Government drops plans to reopen all English primary schools before summer holidays
Plans for all pupils in England to return to primary school this term before the summer holidays have been abandoned by the government.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today (June 9) plans to reopen primary schools to all pupils in England before the summer holidays have been shelved.
Instead, the education secretary said schools will be asked to take in whatever children they can while sticking to the rules on maximum class sizes of 15 pupils and social distancing.
Gavin Williamson told MPs: "We will not able to welcome all primary school children back for a full month before summer...but we would like to see schools who have capacity to bring back more children in smaller class sizes, to so do if they are able to do before summer holidays."
He also confirmed the Government was still working towards bringing all children back to school by September.
It comes after school leaders, teachers and governors urged ministers to reconsider plans for a full return to primary school - as they said it would be impossible amid capacity issues, staff shortages and social distancing.
Children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England began returning to primary school last week after the Government eased lockdown measures.
But some schools said they did not have enough space on site to admit all pupils in the eligible year groups, while adhering to Government guidance to limit class sizes to 15 and encourage fewer interactions.
Figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) on Tuesday (June 9) showed that just over half (52%) of primary schools in England had reopened to more children on Thursday last week.
But addressing MPs, Mr Williamson said the number of schools that have begun reopening their doors to more pupils has risen in recent days.
He said: "By the end of the week, more than half of primary schools were taking pupils from these year groups, and as of yesterday that had risen to over 70% of primaries that had responded."
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said there would have been "significant practical barriers" to bringing all primary pupils back in the summer term if the goal had gone ahead.
He said: "School leaders are already working through the practical considerations of engaging all pupils and families as best they can, as the academic year draws to a close. This will require flexibility in order to balance the needs of all pupils with the continued constraints placed upon schools.
"With the end of term just six weeks away, Government now needs to provide urgent clarity on the anticipated constraints that schools may face in September, so that schools and parents can start to look ahead and plan with greater understanding of the possible disruption that may yet still follow."