Falkirk prepares to get staff and pupils back to school

Falkirk teachers will return to schools this month to get ready for pupils returning in August.

But it won’t be back to school as we have ever known it before.

From August 11, pupils will begin to return on a part-time basis only as social distancing will still need to be observed – and the rest of their learning will be done at home.

The arrangements are massively complex and may involve using space in other buildings, bringing in more staff, teaching children in small groups and even staggering start and finish times.

Plan are being put in place to get children from home schooling and back into the classroom

And while no decisions have been finalised, the director of children’s services says that school buildings are now being made ready to open after weeks lying empty.

From this Monday, head teachers and other senior staff will return to their schools to start putting plans in place to get staff and pupils back as safely as possible.

Scottish Government guidelines say that pupils will return to a form of blended learning – between school and home – and discussions have been ongoing with trade unions, staff and parent groups as to how the new set up will work.

Robert Naylor, director of children’s services, said: “We are hoping that in the primary sector children will be able to attend somewhere towards 50 per cent of the time and in secondary we think it might be a bit less than that.

“Our intention is that our staff will be able to return to school from Monday, June 15, for the purpose of preparing for the return of pupils in August.

“The primary consideration is the health and well-being of the staff and the pupils and all those who will be involved in the process so there is much work going on in terms of how we set up the buildings and learning spaces to ensure that we’ve got social distancing.

“These at the moment are works in progress – we haven’t come down to a decision on that and that will some extent be informed by models that are emerging across the country, so we’re working up all these different possibilities.”

Options include children going to primary school on either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday, with the school being cleaned on the Wednesday in between.

They are also considering children attending four days in one week then none the next.

In secondary schools it is most likely year groups will attend separately with first and second years; third and fourth years and fifth and sixth years in on different days.

Mr Naylor says they will do their best to make sure that siblings at primary school will go to school on the same days although that won’t be possible in secondaries.

And the council will also continue to offer childcare to key workers who have been attending hubs.

Mr Naylor has stressed that all of the arrangements will follow government and health guidelines and he hopes that they will change fairly quickly as the restrictions begin to ease.

The arrangements will be confirmed before the end of June and after that conversations will take place “family by family”.

Each school headteacher has been asked to look at the capacity of their school and how to use all of the space available – from GP rooms and games halls to outdoor areas suitable for learning.

Some schools that are very full may need to look at adjacent buildings to help them cope.

The other big logistical headache is transport and, where possible, parents are encouraged to make their own arrangements, particularly walking and cycling where possible.

While some staff with underlying health issues will not be expected to return to school, they will continue to work from home supporting children digitally.