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The Government has published details of how we emerge from lockdown, including the aim for all primary schoolchildren in England to be back at school a month before summer holidays.
The Government has said it is planning a phased return for early years settings and schools from the start of June with the expectation that all primary school children in England can return to school before the summer for a month if possible.
The guidance, Our plan to rebuild: the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, comes in a new 50-page document to accompany the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday on easing the lockdown.
It states that from June children are expected to be able to return to early years settings, reception, year one and year six “in smaller sizes” [ie no more than 15 children], with potentially staggered pick-up and drop-off times and break times. It states: “This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers.” The goal of getting all primary school children back to school by the end of the summer term will be subject to review. The document says: “Our ambition is to bring all primary year groups back to school before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible.” The focus on younger children is due to evidence suggesting they may be less likely to catch COVID-19, have fewer contacts outside school and be more likely to suffer a detrimental effect if they don’t go to school.
The document adds that secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year to support remote, home learning. These students should be kept in small groups.
The guidance states that it is not compulsory for parents to send their children to school at this time and there will be no penalties if parents choose to keep their children at home and that home learning will still be provided.
On childcare, it states: “The Government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example, nannies and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles at Annex A [these include social distancing and washing hands], because these are roles where working from home is not possible.” It says this should enable more working parents to return to work.
Childminders and nurseries can begin opening from the start of June. The Government recognises that demand for childcare is likely to be lower than usual at first and says existing space requirements and staff to child ratios for these age groups should allow for small group working. However, if this is not possible, it says providers will need to exercise their judgement in ensuring the highest standards of safety are maintained. This may mean they have to introduce a temporary cap on numbers to ensure that safety is prioritised.
Before June, the Government is pushing for more key worker and vulnerable children to be sent to school and childcare due to the societal benefits of attending. Currently only key worker and vulnerable children can go to childcare providers, but numbers are low. The guidance says local authorities and schools should “urge more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so”.
Separate guidance says face masks are not encouraged in schools or nurseries unless pupils shows symptoms of COVID-19. It says: “The majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of two metres from others.”
If a school or childcare worker or student lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable they should only attend if they can practice rigorous social distancing.
Childcare providers want more financial support to help keep places open if fewer children return initially.