Schools across England remain on track to open to more children from Monday (1 June), the prime minister said last weekend.
During lockdown, only the children of key workers have been in classrooms. The final decision was due to be made yesterday (Thursday) for more children to get back to school, if five Government tests about safety were met.
There has been lots of disagreement and not everyone is on board with the Government’s plan. Wales’ education minister, Kirsty Williams, said schools there would not reopen from 1 June, with no date yet set. In Scotland, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said schools will not return until 11 August.
In England, the plan is for primary schools to welcome back children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from next week. As long as everything is going to plan, it’s expected that secondary schools will follow from 15 June, with face-to-face contact for Year 10s and Year 12s to help them prepare for exams next year.
Some schools across the country have said they may not be ready to reopen immediately, so children could be returning at different times in different areas. Some parents, especially those who might live with their own elderly parents, can choose not to send their kids to school. The Government has said parents won’t be fined for keeping their children at home due to safety concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department for Education has said how it thinks schools can open in a way which is safe for children, teachers and parents.
- reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small “bubble” groups without mixing with others
- having different break and lunch times, as well as drop-offs and pick-ups
- more cleaning
- reducing the use of shared items
- using outdoor space for lessons where schools can
- not travelling to school on public transport if possible
All children and staff – and their families – will be able to have COVID-19 tests if they display symptoms. This means children and staff can get back to school if they test negative.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This has been a difficult time for the entire country. Education and childcare staff have stepped up to the challenge, making sure children and young people have continued to be supported throughout the past ten weeks.”
But he says concerns about the welfare of children in difficult situations, and the need for all children to get the best education possible, means he wants to start a slow return to school.