As you will be aware, the government has planned to phase the reopening of schools to a small number of pupils from 1st June at the earliest. The Governors and staff of Wearhead Primary School, with the support and guidance of the Local Education Authority, have been working towards this aspiration ever since the announcement was made. It was always made clear that the final decision on reopening would be taken in light of the scientific evidence at the time with a final decision being taken nationally on 28th May. Over the past week it has become evident that different local contexts would have an impact on the ability of schools in different regions to reopen. At the end of last week, scientific evidence was provided to the local education authorities by SAGE, the government science advisory body, which demonstrated that the rate of infection, the R number, is at its highest in the North East of England and as a result of this and other evidence provided, Durham Education Authority has recommended and advised that the wider opening of County Durham schools should be delayed until 15th June at the earliest.
While everyone at school is eager to have the children return as soon as possible, we can only do this when our risk assessments demonstrate that it is the safest possible time to do so and we must act responsibly on the advice of the Local Education Authority in determining this.
As a result we are now planning for our phased reopening of school to Rec, Year One and Year Six, as well as Key Worker Families, to begin on Monday 15th June with a timetable that is broadly in line with our original plan. I realise this decision will disappoint staff, parents and children who are eager to return but I also know it will ease the worry of those parents who feel that they are not secure sending their children back to school yet and have already expressed this concern to me. I am also aware that it will inconvenience parents who are currently trying to plan their own return to work and ‘normality’ and I apologise for this but I hope you understand that we must act on the advice that we are given to ensure everyone is cared for in the safest possible way.
I am currently working with Stanhope School to ensure that Key Worker provision is in place and I am working with staff and governors to continue to prepare the school so that it is the safest environment possible when e do return. I have included the press release from Durham County Council below for your information. As with the initial period immediately before the closure of schools, this is a rapidly changing situation and we are dealing with a totally unprecedented set of circumstances meaning things could change further. However, by making a clear decision at this stage, we hope we can provide parents with the time to make any appropriate arrangements over the coming days. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not Yours sincerely,
Wearhead Primary School
Durham County Council Press Release – 27th May 2020
Durham County Council has provided the information after new scientific advice was published on Friday 22 May and due to concerns that key issues outside of its control have not yet been resolved. The advice from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), states there is ‘a consensus that evidence on the role of children in transmission of COVID-19 is unclear with a number of gaps in understanding’. It also says there is some evidence to suggest that children are as susceptible to
COVID-19 as adults but advised that is not conclusive. Scientists have also advised government that the messaging to parents and teachers had to be ‘robust’ in order to ‘enhance confidence and willingness to return.’ The council has also acted in response to data which shows the North East having the highest coronavirus infection rate in the country. Its action is also in response to delays implementing the national Test and Trace system – seen as vital in managing children returning to school. The system will not be fully operational by 1 June, the date previously announced by ministers as when the phased reopening should begin. The information the council has provided to schools advises that 15 June, the date the government has put forward for secondary pupils to return, is a more realistic date for the phased reopening to begin.
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, the council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Our priority has always been the safety of staff, children and communities and we have issued extensive advice and guidance to headteachers and governing bodies with the emphasis on reopening only when risk assessments have been carried out and found to be of a high enough standard. “We have at no point stated schools should return on 1 June. And in the light of the new scientific advice, high infection rates and the unacceptable delays in implementing Contact Tracing, we believe 15 June is a more realistic timeline for all schools to work towards, subject to government scientific advice and individual
school risk assessments. “Ultimately it remains a decision for schools to open when they feel it is safe to do so and I would like to place on record our sincere thanks to all headteachers and staff for the tremendous work they are doing to this end.