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West Norfolk schools boss cautious over pupil return

A West Norfolk school leader has given a cautious welcome to government plans for a phased re-opening to pupils following the coronavirus.

Schools have only been open to the children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters since lockdown restrictions were introduced by the government in March.

But, this week, ministers confirmed they are looking at how formal lessons might resume, although no timescale has yet been given for that.

School classroom, stock picture (34150780)
School classroom, stock picture (34150780)

And Andy Johnson, executive headteacher for the West Norfolk Academies Trust which sponsors 11 schools in the borough, believes that is the right approach.

Three students from one of the trust’s schools, Springwood High School in Lynn, had to self-isolate in February after showing symptoms of the virus after returning from a half-term skiing trip to Austria.

However, two of them subsequently tested negative, while a third was advised they did not require a test at all.

Andy Johnson in his new role of executive head of St Clements and Springwood.. (34150823)
Andy Johnson in his new role of executive head of St Clements and Springwood.. (34150823)

He said: “We support the government’s strategy of ensuring their five tests to prove the virus is in decline are met before schools can re-open.

“The safety of our staff and students is paramount to us and we agree that a phased return is the most sensible option at the moment.”

Mr Johnson’s comments come after the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, told a committee of MPs this week that there would be a phased return to the classrooms.

He said all students returning at the same time was neither realistic or practical, implying that the home schooling which has become reality for so many families in recent weeks is unlikely to end for most any time soon.

But, while he hasn’t given a date for a re-opening, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, suggested June 1 might be the earliest realistic option for that to happen.

However, other teachers’ unions have said fuller opening should only be considered once a range of measures including full coronavirus testing, deep cleaning of buildings and employment rights guarantees are in place.

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