Reviewing 2m distancing rule in schools a ‘red herring’ says union boss

A review on the 2m distancing rule, to help get more pupils back to school has been called a "red he

A review on the 2m distancing rule, to help get more pupils back to school has been called a "red herring" by union bosses. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti - Credit: AP

Calls to review the 2m social distancing measures in a bid to get more children back to schools have been made, despite union bosses saying changes are a ‘red herring’.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Ministers are looking to find ways of increasing the number of children back at school after it was revealed yesterday that government plans to get all primary school pupils back for a month before summer were abandoned.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt earlier called for the 2m social distancing measures to be reconsidered so that more pupils could come back however, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Geoff Barton said it would not make a difference in schools, who are aiming to keep children in distancing “bubbles”.

The former King Edward VI School headteacher in Bury St Edmunds, said: “I think there’s quite a lot of misunderstanding around social distancing in schools.

“We had a briefing from the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer and they made it very clear that what social distancing means outside of school is different to what it means inside schools.

Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

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“What it really means is that in schools it’s about keeping children in bubbles so they are not mixing with lots of other children or indeed teachers.

“Until that changes it means schools can only ever have half a school in at the same time, unless you double the number of class rooms or the number of teachers.”

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However, Mr Hunt said the social distancing measures and other options should be looked at by the government in a bid to increase the capacity of schools.

He said: “I am frustrated that we are not able to offer all children a place in school before the summer holidays. I think we really do need to show more of a ‘can do’ attitude on this.

“I have asked ministers if there is anything more that can be done.

“That could include bringing in portable buildings to provide more capacity. I think we all realise there are problems with that while observing social distancing.”

He also lamented the attitude of union leaders, but praised teachers and other school staff he had met in his own constituency: “I am worried that some teaching unions are not working to get schools up and running. I think teachers are very committed to doing the best for their students.”

County Labour Spokesperson for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, Jack Abbott added that looking at the 2m rule “simply does not cut it”.

He said: “We want children back in the classroom as soon as possible, but to do that we need realism, flexibility and commitment from the government.

“Vaguely ‘looking at’ the two metre social distancing rule simply does not cut it when we need practical action now.

“This is the problem when rhetoric meets reality.

“The government disregarded the expertise of teachers, parents, local authorities and even its own scientists by making a promise it could never feasibly deliver.”

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