All York schools will fully reopen in September – but no automatic fines for parents who keep children away

Schools reopen in September. Photograph: iStock

All schools in York are committed to fully reopening next month – but parents will not automatically be fined if they are nervous about sending their children back to class.

Headteachers do not want a staggered school day and teachers will be trained to bring pupils back up to speed on what they have missed as quickly as possible.

Each school will also have a transport plan – with children who take a school bus told to wear face coverings and follow social distancing – but pupils living closer to school being encouraged to walk or cycle.

Councillors have also called for extra focus on children’s mental health – saying many youngsters will feel worried about going back to classes after spending five months off school.

“Our head teachers are fully committed to full opening from September 7, they’ve been working immensely hard,” said Maxine Squire, assistant director for education at City of York Council at a meeting.

No staggered days

The Government has said that parents who do not send their children back to school in September will face fines.

But Ms Squire said: “It is our policy that they are used as a very last resort. We’ve asked schools as well to consider very carefully the strategies that they’ll be using to engage with parents who may be feeling additional anxiety about the return to school.”

Some parents could be offered one-to-one appointments with head teachers so they can hear about safety measures.

Ms Squire said schools will also train teachers to provide evidence-based catch up classes to help them get back up to speed – saying many children will have different concentration levels following such a long break.

She added: “Head teachers really don’t want to go into staggered school days if they can possibly avoid it, they do want to get back as normal a school day as possible, which is why we’re trying to encourage children and young people and families to walk if there’s a safe walking route to school and also cycle if there’s a safe cycling route to school.”

Wellbeing of young people

Free school meals have continued to be provided for disadvantaged pupils throughout the lockdown – but the number of children qualifying for the meals has increased since March because of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Cllr Jonny Crawshaw said: “Getting pupils settled back into school and looking after their mental health and wellbeing, and and learning to learn again, really is the most important thing at this moment in time.

“Can we give a clear message as a local authority that what we’re more concerned about is the wellbeing of those young people and children as they as they return to school after a very abnormal experience?”