HEAD TEACHERS in Fordingbridge have welcomed the news that pupils can return to the classroom but say safety remains "paramount".

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a "roadmap" for getting the country out of the lockdown.

Schools and colleges will be the first to reopen from Monday, March 8 as part of the prime minister's four-stage plan, which he said would be driven by the data as opposed to dates.

When will schools reopen?

Primary schools will return on March 8 while secondary schools and colleges will be able to stagger their return over that week to ensure all students can be offered Covid tests.

University students studying practical courses who need access to campus facilities will be able to return from that date while the return of other students would be reviewed by the end of the Easter holidays.

'There is no substitute for being in school and college'

The head teacher of The Burgate School and Sixth Form, David Pover, said: "We are very pleased that we are able to start to bring students back to school full time. Whilst our aim has been to provide the very best virtual education, there is no substitute for being in school and college.

"I would like to thank our staff for their efforts to support remote learning and those involved in keeping the school open for our vulnerable and key worker students.

"It is paramount that we are able to open safely for our school community and so we are now planning the logistics of enabling all children to be tested and return to face-to-face teaching during the week beginning 8 March."

'We will continue to ensure that we do all we can to make the schools Covid safe as we possibly can'

Kim Robertson, the executive head teacher of Fordingbridge Infant and Junior Schools Federation, said: "We look forward to having all the children back on the 8th March.

"The children and their families have done extremely well in staying home in order to help the NHS. Their parents have supported them with home learning and we cannot be more proud of their efforts.

"As all the children return we will continue to ensure that we do all we can to make the schools Covid safe as we possibly can."

Praise for teaching staff and parents

In a Downing Street briefing yesterday (February 24) the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the "incredible" teachers, leaders, support staff and childcare workers for "going above and beyond" to keep schools and colleges open for vulnerable children and children of key workers and continue pupils learning at home.

Mr Williamson also thanked parents for their support while children have been learning from home as well as pupils for their "patience and resilience" in adapting to the situation.

More funding support

"Everyone is longing for a return to normality and I want you to know we are continuing to support schools, colleges and teachers with extra help to boost children's learning.

"We are investing in a range of options that parents and children will benefit from; whether that is summer schools, extra funding for specialist teaching and expanding our national tutoring programme," said Mr Williamson.

The government has announced a £302 million recovery premium for state primary and secondary schools and it would be expanding its national tutoring programmes with £200million funding made available for this for primary and secondary schools.

There would also be an extension to to 16 to19 tuition fund to support more students in English, maths and other vocational and academic subjects as well as funding to support language development.

And £200 million would be available for secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools.

Return 'justified' by data

"As the Prime Minister said 'we can now take the next steps'. These will be cautious but that is crucial if we don't want to end up going backwards," added the education secretary on Wednesday.

The process, Mr Williamson said, would be "carefully managed at every stage". He said the "full return" of schools and colleges from March 8 was justified by the latest data.

Face coverings

It is being advised that face coverings be worn in secondary school classrooms as well as in further and higher education settings "unless social distancing can be maintained," said Mr Williamson, who added this was to "help reduce transmission".

He added: "The risk to children themselves is incredibly low."

He also said this would be a "temporary" measure and would be in place until Easter when it will be reviewed.

Awarding of exam grades

Details of how grades will be awarded this summer are being set out later today.

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