Second Horsham town centre protest as ‘devastated’ children unable to return to school

Parents and children from two Horsham primary schools are staging a second protest after plans to reopen to all pupils were postponed.

On Friday protesters staged a demonstration outside the West Sussex County Council offices in Horsham after the body said it would not support the reopening of Kingslea and Heron Way Primary Schools to all year groups.

But now the campaign, called Don’t Burst Our Bubble, is holding a second protest – at midday today.

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Children will form a socially distanced chain beginning outside Horsham District Council’s offices in Parkside, Chart Way.

Children,parents and school staff protesting after WSCC didn't support Heron Way and Kingslea reopening. Pic Steve Robards SR2006291 SUS-200629-133654001

Many will be wearing school uniform to convey the message that they are ready for school, just like their school is ready for them, the organisers told the County Times.

In a letter to parents on June 25 the schools said it was with deep regret they were ‘forced to postpone’ the reopening after the county council said it would not support the move.

James Crump, headteacher of Heron Way, and Alexis Conway, headteacher of Kingslea, told the County Times staff, governors and parents/carers at the schools have worked ‘tirelessly’ to make provision for their children over the last three months.

But campaigners have said children are ‘devastated’ after learning they won’t be able to return to school yet.

More than 70 homes in the Horsham area have now displayed school uniforms in their windows as a show of solidarity – along with banners saying ‘I’m ready for school’.

West Sussex County Council said it has been supporting all schools in the county to follow government guidance and prioritise provision for children in reception, year one and year six as well as continue to give places to children who are vulnerable, disadvantaged and those of key workers.

A spokesman added: “The latest national guidance is clear that this should be on a full-time basis for these core groups, and that only if schools then have additional capacity they can accommodate pupils from other year groups, if their own risk assessment shows this can be safely managed.

“We have made this clear to all schools, including Kingslea and Heron Way, and it is unfortunate that there had been some misinterpretation of the government’s guidance on inviting all pupils to return on a part-time basis, something the council is not able to support.

“Everyone involved in education in West Sussex shares the same aim, to get children back to school as soon as the national health advice shows it can be done safely.”

Parents behind the campaign said the schools have gone ‘above and beyond’ in putting together plans to enable all children to return to their classrooms for a few days before the end of the school year.

They added: “We feel it is hugely important to give every child this opportunity for closure and to reconnect with school, without which the majority will go nearly half a year without setting foot in a classroom.”

Parents said children were left ‘confused and upset’ after being told they could not yet return to school.

More than 700 people have backed a petition calling on the county council to support the schools’ reopening and campaigners have written to Horsham’s MP, Jeremy Quin, urging him to intervene.