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Secondary schools to only open to quarter of pupils at one time

PUBLISHED: 12:51 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:51 27 May 2020

Guidance has been issued for year 10 and 12 pupils to return to secondary schools from June 15. Picture: PA Images

Guidance has been issued for year 10 and 12 pupils to return to secondary schools from June 15. Picture: PA Images

PA Images

Secondary schools should only have a quarter of year 10 and year 12 pupils in at any one time to reduce coronavirus transmission risks, the Government’s new guidance says.

Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust. Picture: Archant LibraryJim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust. Picture: Archant Library

The guidelines, from the Department for Education (DfE), advises schools to practise social distancing by keeping pupils two metres apart from each other where possible.

Staggered start and end times should be introduced to take into account the likelihood of pupils mixing with each other and coming into contact with other people on the journey to and from school, according to the advice.

It comes after Boris Johnson announced that the Government intends for schools to provide some face-to-face support for year 10 and year 12 students from June 15 to help them prepare for exams.

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Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust, which oversees Hobart High School in Loddon and High Pakefield, near Lowestoft, said secondary heads have “very sensible, well considered plans” despite delays in official guidance.

He said: “Both of our headteachers have put in place really carefully considered workable plans. It was very difficult because we were initially told that all schools would open on June 1, but we have only recently had the DfE guidance. They have now moved it back by two weeks and released the guidance.

“The plans that we have got in place at both Pakefield and Hobart fit within that guidance. For example, we have purchased some mobile hand washing sinks, made sure we have plenty of sanitisers, we have scanning thermometers, and a really thorough risk assessment in place.

Hobart High School where measures for the return of pupils will include thermometer scanning. Picture: Jim AdamsHobart High School where measures for the return of pupils will include thermometer scanning. Picture: Jim Adams

“I think as long as you have got a robust workable assessment then you can work within the guidance, but it certainly wasn’t helpful that the guidance has been put out a bit drip drip. At one point we had 19 separate documents.”

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The DfE guidelines say vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers in other years already in full-time attendance will continue to come into school during the summer term.

It adds that remote education “should remain the predominant mode of education” for secondary school pupils and it “should be of high quality”.

Jonathan Rockey, Principal at Wymondham High Academy. Picture: Victoria PertusaJonathan Rockey, Principal at Wymondham High Academy. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

But schools will have “flexibility” to determine how best to implement face-to-face support for year 10 and year 12 pupils, as well as on how to educate vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers.

Jonathan Rockey, principal at Wymondham High Academy, said the school had been working towards a June 8 reopening but was now waiting for a final announcement later this week given the go-ahead for June 15.

He said: “Our opening will be contingent on being able to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone within our community.

Year 10 and 12 pupils who face key exams next year will get face-to-face support on return to secondary schools. Picture: PA ImagesYear 10 and 12 pupils who face key exams next year will get face-to-face support on return to secondary schools. Picture: PA Images

“We are currently working with staff, governors and parents to prepare risk assessments for this purpose. This is paramount. Of course, a good deal can change and we are planning for every eventuality.”

The guidance acknowledges that some secondary schools may plan to use rotas - but it advises against “split day rotas within the same day”.

Geoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds headteacher and general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are pleased that the secondary guidance has now been issued, but we are seeking to clarify some important points.

Geoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds headteacher and general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Picture: Archant LibraryGeoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds headteacher and general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Picture: Archant Library

“These include whether the 25pc maximum applies to year 10 and 12 separately or collectively; whether ‘face-to-face support’ could be provided for some students through 1:1 or small group discussions online, rather than in person; and whether schools must bring in all students on a rolling basis, or whether they could choose to prioritise the physical attendance of students who appear to be finding it most difficult to access online learning.”

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The plans mean primary year six children starting secondary education from September will be unable to visit their new school or meet their new teachers in person.

Mr Adams said: “We have been told not to bring year 6 on to the secondary site; so it is going to be videos, online meetings and schools are going to have to be very creative around that.

“At my schools we are already putting in place some virtual meetings with heads of year seven and pastoral leaders.

“It is not going to be the traditional transition that youngsters normally get.”


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