Primary schools will not reopen to all pupils before summer holidays

PUBLISHED: 15:05 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:06 09 June 2020

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Picture: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has told MPs that primary schools in England will not be able to welcome all pupils back for a month before the summer holidays.

The minister said he would ‘work with the sector’ as he confirmed the Government’s ambition to return all primary schoolchildren to the classroom for four weeks before the end of the summer term had been dropped.

Mr Williamson said the Government would like to see schools who ‘have the capacity’ bring back more pupils where possible before the summer break.

It comes after school leaders, teachers and governors urged ministers to reconsider plans for a full return to primary school - as they said it would be impossible amid capacity issues, staff shortages and social distancing.

He told MPs in the House of Commons that the Government was still working towards bringing all children back to school by September.

Children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England began returning to primary school last week after the Government eased lockdown measures.

Figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) on Tuesday showed that just over half (52 per cent) of primary schools in England had reopened to more children on Thursday last week.

But addressing MPs, Mr Williamson said the number of schools that have begun reopening their doors to more pupils has risen in recent days.

He said: “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 per cent of primaries that had responded.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said there would have been ‘significant practical barriers’ to bringing all primary pupils back in the summer term if the goal had gone ahead.

He said: “School leaders are already working through the practical considerations of engaging all pupils and families as best they can, as the academic year draws to a close.

“This will require flexibility in order to balance the needs of all pupils with the continued constraints placed upon schools.

“With the end of term just six weeks away, Government now needs to provide urgent clarity on the anticipated constraints that schools may face in September, so that schools and parents can start to look ahead and plan with greater understanding of the possible disruption that may yet still follow.”


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