Education bosses 'confident' all Norfolk schools ready to fully reopen

Secondary students will have initial Covid tests in school before home testing. 

Covid testing in secondary schools forms part of their full re-opening from Monday. - Credit: PA

Education bosses say they are confident all Norfolk's schools are ready to welcome all children back to the classroom from next week.

And they are strongly encouraging parents to send their children back to school for the three weeks before the Easter holiday.

All of Norfolk's primary schools are on track to reopen to all pupils from Monday, say officers at Norfolk County Council.

And secondary schools, where testing of students is being introduced for the first time, should open then or in the following few days.

Council bosses confirmed they would not be imposing fines if youngsters did not return before Easter, but have stressed that it is important that children get back into the classroom.

Chris Snudden, Norfolk County Council’s director of learning and inclusion.

Chris Snudden, Norfolk County Council’s director of learning and inclusion. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Chris Snudden, the council’s director of inclusion and learning in children’s services, said: “We have asked all Norfolk schools to tell us about any issues that might affect their readiness to open for all pupils on, or from March 8.

“From this information, we are confident that all schools will be open in line with the national expectations next week.

"Parental confidence, we know, might be a concern.

"So, we are very much promoting a campaign which encourages parents to return their youngsters to school, to be very positive about the safety measures which schools have put in place and to want to make the best use of the three weeks that are left of this term."

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She said for younger children, that meant a chance to meet up with their friends, to play and get back into the right type of classroom routines.

"It's really important that children get back to seeing each other," she said.

Mrs Snudden said it would be less about the socialising for older pupils, but it was "crucial" they got back to school for the first time since December.

She said secondary schools had already been carrying out testing on those staff and pupils who had remained in school during lockdown.

She said: "I think it's fair to say that, while there are still logistical challenges for some of our schools, the majority of them are well placed to proceed with the return to school testing and I'm confident that is going to start as from Monday.

"We will see pupils tested once, possibly twice, across the first week.

"There are lots of things they are still trying to iron out, but all of the work and the support from the local authority are in place to allow testing to take place."

Mrs Snudden said there was an "understandable concern" from parents over transport on buses,coaches and taxis to schools, but said safety measures were in place.

And she said the council did not intend to impose fines on parents who did not send their children to school before Easter.

She said: "It's absolutely not anyone's plan to really sanction parents for not wanting to return their children to school.

"We want to encourage parents to feel confident. We want to work with parents who are, perhaps more reticent."

She said she would like parents who might be planning to wait until after Easter before sending their children back to change their minds.

She said they would like children to return but added: "It will not be our intention to penalise parents over the next three weeks."

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council's director of public health said training over testing had been given and she was confident schools would be able to do them.

That would initially be done in schools, but the aim is to switch that to home testing in the longer term.

And both Mrs Snudden and Dr Smith said they were confident schools had sufficient PPE to use during testing.

Dr Smith did say that it was "inevitable" that increased testing and fewer restrictions would see cases rise.

She said testing, vaccinations, social distancing, washing hands were key to keeping Norfolk's rates moving in the right direction.

She said the drop in cases in Norfolk was "very encouraging", with rates over the past seven days down to 59 cases per 100,000 people.

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