Schools are set to reopen on March 8 as part of the prime minister’s four-part plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown.
And across the region, headteachers and school executives have been offering their thoughts on the announcement, with many happy about a return to normality, but also looking at how to maintain safety once pupils are back.
Jamie Barry, headteacher at Yew Tree Primary School in Walsall, said he wanted children back in school, but said there was a need for more detail around ensuring it was safe for them to do so.
He said: “I want children to be back in school and I don’t think there’s a teacher out there who doesn’t because no amount of remote provision is going to replace what they are missing in school.
“However, I think what we need is the finer details around the rationale for it, because we need to make sure that when children come back, it’s safe for them and for the staff.
“We want to avoid any more lockdowns and closures and make sure that children can come back and stay back, and we’ve done all we can to minimise the risk of infections.”
James Ludlow, principal of the King’s Church Of England School in Wolverhampton, said the school was working hard to ensure safety concerns were met.
He said: “I’m really pleased that it’s been announced that pupils will be returning to school on March 8 as I have really missed having them all at school.
“We’ve put in some excellent remote learning opportunities, but it’s definitely not been the same as having them in the classroom and having face to face learning, so we’re looking forward to that.
"What we will need to do is to ensure that all of the safety measures we had in place for the autumn term are rolled out again and we can ensure that pupils are kept safe.
“We have an effective track and trace system, which means pupils can isolate if they test positive and prevent outbreaks, and we will keep the routines and the bubbles in place throughout the school.”
Chris King, chief executive of the Severn Academies Educational Trust, which includes Kidderminster’s Baxter College, Stourport High School and several primary schools in and around Wyre Forest, believes the government should have agreed on a staggered start back for pupils.
He said: “We desperately want all our children back in their schools when it’s safe to do so and we are following government advice on that.
“However, a staggered start, rather than all in on the same day, would have been preferable, starting with the youngest children first then years 11 and 13 in high schools, followed by the other years.
“That would have given time to re-integrate them properly and support the mental health and anxieties of pupils and staff in a far better way.”
Dr Linda James, headteacher of Chasetown Community School, said: “We have remained open for key workers and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic and we now look forward to school returning to normality again.
“However, this must be brought about in a measured way throughout and the focus must be on the health and safety of children, parents and this community and this will continue.
“We have a rigorous risk assessment in process around safety, which we review on a weekly basis and we will continue to review it.”