Covid-19 advice was far too late -headteacher

A HEADTEACHER, who was overwhelmed at the “excellent” attendance of students on the first day of school after lockdown, has criticised the Government for being “far too late” with its Covid-19 guidance.

Andy Byers, who leads Framwellgate School in Durham, said out of 228 students in Year Seven and 12 due back yesterday as part of a phased return, only two were absent.

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He said: “We’ve been really pleased. We’ve had excellent attendance, which was a concern allayed really. We weren’t sure how many parents would send their children back.”

But, he added: “I share concerns expressed by others about the timeliness of the Government guidance. We got the last round of guidance on Friday night at 8pm with the next working day being Tuesday.

“It is impossible to respond to that guidance in a thoughtful and timely manner. We have had school leaders working all weekend, not just here.

“That’s really unecessary. That guidance could have been introduced or published six weeks ago or even two months ago before we broke up for the summer – and that’s what we had been asking for.”

Mr Byers said among the measures the school was taking was asking student to wear face masks in lessons and in communal areas, and the creation of bubbles of year groups, which are kept well apart.

He said he was comfortable with the Government guidance that headteachers could exercise discretion, but it was “unhelpful” for Boris Johnson to then use the words “clearly nonsensical” when referring to face masks.

“But, by and large the guidance has been ok, it has just been far too late, too rushed and they way it has been launched, the messages have been unclear,” Mr Byers said.

Janice Stobbs, headteacher at Toft Hill Primary School, in Bishop Auckland, said: “It went really well, parents have been very supportive with coming at the right times to drop-off and following the systems that we have put in place.

“It’s been absolutely lovely to see the children again and it’s so nice to hear the sound of teaching going on again in the school.

“I wouldn’t say that it hasn’t been stressful for staff, because everyone has been on duty from first thing until the children have gone home.

“There are now so many systems in place helping children to move around school and ensuring they are in the right zone on the playground.

“We haven’t had our reception class in yet – they don’t start until Thursday, so we’ve practised with everybody else who have been here before.

“Hopefully they will have settled in and understand what’s happening ready for our reception class starting, which we’re really looking forward to.”

Nicola James, headteacher at St Andrew’s Primary School, in Bishop Auckland, said: “We only had year five and six in today because we’re having a staggered start for year groups so that we can fully train the children with the new procedures and expectations, and they’ve taken it in their stride, it’s been lovely to have them back.

“A few of us were filling up – to hear the sound of children playing on the playground again was so nice, because there has been such a build-up to them coming back, so to hear those sounds it was just magical.”

“It’s been really smooth, and parents have done what we’ve asked of them. They’ve looked at the policy, we’ve put videos onto our social media so they can see exactly where to drop off and pick up.

“Parents have been really supportive, and they have acknowledged the work we’ve done in the background and appreciated it.

“Both children and parents have felt safe, and parents know their children are in safe hands.

“We haven’t had any issues and everyone has been happy to bring their children in, so I would say for the first day it has been a really positive experience.”

The Northern Echo | Durham