Johnson: Schools will return in September ‘with full attendance’


Schools will reopen with “full attendance” in September, the prime minister has said, as he announced a relaxation of social distancing rules in England.

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons today that “primary and secondary education will recommence in September with full attendance”, adding that “those children who can already go to school, should do so because it’s safe”.

But headteachers said today it was “pure fantasy” to suggest that reducing the social distancing rule to one metre would allow all children to return in September.

Ministers have previously expressed a desire to see all pupils back in September, but many schools have warned this will be impossible under current social distancing rules.

But Johnson announced today that the government will reduce the distance that needs to be maintained from two metres to one from July 4.

He said that before September, government will “work with the sector to ensure we have a clear understanding of how to ensure minimal risk of transmission of the virus.

“By then, our objective is to have got the rate of transmission and incidence down so far [that] we are able to go forward in a much more normalised way.”

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said that overall he welcomed the statement.

“I do think it’s safe for some children to return to school and I completely support that,” he told MPs.

“The question is how quickly we can get all children back to school safely – the sooner the better. My offer to work with the PM still stands.”

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said it was “pure fantasy” that relaxing the two metre social distancing rule will allow all children to return to school in September.

“It may be possible to accommodate more pupils in classrooms with a 1m separation, but not all pupils. There just isn’t enough space in many classrooms to do this.”

It comes after Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, announced on Friday that the government would be looking at expanding in-school “bubbles” to include whole classes.

Barton said the reduction of social distancing rules “isn’t a magic bullet, and nor is the education secretary’s suggestion on Friday of doubling the size of social bubbles to 30, in order to facilitate a full return to schools”.

“The idea of a social bubble is to have a consistent group which doesn’t mix with other pupils, whether it is 15 or 30.

“It is difficult to see how this could be achieved with pupils moving between different subject groups, and in playgrounds, corridors, sports fields, and transport to and from school.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said that even with a one metre social distancing rule, “that will still be difficult for schools”.

“Class sizes are already at record highs in secondary schools, but the current situation calls for groups around half that size. This is not just important for social distancing but to ensure that children get the increased one-to-one attention that is so essential to getting through the trauma of the pandemic, and back into normal learning and social interaction.”

The PM said today the country’s “long hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and shops”.

But he warned that although a “new but cautious optimism is palpable”, it will be “all too easy for that frost to return”. He added that he trusts in the “common sense and community spirit” of the British public to “see us to victory”.

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  1. Steve Edwards

    I was in school yesterday and measure the size of two rooms. One was 48sqm and one was 50sqm. The double desks in the room are 1.3m long.
    So there is no way that 2 children can sit at the same desk and maintain 1m distance. And there is therefore no way that 30 students can sit in one room with 1m around them.

  2. Janet Downs

    It isn’t enough to say all pupils will be back in September. Rhetoric needs adequate investment: temp classrooms; extra staff; clear signage, sufficient cleaning (materials and staff) and adequate planning time. All schools will need to make decisions: movement around schools: exits and entrances? lunch and break times? reduced subject offering or full range? discipline: how to manage uncooperative pupils? how best to support SEND pupils and those with mental health problems? In addition, secondary schools will need to decide composition of bubbles: mixed-ability or streams? provision of specialist teachers?
    And that’s without considering school transport.
    A national effort is needed to support local planning. It can’t be put off until the end of August.

    • Michael Boddy

      It is time people started to stop looking for ways to avoid schools reopening. Understand the virus, understand how it gets spread and how to stop that spread.

      So typical that this “No can do” attitude is coming to the fore.

  3. Jenny

    Can someone enlighten me. I have 4 children 2 primary & 2 secondary. If there is a suspected case in any one of their classes/bubbles and they are sent home to self isolate for 14 days where does that leave the rest of the house? Would we all have to self isolate including my husband and myself? Or only the child who’s class has the symptoms?

    • the whole family would have to self islolate since the child has mixed with that bubble which then your child is sent home to your family, if you cant understand what im saying, the short answer is you have to isolate

  4. Verity miller

    I understand completely in sending the children back to school, the risk is still very real theres no special button that the pm has pressed to stop the virus to make the schools compulsory in September is a disgraceful move by the government they don’t have the right to tell families when they should or shouldn’t put there families at risk this should b e parental choice why the virus is still in play for everyone, all that will happen is that you will have lots of children being homeschooled permanently as families are forced to make a choice to protect there loved ones or get fined by the school nasty behaviour by the government

    • i think the government is trying to put hope into the majority of people because theres a chance the pm will remove distancing for schools since children are least at risk unless high risk.