Coronavirus: Final schools reopening decision ‘to be made on May 28’

Ministers will make the final decision on whether to press ahead with its schools reopening plan on May 28, a union leader has revealed.

Geoff Barton (pictured above left), the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the government will “review the latest science” next Thursday, and that the return of some pupils on June 1 “will be delayed” if the evidence does not support the decision.

The government will only make the final decision on whether to press ahead with the reopening of schools when it reviews the latest science on May 28

Union leaders were briefed by government scientific and medical advisers on Friday, after tensions escalated between the government and the schools community.

The government wants reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils to return to primary schools from June 1, followed by the remaining primary year groups in mid-June. Ministers also want secondary schools to offer some “face-to-face” support to year 10s and 12s from June 1 onwards.

Barton said that he had been “reassured” by feedback from scientific advisers, and said ASCL, which mostly represents secondary heads, would “continue to support our members in preparing for the reopening of schools from June 1”.

However, he said the plan for all primary pupils to return before summer was still a “concern”.

“It is also important to understand that the government will only make the final decision on whether to press ahead with the reopening of schools when it reviews the latest science on May 28, and that if the evidence does not support this decision at that time, it will be delayed,” Barton added.

Cabinet office minister Michael Gove claimed in a television interview this weekend that the government was “confident that children and teachers will be safe”.

“The clear scientific and clinical advice is that it is safe to have schools reopen, accompanied with social distancing,” he told the Andrew Marr show.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Paul Whiteman (above right), general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, invited ministers to write to him “with the scientific evidence underpinning the confidence it has that a return to school for more pupils can be done safely”.

“It’s been asserted by the government publicly over the weekend that there isn’t the level of risk that we fear, however, we haven’t yet seen the scientific underpin of that,” he warned.

On Friday, the government published an overview of the scientific advice it has received over the impact of the coronavirus on children and schools.

This risks leaving the children least able to cope with home learning remaining at home even as their better-off classmates return to school

However, it lacks detail and was littered with errors.

Whiteman added that the “first duty” of school leaders was “to the safety of the children in school and to the safety of the wider community”, adding that his members were concerned about schools becoming “centres of transmission”.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool council has become the second local authority to announce its schools will not reopen on June 1.

Schools Week revealed last week that Liverpool council had confirmed plans to defy the government’s wishes, stating that its schools would not begin to accept pupils until June 15 “at the very earliest”.

A survey by the Institute of Fiscal Studies released today shows children from better-off households are spending 30 per cent more time each day on educational activities than children from the poorest fifth of households, equating to a gap of an hour and a quarter every day.

But Alison Andrew, senior research economist at the IFS, said fewer than a third of parents in the poorest families would send their children back to school given the choice, compared with half of parents from more affluent backgrounds.

“This risks leaving the children least able to cope with home learning remaining at home even as their better-off classmates return to school,” she added.

It comes after the leaders of 22 academy trusts used a letter to the Times newspaper to state that reopening schools was “essential”, and that some of the debate on the subject had been “unhelpful and doesn’t reflect our sector”.

The signatories included Julian Drinkall, the CEO of the Academies Enterprise Trust, Rowena Hackwood from the David Ross Education Trust, Sir Dan Moynihan of the Harris Federation, Martyn Oliver from Outwood Grange and Hamid Patel, the CEO of Star Academies.

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  1. Lorraine

    I think opening the schools is a big mistake and is a disaster waiting to happen, they say children are a low risk of catching and spreading the virus so WHY did they close all the play parks and WHY can’t the children visit their grandparents, why was children not to go to the shops? There is also the other disease related to covid 19 that is affecting children , Also teachers are risking their own and family’s life’s also every child that is going risk their families life’s

    • There first wave was timed with the spring melting of the Chemical clouds from the North Pole. The Poluted skys blocked out the Suns protective UV rays UVA, UVB, UVC result was less UV light from the Sun. Everyone knows UVC smashes the DNA of viruses and makes O3, but its too high up to help us, we get UVA and a little bit of UVB at Earths ground level, we do get a trace of weaker black light called UVB at ground level , its strong enough to kill plenty of the virus, break down the infection pool.
      When we allow so much Carbon Dioxide into the air it damages the ozone the chemicals collect around the North and the South pole forming clouds that melt and when they melt it tears a hole in the ozone layer the pollution blocks the Suns UV from reaching us. We are shields down in large cities like New York, London, etc due to pollution.
      I think there will be two waves of coronavirus as the clouds are in two places. i expext the Southern Hemisphere will start to see a rise in Infection peeking July. it should soon reach us

    • Ged Leech

      Reception and first year children to return to school June 1st..firstly the teachers..and school staff are at great risk of catching coronavirus..secondly children are droppped at school inthe morning perhaps by parents,grandparents, friends etc..this involves a whole array of people.
      What price is life..the numbers of deaths in the UK..are the highest in Europe..second country globally with the most deaths..So on this basis…this is a killer virus..invisible..the answer on opening schools on June 1st..There is only one answer..NO..

  2. Leslie Lewis

    I don’t think we should make comparisons with other countries such as Denmark about the safety within our schools. For a start off Denmark have not had anywhere near the death toll that we have had .Therefore, I believe that it is still not safe to start reopening schools at this point. Another concern is classroom sizes the goverment states that all class sizes should be below 15 which in my opinion is far to high and will make it impossible to apply social distancing measures .I also think that if the goverment consider 15 to be a small class it just goes to show how over crowded are class sizes are in normal times.

  3. Leslie Lewis

    I have no trust in this goverments opinions and think that they went into lock down to late and that they are taking us out of lockdown to soon.

  4. Helen Walker

    Both Spain and Italy were considered to have the worst mortality rates from Corona virus until the UK surpassed them, additionally we were also told that the UK were two weeks behind these counties in regards to the effects of Covid 19 and yet BOTH Spain and Italy are keeping their schools closed until September!!! How does the science, we are using, and our Government explain their decision to consider it safe then to reopen our schools?

  5. With due respect to everyone’s comments here, I’m very concerned that nobody hears what people who want their children to go back to school are experiencing. It’s not politically acceptable it seems to weigh up your own child’s risk and your own school and make the decision to take your child in. The thought that one of my children won’t return on June 1st because of all the people shouting their opinion worries me a great deal (the eldest is coping and is outside the age groups to start 1st June, the youngest in pre school just about coping, although I know they are both missing it a great deal). There is no doubt in my mind that my 6 year olds mental health is badly affected and her schooling is badly affected. She is at a point where she needs to learn the building blocks that will stand her future learning in good stead and as I have three children at home I can’t give her the help she needs. I’m no teacher. Not only that, I can see how it is affecting her to be away from school and I’m very worried how she will respond if she is then told she can’t go back after all. Every day we weigh up the risk for our child in every scenario. I should be allowed to do that. Her school is tiny, there are less than 15 in each year group and enough classrooms to keep each group separate. They will eat and play separately, they will be in a much more controlled environment than they are at home (so shoot me, I’m doing my best) and crucially, she will be happier. They will have access to testing if anyone shows symptoms and if done properly, the risk to wider society should not be so great. I’m not prepared to have her suffer like this any longer. The risks have to be weighed up and few seem to be recognising and evaluating the risk to children in an unemotive way. We cannot live like this forever and given the mess the govt has made previously we are now in a place where it’s going to be a long, long haul. And yes I fully understand the figures, I’m a scientist. But in all honesty I don’t believe we can lockdown our way out of this any more. We missed that boat. If you don’t believe that it’s possible to do this safely then perhaps look at Denmark. And ask yourself if you really want to be on lockdown for the next year. We have to learn to live with this as carefully and cautiously as we can.