Whole-year-group bubbles, dropped GCSEs and Ofsted inspections still suspended in draft DfE guidance - reports

Social distancing will be lifted for pupils but teachers will still have to keep away from others as much as possible, under draft guidance reportedly drawn up by the government for the return of pupils in September.

HuffPost UK has revealed details from draft guidance still being finalised and due to be published later this week. Education secretary Gavin Williamson promised this morning to release a “detailed” plan by the end of the week.

The website reported that proposals include pupils dropping or suspending GCSEs next year so they can catch up in English and maths, as well as Ofsted not resuming inspections until January.

The DfE said it wouldn’t comment on leaks or speculation, but hasn’t denied any of the claims in the story.

 

Whole-year-group bubbles for secondaries

According to HuffPost, secondary schools will be asked to deploy whole-year-group “bubbles” of up to 240 pupils, while primaries observing smaller class-sized bubbles of 30 pupils.

It comes after Schools Week revealed that whole-year-group bubbles were among the approaches being considered by the government and deemed workable by leading multi-academy trusts.

 

Social distancing maintained for teachers (as far as possible)

The guidance will reportedly state that there will be no in-class social distancing requirement for primary school pupils, while secondary pupils will be advised to stay a metre apart, though not at all times.

Teachers, on the other hand, will be advised to keep two metres away from pupils at the front of the class, and keep away from colleagues as much as possible. Where teachers do need to get closer, they will be advised to spend no more than 15 minutes at any one time closer than a metre to anyone else.

Neither pupils nor teachers will have to wear face coverings, and as has been reported elsewhere, children will be seated facing forwards and in the same direction, the report stated.

 

Compulsory engagement with Test and Trace

Engagement with the NHS Test and Trace system will be compulsory, and whole classes or even year groups will be liable to be sent home if just one pupil tests positive.

However, schools will be advised against routine temperature tests of pupils as this is not considered to be a “reliable method” of identifying the disease, it has been reported.

Heads will also be told not to put in any staff rota or physical distancing that would require extra space or make it impossible for all pupils to return full-time, the HuffPost stated.

 

Subjects suspended, GCSEs dropped and year 7 catch-up

The guidance will reportedly acknowledge that some subjects may have to be suspended for two terms to enable catch-up in English and maths, with some pupils having to drop some GCSEs altogether, and “adaptations” to exams. Year 7 pupils may also have to be re-taught English and maths from the final-year primary syllabus.

The government is also expected to set out “robust” measures to engage with families whose children had been persistently absent before the pandemic, or who have not engaged with school regularly during the pandemic.

As expected, the guidance will also set out contingency plans for schools to be put on local lockdown, with requirements that any return to remote teaching be “of a high quality”.

 

Ofsted inspections suspended into autumn

Routine Ofsted inspections were suspended in March, and the DfE confirmed today they would continue to be suspended until at least the end of July.

According to HuffPost, the draft guidance states inspections will also remain suspended during the autumn term, with inspectors visiting a sample of schools to “discuss how they are resuming classroom teaching”.

 

A DfE spokesperson said: “Pupils have been returning to school since June 1 – we’ve already given primary schools the flexibility to invite more children back if they have the capacity, and 1.5 million children were in school at the end of last week.

“We’ve said we want to see all children back at school in September – returning to full primary and secondary class sizes in a safe way.

“We continue to engage with school leaders, teaching unions and the wider sector about our plans and will publish full details later this week.”