Plans for all primary pupils to return to school ‘to be dropped’
PUBLISHED: 08:53 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:53 09 June 2020
Plans for primary schools to welcome back all pupils to the classroom before the summer look set to be dropped.
Children began returning to primary schools in a phased process last week, with reception, year one and year six pupils heading back first.
The government had set out an aim for all primary pupils to spend four weeks in school before the summer break, with Boris Johnson last month saying his aim was “to get primary pupils back into schools in stages.”
But the feasibility of a full return means schools might now be given “flexibility” over whether or not to admit more pupils.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson is to give an update on the progress of schools reopening on Tuesday, and is expected to concede that many primary pupils will not return until the new school year in autumn.
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Almost half of primary schools in Norfolk saw some pupils return last week with more welcoming back children this week with around 90pc expected to have priority years groups by next week.
However after implementing measures including reduced class sizes and distancing, head teachers had expressed concerns over the practicalities of seeing all remaining years two, three and four year pupils returning.
Some Norfolk schools have been forced to implement rotas systems and a part-time return just to accommodate priority years.
Geoff Barton, a former Bury St Edmunds head teacher and general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was not surprised the plan had been dropped.
He said: “The ‘ambition’ to bring back all primary year groups for a month before the end of the summer term was a case of the government over-promising something that wasn’t deliverable.
“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.”
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However Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said reports that the government is dropping the plan was “a huge disappointment”.
She told BBC Breakfast: “It does mean that the vast majority, probably about eight million children, very likely won’t return to the classroom until September, which means that, again, there will be a huge variation in their learning over that period.”
Asked last week about the possible return of more pupils before the summer, Chris Snudden, director of learning and inclusion for Norfolk’s children’s services, part of Norfolk County Council, said: “I think we are only in that place if we continue to get the right kind of evidence that children would not be big transmitters and therefore it becomes safer and safer to put bigger groups of children together.
“I think we are some way off that, but if we get to the place where that is the right thing to do then schools would do their very best to make that happen.”
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