West Norfolk schools boss praises support as work towards re-opening continues
A group of West Norfolk schools is gearing up for a partial re-opening next month, despite "natural anxieties" over safety, its boss has said.
The government wants primary schools to re-open to pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes from June 1, as part of a second phase of easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
But, despite the publication of new guidance, several trade unions have demanded a delay, claiming that staff and pupils will be put at risk if that happens.
Paul Donkersloot, chief executive of the KWEST Multi Academy Trust, which runs seven schools in West Norfolk, says he understands the unions' concerns.
But he rejected the idea that groups like his are caught in the middle of a fight between union leaders and ministers.
He said: "Everybody wants the same thing, that we are able to move back towards normal. But we have got to safeguard the children and our staff.
"We feel very supported. There has been good dialogue between the different parts of the education system."
Schools have only been open to the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils during the lockdown so far.
KWEST oversees the Greyfriars, Highgate and King's Oak academies in Lynn, as well as the Churchill Park complex needs school, as well as the Magdalen, St Germans and Wimbotsham and Stow academies.
Mr Donkersloot paid tribute to what he described as the "fantastic job" done by the schools during lockdown and confirmed they were working towards a partial reopening at the start of June.
He said: "They want to see the children. They want to be working again. They do have natural anxieties about getting it right, but that is a joint responsibility.
"Staff are working very, very hard in preparation. It's a fairly short window but there is a determination to get it going.
"Whatever we do now will have an impact on the next stage and the stage after that."
Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland are not expected to re-open before the summer holidays, while the Welsh government has only confirmed that its schools will not begin re-opening on June 1.
But Mr Donkersloot indicated he was hopeful of a fuller re-opening in September, though he acknowledged that would depend on a range of factors, including increased public confidence.
Elsewhere, the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which runs 11 schools in the borough, said it was reviewing the latest government advice and will respond "in due course."