Mansfield District Council has announced the use of alternative venues for this year’s local elections on May 6 following requests by Nottinghamshire County Council and headeteachers.
Hayley Barsby, Mansfield’s deputy returning officer, said the council had opted for new polling stations after ‘recognising the impact on students and parents of a further day of school closures and home schooling’ in a year in which education has been severely hit by lockdowns.
News of the change of heart has been welcomed by Nadeem Shah, headteacher at St Edmund's C of E Primary and Nursery School in Mansfield Woodhouse, who had feared using his school as a polling station could increase the spread of Covid-19.
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Mr Shah said: “It’s fantastic news from Mansfield District Council. I'm delighted to hear they came to this decision.
"Children have missed far too much school time already. MDC are clearly working hard to support schools in meeting the needs of our pupils, I'm absolutely certain that it will have been an extremely arduous process to relocate these polling venues out of schools.
"It also significantly reduces the risk of greater rates of transmission from the public accessing school premises. A great result all round.”
His comments were echoed by Lee Jackson, who is the acting headteacher at Heatherley Primary School in Forest Town.
“I, for one, welcome the decision not to use schools as polling stations, particularly given the level of disruption the resilient and hard-working pupils have already endured this academic year,” he said.
"Aside from the pupils potentially losing another face-to-face sessions with their teachers, which they have sorely missed this year, I was very concerned as to the safety of our school community members given that schools were not permitted to close for ‘deep cleaning’ the following day.
“Perhaps if the voting system was available online, much like the recent Census, we can continue to avoid disrupting pupils and their learning once Covid-19 is behind us.”
Polling at St Edmund's now moves to the nearby Turner Community Hall and Heatherley Primary School to Flint Avenue Community Centre.