The UK government has reneged on its decision to reopen primary schools before the end of the year. Quite significantly, that had been the plan and aim for all primary pupils to spend four weeks in school before the summer breaks.
It is currently regarded as no longer feasible and instead schools will be given “flexibility over whether or not to admit more pupils. Principals and head teachers have corroborated it by saying it had never been a practical possibility. Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded at Monday’s Downing Street briefing that secondary schools in England may not fully open until September “at the earliest”.
According to BBC News, children in England began returning to primary schools in a phased process last week with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils heading back first. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will in effect chair a cabinet meeting later to discuss the next steps to ease restrictions, before the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson delivers a statement to the House of Commons on the reopening of schools.
Later in his address, Mr. Williamson will give an indication later of how many pupils in England have returned, however, he is also expected to say that primary schools will no longer have to prepare for the return of all pupils, as previously proposed by the government.
As the coronavirus has an adverse toll on the economy, the government has developed separate rules of managing the threat in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In similar vein, head teachers had issued a strong caution several weeks prior that it wasn’t a “realistic possibility” to accommodate all primary year groups at the same time.
In speaking on the issue, the leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, Geoff Barton 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”.
He further stated, “It isn’t possible to do while maintaining small class sizes and social bubbles, so we aren’t surprised that the policy has been jettisoned”.
Although schools have remained opened throughout the lockdown for children of key workers and vulnerable children, last Monday was when primary schools began the process of inviting back another two million children across three year groups. Local concerns, coupled with different regional rates of infections have been a huge concern for most parents.
Despite teacher’s unions’ warnings that it’s too early to return to school, the Department for Education has argued that children need to get back to lessons and that safety has been paramount in the plans to bring back more pupils.
Currently, the UK has recorded its lowest daily rise in the number of coronavirus deaths since lockdown on 23 March, according to government figures. The figures estimate that lockdown has saved more than three million lives from coronavirus in Europe which would have hitherto been impossible to achieve without the lockdown.