Why these high schools are staggering pupils' return next week
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Some Suffolk high schools have opted to stagger the return of students next week in response to the "logistically very difficult" challenge posed by coronavirus testing.
Schools are set to return on Monday as part of the first step of prime minister Boris Johnson's route of lockdown.
But as secondary schools will be mass testing for Covid-19 before reopening, some headteachers have made the decision to welcome back final-year students first.
Stowmarket High School has opted to bring back its Year 11s and 13s on Monday, as they are in the final years of their GCSEs and A-Levels respectively.
Students in Years 7 and 10 will return on Tuesday, before the rest of the school is back on Wednesday.
Headteacher Dave Lee-Allan said an "enormous amount of money" was being tested on the testing regime and he is hopeful it will prevent any cases from turning into outbreaks.
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He said: "We are going to phase students back in - it would be impossible to have nearly 1,000 students back in at once.
"The testing will be very challenging over space and time. But schools are rising to meet that challenge.
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"We're trying to reassure the community, and there are some vulnerable teachers who are concerned about coming back into school.
"It is so important that students come back. For us to be able to reassure them and set out our plans will become important for them.
"We're delighted to see them face to face."
Debenham High School is another that has opted for a staggered return and will be testing students in its hall from 7.30am to 5.30pm next week.
The school's Year 11s will be welcomed back on Tuesday, followed by Years 9 and 10 on Wednesday and the rest of the school on Thursday.
Headteacher Simon Martin said the school's rural location and lack of transport options has forced the school to set up early morning and late afternoon testing.
He said: "We've managed to timetable it now. It will be quite a challenge for the best part of 800 people.
"We think it is the right thing to do, but it will be logistically very difficult.
"Our rural setting will make it harder for parents - it makes it more of a challenge to get children in.
"It's mainly about our capacity as we wouldn't have got our students tested in time for next week.
"It's the safest way to do it for us. Otherwise we could have had cases and closed bubbles before school even really starts."