Coronavirus: Government wants all primary school pupils back before summer

The government wants all primary school pupils to return to school for a month before the summer “if feasible”.

Ministers have finally published further details of their “recovery strategy” this afternoon.

However, the document is light on detail in terms of the government’s plan for schools. It is hoped that will come in the form of guidance from the Department for Education, expected “later today”.

It comes after Boris Johnson announced last night that that he hoped pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6 would be able to return to schools on June 1, and set out an “ambition” to allow secondary school pupils with exams next year “at least some time with their teachers before the holidays”.

The government’s “plan to rebuild” document states that schools “should prepare to begin to open for more children from June 1”.

“The government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for reception, year 1 and year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point. This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers.

“Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning. The government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review.

“The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.”

The document also acknowledges that low numbers of “vulnerable” children, who are allowed to attend school now, are doing so, and states that local authorities and schools should “urge more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so”.

“The rate of infection remains too high to allow the reopening of schools for all pupils yet. However, it is important that vulnerable children (including children in need, those with an education, health and care plan and those assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities) and the children of critical workers are able to attend school, as is currently permitted.

“Approximately 2 per cent of children are attending school in person, although all schools are working hard to deliver lessons remotely. But there is a large societal benefit from vulnerable children, or the children of critical workers, attending school: local authorities and schools should therefore urge more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so.”

The document states that in addition to COVID-19 secure guidelines for workplaces, the government “will consult on and release similar guidelines for schools, prisons, and other public spaces”.