Plan for all primary pupils to return to school before summer abandoned

Reception pupil Amy learning in the tipi at East Bergholt Primary School Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Reception pupil Amy learning in the tipi at East Bergholt Primary School Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The plan for children in Suffolk to return to primary schools before summer has been dropped by the government.

The aim had been for all primary pupils in England to spend four weeks in school before the summer break.

However, some schools say they are already full and cannot accommodate more children.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson told the House of Commons today that the plan has been abandoned.

Instead, he suggested schools will be asked to take in as many children as they can while sticking to government guidelines on maximum class sizes.

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Mr Williamson said: “We all know how important it is for children and young people to be in education and childcare and it is vital that we get them back there as soon as the scientific advice indicates that we can.

“Last week we saw the number of primaries taking nursery, reception and year one or year six pupils steadily rise as part of a phased, cautious, wider reopening of schools.

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“By the end of the week more than half of primary schools were taking pupils from these year groups and as of yesterday that had risen to over 70% of primaries that had responded.”

Primary schools in Suffolk reopened to some students last week, but many parents elected to keep their children at home.

They had been closed to everyone except the children of key workers since the country was placed in lockdown in March.

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

Many schools say they are limited by classroom sizes, the need for social distancing and inadequate staff numbers.

The news came as health secretary Matt Hancock conceded on Monday that secondary schools in England may not fully reopen until later than September, despite saying coronavirus is “in retreat” across the UK.

He also unveiled plans for pupils and teachers across England to receive coronavirus testing to monitor the spread of the disease as classes resume.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was not surprised the plan to bring back all primary pupils before the summer holidays had been dropped.

He 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.

“It isn’t possible to do that while maintaining small class sizes and social bubbles, so we aren’t surprised that the policy has been jettisoned.”

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