Head ‘confident’ about school return but factory outbreaks ‘remain a worry’
PUBLISHED: 12:46 05 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:12 05 September 2020
A Norfolk head teacher has said while she is ready for the return of all 270 pupils next week, she knows coronavirus has a habit of “spreading its tentacles”.
Melodie Fearns, who runs St George’s Primary in Great Yarmouth, said her staff felt “very confident” about the full-school reopening on Tuesday, September 8.
She said: “We’ve been open the whole way through the pandemic, but when non-keyworker children had the opportunity to return after May, uptake was low. We only had around 20-25pc attendance.
“That gave us a chance to experiment with how we’d run things come September. Initially, I was terrified. But now, we’ve got the mobile basins in corridors, half hour lunchtimes to minimise mixing and extend teaching time, we’ve added more desks to allow for social distancing and we’ve got enough PPE in stock for all our teachers to be protected.
“I don’t feel scared about things from our end at all.”
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However, Ms Fearns said the thing she was “very concerned about” was local outbreaks - particularly in factories.
“We know coronavirus has a habit of spreading its tentacles”, she explained.
“Factories remain a big worry for us. A very high proportion of our parents work at Bernard Matthews and Banham Poultry due to the catchment area.
“They seem to be the source of a lot of infections in Norfolk. It’ll be awkward and difficult, but we’ll need to find out which kids have parents who work there and make sure that if there is an outbreak, they don’t come into school.
“Besides that, there’s the fact that ‘bubbles’ are only partly-effective. If a child has to self-isolate, it’s likely their siblings, who will be in another bubble, will have to self-isolate too.
“But the government is clear we should not be closing schools down.
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“The only reason we’d shut would be if a local lockdown was imposed or an outbreak occurred.”
Ms Fearns added: “Parents will know at my school we usually take a big-stick approach to attendance. If you look at county council figures, we probably have the highest proportion of fines for school non-attendance.
“But we won’t be penalising parents in the same way when we return. Yes, we’ll ring you to find out why your child isn’t in school, but you won’t be prosecuted.
“We know that it’s going to take time for people to regain their confidence in the system, but generally, pupils, staff and children are all desperate to be back.
“I’m confident this will be a very good term for everyone.”
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