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County education chiefs urge patience and admit getting pupils back to school is 'challenging'

Education chiefs in Norfolk have called for patience as the controversy over the partial re-opening of schools following the coronavirus shutdown continues.

Two of our area's main school groups – the West Norfolk Academies Trust (WNAT) and the KWEST Academy Trust – have confirmed plans to admit Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 children from early June.

But WNAT says it will only make a final decision on whether to go ahead with its plans next week.

EducationDictionary Definition single word with soft focus (23933497)
EducationDictionary Definition single word with soft focus (23933497)

And several councils nationally have either said they won't be ready by then or that they don't think pupils should yet return.

Here, Norfolk County Council leaders say they want to see children back in the classroom, but admit making it happen is a big challenge.

Chris Snudden, the authority's director of learning and inclusion, said: "We recognise how demanding this will be for all of those working in education and we are grateful for their continued work.

"We ask parents for their patience, as schools make detailed plans and to keep an eye out for communications from their children’s schools.

“Schools know their children and families and will know what will work best locally. They will able to make decisions on how to open and which children can return based on their own risk assessments."

Although schools have remained open to support vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers during the lockdown, most pupils will have had 10 weeks away from the classroom even if they return on June 1.

The government says it wants all primary school pupils to have at least a month back in the classroom before the summer holidays and that secondary schools should be preparing to have face to face contact with students who are facing GCSE or A-level exams next year.

But it has also stressed that parents will not be penalised if they choose to keep their children at home.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “We all want life to return to normal and for children to be able to get back to school, nursery and college so that they can carry on with their education and be with their friends.

"However, this needs to happen in a very careful way so that we do not see any further peaks in infection and children and staff can stay as safe as possible.

"We will continue to support schools with their planning in the coming weeks, to ensure they have the advice and help they need to safely open to more children, when the time is right.”

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