Headteachers in North Devon have welcomed news that schools and colleges will reopen in full in September.
Plans for all children and young people to return to full-time education at the start of the next academic year were unveiled on Thursday (July 2).
Schools and colleges will deliver a full curriculum, with limits on group sizes to be lifted.
Schools are being asked to keep children in class or year-group sized ‘bubbles’, with older children keeping their distance from each other and staff where possible.
Great Torrington School headteacher Andy Bloodworth said the decision was the right one from an education standpoint, but that some of the guidance was flawed.
He said: “The key thing is we’re very pleased to be able to open again and welcome kids back. The decision, in terms of education, is the right one.
“The guidance as it stands hasn’t been really useful in any way. There are fundamental flaws and it doesn’t really appreciate how schools are run.”
He added: “Having talked to North Devon heads, I would say we are pleased to be able to reopen. We have reservations on how to meet the guidance but will do anything practical to minimise risks.”
Mr Bloodworth said the ‘bubble’ system was ‘unrealistic’ with a large percentage of children in rural schools travelling on public or provided transport, and added children were unlikely to stick to age groups outside of school.
He said practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene will be key, as will responding if a child becomes ill.
Guidance from the Government said schools will be expected to have remote education in place for pupils who are self-isolating.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I know these past three months have been some of the most challenging that schools have faced. What they have achieved to make sure that young people are kept safe and can continue to learn during this period is remarkable, and I am incredibly grateful for that.
“I want to reassure parents and families that we are doing everything we can to make sure schools, nurseries, colleges and other providers are as safe as possible for children and staff, and will continue to work closely with the country’s best scientific and medical experts to ensure that is the case.”
Chulmleigh Academy Trust executive headteacher Michael Johnson said staff were working with guidance to get plans out to parents at the end of this term.
He added: “By September, children will have been out of school for almost 6 months and we recognise completely that we have to step-up and carry out a huge job; supporting them and our community as a whole.
“We look forward to resuming our work and seeing the very high standards from our pupils again.”
Where there is a positive case in a school or college, Public Health England’s local teams will advise on the appropriate action, which could include small groups of young people and staff being asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
Where there are two or more confirmed cases in a two-week period, health protection teams may ask a larger number of other children or young people to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure.
Where an outbreak in a school is confirmed, for specific detailed investigations a mobile testing unit may be dispatched to test others who may have been in contact with the person who has tested positive.
Testing will first focus on the person’s class, followed by their year group, then the whole school if necessary.