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Oldfield Primary School to teach children in 'bubbles' from next week

A headteacher has described how select year groups will be taught in ‘bubbles’ when they resume their schooling from next week – but warned it ‘is not possible to social distance’.

Richard Jarrett, headteacher of Oldfield Primary School in Bray Road, is planning to welcome reception, year one and year six classes back after half term on Monday, June 1.

The Government has said pupils in these year groups can return to school on this date providing five key tests are met, including the rate of infection decreasing.

Mr Jarrett has said teaching children in bubbles ‘is what is recommended’.

It means that each year group, made up of two classes of 30 pupils, will be split into four bubbles, each with 15 children, an experienced staff member and a teaching assistant.

Children and staff will stay in their bubbles all day, including at break and lunch times.

“I can only be honest with my parents and say it is not possible to social distance,” said Mr Jarrett. “We will do our best to keep them apart, and we’ll do our best to keep the bubbles.”

As well as writing to parents to explain that the school ‘cannot practically socially distance children’ he also took the parents on a virtual tour via video.

“I’ve said quite clearly that it’s the parents’ choice,” he said. “If you feel after seeing this film that you are happy with your child to come back to school, after listening to me, then this is your choice. We will not penalise you if you do not send your children back.”

Mr Jarrett said only about 50 per cent of the school’s families have confirmed they will send their children to school on June 1, which reduces each bubble of 15 by half. “Then we can social distance,” he said.

Mr Jarrett has also had to discuss the safety of increased pupil numbers with his staff.

He said: “We have consulted with staff, they’ve seen the risk assessments, they’ve seen the bits of paper, and no one has said they’re worried. That said, I know they are.”

Although Mr Jarrett says he does ‘worry about children’s education’ he is not convinced the Government’s decision is the right one and expressed his concerns in a letter to MP Theresa May.

He added he feels the year groups picked were ‘wrong’ and that older children should be going back.

He says trying to ensure the younger children stay apart is ‘going to be like herding kittens until children get used to what they can and can’t do’.

Another headteacher – Dave Rooney at Lowbrook Academy – also raised concerns about the return in the Advertiser earlier this month.

At the time, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Nothing can replace being in the classroom, which is why I want to get children back to school as soon as it is safe.

“The latest scientific advice indicates it will be safe for more children to return from June 1, but we will continue to limit the overall numbers in school.”

The Prime Minister has said the Government should be in a position to begin the phased re-opening of schools from Monday.

This means allowing schools to welcome back children in early years settings, reception classes, and years one and six.

“Today I can announce that it is our intention to go ahead with that, as planned, on June 1,” he said at a coronavirus briefing on Sunday.

“We then intend from June 15 for secondary schools to provide some contact for year 10 and year 12 students to help them prepare for exams next year, with up to a quarter of these students in at any point.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged that a June 1 opening would not be possible for all schools.

“The Government will continue to support and work with the sector to ensure that any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open more widely as soon as possible,” he said.

The final decision to open educational settings more widely on June 1 will be taken as part of the formal review into lockdown measures, required by law to be undertaken by today (Thursday).

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