Fringe Box



Parents to Decide If Children Go Back to Primary School From June 1

Published on: 24 May, 2020
Updated on: 24 May, 2020

Northmead Junior School in Grange Road, Stoughton said that they would not be pressuring parents and carers to send their children to school.

by Hugh Coakley

Parents and guardians will decide if their children should return to school on Monday, June 1.


Surrey County Council has delegated the decision to individual primary schools whether to extend their opening to more children and, in turn, schools are leaving that decision up to parents and those caring for children.

With all the uncertainty, Guildford schools are busy preparing for the complex task of having more children at school and keeping everyone safe. The school years affected are reception year, year one and year six.

Government guidelines only allow a maximum class size of 15, doubling the number of classrooms needed for those years. Other years will continue to be taught from home using online classes and homework.

Many schools have stayed open throughout the lockdown for the children of key workers but this was only a fraction of total school population, nationally only 2.4% of pupils who normally attend. The government wants to extend that to more children if the scientific advice says it is safe to do so.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We want children back in schools as soon as possible because being with their teachers and friends is so important for their education and their well-being.”

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School on the Aldershot Road, Westborough told parents “We will respect and support your decision.”

Some local authorities and unions have said that the scientific advice, now it has been made public, does not back an early return to school or that it is safe.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has contacted primary and infant schools in Guildford and looked at their websites.  Most are indicating that they will opening on June 1 but only if it is considered to be safe.

A common approach is to allow parents and carers to have the final say.

Northmead Junior School website said: “We will not be pressurising anyone to send their children to school.”

Tom Collins, headteacher at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, the largest primary in Guildford, confirmed that the school would be open for Reception children and Years 1 and 6 from 1st June. In a message to parents, he described the protective measures in place and said: “It is entirely up to you to decide whether you feel school will be safe enough for your child to return. We will respect and support your decision.”

Jack Mayhew CEO of the Athena Schools Trust and Guildford education Partnership from the end of May 2020.

Jack Mayhew, CEO of the Athena Schools Trust and of the Guildford Education Partnership (GEP) at the end of May, said: “Last week alone saw guidance documents from government into double figures and in some cases contradicting each other. This reflects the national situation of uncertainty and review.”

A spokesperson for GEP, speaking on behalf of four Guildford primary schools, said: “Our schools are on track to open up to more children from 1st June onwards. We all want to get our pupils back to school as soon as possible and we are ensuring we can do so whilst keeping our staff and children safe.

“For small primary schools, it will be a question of whether there are enough rooms and spaces in the school to accommodate smaller groups of up to 15 children.”

Cllr Julie Iles

Surrey councillor, Julie Iles (Con, Horsley), cabinet member for Education, said: “We are working with our schools to plan to welcome more children back to schools in years R, 1, and 6 from the 1 June. The plans are risk assessed and take account of children’s needs. We are providing guidance and tools to support them.

“Headteachers will make their own decisions based on thorough risk assessments in their own schools.”

Paul Couchman, secretary of the Surrey County Council Trade Unions group including members working in education, said: “ONS statistics show that almost twice as many education workers than nurses have already died from the virus. There is virtually no PPE provided in schools.

“A survey by Surrey UNISON showed that over 80% of schools’ support staff said that June 1 is too soon to open and that they would feel unsafe to go into work.

“Our message is simple. Only increase pupil numbers when it is safe.”

We have asked for a comment from Surrey councillors Mark Brett Warburton (Con, Guildford South East) and Fiona White (Lib Dem, Guildford West) but no response had been received at the time of publication.

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