Harrogate headteachers call for more Government support on returning to school

Headteachers across Harrogate are calling for more clarification on what returning to school will look like after the current lockdown.

Friday, 29th January 2021, 11:25 am
Updated Friday, 29th January 2021, 11:28 am

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said schools will no longer be able to reopen immediately after the February half-term as had been hoped, and has outlined a provisional return date of Monday, March 8 with more concrete plans to follow.,

But headteachers are now calling for more support to put plans in place so they are ready whenever a final decision is made.

Grove Road Primary School headteacher, Chris Parkhouse, is one of those calling for mor Government support.

Chris Parkhouse, headteacher at Grove Road Community Primary School, says he believes the media are told of any decisions before education providers and hopes the Government will begin working with schools to set the wheels in motion.

He told the Harrogate Advertiser: “The Prime Minister announced on Wednesday that schools will hopefully begin a phased return from March 8 and we very much hope that will be the case.

“Sadly, we have to assume that schools are, therefore, unlikely to reopen fully to all children until possibly April.

“As has been the case since the start of the pandemic last March, every important announcement regarding schools has been released to the media before schools are given any detailed information. This continues to be deeply frustrating for the entire community.

“I would have thought that in this regard lessons might have been learnt from last spring. I can only hope that both parents and schools are given sufficient notice and detail of the Government’s plans for a safe return as soon as it is possible to do so.”

It comes after parents in Harrogate last week said they were struggling to juggle the commitments of working from home and helping children with their remote learning, and asked for more clarity on when schools may reopen.

Richard Sheriff, executive headteacher at Harrogate Grammar School and CEO at Red Kite Learning Trust, said he understands the reason the Prime Minister cannot fully outline the return plans just yet and that the health and wellbeing of the public must be the priority, but would like to see schools given more autonomy over what would work best for them.

He is calling on the Government to liaise with local authorities and schools to come up with a plan which will best aid the communities they serve.

“We are all really keen to get children back in to school but not at the risk of lives or our health service,” he said.

“It must be safe for us to reopen but I think it is really important for us to have plans in place so we are ready to roll as soon as we are given the go-ahead.

“All we are asking for is some clarity - we would prefer to work alongside them and be as prepared as we can, rather than learn things at the last minute or be subjected to U-turns.

“The children have to be our priority and we have to think about what is best for them every step of the way.”

Headteachers have thanked parents and staff for their continued commitment throughout the lockdowns, despite the troubling times they are facing.

Mr Parkhouse says his team are doing all they can to ease the pressure on parents who are trying to help their children with remote learning.

He said: “I think for all families, children and staff this lockdown period is proving to be incredibly tough.

“I think it’s vitally important that we recognise just how many families across the Harrogate community, and the country, are struggling with the stress and pressure of trying to balance home-schooling, work commitments and childcare.

“Our families are doing an incredible job. We know that they are doing their best to juggle all of these different challenges and responsibilities and the staff team and I are working tirelessly to ease those pressures in every way that we can.

“I’m so proud of the ‘togetherness’ of our Grove Road family. The entire community feels connected, with an understanding as to how we can support each other through these difficult times with empathy and no judgement.”