THE county council says that schools across Hampshire have “dealt admirably with the enormous and unprecedented challenge” of planning to safely reopen next week.

Hampshire County Council (HCC) had previously said that a final decision was yet to be made on when exactly schools would fully reopen.

But after Boris Johnson announced it was the government’s intention to go ahead with plans to get children back in classrooms as of the start of next month, the local authority has offered reassurances.

Pupils across Hampshire will join the sons and daughters of key workers and vulnerable children who have been attending early years provision or school throughout lockdown.

Councillor Roz Chadd, HCC’s executive member education and skills, acknowledged that schools had had faced a ‘complex task’ planning for a safe reopening, but that they are ready for the reopening on Monday.

She said: “I’d like to reiterate my thanks, once again, to all early years education providers and our family of schools, who have been looking after the children of key workers and vulnerable children since 18 March, including during the Easter and half-term holidays.

“At the same time, they have maintained contact with, and provided ongoing educational support to, those children and young people who, on the Government’s instruction, have stayed at home.

“In addition, over the past three weeks, they have dealt admirably with the enormous and unprecedented challenge of preparing for a phased return to school for specified year groups.

“It is a complex task and early education providers, school leaders and their governing bodies have had to work hard to plan and implement measures that will ensure that staff, children and young people can adhere to national guidance and operate as safely as possible.

“In so doing, they have been building on the government’s plans for a gradual, phased and initially small-scale return, allowing for local flexibility within schools in terms of class size, staffing, and the constraints of school buildings.”

The council says that every educational setting that opens from Monday will have undertaken a thorough health and safety risk assessment to identify the measures they will need to have in place to reduce the risk of spreading infection. This includes minimising contact by having smaller class sizes and avoiding mixing between groups.

Education settings will have their own approach, based on the amount of space and number of staff available.

Parents and carers are advised to follow the information they receive from their education setting about the arrangements, including those for the home to school journey, that will be in place from Monday.

The additional numbers some schools will be taking in on day one will be cautious, and schools are planning to build up numbers over time, safely.

Parents and carers are asked to exercise patience over the first few days as schools will be working in new ways and it is better to be careful and safe, than rush too many children in at speed. Unfortunately, in some schools it will not be possible to accommodate all children in all priority year groups while adhering to the national guidance, mainly due to school and classroom sizes presenting logistical problems.

With the Government advising that people should avoid using public transport as far as possible, children and young people are encouraged to walk, cycle or scoot to school where it is safe to do so and to continue to follow the 2 metre, social distancing advice.

If parents and carers must drive children to school, they are urged not to car share but to transport only their own children. Those who have no alternative to public transport should follow the Government’s advice.

The County Council’s Services for Young Children and School Improvement Teams have been working with Hampshire schools and early years settings to help early years providers and schools prepare for wider opening.

Resources, experiences, and approaches are being shared across all education settings, giving school leaders a wealth of information and support, which has helped them to make the best decisions to support their school community.

That work will continue over the forthcoming weeks to ensure schools have access to high quality advice and support.

As announced by Government, secondary schools are now planning for some part-time face-to-face contact with young people in Year 10 from June 15.