Union condemns Johnson's 'reckless' plan to consider reopening schools in June

Children could start returning to school in England from June 1 - but the majority of secondary school pupils will not attend class until September at the earliest.

Monday, 11th May 2020, 6:00 am

Boris Johnson said the start of June was the earliest possible date to consider the phased reopening of schools, beginning with some of the youngest pupils in reception classes, year one and year six.

But even this staggered approach caused alarm, with the leader of the largest teaching union calling it "reckless".

The Prime Minister said that by June 1 "we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year One and Year Six".

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The Prime Minister said that by June 1 "we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year One and Year Six".

Officials made clear that nurseries would also be covered in the initial phase, and the hope was that all primary school children would return to class by the summer.

For secondary school pupils, Mr Johnson said "our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays".

That would allow pupils in years 10 and 12 to sit down with their teacher and assess their progress or discuss their concerns.

But a senior official said that "realistically" there was no prospect of other secondary pupils returning to class before September.

Teaching unions have criticised the plans - with one raising concerns about how social distancing can be managed with younger children.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: "We think that the announcement by the Government that schools may reopen from June 1 with reception and years one and six is nothing short of reckless.

"Coronavirus continues to ravage communities in the UK and the rate of Covid-19 infection is still far too great for the wider opening of our schools."

Dr Bousted urged the Government to meet five tests set out by teaching unions, which includes extra money for deep cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) and local powers to close schools if clusters of Covid-19 infections break out in a particular area.

"If schools are re-opened to blatant breaches of health and safety, we will strongly support our members taking steps to protect their pupils, their colleagues and their families," she added.

"The worst outcome of any wider re-opening of schools is a second spike of Covid-19 infection."

In a similar stance, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that "social distancing is extremely difficult" with children in reception and year one.

"We are not trying to impede the reopening of schools," he said.

"Throughout the crisis we have highlighted the importance of bringing in more pupils when the time is right to do so and there is a clear plan in place to manage it safely.

"Unfortunately, we are not persuaded that either of these two simple tests has yet been met."

Schools and colleges closed their doors to the majority of pupils, apart from the children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters, from March 23.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran said: "The Prime Minister's announcement today raises more questions than it answers on reopening schools, like how will social distancing be maintained with the youngest pupils? It's nonsensical."

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