The Government formally gave the go ahead to plans to open schools to more pupils last night, meaning that children from certain year groups can return to the classroom next week for the first time in over 2 months.

It said that from 1 June, schools, nurseries and other early years settings can reopen to nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils. A fortnight later, on 15 June, secondary schools will begin to provide some face to face contact time for students in Years 10 and 12.

It also wants all primary aged pupils to be able to return to school before the summer holidays, though a decision about Years 2 to 5 is yet to be taken. 

In anticipation of last night's announcement, the City of Wolverhampton Council has been working closely with providers to ensure that there is a common approach to welcoming pupils back to local schools which puts safety considerations first.

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "Education is vitally important for all children and young people, and so we are keen they are able to return to school as soon as possible – but only if it is safe for them and their teachers to do so. 

"We know that all parents and carers will be asking if it's safe for their child to go back to school. The key thing to remember is that our city’s schools have been safely supporting well over a thousand vulnerable children and the children of key workers throughout the pandemic; the challenge now is how to ensure they can safely welcome more children.

"We are very clear that their safety, and that of school staff and the wider community, is paramount, and that's why we have been working closely with schools, headteachers, unions, parents and health and safety and public health experts from the council to agree a cautious, measured approach to the expansion of school provision here in Wolverhampton.

"As in every aspect of life, there will always be risks, and it is impossible to completely eliminate these. Nevertheless, we are working with schools to minimise them and would only wish them to open to more pupils if it is safe for this to happen."

In Wolverhampton, every school is currently undergoing cleaning and preparations to extend provision to eligible pupils. All schools are also required to complete a detailed risk assessment that shows what steps they ares taking to promote the safety of pupils and staff, and to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus. These will be signed off by the council's health and safety and public health experts.

Many schools will be holding inset days on Monday (1 June) to ensure their staff are fully aware of the regulations and are ready to welcome more children the next morning.

Everyone in school will need to follow strict hygiene guidelines. Children and adults will wash their hands regularly throughout the day and classrooms and equipment will be cleaned before they are used by a new group of children. To enable social distancing the council has recommended that pupils be taught in groups of up to 10. Schools can, however, have larger groups of up to 15 if their classrooms are big enough. These groups will not mix with other groups during their time in school.

In addition, if anyone shows symptoms of coronavirus they will need to self-isolate in line with the latest national guidelines.

Councillor Hardacre added: "We know that returning to school will be a strange experience for many children and young people, and parents can really help them to prepare for this. 

"They might be worried, so talk to them in positive way about school, and how they will get to see their friends and teachers again.

"Also try and help them to understand how social distancing works and make sure that they can wash their hands properly by themselves. Let them know that school may seem a bit different, but that their teachers are doing everything to make sure that it is safe.

"Ultimately, the final decision rests with parents and carers as to whether they want their child to return to school.

“However, I would reiterate that, because education is so important, they need to re-enter formal education as soon as is safe for them to do so, and that we are doing all we can to ensure our schools are a safe place for our city's children and young people to learn and to play."

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages at Coronavirus advice and information. There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves and their families from coronavirus from the NHS.  

The council’s Stay Safe, Be Kind campaign offers clear and simple advice about how people can help themselves, and how they can support others who may be particularly vulnerable at this time. For more information, please visit Stay Safe, Be Kind