SCHOOLS across the Dudley borough are set to welcome back some of their pupils starting from today (Monday June 1) following the Government thumbs-up that a return to the classroom can begin.

Most of the borough's 79 primary schools and academy settings are expected to begin throwing open their doors to children in reception, year one and year six as part of a phased return to school.

Dudley Council has confirmed 66 schools are planning a phased return over this week, opening to at least one of the three target year groups, with the remaining schools to follow suit over the coming weeks.

Schools have been working with the local authority and agencies to put the necessary protocols in place for a return to the classroom to happen safely over the last few weeks.

Councillor Patrick Harley, Dudley Council's leader, said school staff, Dudley education chiefs and colleagues in Public Health and at the Department for Education have "pulled out all the stops to ensure they are able to open to these target year groups as quickly and safely as they can after half-term".

He added: "This has been a truly collaborative effort and we are all looking forward to welcoming the children back to school for the summer term."

The council says risk assessments have been carried out for each individual school to ensure pupils and staff can return to the classroom safely and a spokesman said the council’s Public Health team has been provided advice, the DfE has given guidance, the council’s corporate landlord services has provided practical support, such as additional handwashing facilities and cleaning facilities, and the council’s education team has supported schools throughout the planning process.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, Dudley's cabinet member for children’s services, said: "We know this has been a challenging time for children and families. Parents have done an amazing job of continuing their children’s education at home, supported by so many dedicated teaching staff.

"However, we recognise that the time is right for some of our pupils to return to an education environment. We know they’ve missed their friends, the challenges of learning and the reassuring routine of the school day. And our schools have felt different places without them, we’ve missed their smiling faces, their chatter, their laughter, their spirit and we can’t wait to welcome them back.

"Our education staff have been working tirelessly behind the scenes with colleagues in public health, corporate landlord services, our headteachers and the department for education to ensure when able to, we could expand the number of children in schools safely. This has been a really positive, holistic collaboration with the children at its heart."

The council says schools are anticipating 50 per cent of eligible pupils to return when they reopen, with numbers expected to increase as the weeks pass, following a survey of parents.

Most schools in the borough have remained open to provide childcare and educational support for the children of key workers and for the most vulnerable children and these pupils will continue to attend school.

Children who are not yet due to return to school will continue to receive virtual education, with return dates set to be confirmed by the government and implemented by individual schools at a local level.

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