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Schools to return in full from September – but union says plan to abandon social distancing is ‘reckless’

PUBLISHED: 17:25 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:46 03 July 2020

Social distancing measures in schools are expected to be relaxed when all pupils return in September. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Social distancing measures in schools are expected to be relaxed when all pupils return in September. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

A Suffolk education union has warned that having full classes in September without effective social distancing will be “reckless” and “potentially dangerous”.

Graham White from the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union said that no social distancing would be Graham White from the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union said that no social distancing would be "potentially dangerous". Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Proposals leaked earlier this week and confirmed by the Government on Thursday, July 2, said that all pupils would return in September in bubbles of full class sizes or year groups.

Whole year group bubbles for secondary schools could have up to 240 pupils.

The Government also confirmed that pupils would be encouraged to keep their distance from each other and staff, but no formal one-metre social distancing measure was in place.

The Suffolk branch of the National Education Union (NEU) said it has serious concerns.

Spokesman Graham White said: “It appears that the government now feels that full reopening of schools with no effective social distancing, no need for face coverings, no need for testing or temperature checks plus no need for flexibility over groups is completely acceptable and safe for pupils, staff, parents and wider families.

“The NEU feels this is being reckless and potentially a dangerous act. The government has not published any scientific evidence to back up this decision.

“We have seen an easing of lockdown in a number of countries followed by an increase in Covid cases.

“We have seen an easing of lockdown in England but there are still social distancing restrictions and still some activities which are not deemed safe yet.”

Mr White said the union was seeking clarity from the Department for Education on transport arrangements, isolation procedures, use of supply staff and bubble sizes.

The union has called for the scientific modelling to be published, greater dialogue with the unions on September plans and more cash to support schools in putting safety measures in place.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We have already seen more than 1.5million children and young people return, but we must make sure all pupils can go back to school in September, giving them the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential.

“I want to reassure parents and families that we are doing everything we can to make sure schools, nurseries, colleges and other providers are as safe as possible for children and staff, and will continue to work closely with the country’s best scientific and medical experts to ensure that is the case.”

Other measures in the Government’s guidance include action plans for schools where a positive case is confirmed, and access to testing for all staff, pupils and their families where necessary.

Schools will be expected to have plans for remote teaching where pupils are self-isolating.

The Government confirmed attendance from September would be mandatory.


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