow City Minister said children being away from school was one of 'equality as well as one of public safety'.

Hydesville Tower School, Walsall

Labour's Shadow City Minister, Pat McFadden, the MP for Wolverhampton South East, said: "A prolonged absence from school could have a lasting and damaging effect on children’s education and opportunities.

"This is an issue of equality as well as one of public safety. Not every child has a place to study at home or the equipment needed to access lessons online.

"Even for those who do have these things it is not a substitute for face to face learning with properly qualified teachers. We should all be concerned with this because it could affect the life chances of a generation of children.

"Of course the situation has to be as safe as we can make it but we need to get children back to school as soon as that’s possible.

"Government should continue the provision of free school meals over the summer for families whose incomes are under huge pressure because of this crisis and there should be a catch up programme for children to make up lost ground.

"Every effort must be made to ensure that the educational gap between children from low income backgrounds and those from wealthier backgrounds does not get any bigger than it already is."

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