Schools are safe but concerns are understandable, headteachers say

Headteachers have said a lack of students returning to school has been understandable due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

Teacher Claire Williams and Year 1 children at Landywood Primary School, Great Wyrley, which has seen 90 per cent of the pupils back at the school
Teacher Claire Williams and Year 1 children at Landywood Primary School, Great Wyrley, which has seen 90 per cent of the pupils back at the school

School leaders said parents had legitimate concerns over how virus guidelines would be met – and how their child would get to school.

But they have re-iterated that schools remain a safe place for students ahead of students returning full-time in September as per Government rules.

It comes as figures revealed by the Express & Star showed a huge disparity in the number of pupils from different age groups returning to schools.

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Youngsters in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 were allowed back to school from June – with Year 10 and Year 12 students allowed back temporarily.

Students who have not returned to school have been given online resources and support from their schools to ensure no-one is left behind.

Andrew Clewer, headteacher at Landywood Primary School in Great Wyrley, has seen around 90 per cent of students return in their age groups – above the average for the area.

He said: "Our nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 were running at around 90 per cent of those year groups allowed in, but we've also had Year 5 back too.

"We've been sending lots of emails – since March really – and I think the level of trust is very high so it's a collaboration in the trust and understanding.

"There was a little bit of concern because of everything going on but we've had daily communication with parents and addressed those concerns. Communication really has been key for us."

Elsewhere Matthew Mynott, headteacher at Leasowes High School in Halesowen, said numbers had dropped in the school due to fears of children using public transport.

He said: "A number of families said they normally would get public transport to the school and there's a safety concern which I ultimately respect.


"We still had around 40 per cent of our Year 10 students coming through the doors and everyone has had the opportunity to come in at least two days each.

"Initially we saw around 25 per cent to 30 per cent of pupils returning – some children did come in but others didn't feel very safe travelling on the bus.

"They weren't as confident to come back and we respect that, but at the same time in September you will be expected to do that."

Elsewhere, in Walsall, Hydesville Tower School has continued to support youngsters with leaders "very pleased" by the response – with highs of 86 per cent in the Reception year group.

Headteacher Warren Honey said: "We've had a really strong response from a large number of school groups, but some groups have been a lot more tentative about returning.

"So we've seen a lower percentage in some younger groups but we've been very pleased by the uptake.

"A lot of work has been done with our school to ensure the safety of children when they could safely return back to school."

In Wolverhampton, leaders at Oak Meadow Primary School praised collaborative working as they saw a quarter of the school return.

Senior teacher Paul Lane said: "I think it's all to do with the support that's offered – we've worked very closely with our community through communication and we've worked tirelessly to make sure everyone is safe.

"We've kept that as a constant throughout and we're really excited about all the children coming back in September."

It comes as education chiefs at councils across the Black Country and Staffordshire were full of praise for workers and staff for their "tireless efforts".

Now their focus has turned to ensuring each school is ready with guidelines in place to meet the incoming students who start in September.

In Wolverhampton, Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre said the returning numbers of pupils were a "testament" to the hard work they all had achieved.

Elsewhere, Dudley children's services chief Councillor Ruth Buttery said it had been "incredibly" challenging and thanked those for their heroic efforts.

Councillor Joyce Underhill, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for best start in life, said schools and education staff had responded "brilliantly" to the challenges.

In Walsall, education and skills chief Councillor Chris Towe thanked school staff and the authority's officers for their "amazing and tireless work" during the challenging period.

And Staffordshire County Councillor Philip White, cabinet member for learning and employability, said they were "grateful" for the hard work carried out – and praised parents for their positive response.

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