Schools in North Devon have warned they are ‘deeply concerned’ about proposed changes to reopen primary schools.

Tarka Learning Partnership has said it cannot support the number of children who would be set to return to school in June under the Government’s ‘roadmap’ for lifting the coronavirus lockdown.

Under the proposals, early years settings, reception, year one and year six pupils would return to school from June 1 at the earliest, and it is hoped all primary school children will return to school before the summer for a month.

Andy Cotton, chief executive of Tarka Learning Partnership, which includes Sticklepath, Landkey, Newport, Eden Park and Roundswell primary academies, outlined a number of concerns in a letter to parents.

He asked parents not to make firm plans for the return of children to school.

Tarka Learning Partnership CEO Andy Cotton. Picture: Matt SmartTarka Learning Partnership CEO Andy Cotton. Picture: Matt Smart

Mr Cotton’s letter said: “To have all the children back at the proposed date of June 22 poses the question about the credibility of the advice being given. We simply cannot support that number of children with our staff complement and in existing school buildings, maintaining social distancing measures in the new guidance.

“Please note that the government are clear that parents cannot be compelled to return their child to school. A matter we are all agreed on.

“The Head Teachers and I will be working on a further reopening plan to provide a safe learning environment, which your Head Teacher will communicate to you next week.

“I would urge that parents do not make firm plans for the return of your child to school until your head teacher sends a letter with further information and even then the advice is subject to national risk assessment.”

Concerns raised include the well being of children returning to school in large numbers, a lack of personal protective equipment for teachers and the absence, as yet, of a track and trace system.

Mr Cotton said it was not clear how the reintroduction of significant numbers of primary school can be safely managed with regard to social distancing, and the number of pupils returning would exceed staffing capacity and leave ‘very little space’ to manage children.

He warned the staffing of each school would be stretched when taking into account staff with underlying health conditions, shielding responsibilities, pregnancy or those forced to self-isolate.

Mr Cotton added: “As a group of school leaders we are not against the future further reopening of schools, but on a gradual and manageable basis where children and staff can gain confidence in their new environment before numbers grow.

“I realise this letter may disappoint and indeed frustrate some parents who have been off work, but I am clear that what matters here is the well being of children and staff.”