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

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distancing will be lifted for pupils but teachers will still have to keep away from others as much as possible, under draft guidance reportedly drawn up by the government for the return of pupils in September.

HuffPost UK has revealed details from draft guidance still being finalised and due to be published later this week.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.”

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  1. Chloe Fernando

    So making it mandatory to put our children at risk is callous. Greedy to restart the economy for their own benefit without putting the people and their health first. Typical fucking politician. Inept shitholes running this govt and country to the ground

  2. I will do my best to be polite here. After all, respecting those in authority is important for an ordered society. But this is an ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction by an out-of-touch group of people who probably haven’t set foot inside a school other than for a photo opportunity in decades. On which planet will this work? Magarathea? I’m sorry, as they say on Dragon’s Den, I’m out!

  3. Catherine Chamoun

    The education secretary should be promoting a hybrid system. As an educator, mother and grandmother I am understandably very concerned about the close proximity of primary children and secondary pupils not observing social distancing. I feel this will promote a second wave sooner rather than later.

  4. Janet Downs

    The draft guidance seem clueless about how secondary schools operate. Unlike primary schools, pupils move to specialist rooms like science labs or IT rooms in which the furniture is fixed and not necessarily facing the front. It could be that the DfE expects the curriculum to be so reduced that pupils won’t need specialist science (don’t bother with experiments, just tell them), art or D+T (extras which can be replaced with theory if not dumped altogether).
    As for the teacher remaining static at the front, how can teachers check pupils’ work and that pupils on the back row are on task without approaching them?

    • Jenny Rimmer

      The guidance shows that the Government either has no idea or no regard to how primary schools operate. Children who are four years old cannot and should not be all facing the same direction- not for more than ten minutes at a time, anyway. Older children sit at tables of four or more- opposite their peers to facilitate conversation and co-operation. Sadly, it seems like sitting in rows could be on the way back. This practice will negatively affect most children, who will already be returning to school with anxieties.

  5. As a teacher I can do a better job of effective teaching remotely than I can in a 2m social distanced classroom. There is no point in teaching a class if I am stuck at the front, unable to view the work students are doing. I can do more to intervene and make corrections by supervising online work.
    It is typical, but disappointing, that Tory MPs think that teaching operates by leading the class from the front of the room.
    Also disappointing, but unsurprising, is the focus on maths and English at the expense of other subjects.
    It all seems pedagogically and educationally very ineffective and poorly planned

  6. Janet McArthur

    If people are not, by now, asking what is really going on, then perhaps any education is a complete waste of time. Parents need to know that they have the right to home educate their children. They do not need to inform the Education Department that their child(ren) will start school, but, once enrolled, that contract must be broken by informing them that their child(ren) will not be returning and an acknowledgement by return should be the only box-ticking exercise required . They do not require to submit to “inspections” of their home or submit “lesson plans”. The UK is not China, yet, although up here in Scotland it’s getting more like North Korea every single day.

  7. Amanda Miles

    Many secondary schools have more than 240 students. Teaching assistants usually sit close to students and it will be very hard to support students without getting close for long periods of time.

  8. If children don’t suffer when they get why do they need to sit in rows?

    If this ‘new normal’ is to last some time and OFSTED are to make some sort of return the current schedule for inspection looks increasingly unfit for purpose. Breadth and depth – not really. Cultural capital with police guarding key statues – needs some careful thought or ditching.

    HMCI and Sec. State Ed. really need to have chat – like the London Mayor and the PM do!

  9. What about after school clubs? No mention of this. People count on these to be able to work? How can they go to after school club if they can only stay in a bubble of 30 in primary school, as this would mean mixing with other year groups.