Heads expect many parents will keep children home, despite schools reopening

Social distancing measures will be introduced for children returning to the classroom. Picture: Jaco

Social distancing measures will be introduced for children returning to the classroom. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Schools across England anticipate a significant number of pupils and teaching staff will not return to the classroom this week despite the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, a report suggests.

More than a quarter (29pc) of available teachers will only be able to work from home, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) study, prompting fears that shortages will affect the ability of schools to provide the same level of teaching quality.

The NFER report, based on a survey of more than 1,200 senior leaders in schools in England, suggests that heads are expecting nearly half (46pc) of families to keep their children at home.

The study found that school leaders with the highest proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals estimate that more of their families (50pc) will keep pupils at home, compared with an average estimate of 42pc from school leaders with the lowest proportion of free-meal pupils.

It raises concerns that pupils in most need of education “will be least likely to receive it”, the report says.

Carole Willis, chief executive of NFER, said their report suggests there is “large variation” between different types of schools across the country, with each experiencing their own challenges in opening to more pupils.

She said: “Government guidance needs to be tailored and responsive, allowing flexibility for school leaders to use their professional judgment.

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“This will be necessary to manage the differing and changeable levels of staffing, parental choices and practical accommodation issues that each school is likely to experience.”

A separate poll of parents, carried out by the Early Years Alliance (EYA), also found that only 45pc of parents whose childcare providers are opening from Monday are planning to take up their place.

The most common reasons cited by parents for not sending their children back were the safety of the young person, their wider family and the staff.

The poll results have lead to a warning that the future of the early years sector in England is at risk without adequate Government support.

The poll results come as an education union leader has claimed the Government has revised its plans to reopen schools 41 times since May 12 because of errors in judgment.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), has added to calls for ministers to rethink the reopening of schools in England from Monday.

Ministers have said their five key tests required for the easing of lockdown have been met - and schools will admit more pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

But Ms Bousted has argued the five tests have not been met, and she pointed out that members of Sage, the Government’s scientific advisory body have voiced the same opinion.

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