The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that not all primary school children in England will be able to return to schools “for a full month before the summer”.
Schools in England have been closed to most pupils since 20 March as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown measures implemented because of it. Many students have received forms of online learning during the pandemic, but the extent and quality of this is thought to have varied significantly.
Last week, primary schools in England started to reopen for pupils in key year groups and there had been plans for all primary school pupils in England to be able to return to the classroom for a period before the summer break. Students in Years 10 and 12 are to begin to return to some face-to-face lessons from 15 June, under current government plans.
The UK government has scrapped plans for all primary school children to return to school before September for a period of 4 weeks, saying on Tuesday that not all primary school children will be able to return to school ‘for a full month’ before the summer. It is believed that the return of all primary school pupils in the near future may no longer be considered feasible by the government, with any returns to classrooms needing to be done within strict social distancing guidelines.
The government has said that it is working to get all children back to school in September, adding that exams scheduled to take place in 2021 will still go ahead despite lost face-to-face learning time.
Teachers and headteachers have repeatedly said that it is not practical for all pupils to return, including because of there not being enough space for social-distanced face-to-face learning. Last month, ahead of the reopening of primary schools to more pupils, the British Medical Association also backed teachers’ unions by saying the COVID-19 Coronavirus infection rate remained too high in their view for schools in England to reopen.
Different plans for the reopening of schools have been unveiled by the devolved administrations, including by Wales which has said that their schools will start their next phase of reopening on 29 June. Schools in Scotland are expected to reopen on 11 August with a blended approach to learning, while it is expected that schools in Northern Ireland will start to reopen for some pupils from last August.
The change to the plans for the reopening of schools in England comes as the government has indicated the UK is “winning the battle” against COVID-19. On Monday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that there is “further to go” but that there was positive data showing the daily infection and death rates from the Coronavirus falling across the country.