Sheffield primary school pupils won’t all return before summer holidays as government ‘scraps plans’

The Government's plan for children to be able to return to primary schools in England before summer looks to be in disarray, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson expected to admit during today’s (June 9) press briefing that not all pupils will go back.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 12:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 12:44 pm

The aim had been for all primary pupils in England to spend four weeks in school before the summer break, but some schools say they are already full and cannot accommodate more children.

Department for Education guidance says school classes should be capped at 15 pupils, but some schools have admitted fewer pupils than this during the phased reopening for the school years Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Schools have said they are limited by classroom sizes, the need for social distancing and inadequate staff numbers.

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Empty floor spaces in the Reception classroom - Martin Rickett/PA Wire

The BBC reported that schools will now be given "flexibility" by the Government over whether or not to admit more pupils.

Headteachers' leaders said it had never been a practical possibility to open schools further.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said that it has been "abundantly clear" that the Government's dates for reopening schools were "ill-considered, premature and unworkable".

He said: "The Government's rush to seek to reopen schools as part of wider efforts to restart the economy has been in the face of deep concerns and mounting evidence that this would contribute to a second wave of infections and deaths from the coronavirus."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson leaves the Cabinet Office. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

"The Government must now accept that its plans for wider reopening of schools are no longer credible," Dr Roach added.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, told BBC Breakfast: "I think it's a huge disappointment for those children who'd expected to go back into school before the summer now may not.

"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."

She said children will remain "isolated", with many living in "fragile" family environments.

Boris Johnson will speak with his Cabinet on this morning before Mr Williamson delivers a statement to Parliament on the wider reopening of schools in England.