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Plans for full schools return in September “mind-boggling” says union

PUBLISHED: 20:20 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 20:20 02 July 2020

Parents drop off pupils at Queen's Hill Primary School, Costessey, after easing of lockdown measures. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Parents drop off pupils at Queen's Hill Primary School, Costessey, after easing of lockdown measures. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Archant

Schools have been told to keep children in class or year-sized “bubbles” and avoid creating “busy corridors” when all pupils return in September.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Picture: Archant LibraryGeoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Picture: Archant Library

Government guidance - on how to get all children back after the summer break following up to six months at home - says older pupils should be encouraged to be kept away from other groups of students and staff.

The whole school, or all pupils in a year group, may have to self-isolate at home if schools have two or more confirmed coronavirus cases within a fortnight, the advice says.

But the guidance insists school closures “may not be necessary” if schools implement the recommended controls.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: PA ImagesEducation Secretary Gavin Williamson. Picture: PA Images

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the government will provide all schools and colleges with a small number of home testing kits by the start of the autumn term.

MORE: ‘We are responding to demand’ - Schools trust head on summer holiday lessons for year 10 pupils

The official guidance says mobile units can be dispatched to schools to test anyone who has been in contact with the child, or member of staff, who has tested positive.

Geoff Barton, a former Bury St Edmunds headteacher and now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned that it will be “enormously challenging” for schools to keep children apart in year-group-sized “bubbles”.

All pupils and year groups are expected to be back full time next term. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA WireAll pupils and year groups are expected to be back full time next term. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

He said: “The logistics of keeping apart many different ‘bubbles’ of children in a full school, including whole year groups comprising hundreds of pupils, is mind-boggling.

“School leaders will have to consider implementing staggered starts, finishes and lunchtimes, alongside transport to and from school, on an epic scale.”

Schools have been told to avoid large gatherings, such as assemblies, and to avoid singing in larger groups, such as school choirs and ensembles.

Binks Neate-Evans, executive headteacher at the Evolution Academy Trust. Picture: SubmittedBinks Neate-Evans, executive headteacher at the Evolution Academy Trust. Picture: Submitted

They have also been advised to stagger break times, start and finish times, and consider using “walking buses” to reduce the use of public transport.

Mr Williamson said returning to normal educational routines was “critical” to the national recovery, as he reiterated that attendance in schools and colleges will be mandatory from September.

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Downing Street suggested headteachers would be able to judge whether parents should face being fined for failing to send their children in September.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s always the case that headteachers do have some discretion. They know their pupils and their family situations.

“But, in general, children need to get back into school and get back learning again.”

Binks Neate-Evans, executive headteacher at the Evolution Academy Trust, which includes 13 primary schools in and around Norwich, said with some parents still likely to be wary about sending their children, schools were likely to avoid fines for non-attendance.

“I think to take a less adversarial route with parents is likely to be more successful,” she told BBC Radio Norfolk.

GCSE exams could start later in 2021

GCSE exams could be delayed next year and more optional questions could be adopted in test papers under proposals unveiled by England’s exams regulator.

Ofqual has launched a two-week consultation on its plans for the GCSE and A-level exam series in 2021 after students have faced months of school and college closures.

The watchdog is considering how next year’s exam timetable could be changed to allow more time for teaching - and it is proposing delaying the start of the GCSE exam series to June 7, after the half-term break.

It is looking at using “content sampling” in question papers and is also proposing removing the need for GCSE students to undertake science practicals.

But the Government has ruled out the use of content sampling in question papers for GCSE English language, English literature, maths and the sciences - and it says it should not apply at AS or A-level.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “We understand that it is difficult to scale back exams in a way that is fair to all pupils, but we fear the very minor changes in this consultation fail to recognise the enormous pressure on schools and their pupils to cover the large amount of content in these courses.”


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