One hundred per cent of relevant schools in Somerset are offering some kind of extended provision for primary age pupils new figures show.
Education settings are working at capacity accommodating nearly a third of the county’s reception, year one and year six primary age pupils after extending provision following the half term break, while two thirds of early years providers are offering provision.
However, Somerset County Council understands the challenges faced by parents in the county who do not have provision for their children, following the Government’s confirmation that it is not going ahead with plans to increase school provision for all primary age pupils before the summer break.
The Council is continuing to work closely with education leaders on whether further places can be identified.
New figures underline the dedication of Somerset’s education leaders and staff with 37.5 per cent of reception pupils attending as of this week, 37.6 per cent of year one pupils, 34.5 per cent of year six and 34.8 per cent of early years children.
The Council recognises how hard education leaders and staff have worked to put in place plans to increase provision for vulnerable children and for the increasing number of key worker children, as well as beginning to expand provision for reception, year one and six pupils since half term. Any further expansion would not have been viable for many schools and early years settings under the current Government Guidance, given limitations on accommodation and staff availability.
Gavin Williamson Secretary of State for Education outlined the Government’s decision not to ask schools to make provision available for all primary aged pupils for four weeks prior to the summer holidays in Parliament last week and, whilst the Council is grateful for the clarity, it recognises the challenges this presents to parents seeking to return to work and the impact this may have on children who have not been in education since lockdown began.
“It is a real tribute to the hard work within our schools and early years settings that so many children have been able to return to their classrooms,” said Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education Faye Purbrick.
“Schools have been open throughout the crisis for children of key workers and doing fantastic work ensuring vulnerable children and their families are supported. Now, with social distancing and hygiene measures in place, and a fantastic outdoor curriculum, more and more children are able to continue with their formal education, something that is so important to them and our families.
“We recognise the challenges that come from children having so much time out of education so, having reviewed the situation, we are asking education leaders to focus on whether they can offer any further provision in their setting. And if so, to prioritise this to those pupils eligible for free school meals or in receipt of Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (SEND) support. If possible, to also look at offering places to other transition years such as year two in infant schools, year four in first schools and year eight in middle schools.
“We have to stress that this is entirely dependent on what is possible in individual settings and, as has been the case throughout these last few months, we fully support the judgement of education leaders in this respect.”
Parents will be notified directly by their school regarding any possible further provision before the summer holidays.
Education leaders and the County Council are continued to work closely with the Government on plans for the return of pupils in September.