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Council On Track To Open Schools For All In September Despite Fears

The Isle of Wight Council is on track to open schools for all students in September — and is trying to calm parents’ worries about sending their children back.

Following the government’s announcement that pupils in all year groups will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term, the Isle of Wight Council has been working with schools to help prepare for a safe reopening.

Speaking at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s policy and scrutiny committee for children’s services education, skills and service, Brian Pope, assistant education director, thanked school staff for all the hard work they had been doing

He spoke about some of the issues being addressed but ‘barring any change in the data or different advice’ thought the Island was in position to open schools in September.

He said:

“There are tensions, particularly in secondary schools, over the size of the bubbles and the size of the potential lockdown.

“I wouldn’t say bubbling in primary schools is easy but it is easier because you have potentially got one class, one teacher and one learning support assistant and that is your bubble, or across the year group.

“With secondary, the children might be taught by eight different subject specialists and you need flexibility to enable those teachers to teach across those different classes.

“The size of the bubble is important to get the flexibility but equally you don’t want it too large because the bigger the bubble, the bigger the size of the lockdown.”

A measure some schools are taking to be able to follow the government advice for schools is by ordering alternative square furniture, as pupils will all have to face forward and not working in groups facing each other.

However, Cllr Paul Fuller, representative for Cowes West and Gurnard, expressed concerns from parents about letting their children return to school in September.

He said:

“I had one parent come to me and say they needed to feel confident they were sending their children back and the education given to them over lockdown wasn’t going to embarrass them.

“We need to make sure the tools are there for families to hold their heads up high when they walk through the school gates in September.”

Mr Pope said the Department for Education and public health would be running a national campaign to ensure good parental confidence about sending their children back — but no one would be judged.

He said:

“I think the best way is for schools to try and talk through those worries and get rid of those fears.

“What we have found is when parents have expressed those worries and got their children to school, those worries largely faded away.

“No one will be judging parents on their teaching skills throughout lockdown.”

Many Island schools have now broken up for the summer holidays, but preparation will continue to make sure schools are safe for children to return by following guidance from the Department for Education.

By Louise Hill, Local Democracy Reporter.

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