Government ‘set to drop plan’ for all primary school pupils to go back to school before summer
The Government had hoped to allow all primary pupils to return for four weeks before the summer. (PA)
The Government is set to shelve its plan to get all primary school pupils in England back into the classroom before the summer break.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will update MPs this afternoon on the aim to get all primary pupils to spend at least four weeks at school before the end of term.
And Mr Williamson is expected to concede that many primary school pupils will not return to the classroom until the new academic year in the autumn.
The Government’s coronavirus ‘roadmap’, which spells out how it will ease a raft of lockdown measures, marks out an “ambition” for all primary school children to return for four weeks of lessons before they break up for summer.
So far only pupils in reception, year one and year six at primary school have resumed their lessons, with the Government aiming to up contact time for secondary pupils in years 10 and 12 from Monday.
Schools have been asked to keep class sizes down and adjust teaching environments in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Downing Street press conference on Monday night: "Our current working plan is secondary schools won't open until September at the earliest.
"I very much hope that they can because the impact on children's education is so significant.
"But what we have to do - not only in schools, but right across the board - is work out how we can get the other things that matter going.
"Like schools, like hospitality, like retail. And get them going safely and carefully, in a way that doesn't lead to the spread of the virus, and that is going to require ingenuity."
Plans to reopen schools have been fiercely contested by teaching unions, while some councils have also urged caution while the Government’s ‘test and trace’ system for mapping Covid-19 outbreaks gets up and running.
Both the BBC and Sky News report that Mr Williamson will instead grant schools more flexibility over whether or not to allow pupils to attend.
Seizing on the reports, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: "If the Government confirms today that it will not be mandating reopening of schools in full before the summer this will be welcome.
"For weeks headteachers, education unions, school staff and many parents have stated that the plans to open whole schools before the summer could compromise any safety measures a school had been able to implement with reduced pupil numbers."
And Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union said it had taken ministers “some time to recognise what was obvious to most”.
“The Government’s social distancing rules made it impossible for primary schools to admit all pupils before the summer holidays,” she added.
“Primary schools and secondary schools will not re-open to all pupils until September at the earliest. But even that date cannot, as Matt Hancock has recognised, be taken for granted.
“The consequences of Covid-19 are going to be felt in our education system for months to come. What is needed, now, is a national plan for education, along the lines being developed by the Scottish government.
"This should cover all possible scenarios and focus on blended learning, at home and at school; greatly increased support for disadvantaged children, including free internet access so that they can access online teaching and learning, and the requisitioning of local public spaces, such as community centres and libraries, so that pressure on school space is lessened and more children are able to return to school in safe environments.”