PARENTS will not be fined if they decide to keep their children at home when schools begin to open on Monday the borough council has said.

It is working with heads to make sure government guidelines are being followed for the planned phased start.

A poll by the Swindon Advertiser revealed 65 per cent of the1,000 readers that took part said they would not send their child back. Only 17 per cent were prepared to do it.

Another 18 per cent said they wanted to wait and see what safety measures were introduced. 

Borough council cabinet member for education Russell Holland said: “We want parents to continue to work with schools so that children are accessing education.

“However, parents and carers are not compelled to send children to school and won’t be fined if they keep them at home.”

He explained: “We recognise this is an incredibly complex situation and schools have to take a number of different factors into consideration before they can open their doors to the limited number of pupils the government has indicated.

“We are therefore encouraging schools to follow the guidance provided by the Department of Education and to open only when it is safe for them to do so.

“We have been in contact with all schools to ensure they work through the DfE checklist and their risk assessment so they can plan the most appropriate provision as we recognise that schools are best placed to decide whether they can open safely.”

The government has set out guidelines for how schools should operate when they open the gates to pupils once again. They include reducing the size of classes, keeping children in small groups and staggering break and lunch times, as well as drop offs and pick ups.

The frequency of cleaning will be increased, the use of shared items is to be cut and more use will be made of outdoor space.

To find out what measures primary schools in Swindon would introduce the Adver approached 20 head teachers for comment. Six were not willing to speak about their plans and there was no response from the others.

Andy Simpson, head teacher at Noremarsh Junior School, Royal Wootton Bassett said desks will be two metres apart, to adhere to social distancing guidelines, children will have to remain at their tables and staff are asking parents to supply pens and pencils where possible.

Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes are due to return to school on Monday as part of a staggered start.