THE chairman of a group which represents all of the city’s schools says there is “a great deal of positivity amongst members” after the Government published safety advice for schools ahead of a full return in September.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has unveiled plans for how children in all year groups can return the classroom in the autumn term.

John Tomsett, chairman of the York Schools and Academies Board and headteacher at Huntington School, said it was important to have all pupils back in September and they want to work with parents to make that happen.

He added that the board felt the guidance would allow York schools to open to all pupils in September.

Mr Tomsett said: “The best thing we can do to help parents feel safe about sending their children into school is to ensure we follow the guidance for minimising the risk of spreading the disease in our schools.”

As part of the Department for Education (DfE) guidance, schools in England have been told to keep classes or whole year groups apart in separate “bubbles”.

Primary schools are encouraged to have bubbles that include a whole class, while secondary schools are likely to need bubbles that consist of an entire year group so the full range of subjects can be delivered.

“The bubble system will help minimise how much pupils mix with each other,” Mr Tomsett said.

“It is one of a number of important measures we will have in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Thorough hand washing and the frequent use of hand sanitiser, as well as enhanced cleaning practices will all contribute to reducing the risk of infection.

“It will be easier for primary schools to implement the bubbles system because pupils largely remain in the same room with the same teacher for the majority of the day. In secondary schools, exam classes will often need specialist equipment and that means pupils and staff moving around the school site.”

The DfE advises schools to stagger break times, start and finish times, and to consider using “walking buses” to reduce the use of public transport.

Students have been advised to keep their use of public transport to a minimum in the autumn.

Meanwhile, by the autumn, all schools will be provided with a small number of testing kits that they can give to parents collecting a child who has developed symptoms.

The whole school, or all pupils in a year group, may have to self-isolate at home if a school has two or more confirmed coronavirus cases within a fortnight.

But the guidance insists that school closures “may not be necessary” if there are a number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 on site if schools implement the recommended controls.

If there is an outbreak, mobile testing units will be sent to schools to test anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

In addition, schools have been told to avoid large gatherings, such as assemblies or collective worship with more than one group.

Students will be asked to sit at forward-facing desks, rather than face-to-face at circular tables.

School attendance will be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term, which means parents could face fines if they decide to keep their child off school.

Mr Williamson said families may face financial penalties if they keep their children at home, unless there is a “good reason” for the absence.

Mr Tomsett commented: “We are working hard and using our imagination in order to solve the challenges facing the full reopening of our schools in September. We cannot wait to welcome back our pupils and helping them get used to the rigour of school life once again.”