EDUCATION chiefs have refused to recognise three-tier teaching systems in their ‘back to school’ plans – despite claims the proposals are ‘hanging Bromsgrove pupils out to dry’.

The Department of Education has snubbed requests from local teachers and MPs – including Bromsgrove’s Sajid Javid – to factor in ‘local circumstances’ when reopening schools.

And it insists Year 6 pupils will be the first to return at all schools, despite the first and middle school set-up in Bromsgrove meaning Year 4 and Year 8 students are the ones requiring transitional help.

A DfE spokesperson confirmed to the Advertiser there would be no wiggle room, adding: “We expect all mainstream schools and colleges, including independent schools, to follow the same approach.

“We encourage middle schools to do the same and welcome back children in Year 6 to ensure national parity for children in this year group.

“We want children back in schools as soon as possible because being back with their teachers and friends is so important for their education and their wellbeing.

“Plans for a phased return of some year groups from 1 June, at the earliest, are based on the best scientific and medical advice. The welfare of children and staff has been at the heart of all decision making.

“We have engaged closely with the unions throughout the past seven weeks and will continue to do so, including to develop further guidance for the sector.”

As a result, Bromsgrove schools are now left with a two-pronged problem – safely welcoming back reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils while preparing Year 4 and Year 8 pupils moving up in schools.

There are 16 first schools in the district, for pupils aged 5-9, five middle schools, for pupils aged 9-13 and two high schools for students aged 13-18.

The district’s two main secondary schools – North and South Bromsgrove High – are preparing online inductions and virtual tours, having been denied the traditional method of doing so in person.

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

A joint statement from all Bromsgrove schools said: “All schools in the Bromsgrove District will follow guidance when issued in order to do what is safe and reasonable.

“It is likely that schools will have different approaches in accordance with individual circumstances, such as staffing, building and classroom size, toilets, corridor size, stairways, numbers of entrances and the number of pupils they could manage safely.

“The schools in this area have worked together to consider various possible approaches and made decisions based on their local circumstances.”

Paul Essenhigh, executive of Catshill Federation of Schools – which comprises Catshill First School and Nursery and Catshill Middle School – was left disappointed by the government’s stance.

In a letter to parents, he wrote: “As you will be aware, we are being asked to start allowing Year 6 children back into school in June.

“We have asked if it would be possible to welcome back other year groups but we have been told this is not acceptable.

“We will be looking at Year 8 and partnership working with our two high schools over the next seven weeks to see what can be facilitated.”

He added that school would be a ‘very different experience’ for pupils, who may be separated from their usual teacher and friends, with Catshill likely to only be able to fit 10 students in a classroom.

Mr Essenhigh asked parents to prepare students for social distancing rules ‘to avoid upset and confusion’.

The Advertiser contacted the DfE, Worcestershire County Council and MP Mr Javid after unhappy parents got in touch with us.

One parent told us the government’s proposals ‘ignored the Bromsgrove middle school system’ and meant Year 4 kids leaving first school were ‘effectively hung out to dry’.

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

Mr Javid said: “I can understand why the government has focused on the return of Year 6 students, as for the vast majority of schools, this is the final stage of primary education before transitioning to High School.

“However, it is also important to consider local circumstances, including the Middle Schools in Bromsgrove and Worcestershire.

“I’ve raised this issue directly with the Schools Minister and County Council, and will continue to seek further guidance for Middle Schools and school children in Year 4 & Year 8.”

Sarah Wilkins, Director for Education and Early Help at Worcestershire Children First said: “Our priority is to make sure that schools and nurseries are safe places for children and for staff.

“Here in Worcestershire there are parts of the county where pupils will be preparing for a transition from first school to middle school or from a middle school to a high school. We recognise the importance of these transitional stages our children and young people in Worcestershire.

“We are talking to the Department for Education and with head teachers to develop plans that are in the best interests of children and young people and are realistic and manageable through the phases of change that the Government is proposing.”