Local Schools Set Their Own Timetable for Reopening

Primaries in Hammersmith & Fulham taking a mixture of approaches

Messages Of Appreciation And Support On Wendell Park Primary School's gates

Primary schools across Hammersmith and Fulham are taking a mixture of approaches towards bringing children back in for regular lessons.

Schools have remained open for children of key workers during the lockdown.

This week (June 1-5), the Government was expecting the majority of England’s primary schools to also reopen for children in reception, year 1 and year 6.

But many local councils across the country, run by both Labour and Conservatives, have spent recent weeks cautioning against rushing to reopen schools before it’s safe.

In Hammersmith and Fulham, some schools partially reopened this Monday while others are still busily preparing with new measures for social distancing.

At Fulham Primary School in West Brompton, a survey of its parents found the vast majority were against sending their childrenon 1 June.

A newsletter from the school reads: “We received 251 responses out of a possible 280. 28% said YES to their children returning to school at the earliest possible date. 72% said NO to their children returning to school at the earliest possible date.”

Headteacher Leesa Schooneman said one of the measures being implemented to ensure social distancing at the school, and all UK schools, was the creation of “bubbles”. This is where children in each class must stay in certain areas of their school, and only use a designated set of toilets, in order to avoid crossing paths with children from other classes.

Langford Primary School in Fulham welcomed back year 6 pupils on Monday. Year 1 can return on Wednesday (June 3), and reception children will be back this Friday.

The Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School in Hammersmith said it will open from June 2 with a set of measures, including: “bubbles”, staggered arrival and leaving times, staggered break and lunch times, and increased cleaning.

Ark Bentworth Primary Academy in White City has told parents that reception pupils will return on June 4, followed by year 1 on June 8, and year 6 on June 10. But like all state schools, it is assuring parents that they can keep their child at home if they wish.

“It is not compulsory to send your child to school. Home learning will continue to be provided for all year groups including both printed and online materials,” said headteacher Karinne Faddy.

In Hammersmith, Flora Gardens Primary School headteacher Sam Naismith wrote to parents on May 29, to tell them: “The earliest the school will reopen any further to pupils, which will be limited to Year 6 pupils, will be Wednesday June 10…

“I will review the situation on Friday 5th June and update you, at the latest on Monday 8th June.”

In East Action, Old Oak Primary School will be open on June 8 and 9 for year 6 children, and with up to 12 children per class.

The school said it will only be open for Thursdays and Fridays, and year 1 children will also return next Thuraday and Friday.

Last week, Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter said he has been receiving emails and letters from parents, with the majority saying “they do want their children to go back to school but only when it’s safe to do so”.

He added: “A lot of teachers from trade unions have written to me. No one is being deliberately difficult about this. I’m sure teachers want to go back to teaching their pupils because there’s so much catching up to do. Everyone has been raising legitimate concerns rather than behaving like the ‘blob’, as Michael Gove once said.”

Unlike some other councils that have taken a hard line on when schools should reopen, Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan said he believes school governors and headteachers are “best placed” to decide.

“They are the ones who know the unique circumstances and context of their schools and they should make the decision according to that local context. We will support whatever decision they make,” Mr Cowan said.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

June 2, 2020