“CLASS bubbles” and delayed starts are some of the measures being taken when schools begin to reopen next week.

Autumn term begins next Friday for Brighton and Hove’s schools, though many will not open until the following Monday.

Brighton and Hove City Council education chief Councillor Hannah Clare told The Argus she believes parents are increasingly confident about sending their children to school in the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Argus readers split on whether to send children to back to school

But she said the council will try to avoid fining worried parents for pupil absence, instead working with them to address their concerns.

“What we saw towards the end of last term was more key workers sending their children to school, which indicates increasing confidence in returning to school,” the Green councillor said.

“Some authorities are harsh with fines. We’re generally not going to be [a council] that fines.

“We try to work with families instead of punishing them.

The Argus: Brighton and Hove City Council education chief Councillor Hannah ClareBrighton and Hove City Council education chief Councillor Hannah Clare

“I think going back to school is a risk and there are challenges but there is a balance as we don’t want children missing out on education.

“Some of the measures schools are taking include group bubbles, class bubbles, delayed starts, different timetables for classes and more facilities for handwashing.

“It’s up to schools but we will support them where we can.”

Cllr Clare said the city council’s public health team has prevented outbreaks in Brighton schools in the past.

“Historically in Brighton there have been some cases in schools but we have been able to prevent any outbreaks,” she said.

But the education chief is concerned the Government does not have a “plan B” in the event of schools closing for sustained periods of time.

“ If [infection] numbers start to rise we need a more robust plan,” Cllr Clare said.

“We need a more robust track and trace system.”

Despite the Scottish Government announcing yesterday that secondary school pupils must wear face masks in corridors and communal areas, the UK Government said it will not review existing mask guidance for schools.

The Argus: The Scottish Government announced yesterday masks will be compulsory for secondary school students in communal areasThe Scottish Government announced yesterday masks will be compulsory for secondary school students in communal areas

Cllr Clare said the Department for Education needs to make a quick decision on whether masks must be worn.

“We have to be led by the Government,” she said.

“There have been calls from some unions for teachers to wear masks. We will continue to look into that and whether masks are needed.”

Union boss accuses Government of negligence

A union chief accused the Government of being “negligent” in its approach to schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Education Union’s Brighton secretary Paul Shellard said the Department for Education has not given teachers enough resources or guidance ahead of the beginning of the autumn term next Friday.

“It’s left the schools to their own devices in many ways,” said the union boss.

“The Government has provided no advice since the end of the summer term.

“Schools are busy trying hard to set up systems that ensure social distancing.

The Argus: National Education Union Brighton secretary Paul ShellardNational Education Union Brighton secretary Paul Shellard

“But there’s no additional funding from the Government to fund additional measures or increased staffing costs for vulnerable pupils.

“Everything’s been left to schools without giving them additional resources.”

Mr Shellard also echoed Brighton and Hove City Council’s concerns of a lack of a “plan B” in the event of schools having to close.

“There’s no guidance on how the track and trace system is working or what would happen if there are any more local or national lockdowns,” he said.

“The Government has been saying there’s a disproportionate impact on students from poor backgrounds when schools are closed.

“But there has been no effort to ensure those students have resources such as laptops if schools closed.”

Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed keeping schools closed is a bigger threat to children’s wellbeing than the coronavirus.

“As the chief medical officer, all our scientific advisers, have said, schools are safe,” he said.

“They’ve all done a fantastic job of getting ready and the risk to children’s health... from not being in school, is far greater than the risk from Covid.”

  • The coronavirus Sussex Crisis Fund has been set up to help those affected by the pandemic. The Argus’s charity and American Express have each donated £50,000 to kick-start the appeal. Grants will usually be for up to £5,000. More information is available at www.sussexgiving. org.uk/apply. To donate visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/sussexcrisisfund