"Throughout the period of lockdown, Derbyshire County Council (DCC) has remained in intensive discussion with a range of partners, including the Department for Education (DfE). DfE has published in excess of 150 guidance documents relating to education and wider children’s services and therefore it is inevitable that there may occur some ambiguity and contradictions in such a large number of documents. We know you have done an amazing job to try and stay on top of all of them.
We have continued to clarify some key questions that you have raised, especially about the 2m social distancing issue and whether schools can use a rota system as part of their plans. Yesterday, DCC was able to confirm with the DfE that:
• the 2m social distancing issue within classrooms is essential and schools should not plan their classroom capacity to be based on anything less than 2m social distancing.
• rota systems are not advised since the scientific evidence is not yet secure that they are safe to use."
I have also included communication from Councillor Alex Dale, who clarifies DCC's position-
Statement from Councillor Alex Dale, Cabinet Member for Young people at Derbyshire County Council – 22 May 2020
“We support the Government in its ambition to see schools opened up to more pupils as soon as it is sufficiently safe to do. To do this we’ve been working flat out to support schools in interpreting the guidance and planning to admit the target year groups announced by the Prime Minister on 10 May.
“This is an incredibly complicated issue to work through. Unfortunately, the guidance so far issued by the Department for Education has not always been entirely consistent or clear on some key aspects and this has created some issues for schools and the council.
“Due to the challenges that we’re having to work through with schools, it is clear now that many primary schools in Derbyshire will not be able to admit the additional year groups (reception, year one and year six) that the Government had envisaged by 1 June. This is because the latest advice from the Government is that children need to be 2m apart in classrooms, and that it is not safe to rota children through the week and more time is needed to work through these issues.
“The Department for Education have been absolutely clear with us that the priority remains the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable. In turn we’ve made clear to all schools that from 1 June their first priority should be aiming to increase the number of children from these groups.
“Then we have advised that they should also continue to plan for how they might accommodate children from the other key year groups (reception, year one, year six, year 10 and year 12).
“Every school in Derbyshire is different and their approaches to offering more places back in classrooms for our children and young people will vary.
“If schools do admit children on 1 June from the key year groups they will need to make sure they have the room to do this safely.
“We hope that secondary schools will be able to offer some face to face learning for year 10 and year 12 students, due to the greater flexibility they have in terms of space.
“We will continue working with schools to identify when they will be able to admit whole-year groups in the coming weeks, although for many of our schools this will still be challenging.
“I want to thank headteachers, school employees and governors who have worked extremely hard over recent weeks as they plan for 1 June. I’d also like to thank parents and carers in advance for bearing with us and their local schools while we continue to work very hard to deliver on our collective ambition to get more children back to school as soon as possible.”
With this in mind I would like to advise you of the decision in consultation with the Chair of Governors to delay the opening of our school to other year groups to at least Monday the 8th of June. I feel that the contradictory advise in the attempts to keep children 2 metres apart within classrooms creates a wealth of problems.
As you will probably understand this is a frustrating situation for me as your headteacher, as I am looking to work a way to get the children back into school as soon as it is safe. However, at the forefront of my mind has always been the welfare of our children and my staff and I will only open the school up further when the risk is minimised and following Health & Safety advice from Derbyshire County Council and the Department of Education.
Therefore I am proposing from the 1st of June the school will only open to Key Workers children, with a view to the school getting the most up to date advice. I am delaying the school opening up of other year groups until at least the 8th of June, so we can get some clarity on the differing positions of DCC (who have the responsibility for our children's safety) and the Department of Education (who drive policy). In my opinion this will allow us the necessary breathing space to get the correct information and advice and therefore plan to get our children back into school in a calm and safe manner. I hope you will agree with me in not being rushed into making a decision that could be based on contradictory advice. There will still of course be the continuation of online resources the teachers are supplying in aiding education for those pupils at home.
So to summarise, I am currently planning to open up the school to Year Groups- Reception, Year 1 & Year 6 from the 8th of June in a phased return to school (more details on this will follow), as I am hoping by then to get clarity from both County and Government advisers. Hopefully this will give us the necessary time as the situation develops on a way for the children to return to school with the minimum amount of risk possible to all our children and staff.
As previously stated this is an evolving situation and I will be reviewing the situation daily with the Chair of Governors, staff, other headteachers, DCC and the Department of Education. I apologise for the the frequency (and length!) of my e-mails, but I wanted to give you as much up to date information and notice as possible, so you can make contingency measures for work etc.
I am very pleased that there is light at the end of the tunnel and working together we can make sure we get to the end as safely as possible.