Four of every 10 Derbyshire schools haven't reopened to key year groups

Thursday, June 11th, 2020 3:08pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Four out of every 10 Derbyshire schools have not reopened to key whole year groups – largely due to issues with maintaining social distancing on tight premises.

From Monday, June 1, schools were advised by central government to open their doors to more than just vulnerable children and kids of key workers.

The aim was to see pupils in key transition years – Reception, Year One and Year Six – return to school and to eventually get all primary school students back in class for a month before the summer holidays.

However, issues with social distancing have seen more than a third of Derbyshire’s schools (excluding Derby) retain restrictions to their classrooms to vulnerable and key worker children.

Government guidance had said classrooms should only cater for a maximum of 15 children.

For many if not all Derbyshire schools, this would entail splitting all of the pupils within Reception, Year One and Year Six across every one of the classrooms on their respective sites.

It would also have required a substantial amount of staff to be in school for just three year groups – along with those already in school for key worker and vulnerable children.

Many schools in the county – at least 149 – responded to a government survey to say they were not opening to the extra year groups as advised.

A total of 364 Derbyshire schools (82 per cent) responded to the government survey this week and of those 215 (59 per cent) said they had reopened to at least one of the “priority” year groups – above the national average of 52 per cent.

Last week Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said schools were struggling with how to open and maintain social distancing – caused by the sizes of their buildings, many of which were built in the 60s.

He said: “Government guidance has been challenging to interpret and in some places contradictory in the same document.”

Ahead of the June 1 deadline, on May 22, Cllr Alex Dale, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services had said many primary schools were not going to be ready to open wider on time.

He also blamed the Government for a lack of consistent guidance.

Meanwhile, Cllr Jim Coyle, the council’s Labour group’s shadow cabinet member for young people, also claimed the government’s guidance to schools is “confusing and contradictory”.

The government has now dropped its pledge to get all primary school-aged children back in the classroom for at least a month before the summer holidays.

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