Although the government had previously aimed to have all primary school pupils back in school for 4 weeks prior to the summer holidays, that plan has now been scrapped by the government.
The idea is now no longer thought to be feasible and so, rather than being part of the government’s plan, it is now down to the schools’ headteachers. School leaders have always said that it would never be a practical possibility, with most schools not having the space to accommodate all students in smaller class sizes of 15.
The news comes following Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement that secondary schools may now not fully reopen until September.
A cabinet meeting will be chaired by Boris Johnson later today, to address the next move in easing England’s lockdown. Gavin Williamson, education secretary, will then deliver a statement on reopening schools to the House of Commons.
During Mr Williamson’s statement, he is expected to give an idea of how many pupils have returned to school since some primary year groups were invited back to school last week. He is also expected to say that primary schools are no longer expected to plan for the return of all pupils – backtracking on the government’s previous goals.
It will not be the decision of the school to increase their pupil numbers without the pressure to get ready for all pupils to return. This would mean that many children in other year groups will not be back in school until September at the earliest.
Helen Whately, the care minister explained that ministers “don’t want to take risks that might increase the infection rates”, but recognise that being out of school is “particularly a problem “for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and that the education gap can widen”.
Children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield has said that she feels that it is “deeply worrying” that secondary school pupils may not return until the next academic year. “It’s a disruption we’ve not seen since the Second World War,” she said. She added that “the education divide is broadening” and “almost a decade of catching up on that education gap may well be lost. We have to avoid that a generation of children leaves school in five years’ time where the disadvantaged children have much poorer prospects because they weren’t given the support they need to learn during this period.”