Not all primary school pupils will return before summer - here's why

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 11:46 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 2:08 pm
Department for Education guidance says school classes should be capped at 15 pupils (Photo: Shuttertock)
Department for Education guidance says school classes should be capped at 15 pupils (Photo: Shuttertock)

The government’s plan for all primary pupils in England to return to schools before the end of the summer term have been scrapped.

The aim had been for all children in primary years to spend four weeks in school before the summer holidays, but such a move is no longer thought to be feasible.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Schools too full to accommodate

Some schools have said that they are already full and cannot accommodate any more children safely, forcing the government to allow schools more “flexibility” over whether or not to admit more pupils.

Department for Education guidance says school classes should be capped at 15 pupils, but some schools have admitted even fewer pupils during the phased reopening for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Classroom sizes have limited the number of pupils that could safely return, due to the need for social distancing and inadequate staff numbers.

Head teachers’ leaders have also said bringing pupils back into schools had never been a practical possibility.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was unsurprised that the plan to bring back pupils before the summer holidays had been dropped, admitting the ‘ambition’ wasn’t deliverable.

He commented, "It isn't possible to do that while maintaining small class sizes and social bubbles, so we aren't surprised that the policy has been jettisoned."

September return for schools ‘at the earliest’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded on Monday 8 June that secondary schools in England may not fully reopen again to pupils until September “at the earliest”, despite saying that coronavirus is now "in retreat" across the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to chair a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 9 June morning to discuss the next steps of easing lockdown, before Education Secretary Gavin Williamson delivers a statement to Parliament on the wider reopening of schools.

Mr Williamson is to give an indication of how many more pupils in England have returned, and is expected to say that primary schools will no longer have to prepare for the return of all pupils as originally planned.

Instead, schools will be given the option to increase the number of pupils who return, but it will be their own decision whether they can feasibly bring in more classes. The news will mean that many children in other year groups will not return to schools until September, with only three year groups being invited back so far.

Secondary pupils in Year 10 and 12 are expected to start returning to some lessons in school from 15 June.

Increased coronavirus testing

On Monday, Mr Hancock revealed plans for pupils and teachers across England to receive coronavirus testing to help monitor the spread as classes start to resume.

With approval from parents and guardians, children will be tested for coronavirus to check if they have it, or have had it in the past, under the surveillance programme.

Mr Hancock is aiming to have up to 100 schools tested across England by the end of the summer term, with around 200 staff and children involved at each of those schools.